Engineering professor secures two external grants

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 19, 2020

Sylvia Bhattacharya
Sylvia Bhattacharya

Kennesaw State University engineering professor Sylvia Bhattacharya was recently named the recipient of two competitive grants awarded by the U.S. Army and Google, respectively.

Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of electrical engineering technology in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, was first awarded research funding by the Army for her project “Multimodal Inference of Human State Cognitive Processes in Risky

Environments,” in which she will study the behavior of drivers and passengers in combat zones. The agreement, which has been funded for one year, has the option of two additional years, pushing the total funds to more than $486,000. 

In a separate effort, Bhattacharya has received $18,000 from Google’s exploreCSR initiative, which aims to encourage underrepresented groups to pursue graduate studies and research careers in computing.

“I am very humbled to receive these grants as they highlight two of my passions: research and opening doors for underrepresented students,” said Bhattacharya, who joined the University in August 2019 after earning her doctorate in electrical engineering at Florida State University. “Though they represent two vastly different efforts, it is my hope that they can serve as a springboard for our students who have an interest in research.”

The Army grant builds on her doctoral dissertation, in which she studied the behaviors of drivers in autonomous vehicles interacting with their fellow passengers. Using data provided by the Army, Bhattacharya will now expand her research to include that of the passengers as she tries to understand what environmental threats may exist by changes in their physical state, such as increased heart rates and muscles tightening. Using a machine learning algorithm, she hopes to be able to classify information in such a way that it is easier to determine a potentially threatening situation based on the motorists’ behavior.

With funding from exploreCSR, she will also build a one-on-one mentoring program to help undergraduate women determine their career paths and to expose them to graduate study opportunities.

“It has become very clear that there aren’t enough role models for women in the field of engineering,” Bhattacharya said. “Through this program, we will introduce our students to faculty across KSU and beyond, and involve them in group projects that allow them to sharpen their skills. In the end, we hope to show how applicable computing skills are to just about any field.”

Despite being with the University for just more than a year, engineering Dean Ian Ferguson said the impact of researchers like Bhattacharya is almost immediately felt.

“As a College, we are committed to conducting research that has a social impact and always seek to generate new opportunities for our students, and Dr. Bhattacharya is truly the embodiment of those efforts,” he said. “Over the past year, we have already increased our research funding by 24 percent.  I don’t believe we could have reached this level if it weren’t for the tenacity and drive our faculty show on a regular basis.”

– Travis Highfield

Photos by Jason Getz

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