Google funding goes to three UT researchers

Kylie Fitzpatrick

Three University professors recently received Google Research Awards — totaling $170,000 — to fund cutting-edge scientific research on topics including driverless vehicle systems, data crunching and child-friendly search engines.

Transportation engineering professor Kara Kockelman, information assistant professor Jacek Gwizdka and computer science professor Lorenzo Alvisi will each receive funding structured as one-year gifts. 

Google Research Awards fund a project for one year and provide both faculty and students an opportunity to work directly with Google researchers and engineers. In the latest round of biannual awards for project proposals in computer science-related fields, 110 out of 722 proposals received funding. 

“What’s fabulous is the flexibility,” Kockelman said. “The topic is something I chose, rather than their issuing us a specific request for proposals, so that is very appreciated that we get to pick our favorite topics.” 

Kockelman, whose research investigates how automated driving capabilities will impact transportation system design, said the funding comes at a time when money is tight. 

“It is very challenging for us, even in engineering and traditionally well-sponsored areas, and so absolutely every dollar counts,” Kockelman said. “We are just hoping and praying that we can get more research support from the federal and state [transportation departments].”

Gwizdka, who is also the co-director of the University’s Information eXperience Lab, said the recognition for his work was more important than the money. His research focuses on how children search for information on the Internet. 

“We want to create a better metric of text readability of search results on the Internet, and one of the tools that I will be using in this research is eye-tracking,” Gwizdka said. “Something that tells me where a person, in this case where a kid, is looking on the screen.”

Alvisi, who could not be reached for comment, will work on developing instruments to help health care systems manage and process large quantities of data.