AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Lara K. Mahal and Dr. Peter H. Stone from The University of Texas at Austin have been recognized for their scientific promise by receiving young investigator awards.
Mahal, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is one of 20 recipients of 2004 Young Investigator Awards from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The award will provide $240,000 for three years to develop tools for studying the relevance of carbohydrates (sugars) that are added onto proteins.
Stone, an assistant professor of computer sciences, is one of 24 researchers to receive funding from the Office of Naval Research through its Young Investigator Program. The award will provide $350,000 for three years of research to advance the field of artificial intelligence (AI).
Mahal will develop a way of simultaneously identifying unique carbohydrate structures in multiple samples. These sugar structures are thought to serve important roles in biological processes such as cancer development. By rapidly identifying the structures on the surface of different cells, she might reveal patterns of carbohydrate production that help doctors diagnose the presence or progression of certain diseases. Mahal also will develop a method for observing a specific carbohydrate structure whose abundance inside cells might affect someone’s likelihood of becoming resistant to insulin. That resistance can lead to diabetes.
Mahal’s previous honors include a Jane Coffin Childs Postdoctoral Fellowship, and 2004 awards for the quality of her carbohydrate research articles.
Stone will apply the Naval funding to studying AI with robots in interactive situations, such as robot soccer and autonomous surveillance. The latter involves multiple robots patrolling an area to identify specific events or objects, such as mines. His research focuses on using machine learning to enable robots to improve their behavior autonomously. The learning takes place during collaborative interactions in robot soccer, and during the use of AI-based programs to guide decisions in other complex, dynamic situations, such as autonomous bidding in on-line auctions.
Stone’s previous honors include a 2004 Sloan Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and first-place wins in a 2003 on-line, trading agent competition and that year’s computer-simulated soccer competition at RoboCup, the international robotic soccer competition.
For more information contact: Barbra Rodriguez, College of Natural Sciences, 512-232-0675.