Invenio 2011

Building a Career in Computer Science

Jiangjiang Liu is the first at Lamar University to receive the National Science Foundation’s prestigious career-development award.

Jiangjiang LiuJiangjiang (Jane) Liu has only been a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science since 2004, the year she earned her doctorate in computer science and engineering from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. After arriving, she quickly immersed herself in her teaching and research. Her achievements were recognized with a promotion to associate professor and the award of a $400,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant, the first received by a Lamar University faculty member. According to the National Science Foundation, the award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. The goal is to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

“I have accumulated extensive experience in the design of compression and encoding techniques for interconnects in uniprocessors through prior research achievements,” Liu said of her research. She’s also achieving the goal of integrating education and research. “I have been actively supervising undergraduate research projects and reaching out to underrepresented students in computer science,” she said. She’s been able to do this through her work as co-project investigator of INSPIRED (Increasing Student Participation in Research Development), an NSF-funded program led by Peggy Doerschuk, professor of computer science. Liu is also involved in the NSF-funded STAIRSTEP (Students Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program) and WIRED (Women in Research Development) programs.

Funding for the CAREER award started in 2009 and runs until 2014. It supports an integrated research and education program that addresses the challenge of the enormous demand for high-speed and energy-efficient interconnects in proliferating multi-core systems used by most high-performance computing and data-intensive applications. The funding also stimulates and equips aspiring undergraduates in advanced study and attracts more underrepresented or low-income students in kindergarten through twelfth-grade to the computing fields.

“For research, we focus on devising a comprehensive suite of effective compression methodologies to enhance interconnect performance and to relieve the energy bottleneck caused by interconnects in multi-core systems,” Liu said. “We analyze the redundancy and pattern in the information exchanged between the processor and memory system to evaluate the potential for compression in improving performance, while reducing power consumption and the cost of interconnects.” One goal, she says, is to create novel informationpattern-aware compression techniques to significantly improve interconnect bandwidth and alleviate the ever-worsening energy bottleneck. She and her colleagues also plan a comprehensive evaluation of design tradeoffs between performance, power and cost using experimental simulations to refine and optimize the compression models for a broad range of applications including high-performance computing, data-intensive applications and handheld devices.

“For education, we focus on undergraduate research and K-through-12 outreach to motivate and equip promising undergraduates to pursue advanced degrees—and to fortify computing education in K-through-12 schools that serve mostly minority or low-income students,” she said. “We offer summer computing workshops for local K-through-12 computer science, technology, science and math teachers.” The first five-day workshop was held in summer 2010 for teachers from school districts around Beaumont. Each year, the workshops will have a different focus, and teachers will be encouraged to supplement their courses using hands-on activities related to each year’s area of focus. The areas of interest include computer systems, robotics, computer animation, programming languages and the Internet.

“We are so proud of Dr. Liu,” said Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It was clear from the start that Jane is an excellent teacher and scholar, and that she was destined to become one of Lamar University's finest. She is our first NSF CAREER award recipient and is most deserving of that recognition and of such a national investment in her professional growth and development. Earning this award brings honor to both Dr. Liu and our university but, most importantly, it will enable her to integrate research and teaching in ways that will benefit greatly the students whom she instructs and mentors for years to come.”

Brenda Nichols, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, concurs with Doblin. “Dr. Liu is an extremely organized and dedicated teacher,” she said. “She involves students in her projects and that leads them to understand more about computer science than just sitting in on a lecture. Her research has added a great deal to her teaching and benefits all of her students. Dr. Liu is a role model for other faculty and for her students. We are lucky to have her working here.”

True to her dynamic personality, Liu is working at full speed on all of her projects. “I’m excited and honored to receive the CAREER award,” Liu said. “There are lots of things to accomplish in both the research and education programs.”