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Three UTD CS Professors are Among This Year’s UTD Office of Research Seed Grant Winners

Last month, the UT Dallas Office of Research named this year’s seed grant winners. Among the list of Seed Program for Interdisciplinary Research (SPIRe) recipients are three UT Dallas Computer Science Professors, Drs. Vincent Ng, Murat Kantarcioglu, and Jessica Ouyang. The seed grant initiatives provide funding for faculty across various disciplines. The University’s award from the State of Texas National Research University Fund (NRUF) has helped us afford these internal funding opportunities.

Cyber Security expert Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu and his team members Drs. Irina Panovska (Professor, Economics, UT Dallas), Yulia Gel, co-PI (Professor, Mathematical Sciences, UT Dallas), Asim Day (Research Associate, Mathematical Sciences, UT Dallas), and Victor Valcarcel (Professor, Economics, UT Dallas)  were awarded $25,000 for their research project titled Market Sensing with Cryptocurrency Chainlets: Can We Learn More on the Traditional Economy from Non-Traditional Blockchain Data Sources. Dr. Kantarcioglu explained the project saying, “Measuring economic uncertainty is very important for understanding the health of the economy and the effectiveness of various policy decisions, but particularly challenging due to nonlinearities.”

“To measure economic uncertainty, we use a high-frequency cryptocurrency data set and propose a new notion of blockchain network motifs, or chainlets, that has never been used before in the economics literature, to glean deeper insight into hidden interrelationships between blockchain transactions and economic uncertainty. By facilitating the cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas, this project aims to implement new data science methods tailored for understanding blockchain transactions and economic phenomena,” he concluded.

Dr. Vincent Ng an expert in artificial intelligence and his team received $100,000 for their research project “Analyzing Propaganda through Human/Machine Coding.” This project is jointly led by Dr. Monica Rankin, Associate Professor of History and Director of the UT Dallas Center for US-Latin America Initiatives, and Dr. Vincent Ng, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Machine Learning and Language Processing within the UT Dallas Human Language Technology Research Institute (HLTRI). Dr. Ng explained his project by saying, “Political leaders have long launched persuasive information campaigns to influence public opinions. Rapidly expanding access to information in recent years has made the need to identify and understand propaganda all the more urgent. The goal of this project is to effectively and efficiently combat propaganda by designing and implementing an automated approach for identifying and analyzing propaganda content.”

Dr. Jessica Ouyang, an expert in natural language processing and machine learning, and her teammates, Dr. Mihaela Stefan (UT Dallas Chemistry Professor) and Dr. Julia Hsu (UT Dallas Materials Science Professor) were awarded $100,000 for their project titled “Machine Learning Guided Molecular Design for Indoor Light Harvesting.” Dr. Ouyang spoke about her project saying “We are working on developing new molecules for generating electricity from light, kind of like solar panels, but for indoor light sources instead of the sun — more like the little generators on some calculators. Prof. Stefan’s lab will synthesize the molecules, and Prof. Hsu’s lab will test them; my role is to use deep learning to predict promising new candidate molecules for them to synthesize and test, based on any shared characteristics of already discovered molecules that the deep learning model can detect.”

The UT Dallas Computer Science Department has frequently found itself at the top of university rankings across diverse subject areas: ranked UT Dallas at eighth place for natural language processingfifth place for software engineering11th place for artificial intelligence, and sixth place for embedded & real-time systems during 2010-2020.  In the past few years, many UT Dallas Computer Science faculty members have been recognized for their excellence in research.


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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Department of Computer Science