Faculty Grant Awards

Our faculty engage in groundbreaking research to advance their field and improve lives. Below is a selected list of grant-funded research projects. 


Bridges to CS4All

Lucia Dettori

Grantor: National Science Foundation

Bridges to CS4All is a collaboration between DePaul University, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the Learning Partnership to integrate and expand the teaching of computer science in the CPS high school curriculum. CPS will coordinate recruiting teachers to integrate computational modules into their math and science courses, supporting the development of a cadre of teacher leaders in the professional learning communities that will be formed within the school, and enable the development of students’ computational thinking skills to better prepare them for a full-year CS course.


Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFÉCS)

Lucia Dettori

Grantor: National Science Foundation

The Chicago Alliance for Equity in Computer Science (CAFÉCS), is a researcher-practitioner partnership between DePaul, Chicago Public Schools, Loyola University, University of Illinois Chicago, and The Learning Partnership supporting the Computer Science for All Initiative (CS4All) at CPS. The goal of CS4All is to ensure that all CPS high school students take at least one relevant and compelling CS course and middle and elementary school children are exposed to computational thinking integrated in other disciplines.

The goal of CAFÉCS is to design, implement, and study support and accountability frameworks to reach district-wide deployment of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) course in CPS high schools, which fulfills the recently instituted CS graduation requirement. The project focus on ensuring a fidelity of implementation and long-term sustainability that fully incorporates the ‘equity,’ ‘inquiry,’ and ‘CS concepts’ strands of ECS.


Investigating the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Violence Interruption

Sheena Erete

Grantor: National Science Foundation

Although crime has decreased across most major US cities, violent crime is still a prominent issue in many urban environments. Neighborhoods that are plagued by such excessive violence endure negative effects on social and economic development. Though there are several approaches to addressing gun violence, one successful public health approach to reducing violence focuses on violence interruption, a neighborhood-level model whereby trained intervention workers identify potential violent events and provide immediate alternatives to disrupt violent incidents in their communities. This project investigates the potential of a mobile phone application to help intervention workers predict and interrupt violence during crimes and violent incidents. Violence interruption workers also provide long-term outreach in an attempt to permanently change violent behavior, including providing access to resources such as mental health services, social services, educational opportunities, and work training. This award will also support the design and development of a mobile application that uses predictive analytic techniques to provide violence interruption workers with the most effective intervention strategies based on data from over a decade of prior interventions.

Working with a leading violence interruption organization, this project examines how a mobile application can improve violence interruption outcomes by providing recommendations for the most effective strategies for resolving violent conflicts. The PI and her students will evaluate the mobile application in a 3-month deployment in Chicago. In addition to supporting the reduction of violence, results from this project will lead to a deeper understanding of how to design technology to scale effective violence interruption techniques informed by public health principles.


RI: Small: Collaborative Research: A Modular Approach to Robot Systems Incorporating Compliant and Soft Elements

Isuru Godage

Grantor: National Science Foundation

Dr. Godage is researching the development of next generation stiffness controllable modular soft robots that can be reconfigured in various morphologies for achieving manipulation and locomotion. Soft robots today have limited practical use due to lack of stiffness modulation to successfully negotiate environmental tasks. Dr. Godage and collaborators from Vanderbilt University and Clemson University are investigating how the range of soft robot stiffness modulation can be improved beyond the current capabilities through a combination of stiff and soft materials and smart arrangement thereof within robot structures. A core modeling framework will be developed, utilizing the results of extensive empirical and numerical studies using accurate kinematic and dynamic models, to compute the structural  composition of soft modules to deliver a defined range of stiffness to effectively meet the demands of manipulation locomotion.

3 students engagned around an computer screen 

Chicago SmartData Platform

Tanu Malik

Grantor: City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (subaward from University of Chicago)

The Smart Data Platform is a platform which helps automate predictive analytics for use within cities and display it without requiring a background in data science or statistics. Smart Data Platform helps automate analytics in cities. The platform grabs data from multiple city systems which allows users to explore in a single map and provides predictions to help cities operate efficiently and proactively.

The project is developed through a consortium of partners, including University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratories, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Smart Chicago Collaborative. Each institution owns the code developed, but have made it open source. Get more information about the Chicago Smart Data Platform source code.

group pic outside of DePaul CDM entrance 

REU Site: MedIX: Medical Informatics Experiences in Undergraduate Research

Daniela Stan Raicu / Jacob Furst

Grantor: National Science Foundation

The Medical Informatics (MedIX) program’s main objectives are to encourage talented undergraduates to pursue graduate education and to expose students to interdisciplinary research, especially at the border of information technology and medicine.

All of the projects on which students will work are inspired by state-of-the-art research questions in imaging informatics. Students will work as part of faculty-undergraduate teams on new problems ranging from traditional image processing (e.g. liver segmentation and computer-aided diagnosis, breast density assessment for cancer detection) to structured reporting and natural language processing of radiology reports, to workflow and process re-engineering to the application of data mining and ontology-based means for image annotation and markup (e.g. lung nodule detection and interpretation). Ultimately, each project has the long-term potential to increase the quality of healthcare available to people everywhere.

Faculty mentors will conduct tutorials on imaging informatics, conduct biweekly meetings of students and mentors, and create an environment that will expose students to all phases of research and graduate school. Students will participate in defining the direction of their research, give presentations to the group as well as other audiences, write up and publish research results in the format of a conference or journal article, and participate in relevant conferences.

The MedIX REU site will be hosted by two interdisciplinary laboratories: the Medical Informatics Laboratory at DePaul University and the Imaging Research Institute at the University of Chicago; the research environment will offer the students the opportunity to interact with computer scientists, medical physicists, and medical doctors.


Functional neural mapping of food search behavior for C. elegans using genetic tools and computational modeling

Daniela Stan Raicu / Jacob Furst

Grantor: DPU RFUMS

This funding supports research into neural mapping of the nematode C. elegans during food search behavior. A major goal of neuroscience is to understand how complex behaviors arise from neural networks. Because of enormous complexity in mammalian brains, researchers resorted to simple organisms whose neural structure is relatively simple. With a mere 302 neurons, the nematode C. elegans provides many advantages to investigate the neural basis of behaviors, including well-defined anatomical synaptic connections and invariable positions of neurons in different animals. Yet, studies by us showed that C. elegans food search behavior is highly conserved with those of other organisms in behavioral patterns and neural encoding.

The project researchers are specifically focusing on the networks of interneurons that interface sensory and motor neurons in food search behavior. They will individually abolish the functions of approximately a half of the interneurons (40 neurons), and record their food search behaviors at a high frame rate for a long period of time. The resulting data will be analyzed for complex search behavioral patterns as well as simple motor patterns using advanced machine learning algorithms, such as supervised, unsupervised, and deep learning. Based on the analysis, the interneurons will be clustered according to features. This cluster information of the interneurons, in conjunction with the anatomical connection map, will be used for constructing a map that delineates functional connections between interneurons. The new map will be further confirmed or elaborated by ablating two neurons in the same clusters, and by optogenetically modulating interneurons. Given that basic modules of neural networks that control behavior are conserved across species, the study will contribute to an understanding of functional neural networks in other higher organisms.


CORE: Platform for Cybersecurity Education Through Gamification

Filipo Sharevski / Jean-Philippe Labruyere

Grantor: National Security Agency

The CORE: Platform for Cybersecurity Education Through Gamification is a scalable and lightweight experiential range for learning cybersecurity though gamification that will be available for educational institutions who wish to educate and prepare cybersecurity graduates to fill Federal Government cybersecurity positions. The CORE platform incorporates an innovative approach to experiential cybersecurity learning: educating students in cybersecurity in a game-like learning environment with a focus on real-time reconnaissance, attack, defense, and live forensics challenges. This approach extends the traditional capture-the-flag approach for cybersecurity gamification, while accenting the importance of tactics in cyberoperations engagements and better integrating critical cyberoperations tasks. The experiential learning of cyberoperations-related skills will prepare the future cybersecurity workforce to adequately respond to advanced campaigns targeting US entities. The proposed platform will be devoted and evaluated (as part of the CNS 380 Advanced Cybersecurity Automation in Spring 2018) with students in DePaul University's College of Computing and Digital Media.


Secure Design: Course and Experimentation Workshop

Jessica Westbrook / Paige Trowbridge / Filipo Sharevski

Grantor: National Security Agency

The Secure Design: Course and Experimentation is developing a course under the CyberSecurity Core Curricula that will be publicly available for educational institutions who wish to educate and prepare CyberSecurity graduates to fill Federal Government CyberSecurity positions. It develops a course via an innovative approach to cybersecurity pedagogy: educating students in cybersecurity, information systems, interaction design, and graphic design in parallel, with a focus on Internet-of-Things architecture. The proposed curriculum will not only be developed, but evaluated (as part of a CNS 397 Topics class in Spring 2018) with students in DePaul University's College of Computing and Digital Media. The course will be an interdisciplinary, 300-400 level course (junior/senior level undergraduate). The subject will draw on the current research trends in: (1) cybersecurity; (2) information security management (3) interaction design; and (4) graphic design.

By taking the Secure Design course, the future cybersecurity professionals will be educated in principles of secure interaction and graphic design. Also, the course will help interaction and graphic designers to become an integral part of the cybersecurity workforce in designing and communicating security ideas to users. To these objectives, the focus is on parallel education of four groups of students that are key to secure design: (1) cybersecurity, (2) interaction design, (3) graphic design, and (4) information systems majors.


CHA Program in Interdisciplinary Design & CHA Program in Documentary Filmmaking

JoAnne Zielinski

Grantor: Chicago Housing Authority

The CHA Programs in Documentary Filmmaking, Interdisciplinary Design, and Screenwriting are designed to introduce teens who live in Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public residences to documentary filmmaking, interdisciplinary design, and screenwriting. Through generous grants from CHA and Springboard to Success, these six-week intensive programs were held during summer 2018. In all programs, faculty and student mentors from CDM’s Cinematic Arts and School of Design teach participants basic theory as well as the aesthetic, writing, and technical skills required to successfully produce a creative work.

In the documentary program, students produced three documentary films. In the interdisciplinary design program, students created computer games and media projects. In the screenwritng program, students wrote two screenplays. These programs demonstrate how documentary filmmaking, game design, and screenwriting can serve as entry points to community discussions on how to advocate for positive social change in Chicago.

Chaz Ebert wrote about the experience in her online journal.