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UA CyberSeed Program Funds More Campus Research

Hands type on a computer keyboard on a desk.Four promising research projects received funding from Year 2 of The University of Alabama Cyber Initiative’s CyberSeed program, part of the UA Office for Research and Economic Development.

The pilot seed-funding program promotes collaborative research on campus while ensuring a stimulating and well-managed environment for quality research. Emphasis was placed this year on pilot projects that combine a strategic focus of the UA Cyber Initiative with that of a UA research institute.

The three major areas addressed by this year’s projects are artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection.

“These projects apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve important cybersecurity and critical infrastructure problems related to transportation and water infrastructure,” said Dr. Jeffrey Carver, professor of computer science and chair of the UA Cyber Initiative.

Three projects collaborate with the Alabama Transportation Institute.

“The Alabama Transportation Institute is pleased to collaborate with the Alabama Cyber Initiative around areas where cybersecurity and cyber infrastructure impact transportation,” said Dr. Allen Parrish, ATI executive director. “Cyber is a critical part of transportation systems of the future, and assuring reliable and connected systems is definitely paramount to the safety and efficacy of these systems and the consequent well-being of our society.”

The first project with ATI, led by Dr. Nickolas Freeman, associate professor of operations management; Dr. Burcu Keskin, professor of operations management; and Dr. Gregory Bott, assistant professor of management information systems, focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, also known as AI/ML, to detect human trafficking. Specifically, their research aims to identify attributes indicative of sex trafficking activity, which will allow law enforcement agents to more effectively plan and execute interdiction activities.

A project led by Dr. Sevgi Gurbuz and Dr. Mithat Kisacikoglu, assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering, is using machine learning techniques to analyze, learn and characterize the power distribution grid operation. The proposed solution will enable scalable integration of electric vehicles into the complex operation of the power distribution grid. This project is co-funded by ATI.

Another project with ATI, led by Dr. Mizanur Rahman, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Dr. Travis Atkison, assistant professor of computer science, is using AI/ML to explore the security vulnerabilities in intelligent traffic signals and develop a predictive approach for cyberattack detection and mitigation. This innovative approach will help ensure safety against cyberattacks, which could cause catastrophic accidents at intersections controlled by traffic signals and hinder the transportation system of a city. ATI co-funds this project.

The fourth project funded through the CyberSeed program addresses a strategic focus of the Alabama Water Institute.

“These CyberSeed projects show the integrated power of linking computing capabilities to address real-world problems related to water can resolve tough issues,” said Scott Rayder, AWI executive director. “The Alabama Water Institute is excited to partner with the Cyber Institute on this important initiative.”

Led by Dr. Steven Weinman, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering; Dr. Jason Bara, professor of chemical and biological engineering; and Dr. Heath Turner, professor and head of chemical and biological engineering, the project is using AI/ML to reduce the amount of energy required to desalinate water that is much saltier than seawater. This project will transform the utilization of nontraditional water sources that are not rivers, lakes and oceans into potential sources of potable water, alleviating water stress seen in many areas around the world.


Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328, adam.jones@ua.edu