Four Northwestern University assistant professors — Christos Dimoulas, Xiumin Du, Daniel Horton and Hatim Rahman — have received the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the foundation’s most prestigious honor for junior faculty members.
Dimoulas is an assistant professor of computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering. He will receive $534,000 over five years from NSF’s Division of Computing and Communication Foundations.
Du is an assistant professor of mathematics in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She will receive $498,420 over five years from NSF’s Division of Mathematical Sciences.
Horton is an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences in Weinberg. He will receive $600,000 over five years from NSF’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems.
Rahman is an assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. He will receive $485,595 over five years from the Division of Social and Economic Sciences.
The CAREER Award is designed to support promising young faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through the combination of outstanding research and education.
Dimoulas’ research combines theory and empirical experimentation to investigate programming languages pragmatics, i.e., whether a programming language feature helps or hinders software developers in the context of a work task, such as debugging, testing or refactoring code. He then employs the findings to (re)design programming language features and tools with pragmatics in mind.
For his NSF CAREER project, Dimoulas will develop a new empirical technique for evaluating programming languages pragmatics. The technique imagines developers as rational actors that use a language feature to complete a work task. In the technique, such actors become computational processes, dubbed rational programmers.
The specific strategy that each rational programmer uses to decide how to act codifies a hypothesis about how a language feature helps a developer in the context of the given task. Based on this idea, Dimoulas and his group will use rational programmers to conduct large-scale simulations and investigate when and how different language features help developers.
Dimoulas’ application of the research will include integrating the rational programmer in his undergraduate and graduate programming languages courses as a pedagogical instrument that students can use to examine the trade-offs involved when selecting between languages and language features.
Du’s research interest lies in harmonic analysis and its interactions with geometric measure theory and partial differential equations.
With the NSF support, Du will study weighted Fourier extension estimates as well as their variants and applications in partial differential equations and geometric measure theory. Fourier restriction/extension theory is a central topic in harmonic analysis.
A key idea behind harmonic analysis is to express a general function or operator as a sum of simpler parts. Harmonic analysis has countless practical applications in signal processing, tomography and quantum mechanics, among other areas. It is also a powerful tool to study many theoretical aspects of mathematics.
The education component of the project includes many activities to make the mathematical community more inclusive, improve graduate student education and better serve the Chicago area.
Horton will study the air quality, public health and equity implications of transportation electrification for his NSF CAREER project. The work includes building after-school sustainability-focused programming for middle school students, in partnership with Northwestern’s Science in Society.
Horton’s research group uses numerical Earth systems models to simulate the interaction of the built environment with meteorological and chemical processes. His group’s research focuses on identifying the impacts of human-caused climate change, as well as investigating the benefits and tradeoffs of various climate change solution proposals. His team is particularly interested in resolving the distribution of air pollutants at fine spatial scales, to assess impacts, benefits and tradeoffs amongst population subgroups.
Before joining Northwestern in 2015, Horton was a postdoctoral scholar in Stanford University’s department of Earth System Science.
Rahman’s research examines how new technology, such as artificial intelligence, is changing the way people work and the implications these changes have for the future of work. He is particularly interested in understanding how organizations are using algorithms to control and evaluate workers and the impact algorithmic control has on worker outcomes.
For his NSF CAREER project, Rahman will explore how to empower more adults without college degrees to obtain higher-paying STEM jobs created by AI and new technologies. Because employment is the primary way people gain social and economic mobility in the U.S., Rahman’s goal is to develop new, holistic understanding about the organizational and individual factors that will help adults overcome labor market barriers to access, participate in and complete STEM education and training for better jobs created by new technologies.
Rahman will develop this understanding by studying organizations in Chicago which are helping in the reskilling process. Rahman’s long-term educational goal is to use his findings to develop new curriculum for Northwestern’s Prison Education Program to help people obtain the necessary STEM skills for re-entering the labor market.