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4. Campus Projects to Shape Policy and Advocate for STEM Education


CAREER: Flexible Networks with Source Control

National Science Foundation Award # 1149895

Dates: January 15, 2012–December 31, 2016 (Estimated)

  1. Philip Brighten Godfrey
    Department of Computer Science

Novel technologies such as software defined networking are changing the networking landscape by giving individual domains (such as ISPs) flexible control over their routers' behavior. Yet the Internet's interdomain routing architecture, which requires coordination among domains, remains mired in inflexibility. Indeed, many of the key shortcomings of the Internet's architecture --- including unreliability, inefficient resource allocation, and insecurity --- can be attributed in large part to inflexible routing. The Internet's BGP and IP protocols offer only a single path to each destination, and this path may be broken, inefficient, or insecure.

This project is developing an approach to bring flexibility to the Internet's routing and forwarding architecture. To break through the current logjam of inflexible routing, the project is advancing source-controlled routing (SCR) as an architectural approach to enable fundamentally more flexible routing. Rather than embedding the routing decisions within the network, routing decisions are a parameter to the network chosen at the source, i.e., the user's device or one acting on its behalf. That flexibility yields solutions to multiple problems, including reliability, performance, and protection from certain traffic attraction attacks.

To achieve a viable SCR architecture, the project is solving three key challenges: policy flexibility of the core architecture; security; and scalability. First, while past SCR architectures gave route control to users, they took away control from network owners and operators. The key need is "policy flexibility" in the architecture, to enable SCR without limiting network owners' control. The project is developing a formal theory of policy flexibility and designing an architecture which achieves high policy flexibility. Second, the project is quantifying the vulnerability of SCR architectures to denial-of-service attacks and developing techniques to limit the worst-case damage attackers can inflict. Third, the project is developing techniques for sources to utilize flexible routing in a scalable way, improving latency and reliability of Internet communications.

Broader Impact.The result of this project will be the theoretical foundations, design, and implementation of an Internet architecture that offers significant gains to areas which are the most critical challenges for the Internet today --- including reliability, performance, and security. The project's theoretically-grounded research methodology, including a novel theory of protocol flexibility, will be integrated with education via development of material for a graduate-level "Theory of Computer Networks" course and survey papers. Results will be disseminated through publications, presentations, and a public software release.


Collaborative Research: STEM Workforce Training: A Quasi-Experimental Approach Using the Effects of Research Funding

National Science Foundation Award # 1348742

Dates: September 1, 2013–August 31, 2017 (estimated)

  1. Vetle I. Torvik
    Graduate School of Library and Information Science (MC 493)

This is a collaborative project involving Ohio State University (lead institution), Pennsylvania State University, American Institutes for Research, University of Illinois-Urbana, and the University of Iowa. The project examines the impact of different research funding structures on the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and the impact of their subsequent outcomes. The rationale for the study is the recognition that research teams are organized differently in composition, size, and reliance of graduate students versus postdoctoral fellows. In addition, funding agencies change the structure of science training by creating programs that ?encourage? interdisciplinary groups, multi-university collaborations, or large research centers that focus on specific research questions. However, little research has been done about how these factors shape the career preparation of STEM professionals.

The PIs will begin by examining the different contexts of research funding and training and then (1) relate measures of team structure to the structure of funding to determine the extent to which funding agency policies shape research teams and (2) capture the trajectories of the students and postdoctoral fellows during and after their contact with the teams to quantify how the structure of teams affects training. They will use longitudinal administrative data that to capture information about sources of funding for the training and support of Ph.D.s and Postdocs from 13 major research institutions that participate in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation. They will then identify the nature of the research training through a text analysis of pertinent documents and use a quasi-experimental design to estimate the causal impact of the structure of research and length of training on trainee outcomes.

The project will have broad implications for the entire field of STEM education policy and research. The underlying algorithms and tools will be made available to the academic research community and can be leveraged to link internal human resources data sets to external data sets. This new data infrastructure also will facilitate the assessment of the effects of research investments on research productivity as well as undergraduate and graduate curriculum development.


SBP: The Roots of Female Underrepresentation in STEM and Beyond: Exploring the Development of Gender Stereotypes about Intelligence

National Science Foundation Award # 1530669

Dates: August 15, 2015–July 31, 2019 (estimated)

  1. Andrei Cimpian
    Developmental Psychology
  2. Sarah-Jane Leslie
    Cognitive Science

This project examines the development of a key factor leading to women's underrepresentation in science and technology. Specifically, it examines the development of the cultural stereotype that links males but not females with intellectual brilliance and genius. Previous research has found that academic disciplines that are believed to require a "spark of genius" tend to have the largest gender gaps. Because many science fields are portrayed in such terms, the "brilliance = males" stereotype may be an important factor in explaining the persistent gender gap in these disciplines. The primary goal of this research is understanding how this stereotype is acquired over the course of development. Investigating the development of this stereotype will inform how the stereotype might steer capable young women away from pursuing careers in science and technology and may also inform the optimal timing of potential interventions to block its adverse effects.

This project consists of three studies to examine three crucial developmental issues. First, it investigates the development of children's knowledge of the cultural stereotype that males are more likely to be brilliant than females. Second, it investigates the development of gender differences in children's motivation to engage in activities portrayed as requiring high levels of intellectual aptitude. Finally, it investigates longitudinally whether internalizing the stereotype against females' intellectual abilities undermines young girls' subsequent motivation to engage in activities that are said to require brilliance and giftedness. This research explores the development of a set of processes that ultimately limit opportunities for women. As such, these studies will improve parents', educators', and policy-makers' ability to intervene at the root of the problem to promote greater gender equity in those domains of academia and industry in which women have traditionally been underrepresented.

This proposal is being co-funded by Developmental and Learning Sciences, Social Psychology, and Science of Broadening Participation within the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate and by the Education and Human Resources Directorate's Core Research program and the Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program.


Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS)

National Science Foundation Award # 1449548

Dates: August 1, 2015–July 31, 2020 (estimated)

  1. Andrew Alleyne
    Developmental of Mechanical Science & Engineering

Nearly all modern electronic systems are hitting a power density wall where further improvements in power density pose significant challenges. The NSF Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS), aims to enhance or increase the electric power density available in tightly constrained mobile environments by changing the design. The management of high-density electrical and thermal power flows is a safety-critical societal need as recent electrical vehicles and aircraft battery fires illustrate. Engineering education conducted in silos limits systems-level approaches to design and operation. POETS will create the human capital that is explicitly trained to think, communicate, and innovate across the boundaries of technical disciplines. The Engineering Research Center (ERC) will institute curricular reform to train across disciplines using a systems perspective. It will develop pedagogical tools that allow greater stems-level understanding and disseminate these throughout the undergraduate curriculum. POETS will target undergraduate curriculum modifications aimed at early retention and couple it with undergraduate research and K-12 teacher activities. POETS' research will directly benefit its industry stakeholders comprised of power electronics Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and Small to Medium sized businesses in the OEM supply chain. An Industry/Practitioner Advisory Board will help direct efforts towards ready recipients of POETS research developments. POETS will harness the outputs of the ecosystem and drive research across the "valley of death" into commercialization.

POETS uses system level analysis tools to identify barriers to increased power density. Design tools will be used to create optimal system-level and subsystem-level designs. Novel algorithm tools will address the multi-physics nature of the integrated electro-thermal problem via structural optimization. Once barriers are identified, POETS will cultivate enabling technologies to overcome them. The operation of these systems necessitates development of heterogeneous decision tools that exploit multiple time scale hierarchies and are not suitable for real-time use. Implementation of these management approaches requires new 3D power electronics architectures that surpass current 2D designs. The thermal management will be tightly coupled with new 3D electronic systems designs using topology optimization for power electronics, storage, etc. The new designs will tightly interweave elements such as solid state thermal switches and modular multi-length scale elements; i.e. spreaders, storage units, phase change and mass flow system interacting with convection units. Fundamental research advances will support development of the 3D component technologies. New materials systems will be developed by manipulating nanostructures to provide tunable directionality for in plane and out-of-plane thermal power flows. These will be coupled with micro- and nano-scale thermal routing based on new conduction/convection systems. Buffers made from phase change material will be integrated into these systems to augment classes of autonomic materials with directed power flow actuation. Novel tested systems will integrate the system knowledge enabling technologies and fundamental breakthrough into modular demonstrations.