Two University of Utah School of Computing faculty members received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award for projects in developing faster cloud-based data systems and software that can help researchers and doctors determine why they choose the medical decisions they make.

Ryan Stutsman

Ryan StutsmanUniversity of Utah School of Computing assistant professor Ryan Stutsman, whose research focuses on “big data” and creating more efficient databases, is receiving $550,000 over five years for a project that rethinks the common approach to cloud-based databases.

Lots of data is stored in the cloud, and when it’s analyzed, that data moves around among the many servers that store and analyze it, he said. “We’re trying to come up with a way to share this massive cloud systems but also safely push their operations to the data itself,” he added. “By running code, we allow these cloud users to pull the data from the databases without moving it around as much.”

That means users could analyze much bigger data sets and produce results more quickly. This could be valuable for services such as Facebook, which deals with massive amounts of data every day in real time. Future technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, also could benefit from this new method. “What we’re most focused on is future networks to move data at high bandwidth with low latencies,” Stutsman said.

Stutsman earned his doctorate in computer science from Stanford University and began at the University of Utah as a faculty member in the summer of 2017. He has performed internships at Facebook and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and postdoctoral research for Microsoft.

“It’s a huge honor,” he said about receiving the NSF CAREER Award. “I’m really excited about the work. In the future people, will have huge amounts of data and interact with it really aggressively, and I think with this project we will push the envelope of that.”

Alexander Lex

alexander_lex_2015University of Utah School of Computing assistant professor Alexander Lex has received $512,000 for developing software that will capture the decision-making process of doctors and other researchers by using algorithms and human-computer interaction methods. Lex, who is also a member of the U’s Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, conducts research on Interactive data visualization, data analysis methods, visual analytics and data science.

The project is specifically focused on helping doctors with cancer diagnostics and those studying the genetic causes of suicide. Typically, doctors will make a series of medical decisions but that process is not analyzed well, and it’s difficult to reproduce why the doctor made those decisions.

Lex’s research will develop a software system so experts can reproduce their decision-making in order to better justify those choices. “I hope this will give people the tool to better communicate and reproduce the data analysis of what they do,” he said.

“This is really exciting for me, and it’s a great honor,” he said about receiving the CAREER Award.

Lex received his doctorate in computer science from the Graz University of Technology in Austria and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. He began at the University of Utah in 2015.

The NSF CAREER Award is given out to faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

Lex and Stutsman are so far the second and third University of Utah College of Engineering faculty members to receive the NSF CAREER Award this year. In January, electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Pierre-Emmanuel Gaillardon received the award for his research on developing transistors that can do more, not just work faster.

To learn more about Lex and Stutsman, click on the video below that profiles their work.