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Picture of Dr. Fran Li with Go board and chess board

Fran Li Games the Power Grid

Professor Fran Li’s friends know him as an enthusiastic fan of board games. He competitively played Go, a strategic board game popular in East Asian countries, while in high school and college. At the time, he never thought that he would someday link his hobby with his research.

Now his Go hobby has grown into the territory of a research proposal funded by the National Science Foundation at $330,000 for three years, beginning August 2018. His project, “From AlphaGo to Power System Artificial Intelligence,” uses game-based artificial intelligence (AI) technology to investigate power-grid issues.

Picture of Dr. Fangxing "Fran" Li

Dr. Fran Li

Go, also called Weiqi or Baduk, originated in ancient China some 2,500 years ago. It is played by two people alternately placing black and white stones on a board marked with a 19-by19 square grid. The goal is to surround more territory on the board than one’s opponent, so it is sometimes literally translated as “the surrounding game.”

While Go is often compared with chess, it has a higher measure of complexity—10^170 in state space, while chess is merely 10^47. Go’s popularity has increased throughout Europe and North America in recent years, especially in academia. Mathematicians and computer scientists found that Go is one of the best targets for testing AI algorithms.

AI has made many significant achievements in gameplay in the past a few decades. The chess software DeepBlue beat the legendary chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But the best Go AI still could not beat an average amateur Go player, let alone any professional player, because of the difficulty of mimicking a human brain’s logical reasoning ability in this complex game.

That situation changed between 2015 and 2017 when Google DeepMind’s AI program called AlphaGo defeated several world professional Go champions. This was considered such an epic milestone in both the AI and Go communities that the AI triumph was featured on the cover of Nature.

Li was immediately attracted by the success of AlphaGo. Since then, he has examined the reasons that AlphaGo can achieve what past AI efforts could not, and investigated ways to use the strategies and algorithms in AlphaGo to solve some complex problems in the field of electric power systems.

After laying out a detailed comparison of Go, AlphaGo, and some power system problems, Li proposed ideas to address a number of emerging problems in the modernized power systems under the smart-grid era, such as strategic market bidding with renewables, security assessment under multi-scenario and multi-period paradigm, and other aspects.

Li is the James W. McConnell Professor in electrical engineering and computer science and serves as the UT Campus Director for CURENT.

Read more about Li’s recently funded project.

2018 EECS Welcome Back Celebration- Video Recap

On August 22, 2018, Systers: Women in EECS @ UTK hosted the EECS Welcome Back Celebration, in the Min Kao building. It’s our way of welcoming all of our students back for a great fall semester!  Thanks to all of you who came out and participated. Here are some highlights from the day…

Parker Taking New Role at Office of Science and Technology Policy

Lynne Parker is stepping down as interim dean of UT’s Tickle College of Engineering to serve as assistant director for artificial intelligence for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Picture of Dr. Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker

Mark Dean, the John Fisher Distinguished Professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as interim dean of the college, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor David Manderscheid has announced.

Parker’s final day as interim dean is Wednesday. Dean will take over on Thursday.

“I want to thank Lynne for her outstanding service as interim dean and congratulate her on this tremendous opportunity to work in the Office of Science and Technology Policy,” Manderscheid said. “I’m pleased that Mark agreed to step in and assume the reins as interim dean. After a history-making career in the private sector, Mark brought his pioneering knowledge of computing back to his alma mater. His research and teaching have been—and will continue to be—of great benefit to the Tickle College of Engineering.”

Picture of Dr. Mark Dean

Mark Dean

A pioneering computer scientist who holds three of the nine patents in the earliest development of the personal computer, Dean received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UT in 1979, then completed a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and a doctorate from Stanford University, both also in electrical engineering.

Prior to coming to work at UT in 2013, Dean served in Dubai as chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa. Before that, he was vice president at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.

“It is an honor to be asked to serve as interim dean of the Tickle College of Engineering,” Dean said. “My primary goal in returning to the college was to do whatever was needed to support the growth and success of the college. I will do all I can to continue the progress and momentum established by Interim Chancellor Davis and Interim Dean Parker, and to support the TCE students, faculty, and staff in achieving their goals.”

Dean is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was named an IBM Fellow, the company’s highest technical honor, and he holds 14 IBM Invention Achievement Awards and six Corporate Awards. The National Society of Black Engineers, in which he is a Distinguished Engineer, has twice selected him Black Engineer of the Year. His honors also include the US Department of Commerce Ronald H. Brown American Innovator Award and the National Institute of Science Outstanding Scientist Award.

Parker, a widely recognized leader in the field of distributed multirobot systems, will begin her new role with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on August 20. She will oversee interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts in artificial intelligence and provide advice to the Executive Office of the President on AI-related matters. She will encourage the development of national approaches that ensure a robust AI research ecosystem, a well-prepared workforce, and the creation of unique research partnerships across academia, industry, and the federal government.

“I have been honored to serve as interim dean of the Tickle College of Engineering and have had a terrific experience,” Parker said, “yet I am extremely excited about this new opportunity at OSTP. AI is a topic of intense national and international attention, and the world is looking to the United States to provide leadership. The opportunity to help lead the nation in an area that has such national and international importance, and which has been the focus of my career, is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege. I am honored to be asked to serve the nation in this manner.”

This appointment marks the second time Parker has worked in a federal research leadership role; she served in 2015–2016 as division director of information and intelligent systems in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation.

During her time at OSTP, Parker will remain affiliated with UT through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which allows the temporary assignment of personnel to the federal government from institutions such as universities. Parker will make occasional visits to UT to continue research with her graduate students and discuss strategic research opportunities. Her appointment will be for one year, with the option to renew for up to four years.

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

EECS Faculty Begin Fall Semester with Promotions and Tenure

Congratulations to our EECS faculty members who received well-earned promotions and tenure this month!

Promoted to Full Professor

Picture of Dr. Jayne WuJayne Wu

Research: Micro-electronics, microfluidics, MEMS

 

 

 

Tenured and Promoted to Associate Professor

Picture of Dr. Nicole McFarlaneNicole McFarlane

Research: Mixed signal circuit design, biotechnology and bio-sensor design particularly for lab-on-chip applications, noise theory for electronic systems, energy and power trade-offs in mixed signal circuit design in particular studying the channel capacity of analog circuits, microfabrication and development of devices.

Promoted to Research Associate Professor

Chien-fei Chen, EECS

Chen serves as the director of education and diversity programs and research assistant professor for CURENT. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Sociology.

Dr. Greg Peterson Starts Term of Service as EECS Interim Department Head

Picture of Dr. Gregory Peterson

Dr. Greg Peterson, Interim EECS Department Head

Congratulations to Dr. Greg Peterson, who has begun serving as the new Interim Department Head for the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.

Previous Department Head and Min H. Kao Professor Leon Tolbert is returning to the department’s faculty at that time, having served as head since January 2013.

Dr. Peterson has been a key member of the department for almost 20 years and will be a familiar face to our faculty during this time of transition. I would like to thank Dr. Tolbert for his years of leadership and for all the growth and success he has overseen during his time as head of the department.

Peterson has served in a number of leadership roles, including as a US Air Force captain at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory, as deputy director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, and as director of UT’s National Institute for Computational Sciences. He earned his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

He is a senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Accellera/VHDL International Users’ Forum, and the Society for Computer Simulation.

Once again, please join us in congratulating Dr. Peterson on his new role.

UT EECS alumna giving neuromorphic computers brains and brawn

by Simon Simoneau, Communications, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Picture of Dr. Katie Schuman- photo credit ORNL

Dr. Katie Schuman, Liane B. Russell Early Career Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

If you try to visually represent a spiking neural network, a type of machine learning model, what you often get is an inextricable three-dimensional spiderweb of flashing dots and lines. This visual complexity masks a deeper dynamism, though, as the tangled mass is actually an ever-changing network of neurons and synapses inspired by the architecture of the human brain.

These networks, known as neuromorphic systems when implemented in hardware, are optimized over hundreds, thousands, or even millions of iterations on powerful computers by researchers like Katie Schuman, a Liane B. Russell Early Career Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Schuman is a neuromorphic computing researcher on ORNL’s Nature Inspired Machine Learning Team, where she works to figure out what makes the human brain so powerful and how to leverage the theory of biologically inspired computing into practice.

“There’s a lot to learn about what is possible with computing and with these systems,” she said. “It’s a paradigm shift in how we think about what computers can do.”

Read more

Recent Supercomputing Opinion Piece by Dr. Jack Dongarra in the Washington Post

Photo of Dr. Jack DongarraUniversity Distinguished Professor Dr. Jack Dongarra has penned an opinion piece about supercomputing for the Washington Post.  The United States has once again claimed the top spot in the race for the world’s most powerful and fastest scientific supercomputer.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to this computer, called Summit.

Read Dr. Dongarra’s article here.

Interim EECS Dept. Head Announced

Picture of Dr. Gregory Peterson

Dr. Greg Peterson, Interim EECS Department Head

Dr. Lynne Parker, interim Dean of the Tickle College of Engineering, has announced that Professor Greg Peterson has agreed to serve as the interim head of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, effective August 1, 2018. Current Department Head and Min H. Kao Professor Leon Tolbert is returning to the department’s faculty at that time, having served as head since January 2013.

Dr. Peterson has been a key member of the department for almost 20 years and will be a familiar face to our faculty during this time of transition. I would like to thank Dr. Tolbert for his years of leadership and for all the growth and success he has overseen during his time as head of the department.

Peterson has served in a number of leadership roles, including as a US Air Force captain at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Research Laboratory, as deputy director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, and as director of UT’s National Institute for Computational Sciences. He earned his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

He is a senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Society for Engineering Education, the Accellera/VHDL International Users’ Forum, and the Society for Computer Simulation.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Peterson on his new role.

New EECS Professor Dr. Michela Taufer Quoted in Supercomputing Story on PBS’ NovaNext

The Human Connectome (from PBS NovaNext website)

The Human Connectome (Courtesy of PBS NovaNext website)

 

 

From the PBS NovaNext website:

Bobby Kasthuri has a problem.

In an effort to understand, on the finest level, what makes us human, he’s set out to create a complete map of the human brain: to chart where every neuron connects to every other neuron. The problem is, the brain has more connections than the Milky Way has stars. Just one millionth of the organ contains more information than all the written works in the Library of Congress. A map of the brain would represent the single largest dataset ever collected about anything in the history of the world.

Making that map seems like a task that could consume not just one lifetime, but dozens. Yet in just three years, it might just be possible.

Read more

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