April 16, 2003

C.U. Receives Military Grants

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The United States Department of Defense (DoD) recently awarded $1.1 million in grant money to four projects at Cornell, reflecting the ongoing relationship between the University and the military. The grants are part of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).

MURI awards provide funding for research in areas applicable to national defense. DURIP, a program within MURI, provides funds for the acquisition of research equipment. Proposals were received from 83 researchers, who asked for $497 million. The DoD gave 17 awards, averaging $1 million a year, in 12 topic areas of basic science and engineering.

The four Cornell research project leaders are Computer Science Prof. Kenneth Birman; Associate Prof. of Electrical and Computer Engineering Lang Tong; Associate Prof. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Matthew Miller and the Sibley College Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stephen Pope.

Birman’s project received $427,608 from DURIP. The aim of the project is to develop software usable in military or other settings that require very secure connections on a massive scale. The grant money will help further the development of this technology. “The [grant] will help us create a laboratory in which we can experimentally evaluate our ideas under conditions that simulate things that might occur in the real world — overload, failures, attacks by intruders, etc.,” Birman said.

This technology is useful not only to the military, but also to other settings in which it is important that a computer network does not crash or fail, such as air traffic control, hospitals and power systems. “Our goal is to figure out how to build networked software that works under stresses that would disable the Web,” Birman said.

Technology like the kind being developed by Birman and his colleagues can be used to make military operations run more efficiently, with fewer computer failures. “One problem we’re looking at with the Air Force involves building better search and rescue technologies. Today, when allied soldiers are lost in hostile territory, it can be very hard to assemble a rescue mission. The military needs to pull many kinds of data together — information about positions of enemy forces, possible weapons, terrain, buildings, weather, available allied resources, medical personnel: you name it. It isn’t unusual for the planning to take days. With better computer systems that can tap into lots of different kinds of military and nonmilitary information sources, we’ll be able to get in there sooner, and that can be matter of life or death for a wounded soldier,” Birman said.

Tong’s award is for $458,997. His grant will fund work on a system with a unified platform that makes it possible to do laboratory testing of theoretical results and novel concepts for mobile wireless and sensor networks. Tong’s colleagues on the project are Assistant Professors of Electrical and Computer Engineering Rajit Manohar, Sergio Servetto and Anna Scaglione.

Miller and his colleague Paul Dawson, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, received a MURI grant of $126,357 to build an experimental load-test facility. Pope’s award is for $102, 904, for the purchase of a 24–node, 48-processor computing cluster for turbulence and combustion research.

Archived article by Jason Luger