Willamette University professor receives NSF research grant

Haiyan Cheng, an assistant professor in computer science, has been awarded a $132,169 National Science Foundation grant from the Division of Mathematical Sciences under the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Program.

The grant will fund Cheng’s research over the next three years on a project titled, “Uncertainty reduction through better nonlinear particle filters.”

Cheng’s research focuses on systems that are not fully observable — such as weather patterns, artificial intelligence and economic systems — and seeks to improve statistical and computational methods for estimating the unobservable part.  

For weather forecasting, scientists use statistical techniques to improve the estimation of the true state of the weather system. Those statistical techniques are continually evolving, and Cheng says the RUI grant will allow her to pursue the most recent and particularly realistic techniques.

“I am excited about the opportunity to look for answers to new, significant problems, to be able to tell other researchers and practitioners about my results, and about the support I have received from my university colleagues,” Cheng says.

The RUI grant will also allow Cheng to involve Willamette University students in the project, and some students will have the opportunity to present their work at conferences.

“Part of my plan for this project is to support several students over the period of the grant, employing them in full-time summer research and sending them to professional meetings and conferences,” Cheng says. “In my experience, participation in such meetings increases student interest, motivation and learning outcomes.”

The RUI Program supports research by faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions. Its purpose is to ensure a broad national base for research and to help faculty members stay at the cutting edge of their disciplines.