Computer scientist wins prestigious grant to speed information retrieval

Kirby Kemper

Florida State University computer scientist Feifei Li has won a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation to find faster and more efficient ways to retrieve relevant information from large sets of data.

Li, an assistant professor of computer science, has won an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award of $498,138 spread over the next five years to pursue his research. The awards are designated for young scientists who are still in the early stages of their academic careers and are intended to help them build upon previous accomplishments in their areas of research.

“We are very excited that Professor Li has received this prestigious award,” said David Whalley, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Three assistant professors in computer science have received NSF CAREER awards in the past five years, which reflects very highly on the quality of the junior faculty in our department.”

Li’s project, called “Novel Query Processing Techniques for Distributed Probabilistic Data,” aims to better retrieve data that may be stored in separate machines and in separate locations. Li and his graduate students also are developing new algorithms and data structures to sort through ambiguity from data integration, imprecise or conflicting measurements from sensors, as well as spelling errors and typos.

Feifei Li
Feifei Li

“The new techniques we are developing will allow scientists and other users to derive useful query results and perform important data mining tasks much more efficiently and effectively,” Li said. “People will be able to dig out more knowledge about the data they have collected even if the data are widely distributed and contain errors. This also means they will be able to process more data given a fixed amount of computational resources.”

Li began his academic career at Florida State in 2007 after earning a doctorate in computer science from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. At FSU, he serves as director of the Security and Assurance in IT (SAIT) laboratory and supervises and mentors students enrolled in the NSF-funded Scholarship for Service program.

“This CAREER award to Dr. Li shows that he and his students are tackling an important issue,” said Vice President for Research Kirby Kemper. “Enormous amounts of data from every area of study are located on servers all over the world, and we need to find an efficient way to mine this data if society is to benefit from it.”