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National Science Foundation Recognizes Six Recently Hired Faculty Members at Queens College

-- Along with Honor Comes Support for Research in Such Areas as Software for the Deaf; Computer Security and Information Retrieval --

Flushing, N.Y, May 12, 2010 ― Most colleges would be honored to have a single National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award recipient. Queens College has six current recipients—all of them assistant professors and recent professional hires in the departments of Computer Science, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Mathematics.

Says QC President James Muyskens: “Since I arrived on campus in 2002, there has been a dramatic change in the makeup of our faculty, as half has been hired since then. And what a faculty we’ve hired! This latest example represents an unprecedented achievement for these outstanding scientists, as well as for the college.”

“These substantial grants both honor and support outstanding research efforts by promising young scientists early in their careers,” says Acting Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Richard Bodnar. “The money also enables graduate and undergraduate students to do meaningful work in the labs of these faculty members.”


Adds Zhigang Xiang (Computer Science), whose department is home to three of the awardees, “I feel very fortunate. As a department head, there is nothing more you can expect than to get such talented people to join your staff.”

Meet the Early Career Award Faculty

“For several reasons, a majority of deaf high school graduates in the U.S. have at best only a fourth-grade English reading level, but many of these adults have sophisticated fluency in American Sign Language (ASL),” says Matt Huenerfauth (Computer Science, hired 2006). “So, software that can present information in the form of ASL animations, or automatically translate English text to ASL would improve these persons’ access to websites, communication, and information.” 


Huenerfauth’s lab uses a range of motion-capture equipment—including gloves with sensors, special body suits, and eye-trackers—to digitize the movements of humans performing ASL sentences, which differ in structure and word order from English. “By analyzing the patterns in how humans perform ASL signs, we can produce animated virtual human characters that produce more realistic ASL movements,” Huenerfauth says.

Seogjoo Jang (Chemistry & Biochemistry, hired 2005) is conducting research on the development of computational methods for energy flow dynamics in soft optoelectronic molecular systems. His work promises to have “a broad impact on the development of methods that could lead to new advances in optics as well as electronic and sensor devices,” says Jang.


The research of Jianbo Liu (Chemistry & Biochemistry, hired 2006) focuses on the use of mass spectrometry and ion/molecule reaction techniques to study the reactions of biologically important molecules with reactive oxygen species.  Oxidation of biomolecules is an important biological process associated with aging, disease and photodynamic therapy for cancer.  “We also hope to discover and develop new methods and techniques in analytical chemistry and nanotechnology,” says Liu.


Heng Ji’s (Computer Science, hired 2008) work has important implications for researchers looking to automatically retrieve and track information from unstructured, machine-readable documents. “Ideally, you would initiate a search for information on a given topic and the program would automatically extract and track relevant information in all languages,” she says. “The program would then generate a summary of relevant findings.”


Alexey Ovchinnikov (Mathematics, hired 2009) is developing efficient algorithms that can be used to solve differential and difference equations. “These will have practical applications everywhere differential equations are used—in physics, biology, chemistry, and the sciences in general,” says Ovchinnikov.

With the Internet emerging as the main platform for computation, individuals have become increasingly reliant on cryptography to ensure privacy and security in their day-to-day activities and protect their personal information from unauthorized access.

“However, the design of many cryptosystems do not adequately account for new computational and cryptographic attacks made possible by advances in quantum computing and complex protocol interactions on the Internet,” says Hoeteck Wee (Computer Science, hired 2008). The focus of his project lies in the design and analysis of new cryptographic protocols that address these new attacks.


Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), founded in 1937, is dedicated to the idea that a first-rate education should be accessible to talented individuals of all backgrounds and financial means. Its more than 20,000 students come from over 140 nations and speak scores of languages, creating an extraordinarily diverse and welcoming environment. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. Each year Queens College has been cited by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. In addition, U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges (2010) ranks QC among the top 10 public universities in its category “Best Universities—Master’s (North).” The college opened its first residence hall in August 2009. More info on Queens College at .


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