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Clarkson University Professors Sean & Natasha Banerjee Awarded Elite NSF Research Grant

Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Computer Science Natasha Banerjee and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sean K. Banerjee have received Clarkson's first CRI grant from the National Science Foundation, adding to Clarkson's reputation as a nationally ranked research institution.

A rendering of the Clarkson University's proposed Tera-scale All-sensing Research Studio (TARS)Natasha Banerjee and Sean Banerjee are co-directors of the University's Tera-scale All-sensing Research Studio (TARS). They perform research on understanding how humans interact in real-world and online environments.

The CRI grant, fully named CISE (computer and information science and engineering) Research Infrastructure, provides funding through May of 2020 and will allow this innovative lab to rapidly evolve.

“It's a huge deal to get a CRI grant. We're very excited about it,” noted the couple, who joined the faculty at Clarkson two years ago.

“We're waiting on lab space, but plan a three-year timetable to build our lab with new components every year, Sean Banerjee said. “ It will be rapid-fire, but the heart and core of it is the algorithms we're writing.”

The TARS lab uses sensors to determine and understand how humans move and physically interact. Funding from the NSF grant will enable them to set up a 25-foot by 25-foot by 12-foot tall space where their sensors will capture color images, measure distance, and show details such as joints on a person's body and individual points on a person's face. Equipment will include 50 fine-resolution cameras, 25 depth cameras, 25 microphones, and 10 infrared cameras to observe people from many viewpoints.

“This all will help us understand how people interact with each other and everyday objects," said Natasha Banerjee. "For example, a mother and child are playing games. This can figure into autism cues. We also can collect information on how people recover after injuries, how athletes train, and how you can train amateurs. We can study how musicians perform and use that knowledge to help others learn.”

All this data will be obtained without the encumbrance of a device attached to a subject's body. The information all will measured by sensors in the lab space. “We want to let people be themselves, without worrying about markers to step on,” the Banerjees noted.

“One of the crazy things about this is that for every minute we observe a person, we will get two terabytes of data," said Sean Banerjee. "That's a huge amount. Studies for different purposes need different types of data so we'll be able to reduce and share it."

“We would particularly like to thank our students who work with us in the lab -- 14 undergraduates and four graduate students. They have all individually played a role in assuring this grant is successful,” he added.

Graduates students working in the lab are: Yijun Jiang (computer science Ph.D.) of Shanghai, China; Hunter Quant (computer science M.S.) of Norwood, N.Y.; Lintao Guo (computer science M.S.) of Qinyang, China; and Marc Bishop (electrical engineering M.S.) of Lisbon, N.Y.

Undergraduates working in the lab are: David Russell ’20 (computer science, electrical engineering, Honors Program,) of Elkins, N.H.; Nikolas Lamb ’19 (computer science) of Dryden, N.Y.; Matthew Inkawhich ’17 (software engineering) of Whitesboro, N.Y.; Scott Straw ’17 (computer engineering) of Fairport, N.Y.; Tim Dunn ’19 (electrical engineering, computer science, Honors Program,) of Penfield, N.Y.; Phillip Tibberts ’19 (computer science, Honors Program) of Greenwich, Conn.; Eric Sognefest ’18 (computer science) of East Syracuse, N.Y.; Damon Gwinn ’19 (computer science) of Cohoes, N.Y.; Emily Campbell ’18 (software engineering, Honors Program) of Denmark, Maine; Gus Naughton ’20 (computer science) of Tobyhanna, Pa.; Andrew Davis ’19 (computer engineering) of Watertown, N.Y.; Benjamin Lowit ’18 (computer engineering) of Lewiston, Me.; and Benjamin Moeller ’19 (computer science) of Saratoga Spring, N.Y.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: A rendering of the Clarkson University's proposed Tera-scale All-sensing Research Studio (TARS).

[A photograph for media use is available at]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Kelly Chezum, VP for External Relations, at 315-268-4483 or]

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