Two faculty receive prestigious NSF CAREER research awards

Two assistant professors — one from WSU Vancouver and one from WSU Pullman — have earned prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program awards from the National Science Foundation. Each award provides substantial, long-term financial support.

These highly competitive ‘CAREER’ awards are given once a year and provide substantial support to pre‑tenure teacher-scholars.

Kevan Moffett, assistant professor of environmental hydrology with the WSU Vancouver School of Environment, will receive $690,534 over five years to study how the urban water cycle interacts with the heat generated by urban areas. The grant covers graduate student support and tuition as well as materials, supplies, data management, communication, education development and overhead costs. The grant period begins Aug. 1.

Hassan Ghasemzadeh, assistant professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received his award to improve wearable-based health monitoring technology. This five‑year, $516,000 grant will support Ghasemzadeh as researches significant challenges with wearable technology that can potentially provide automated, cost-effective and real-time health monitoring.

Moffett compares natural vs. urban

Closeup of Moffett.

Moffett has found that most hydrological research takes place in “natural” areas, but a majority of the world’s people live in cities where humans have reconfigured the landscape into alternating patterns of pavement and vegetation.

Moffett will explore how lessons from natural science conducted in rural natural areas might apply to urban environments. She also will consider whether understanding urban heat and water balances could have applications for making cities more livable even in the face of global change.

As part of the award, Moffett also plans to design outdoor laboratory science modules to help students (preschoolers and WSU undergraduates) appreciate that they can learn about the environment wherever they are. She is particularly interested in making environmental science studies accessible to more students, including those with different mobility needs.

This CAREER award joins Moffett’s two currently active NSF research awards — one on river chemistry and one on the hydrology of forest restoration after a wildfire. Moffett earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University and joined the WSU Vancouver faculty in January 2015.

Ghasemzadeh seeks algorithms for real-world smart technology

Closeup of Ghasemzadeh.

Ghasemzadeh has found that smart technologies generally use machine-learning algorithms to detect important health events and predict possible medical problems. Unfortunately, technology often can prove successful in the lab, but the algorithms don’t work well in real-world settings.

Smart technology can learn about one user’s health at a time, but it has to re‑learn information with each new user. Furthermore, the algorithms only work on one platform at a time.

Ghasemzadeh is working to improve the algorithms, so that the monitors will remain accurate even when a different person uses the technology or when a different device is used. He also will develop algorithms that can adjust seamlessly to a variety of different sensors that smart technology might use to measure health — whether accelerometers, gyroscopes or pressure sensors.

Researchers hope this work will lead to future wearables that can learn automatically, operate accurately in real-world conditions, and adapt to a variety of people and variable behavior.

“It is important to develop autonomously reconfigurable machine learning algorithms as wearable sensors, the setting in which they’re used, and their configuration changes,” he said. “This project introduces the notion of computational autonomy as an overarching solution for training accurate machine learning algorithms.”

As they improve the smart technology, researchers also will work with clinicians on monitoring of diseases.

“The work has major impacts on conducting high-precision, chronic disease management and on the availability of wearable-based consumer applications,” he said.

As part of the CAREER award, the project includes an educational component. Ghasemzadeh has developed a computer science ambassadors program, in which the researchers go to areas that have typically been under-represented in computer science programs to demonstrate their work and to encourage student interest.

Ghasemzadeh holds a Ph.D. in computer engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas, a master’s degree from University of Tehran, and a bachelor’s degree from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran.


  • Tina Hilding, communications director, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509‑335‑5095,

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