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Last modified: Monday, March 25, 2013

Two IU computer scientists earn NSF CAREER Awards for young investigators

Over $1 million will fund computer vision, reactive privacy research

March 25, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two researchers at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing have each been awarded the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award in support of early career development.

Assistant professors Apu Kapadia and David Crandall have each received NSF's Faculty Early Career Development Program award designed to assist early stage scientists in building a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education. In receiving NSF's CAREER Award, the two researcher-teachers are recognized for their work to "most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of Indiana University."

Kapadia has a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and came to IU Bloomington in 2009 following post-doctoral work at Dartmouth College's Institute for Security Technology Studies and working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory. Kapadia will receive $550,887 over the next five years to advance his work in security and privacy in pervasive and mobile computing.

Crandall has a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University and came to IU Bloomington in 2010 after post-doctoral work at Cornell and working in the research laboratory of Eastman Kodak Co. Crandall will receive $499,964 over the next five years to continue his work on computer vision, or teaching computers to "see" by inferring semantic meaning from images.

David Crandall

David Crandall

Print-Quality Photo

To highlight emerging threats posed by sensor-enabled smartphones, Kapadia and Crandall last year worked together with IU computer science Ph.D. students Zahid Rahman and Robert Templeman to develop PlaceRaider, a proof-of-concept application that when installed can surreptitiously capture images and orientation data from a victim's smartphone and then download it to a computer for the creation of 3D images. In January MIT Technology Review listed PlaceRaider in its "Best of 2012" compilation for what it called "an impressive piece of work that reveals some of the vulnerabilities of these powerful (smartphone) devices."

Kapadia's grant will allow him to pursue development of reactive privacy mechanisms that he said could have a profound and positive societal impact by not only helping people control their privacy, but also potentially increasing their participation in sensor-enabled computing.

"People need only care about the subset of data and usage scenarios that have the potential to violate their privacy, and this reduces the amount of data to which they must regulate access," he said. "And people make better decisions concerning such access when these decisions are made in a context where they know how their data is being used."

Crandall will use the funding to lay the foundation for using visual social media as a new source of observational data for a variety of scientific disciplines by investigating the algorithms and technologies needed for mining large collections of photographs and noisy metadata to draw inferences about the physical world.

"Every day, millions of people across the world take photos and upload them to social media websites," Crandall said. "Their goal is to share photos with friends and others, but collectively they are creating vast repositories of visual information about the world and how it looked across time and space. Aggregated together, these photos could provide new sources of observational data for use in disciplines like biology, earth science, social science or history."

To speak with Kapadia or Crandall, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or