Georgia Tech Forms New IRCs

Georgia Tech Forms New IRCs

Alyson Powell
January 21, 2016
Georgia Tech has announced the designation of seven research centers on campus as Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs), including three strongly tied to IPaT. The Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems (HHS), the Center for Urban Innovation (CUI), and the GVU Center all received the new classification.

IRCs bring together researchers from different disciplines to address topics of strategic importance to Georgia Tech. They promote collaborative research and coordinate activities aimed at large external funding opportunities. Some centers receive financial or other support from Georgia Tech’s Office of the Executive Vice President for Research (EVPR) or from Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs), such as IPaT, that may be aligned with their mission.

"An important strategy for IPaT is to grow research leadership at Georgia Tech, enabling us to significantly scale our research activities and amplify our impact. The recognition and support of these three IRCs is exciting and empowering for our research community," said Beth Mynatt, executive director of the Institute for People and Technology.

Unlike IRIs, which are expected to have long lifetimes and an explicit economic development mission, IRCs may have their shorter life cycles. IRCs are encouraged to pursue bold new research ideas, even if they follow very new, emerging hypotheses. IRCs are likely connected to Georgia Tech Colleges or IRIs to connect their research activities with professional support and economic development opportunities.

Center for Urban Innovation
CUI is based in the Ivan Allen College and directed by Jennifer Clark, associate professor in the School of Public Policy.

"The center conducts and supports research that thinks globally, acts locally, and encourages interdisciplinary, scholarly research on urban issues," said Clark. "CUI serves as an incubator for faculty research initiatives, as well as with other universities, non-profits, civic organizations, public agencies, and industry partners that are developing and assessing strategies for building smart, sustainable communities."

Current CUI research projects fall into four themes: People, Places, and Productions; Sustainable Cities; The City as Studio; and Urban Histories. Researchers focus on conducting original research on cities and regions to develop replicable models, connect with partners and share creative solutions to pressing urban issues through coordination with local, regional, and national stakeholders.

CUI and IPaT are currently working together on several projects. Cycle Atlanta is a smartphone app for recording bicycle trips. Cyclists provide the City of Atlanta needed data to make improvements to bicycle infrastructure. The app also allows users to report problems along their route such as potholes and obstructed lanes. Another project is OneBusAway, an app that tracks public transportation in real time. It includes arrival times for MARTA trains and buses, the Georgia Tech trolley and Stinger Shuttle, Cobb Community Transit, GRTA Xpress, and Gwinnett County Transit. The latest CUI/IPaT collaborative project is equipping the Atlanta streetcar with GPS in order to predict more accurate arrival times.

CUI also supports Georgia Tech's engagement with the White House Smart Cities Initiative. Georgia Tech, the City of Atlanta, and Georgia State University are founding members of the MetroLab Network, announced last year at the White House Smart Cities Forum. The goal of the forum is to research, develop, and deploy new technologies to address challenges in the nation’s urban areas. The MetroLab Network will provide the opportunity to share successes, address challenges, and build shared platforms for experimentation and data between cities and universities necessary to increase the tangible results of new innovations.

Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems
HHS began in 2007, and has built an extensive program of education, outreach, and research, with collaborators across Georgia Tech and numerous external organizations. The vision for the center is that it will serve as an academic engine that improves the delivery of health care, disaster response, and long-term development though the discovery and translation of scientific methods and solutions in health and humanitarian systems. 

"Being named one of the first Interdisciplinary Research Centers is both an honor and an opportunity to further the impact of Georgia Tech in these important areas," said Julie Swann, HHS co-director and professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. "The center will provide a unique cross-disciplinary environment that leverages expertise with industry, government agencies, providers, NGOs, and faculty and students from multiple universities, with project and research results leading to transformation in health and humanitarian systems."

While the HHS IRC builds upon the existing HHS Center, the IRC involves more than 30 affiliated faculty and scientists across Georgia Tech from all colleges of the campus and from GTRI. 

The long-term mission of HHS is to be a premier research and educational center that advances science and evidence-based approaches to meet a triple aim of improving population outcomes locally, nationally, and worldwide; reducing per capita costs in the system; and improving opportunities and sustainability of the systems.

"We have many short to medium-term goals as well," explains Pinar Keskinocak, HHS co-director and professor in the College of Engineering. "In outreach, we want to grow the number of affiliated faculty and scientists from Georgia Tech, bring in new collaborating partners from external organizations, organize several events around campus to build collaborations and knowledge, reach out to Georgia Tech alumni affiliated with health or humanitarian systems, and bring in monetary support to help achieve the aims of the HHS IRC."

HHS looks forward to working with entities within IPaT toward providing solutions through advanced technologies, including groups that focus on mobile applications in health care or real-world solutions and training for improved disaster response. HHS is involved with more than 100 collaborators or participants from outside Georgia Tech, and will bring these partners to the table to connect with researchers at Georgia Tech, which is also part of the mission of IPaT. HHS will also benefit from the affiliation with IPaT due to shared infrastructure, co-hosting of events, and increased visibility outside Georgia Tech.

GVU Center
The GVU Center seeks to create the next innovations in people-focused technology that will shape how we live in a world poised for the next computing revolution. For more than 20 years, the center has represented demonstrated excellence and passion in computing research innovation at Georgia Tech and its impact in shaping communities and how we live everyday.

Regarding the IRC announcement, GVU Director and Professor of Interactive Computing Keith Edwards said, "We’re excited about this reaffirmation of Georgia Tech’s commitment to human-centered perspectives on technology, and are looking forward to continuing to represent the Institute along with our research partners here, including IPaT."

GVU’s vision is built on the interdisciplinary research ecosystem that spans across Georgia Tech. The center is a primary incubator for a dynamic community of research propelling new partnerships with business, national research agencies and other academic experts. Virtually all GVU research brings together multiple perspectives and disciplines. Much of the center’s research also involves external industry participation, bringing valuable insight to real-world problems and enabling applications to solve complex challenges. 

"In terms of immediate plans, one of our main goals for 2016 is to look at new models for industry engagement," said Edwards. "We already have a number of very healthy industry partnerships, but are also exploring new models for how to connect."

GVU and IPaT jointly sponsor research pilot grants and engagement grants to help build a nascent research community. This year's awards include:

Applying Design Studio Pedagogy in STEM Learning with Novel Presentation and Sensing Technologies
Betsy DiSalvo, Mark Guzdial, Blair MacIntyre
This project takes the open collaboration teaching methods of design studios and uses them in STEM learning, with the goal of creating more motivation to learn.

Reimagining Humanities Visualization: A Research-Through-Design Workshop for Civic and Cultural Data                                                               
Rahul Basole, Polo Chau, Carl DiSalvo, Alex Endert, Jim Foley, Nassim JafariNaimi, Lauren Klein, Yanni Loukissas, John Stasko, Jimeng Sun
Georgia Tech researchers are studying how they can use visualization techniques to explore “messy” humanistic data such as civic and cultural data. They plan to host a workshop in March 2016 for leading humanities scholars and information visualization researchers to explore the meanings of civic and cultural “data,” and to prototype new methods for their visual display. The goal is to imagine new forms and platforms capable of portraying the humanistic dimensions of civic and cultural data, and to establish Georgia Tech as a leading center of interdisciplinary visualization research.

Promoting Cognitive Systems Research at Georgia Tech                         
Ashok Goel, Elizabeth Whitaker
Goel and Whitaker are working to foster internal collaboration and enhance external visibility in cognitive systems research. They plan to host seminars (link to current seminar), monthly meetings, and workshops with the goal of creating an interdisciplinary center for cognitive systems.

Real-Time Control to Replace Schedules on the Atlanta Streetcar               
Kari Watkins, Russ Clark
Researchers will equip the new Atlanta streetcar with GPS in order to predict more accurate arrival times. Currently, it’s difficult to predict arrival times due to factors like traffic congestion and operation failures.

Two types of centers were considered as candidate IRCs: Type 1 includes existing, high profile centers such as GVU and Type 2 includes new, nascent of developing centers such as HHS and CUI. The Office of the EVPR has released a call for proposals for the seeding of new, Type 2 IRCs with funding to start next year. Applications are being accepted until January 31st.

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