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NASA awards $1.3M to WSSU and two other NC HBCUs for data science and AI research

NASA has awarded $1.3 million to three N.C. HBCUs including Winston-Salem State University for data science and artificial intelligence research.

The grant, specifically $1,336,700, facilitates the establishment of the Institute for Advanced Cyberphysical Technologies and Multi-agent Perception (IMPACT) as a collaborative initiative among WSSU, Fayetteville State and North Carolina Central universities.

Over the course of three years, the institute will focus on training, research design and execution, aligning its efforts with two NASA use-cases: one aimed at enhancing life on Earth using AI while the other involves space exploration with robotic agents in the quest for extraterrestrial life.

The research team at WSSU will place emphasis on improving life on Earth, which delves into the shifting ecosystems in the Arctic and Boreal regions due to rapid climate warning, said Dr. Debzani Deb, WSSU’s RJ Reynolds Endowed Professor of Computer Science and founding director of the Center for Applied Data Science (CADS). Their research will extend to understanding society’s responses to these climate changes, encompassing economic, governance and policy dimensions that will significantly influence the future of both the region and the planet.

Dr. Debzani Deb

The grant will provide financial support to faculty for their summary salary and travel, while offering tuition and financial assistance to graduate and undergraduate students as they all foster extensive research capabilities in AI and machine learning systems at WSSU.

“Winston-Salem State University has already established CADS to identify and overcome various barriers hindering the widespread and sustainable adoption of data-intensive research and education,” Dr. Deb said. “IMPACT will leverage these capabilities to involve WSSU students and faculty in utilizing data sciences (study of data to extract meaningful insights for business) as a crucial tool for addressing scientific inquiries. This integration is pivotal in advancing NASA mission research.”

The lead institute on this project is FSU due to its existing and established collaboration with NASA. Dr. Deb will direct the WSSU research team associated with this project. Other collaborators on the grant include Dr. Sambit Bhattacharya, a professor in computer science, at FSU, and Dr. Ravanasamudram Uma, a professor of computer science, at NCCU.

“Collaborating with NASA scientists, as well as faculty and student groups from three universities, will provide a rich and interdisciplinary environment for tackling challenges related to improving life on Earth and searching for life beyond our planet,” Dr. Deb said. “Through this collaborative partnership with NASA, marked by discovery and innovation, this project directly contributes to enhancing the intellectual climate, which is a part of WSSU’s strategic plan for 2030, and reinforces our institutional identity as a catalyst for economic mobility.”


About Winston-Salem State University: Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region, and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

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