Published: Feb. 27, 2009

Two MSU engineers win prestigious NSF CAREER awards

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University’s Jongeun Choi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering, and Jian Ren, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, have each received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award.


The CAREER award, one of NSF’s most prestigious and competitive awards for junior researchers, recognizes those who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.


“These CAREER awards are tangible expressions of validation from Jongeun’s and Jian’s peers concerning their research goals and plans,” said Satish Udpa, dean of MSU’s College of Engineering. “I am delighted to see their peers confirm that they are on a very productive research trajectory.”


Each received a five-year $400,000 grant.


Choi’s work is in developing and analyzing distributed learning and cooperative control algorithms so that a network of mobile sensing vehicles ­­– such as robots ­­– can gather data and learn an unknown field of interest in order to perform specific tasks. Choi’s research has applications in the environmental sciences.


Due to recent and drastic global climate changes, it is necessary to monitor the changing ecosystems over vast regions on land, in our oceans, and in our lakes, Choi said.


“Emerging technologies in robotic sensor networks and field prediction algorithms can offer great potential to deal with such issues,” he said. “The main purpose of my work is to develop control algorithms for a network of mobile sensing vehicles to explore and predict an unknown field of interest.”


Applications include prediction and tracing of harmful algal blooms in lakes, toxic contaminants in public water systems and pollutants in the air. “For instance, tracing and predicting harmful algal blooms in a lake could be accomplished using proposed algorithms and a network of autonomous underwater vehicles with fluorescence-based sensors,” Choi said.


Ren’s research will significantly improve the efficiency, security and interoperability of communications between versatile wireless devices. His work introduces innovative methodologies in architecture development, system design and secure and efficient network management.


Ren said that today's “cognitive radio”– an intelligent wireless communication system that is aware of its surrounding environment – can perceive a spectrum hole (or lack of activity on a frequency within a portion of the radio spectrum) and then transmit on the unutilized frequencies.


However, he said, lack of user coordination and network control raises serious issues in efficiency, security and resource waste in wireless environments.


“My research is an effort to develop an ideal human-technology platform for e-commerce, national security, environmental protection, health monitoring and many future applications that could benefit from fast and reliable information exchange,” Ren said.


The technological advances resulting from this project will be integrated into undergraduate and graduate curricula, as well as into K-12 outreach activities. Thus, Ren’s work will have a significant impact on the training of a highly-skilled and diverse work force in the area of cybersecurity and wireless networking.


View Choi’s NSF award abstract here; view Ren’s NSF award abstract here.




Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

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