Engineering Faculty Receive Large Grant to Develop Center for Big Learning

National Science Foundation Funds $750,000 to Pioneer Research Frontiers in Deep Learning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A team of University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering faculty, led by principal investigator Zhu Li, received $750,000 in National Science Foundation funding to perform cutting-edge, pre-competitive research in engineering and technology areas of interest to industry partners in the areas of big data and big learning.

The UMKC team includes five faculty members from computer science and electrical engineering; Reza Derakhshani, Ph.D.; Yugyung Lee, Ph.D.; Zhu Li, Ph.D.; Praveen Rao, Ph.D.; and Sejun Song, Ph.D. They will collaborate with three other academic sites—University of Florida (UF, South), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU, East) and University of Oregon (UO, West)—and more than 50 industry partners across the nation to establish a Center for Big Learning under the umbrella of the Industry & University Cooperative Research Center Program of the NSF.

With the vision of creating intelligence and leveraging collective wisdom for academia, industry and governments, the CBL consortium aims to:

  • explore and pioneer research frontiers in emerging large-scale deep learning for a broad spectrum of big data applications,
  • design novel intelligent platforms to enable big learning research and applications,
  • transfer research discoveries to meet urgent needs in industry with its diverse center members, and
  • nurture a new generation of talent in a mixed academic and industry setting with a real-world relevance and significance via the industry-university association.

Industry partners will solicit help from one of the four universities—each focused on specified areas of research including big data, deep learning systems and platforms, deep learning applications—to find artificial intelligence solutions. UMKC researchers will imbed deep learning for embedded artificial intelligence with applications in imaging, compression, medicine, internet of things (IOT) and networking.

“This has a positive impact for the Kansas City economy because the center will incubate new companies, new technologies and provide solutions to industries to utilize for their own business logic,” said UMKC SCE faculty member and site director Zhu Li.

The center, which will eventually be located in the new School of Computing and Engineering building opening fall 2020, will also allow for hands-on student learning experiences. Students from undergraduate to post-doctorate levels can be hired as research assistants, which in turn helps area engineering firms recruit experienced talent in deep learning.

The center will be supported by SCE faculty members ZhiQiang Chen, Baek-Young Choi, Chi Lee, Shui Ye and Yongjie Zheng; and Peter Koulen of the School of Medicine. UMKC will host a kick-off workshop with industry partners on Friday, March 9. A Center for Big Learning meeting for all four sites will be held in May to officially launch the consortium.

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