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UW-Madison engineers share in new national technology push

Three UW-Madison College of Engineering faculty will share a role in a new National Science Foundation (NSF) awards program to mold the future of information technology.

David J. Beebe

David J. Beebe (large image)

David Beebe, a professor of biomedical engineering, received an award of $450,000 over three years to develop new nontextual material to improve computer access for people with visual impairments. His strategies include developing tactile electrostatic cues that will help users navigate on the computer.

Mikko H. Lipasti

Mikko H. Lipasti (large image)

With $450,000 over three years, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professors Mikko Lipasti and James Smith hope to develop a better verification system for computations that occur on parallel computing networks, which are numerous processors working in tandem.

Ninety-five institutions will share $90 million in NSF grants for the first year of its new Information Technology Research initiative. A presidential committee created the ITF program, which is intended to fund higher-risk emerging technologies that could have greater payoff in the high-tech economy. The agency chose a total of 210 projects from more than 1,400 proposals.

"This initiative will help strengthen America's leadership in a sector that has accounted for one-third of U.S. economic growth in recent years," President Bill Clinton says in an NSF release.

James E. Smith

James E. Smith (large image)

Terrence Millar, associate dean for the physical sciences in the Graduate School, says UW-Madison's projects reflect the innovative research generated by the Computer Sciences Department and College of Engineering. Strengths at UW-Madison include computer architecture, computer networking and operating systems, parallel computing, database management and improving access for people with disabilities.

"These grants will help the university foster a new generation of research that will have a big impact on developing future tools for scientists, industry and the public," Millar says.

Overall, UW-Madison scientists will be lead investigators on four projects totaling more than $8.1 million over five years, while another UW-Madison researcher is part of a multi-university team that will receive $11.8 million over five years.

Other UW-Madison projects include:


  • "A Petabyte in Your Pocket," led by UW-Madison computer scientists David DeWitt and Jeffrey Naughton and Oregon Graduate Institute computer scientist David Maier. The project will receive $4.61 million over five years. Because the Internet's potential is largely untapped, this team is proposing a new data-management technology that will allow users to create a customized, sophisticated view of all the online digital data that exists. The software would store and organize any kind of data. It also could be accessed with any connection, including wireless computing, to create the illusion that users have the vastness of the Internet "in their pocket."


  • The Wavelet Center for Ideal Data Representation. Headquartered at UW-Madison's computer science department, the center is led by computer scientist Amos Ron and includes researchers from American and international universities and industrial research labs. Its $2.6 million award over three years is aimed at developing new tools to understand the complex dynamic of Internet traffic.


  • A partnership with the University of Chicago, the University of Florida and others totaling $11.8 million over five years. With UW-Madison computer scientist Miron Livny, this group will develop tools to analyze massive amounts of data from particle colliders and astronomical observatories. Livny's network software, called Condor, will be used.