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NeuroTech – Bringing Technology to Neuroscience

Sponsor: Stanford University
Award Number: 1828993
Eduardo Chichilnisky [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
James McClelland (Co-Principal Investigator)
Jin Hyung Lee (Co-Principal Investigator)
Surya Ganguli (Co-Principal Investigator)

ABSTRACT

Deciphering how the brain works could have untold impacts on medicine, technology, commerce, and our understanding of ourselves. For example, advances in neurotechnology could lead to brain-machine interfaces to overcome sensory impairments and loss of movement due to neurodegenerative disease. Many of the most important advances in neuroscience have required interaction with technical fields such as physics, electrical and chemical engineering, bioengineering, statistics, and computer science, and this will increasingly be the case as the field advances. However, the path for top students from these disciplines to enter the field of neuroscience has always been challenging because they lack the appropriate background and awareness of key questions and technological limitations in the field. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to Stanford University will accelerate fundamental developments in neuroscience by attracting promising young talent from these technical disciplines to neuroscience and training them to be leaders in the field. The program will allow students to apply technological developments in diverse fields to the most important problems in neuroscience today and train a new generation of neuroscientists who will bring these technologies to fruition in academia, medicine, and the private sector. The project anticipates training thirty (30) PhD students, including twelve (12) funded trainees, from physics, electrical and chemical engineering, bioengineering, materials science, computer science, and other technical fields.

This traineeship program consists of a novel integrated curriculum of coursework, internship and training experiences, and outreach to achieve its goals. The program will emphasize training for acquiring and analyzing vast data sets, enabling an understanding of nervous system circuitry at a scale that was unimaginable just a few years ago, and connecting the novel data to Stanford’s strength in theory, inference from large data sets, and computational modeling. The program will introduce a rigorous multi-year curriculum for trainees, building on their home-discipline training and allowing them to collaborate with each other and with the members of the Neurosciences PhD program. Training will leverage the highly successful Stanford ADVANCE program that supports new PhD students with a special summer program prior to the start of graduate training, and build on it with several approaches customized to this program. The program will be specifically designed to optimize trainee preparation for a career in academia or in a technology industry setting, utilizing internship placements with both startups and established corporations.

The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Please report errors in award information by writing to: [email protected]

AwardsInventXR

Impact of Building Design Attributes on Occupant Behavior in Response to Active Shooter Incidents in Offices and Schools

Sponsor: University of Southern California
Burcin Becerik-Gerber [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
David Pynadath (Co-Principal Investigator)
Gale Lucas (Co-Principal Investigator)
Erroll Southers (Co-Principal Investigator)
Award Number: 1826443

ABSTRACT

This project studies how various factors such as building design, size and demographics of the crowd, and individual differences like one’s familiarity with the building impact responses to active shooter incidents. Fundamental questions addressed by the project include: 1) How do building attributes designed to enhance security affect human behavior during active shooter incidents? 2) How do individual factors moderate occupant responses? and 3) How does the setting of the incident or familiarity with building affect occupants’ situational awareness and occupant behavior? The project explores these objectives by conducting human subject experiments using Immersive Virtual Environments (IVEs). This scientific research contribution thus supports NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science and to advance our national welfare. In this case, the benefits will be insights to improve preparedness and response to active shooter events, which will save lives and reduce panic, anger and confusion during these events. The project supports education and promotes diversity through outreach activities aimed at recruiting and retaining under-represented students in research.

The project models the built environment in virtual reality, simulating the behavior of both the adversaries and the crowd. By exposing participants to an active shooter incident using IVE, the researchers can measure their responses in realistic ways that are not possible outside the laboratory environment. Task 1 uses IVEs and agent-based simulations to create representative virtual built environments and realistic active shooter scenarios. There are three critical elements in the development of the IVEs: building attributes that enhance security, setting (school vs. office building), and virtual actors (crowd/adversary). Task 2 examines how various factors (building design attributes, individual factors, participant role, crowd setting, and familiarity with building layout) affect responses to active shooter incidents. Simulation scenarios will include security enhanced buildings versus standard buildings, and school versus office versions. The project outcomes can inform safer building designs and operations and train occupants and security personnel on how to respond to human-enabled catastrophic events, thus saving lives.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Awards

US Ignite: Focus Area 1: A Networked Virtual Reality Platform for Immersive Online Social Learning of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sponsor: University of Missouri-Columbia
Zhihai He [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Janine Stichter (Co-Principal Investigator)
Prasad Calyam (Co-Principal Investigator)

ABSTRACT

This project explores a high-speed network-enabled, immersive, and smart virtual reality application, called vSocial, to connect children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from different geographical regions for online social training. The 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) suggests that 1 in 45 children (>2%) have been diagnosed with ASD. Children with ASD are characterized by impairments in social skills, which can result in low quality of life, bringing emotional, financial, and physical stress and burden on the children, families, schools, and society. This project builds on project team’s work during the past five years within which we have successfully developed and evaluated a social competence intervention (SCI) curriculum and a computer-based virtual learning application called iSocial. The iSocial application makes the face-to-face SCI curriculum available online to youth with ASD and public schools, who would otherwise, due to geographical and personal limitations, have no access to such programs provided by experts.

vSocial will use an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) medium for application delivery over high-speed networking infrastructures at schools as well as cloud technologies available within Global Environment for Network Innovation (GENI) Racks. Such a transformation will allow us to study how end-to-end network performance tuning needs to be orchestrated across multi-provider paths and how to troubleshoot last-mile network bottlenecks (e.g., at schools or homes) for field-deployment of demanding gigabit applications such as vSocial. Specifically, (a) it will bridge the knowledge generalization gap between online social training and real-world social skills for students with ASD through use of a networked immersive VR system. (b) It will provide smart sensing capabilities for effective monitoring and tracking of the cognitive-affective states of student learners at remote ends for early individualized pedagogical interventions and outcome assessment. Through vSocial application prototype experimentation in the field (at actual schools with teachers and students involvement), this project will investigate the use of cognitive-affective sensing for online social training in education of students with ASD, use of VR glasses, and Unity3D VR content creation platform to assess immersive learning experience.

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