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Five at UVa get grants

From The Daily Progress
September 16, 2000

By Eric Swensen

F ive University of Virginia professors have received more than $3 million in grants from the National Science Foundation for research in information technology fields such as software design and computer security.

Kevin Sullivan, an assistant professor of computer science, received a three year, $1.36 million grant to work with colleagues at three other universities to develop concepts, methods, and tools for what he described as "value-based software design and engineering."

He said software designers often make design choices based on technical criteria without considering what the software will be used for, whether it's business software designed to create profits or education software used to expand knowledge.

"There's a disconnect between the way that software designers make decisions and the interests of those for whom they're making the decisions," he said.

Information technology, fueled by software development, is the largest generator of tax revenue in Virginia, Sullivan said.

"The software industry in Virginia is tremendous," he said. "It's in the interest of the state to have this kind of top-notch research."

Jorg Liebeherr, an associate professor of computer science, received a five-year $1.25 million grant to expand the capabilities of the Internet. His project is part of a $5 million grant shared between UVa and three other universities.

Liebeherr and his research partners will attempt to upgrade the Internet so that time-critical applications such as those controlling power plants or performing surgery could be performed via the Internet on a worldwide scale.

The time it takes to perform a function on the Internet can vary from occasion to occasion, he said. But even a brief delay for someone operating a surgical robot over the Internet "would create a disaster," he said.

Ronald Williams, an associate professor of mechanical and electrical engineering, and Barry Johnson, a professor of electrical engineering, received a three-year $436,701 grant. Their research will focus on improving security in embedded computer systems, which are computers used to control systems as varied as microwave ovens and airplanes.

Security concerns arise, they said, when computers are hooked into the Internet. For example, people using cell phones to make financial transactions through the Internet could have their financial or personal information stolen.

The professors said they would use their research to provide a broader education in security issues to computer engineering students.

Kevin Skadron, an assistant professor of computer science, received a two-year, $110,000 grant. He could not be reached for comment Friday.


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