January 28, 2016

Prof Awarded $10M Grant for Computational Sustainability Work

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The National Science Foundation awarded a $10 million Expeditions in Computing grant to Prof. Garla Gomes, who plans to create a new subfield of computer science.

The grant, which supports “interdisciplinary, multi-investigator research teams working on transformative computing and technology” is one of the largest grants in the computer science industry.

“It was truly exhilarating to receive the news of our award,” Gomes said.

While this grant is much larger than the standard grants NSF awards, Gomes said she has been awarded the grant once before. To Gomes and her team, the award serves as proof to the successes they achieved with the first NSF grant.

“This second NSF Expeditions Award is a validation for us of our initial, highly ambitious vision to create Computational Sustainability as a new subfield [in] computer science,” Gomes said. “It also confirmed to us that the results of our first expeditions have been well received by our community.”

One of the major sucesses enabled by NSF grants is the research network called CompSustNet, led by Gomes and her team at Cornell.  On both a national and international scale, the network connects computer scientists and sustainability researchers.

“CompSustNet is a large-scale collaborative research network, consisting of 12 academic institutions and over 20 collaborating institutions,” Gomes said. “[It] will further nurture and expand the horizons of the nascent field Computational Sustainability.”

Gomes said she looks forward to the possibilities this additional grant will offer.

“We plan to transfer computational sustainability research into policy and decision making for sustainability with direct real-world impact,” Gomes added. “Computing and information science has had a transformative impact on the way modern society functions.”

To earn the grant, Gomes said she had to pass many rounds of evaluation against hundreds of competing proposals. Finalists who went to NSF had to present their proposals to a scientific panel in one hour and 30 minutes, she said.

“The process is quite competitive involving several rounds,” Gomes said. “In the first phase, over 200 proposals from teams around the nation were submitted. It starts with a short presentation, followed by answers to the tough panel questions.”

Gomes said she believes the grant will help solidify the University’s role as a top-tier research institution.

“CompSustNet brings together Cornell researchers interested in the new field of computational sustainability,” Gomes said. “Our effort will help further establish Cornell University as a research leader in both computing and sustainability.”