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UT News

Research Alert

Read the research blog Further Findings.

Research Prizes and Honors

[Have you or a colleague won a research-related prize or honor? Let the Research Alert know.]

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Read the research blog Further Findings.

Research Prizes and Honors

[Have you or a colleague won a research-related prize or honor? Let the Research Alert know.]


Dr. Kelley A. Crews, associate professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment, has been awarded a Fulbright Faculty Fellowship for 2009-2010 under the Africa Regional Research Program for her project, “The Ecology of Rural HIV/AIDS: Forecasting HIV/AIDS Vulnerable Landscapes and Populations in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.”

This work extends ongoing collaborative projects examining human-environment interactions with particular respect to environmental disturbance and livelihood. Crews was also recently awarded a National Science Foundation Grant with Dr. Brian H. King of Pennsylvania State University, titled “RAPID: Perception of and Adaptation to Extreme Flooding Disturbances in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.”

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News and Information


On Nov. 2, 2009, the Visiting Researcher/Scholar Program was incorporated into Phase 2 of the Human Resource Management System (HRMS), under the Affiliated Worker module. The HRMS document will serve as the nominating instrument, while a curriculum vitae and appropriate agreement will continue to be required as backup documentation. Please consult with your departmental human resources manager for internal procedures on visiting scholar nominations and access to HRMS. Learn more about HRMS. For more information about the visiting researcher/scholar program contact liza@austin.utexas.edu, 471-2877.


The Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) and the Sponsored Projects Award Administration (SPAA) will be closed for Winter break from Dec. 22, 2009-Jan. 1, 2010. Researchers must work with OSP to submit proposals and finalize award actions prior to the close of business on Dec. 21, 2009. Contrary to previous years, a skeleton crew will NOT be available during the break. All inquiries can be sent to osp@austin.utexas.edu. The OSP mailbox and OSP voicemail will be checked on limited days during the Winter Break and someone will respond only to emergency requests.


The university is evaluating a new research database called SciVal, which provides a service similar to that of the Community of Science. The system will remain open to UT free of charge through April 30, 2010. The information is live and current.

Send feedback about SciVal to: vp-research-sr@mail.utexas.edu

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QuotedUT Researchers in the News

[A sampling of recent quotes by university faculty members and researchers. To be included in this section, let the Research Alert know when you or a colleague have been quoted.]

Nov. 1, 2009
HEADLINE: How Sleep Deprivation Fries Your Brain
Researchers try to parse what your brain can and can’t do on no sleep

(Article on sleep research conducted by Todd Maddox and David Schnyer in the Department of Psychology.)

Todd Maddox, a psychology professor at the Institute for Neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin, tries to understand what exactly is going wrong in the impaired brain, whether it is impaired by lack of sleep, normal aging or as a result of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “The brain regions that are impaired when you are sleep-deprived are the same ones that are impaired with aging,” he says.

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Research Opportunities

Important university research deadlines:
Awards and Grants
Limited Submissions

The University of Texas at Austin Stimulus Package Web page is online.


Defense University Research Instrumentation Program
Deadline: Aug. 26, 2008

Research, Development, and Demonstration of Fuel Cell Technologies for Automotive, Stationary, and Portable Power Applications
Deadline: Aug. 27, 2008

Observational Studies To Characterize The Determinants Of Exposure To Chemicals In The Environment For Early-Lifestage Age Groups
Deadline: Sept. 3, 2008

ICESat-II Science Definition Team
Deadlines: Notices of intent, May 30, 2008; Proposals, July 30, 2008

Coordinating Center for the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program
Deadlines: Letter of Intent, Nov. 30, 2009; Application, Dec. 30, 2009

Environmental Influences during Windows of Susceptibility in Breast Cancer Risk
Deadlines: Letter of Intent, Nov. 30, 2009; Application, Dec. 30, 2009

Technologies for Image-Guided Interventions
Deadlines: Letter of Intent, Dec. 20, 2009; Application, Jan. 20, 2010

Neuroscience Research on Drug Abuse
Deadline: Feb. 5, 2010

National Library of Medicine Express Research Grants in Biomedical Informatics
Deadline: Feb. 5, 2010

Virtual Organizations as Sociotechnical Systems
Deadline: Jan. 25, 2010

Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service
Deadline: Feb. 2, 2010
[This is a limited submission. For more information, contact limitedsub@austin.utexas.edu.]

Angelo State University
Excellence in West Texas History Fellowship Program (for doctoral students or postdocs in humanities research using regional archives)
Deadline: Jan. 31, 2010

Five Colleges Incorporated
Fellowships (year-long residencies to complete doctoral dissertations)
Deadline: Dec. 1. 2009 (application review begins)

American Educational Research Association
AERA-ETS Fellowship Program in Measurement (for early-career scientists)
Deadline: Dec. 15, 2009

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
New Careers in Nursing Scholarships (to students from underrepresented groups or disadvantaged backgrounds)
Deadline: Dec. 15, 2009

Dole Institute of Politics
Research Fellowship 2009-2010 (for graduate students or postdocs)
(Opens PDF)
Deadline: Dec. 15, 2009

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Research Project

[Let the Research Alert know about your research projects.]

Robust Intelligence: Small: Efficient Reinforcement Learning for Generic Large-Scale Tasks

RESEARCHER: Peter Stone, associate professor, Department of Computer ScienceS, principal investigator
AGENCY: National Science Foundation
AMOUNT: $485,000

Recent advances in autonomous agents research are pushing our society closer to the brink of the widespread adoption of autonomous agents in everyday life. Applications that incorporate agents already exist or are quickly emerging, such as domestic robots, autonomous vehicles and financial management agents.

Reinforcement learning (RL) of sequential decision-making is an important paradigm for enabling the widespread deployment of autonomous agents. However, a few notable successes notwithstanding, state-of-the-art reinforcement learning algorithms are not yet fully capable of addressing generic large-scale applications.

This project is advancing in four directions to scale-up application of RL systems. Specifically, the project is (1) developing algorithms to automatically structure the input, output and policy representations for learning; (2) introducing parallelizable reinforcement learning algorithms so as to exploit modern parallel architectures; (3) unifying abstraction and hierarchical reasoning with model-based learning for the purpose of enabling intelligent exploration of large-scale environments; and (4) enabling reinforcement learning algorithms to benefit from low-bandwidth interactions with human users.

Finally, we intend to unify the four research thrusts above into a single algorithm and conduct empirical evaluation on real-world/large-scale applications, to include biped robot balancing and walking, robot soccer in simulation and with real robots, and a full-size autonomous vehicle capable of planning paths in an urban environment.

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