Computer Science Professor Saptarshi Debroy Wins a Prestigious NSF CAREER Grant

Professor Saptarshi Debroy (Photo courtesy of Debroy)

At a time when the systems around disaster readiness are more relevant than ever, Professor Saptarshi Debroy (GC/Hunter, Computer Science) has received a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to work on a new type of computing framework to support disaster response. The award amounts to more than $523,000 over five years.

Debroy’s goal is to research, design, and develop a “fog” framework that is resilient and can provision computing resources in an unpredictable environment for mission-critical applications. The project will benefit first-responders, policymakers, and planners, as well as network management and internet research communities.

Whereas the “cloud” uses computing resources in large, far-away data centers, “fog” computing uses resources that are as close to the user as possible. This physical proximity is useful for disaster response. Using a network that is closer by saves data transfer time and avoids potential network connectivity issues, Debroy says, which can happen after large-scale disasters.

Debroy will be working with the Fire Department of New York to conduct his research, and gave an example of how this framework could work for the department. If a response unit used drones to collect footage of a fire, the unit would need that video to be transferred to servers where it can be processed for object identification, then returned very quickly to the first responders’ phones and laptops. Only fog computing can deliver on these urgent time demands.

The grant will also support Debroy’s efforts to include more women in computer science and cybersecurity, which are generally male-dominated fields. He will continue organizing a computer science summer camp for incoming sophomore women at Hunter College, create a new interdisciplinary, research-based graduate course cross-listed with the social sciences, and host female high schoolers to do summer research in his lab.

As a tip to colleagues applying for future grants, Debroy suggests that the NSF may be increasingly looking for proposals that address real-life problems.

“I encourage my fellow scientists to find ways to enhance and highlight how your research methods and outcomes can be applied to improve the lives of fellow citizens, regardless of the theoretical nature of the research,” Debroy said.

Debroy also recommends attending the NSF CAREER bootcamp hosted by Linda Vigdor of the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center. He attended in 2018 and says the bootcamp helped immensely in shaping his writing.

“I am thrilled to receive this recognition from the National Science Foundation and look forward to the next five years of NSF-funded research,” Debroy said. “This award is a testament not only to me but to the computer science program at Hunter College and The Graduate Center. I’m proud to be part of such a thriving intellectual and service-oriented community.”


Submitted on: APR 23, 2020

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