Our Collaborative Research Initiatives | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Our Collaborative Research Initiatives

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Tandon researchers are making inroads in a wide variety of fields, from the traditional engineering disciplines to the unexpected. From the development of the transportation systems of the future to helping municipalities govern more transparently, our faculty and students are answering tomorrow’s questions today.


Ted Rappaport and students
Prof. Theodore Rappaport with students

The next generation of wireless, 5G, promises far more than lightning-fast movie downloads to smartphones and tablets. It opens the door to such remarkable scenarios as surgeons operating on patients from thousands of miles away, autonomous cars delivering terabits of real-time data to each other and the cloud, and artificial intelligence-driven antenna technologies that allow networks to modify cell transmissions on the fly to a new generation of phones. 

NYU WIRELESS, a world-class research center that pioneered telecommunications in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, is now setting a course for innovative research in terahertz (THz) frequencies, where possibilities abound for nano-sized sensing devices, new kinds of networks, and an entirely new generation of technology. 

Thanks to a major collaboration called COSMOS, funded by the National Science Foundation, the center is also a leader of a program that makes New York City one of the first testbeds for next-generation communications and IoT technologies. COSMOS will give researchers real-world data — and citizens the real-world experience — of blazingly fast wireless for robotics, immersive virtual reality, traffic safety, connected devices, education and much more. 

AI Now

 Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker
Co-founders Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used in many of the systems underpinning society, and that trend is rapidly accelerating. There may come a day, for example, when parole boards make widespread use of such systems to analyze prisoners for their risk of recidivism or doctors call upon AI to diagnose patients with pinpoint accuracy.

However, news stories have described voice recognition systems that can’t accurately decipher women’s higher tones and automated photo-tagging systems that are stymied by certain ethnic traits. 

Because human beings are responsible for the training data, algorithms, and other design choices that shape AI systems, those systems can reflect existing prejudices and inequalities. When AI is deployed in social systems like criminal justice, health diagnoses, academic admissions, and hiring, problems of bias can arise, regardless of the good intentions of the technical developers. 

Researchers at AI Now are studying the effects of bias in AI systems, as well as examining the other complex societal questions machine-learning technology poses. (What might happen when the majority of the country’s low-income jobs are eliminated because of automation? What are the safety repercussions when an airport’s AI system fails?) Their goal is to help ensure that the AI systems affecting our daily lives are sensitive, fair, effective, and responsive.


Professor Beth Simone Noveck
Prof. Beth Simone Noveck

Researchers at Tandon’s Governance Lab (GovLab) — a “think-and-do-tank” aimed at creating new ways of using technology to make government more effective, efficient, legitimate, and transparent — believe that introducing more data and diverse viewpoints could help, an especially important proposition given that public trust in government is currently at historic lows.

This year GovLab founder and director Beth Simone Noveck, who was recently named the State of New Jersey’s first chief innovation officer, arranged for a group of Tandon students to partner with the New York City Council to test that belief. They researched tech-enabled citizen participation in law and policy making throughout the world and discovered how the initiatives could be useful if applied in the context of New York City. 

It was an ambitious project for the undergraduates, who got a look at the inner workings of a large, urban governing body; formulated potential ideas for how to improve it; and became better citizens and civic innovators in the process.

Ability Project

Professor Luke Debois
Prof. Luke DeBois

When curators at the Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian Institution’s New York City-based design museum, wanted to become more accessible to all visitors, including those with disabilities, they turned to the Ability Project, a far-ranging interdisciplinary, multi-school effort that encourages Tandon’s aspiring engineers and technologists to consider human-centered design and the ways in which their work can affect those living with disabilities. In response to the museum’s needs, the Ability Project launched a client-centered course that proved popular with Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media students and that resulted, this past year, in new signage and exhibits, accompanying audio and visual components, accessible navigation within the historic building, an improved website, and more diverse multimodal options for interacting with exhibits.


Professor Claudio Silva and Professor Juliana Freire
Prof. Claudio Silva and Prof. Juliana Freire

Big data is everywhere, and Tandon’s Visualization and Data Analytics (VIDA) Research Center is harnessing its power to change the world. 

Under the guidance of Department Chair and Institute Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Guido Gerig, who is renowned for pioneering research that has led to new insights into schizophrenia, autism, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and other conditions, doctoral candidate Sungmin Hong is examining how the shapes of the human brain changes over time and disease progression, and another of Gerig’s students, Neel Dey, works to understand compounds associated with age-related macular degeneration, a blinding disease of the eye. 

Cristian Felix, who is earning his Ph.D. under Associate Professor Enrico Bertini, has been working with a security company and a government agency to create interactive visualization tools that help them to identify different types of email scams, better understand and identify scammers, and create new protective measures to thwart them, while Nabeel Abdur Rehman, who is advised by Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Rumi Chunara, used detailed geo-located data to conduct a first-of-its-kind study of the spread of the dengue virus, which results in over 96 million infections each year; his results will guide recommendations for future deployment of resources during dengue outbreaks — especially important in resource-poor urban settings.


Professor Kaan Ozbay
Prof. Kaan Ozbay

Americans spend an average of 17 hours searching for parking each year, wasting a cumulative $72 billion in time, fuel, and emissions. And anyone who has ever driven in a city knows the frustration of encountering double-parked cars. Leaning on the horn might alleviate some of that frustration but does little to solve the problem. More effective ticketing might discourage the practice, but parking officials must target which blocks and neighborhoods would benefit most from their efforts. They have plenty of data to draw upon: Every year, over 10 million parking violation tickets are issued in New York City alone, and these citations provide valuable datasets for researchers.

Helping make sense of that data is Jingqin Gao, the president of the NYU student chapters of both the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Intelligent Transportation Society, who conducts her research under the auspices of C2SMART (Connected Cities for Smart Mobility Toward Accessible and Resilient Transportation Center), the Tandon-led U.S. Department of Transportation Tier 1 University Transportation Center. Using real-time information from Bluetooth devices, traffic cameras, crowdsourcing, and social media, she has developed a framework that could allow transportation agencies to identify promising locations for efficient enforcement while reducing the chances of selection bias. The result could be a better ride for all.


Professor Juan Bello
Prof. Juan Bello

New York City’s 311 system, which allows callers to ask questions or complain about everything from rodent infestations and crime incidents to road conditions and water quality, can help researchers measure the pulse of the city. It provides a rich trove of data, free online on NYC’s Open Data Portal to anyone interested,but the massive dataset can be hard to use and challenging to interpret.

Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) Fellow Sarah Schoengold and her teammates have helped find a way to make that information more accessible and useful: They’ve built an online tool to quickly and efficiently cull the data that will be most relevant to researchers. Need to compare weekday noise complaints to those that occur on the weekend? Need access to all complaints dealing with heating and the home? The filters on the NYC311 One Stop Shop, as they call their project, allow for those types of queries and much more.

CUSP’s mission is to use New York as a living laboratory and classroom to help cities around the world become smarter, cleaner, and more livable, and Schoengold’s work is on course to aid policymakers and others in reaching those goals.

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