Texas A&M CyberHealthGIS - Facts & Figures

Program Goals

Overview: The objective of this REU Site is to create an immersive research and training environment on the Texas A&M University (TAMU) campus in College Station, TX where undergraduates students from the disparate disciplines of Cyberinfrastructure (CI), Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), Geographic Information Science (GIScience), Cyber-Enable Geographic Information Science (CyberGIS), and Health Science (HS) have an opportunity to work collaboratively on cutting-edge research in a newly emerging field which lies at the intersection of all of these research areas: Cyber-Enabled HealthGIS (Cyber-HealthGIS). Students will be mentored and trained in the basics and responsible conduct of research, the need for diversity in research, and advanced research designs and methods within and across each of the research domains listed above by a diverse group of faculty mentors at the leading edge of research in all of these domains. The undergraduate students who participate in this REU Site will be drawn equally from undergraduate programs in Geography, specifically those focusing on a GIS course of study, and Computer Science. Students from GIS and CS will be paired and select an area of CyberGIS to be mentored in and execute a research study.

Intellectual Merit: Geographic Information Science (GIScience) has a profound ability to detect, prevent, and enable individuals to positively affect their health as well as improve the state of public health locally, nationally, and globally when used in health policy and practice decisions. Important research objectives include: a) Outbreak surveillance through the combination of authoritative and social media data b) High-resolution chronic disease risk mapping with citizen-derived perceptions of community c) Continuous time-enabled scalable outbreak planning

Broader Impacts (and REU Site Intended Impact): Thirty REU students (ten students in each of the three years) will be engaged in critical and current research problems, advancing student-led discovery, while promoting teaching and training through a hands-on research and mentoring program. The program will advance discover, while promoting training and learning through a problem-based and hands-on undergraduate research and mentoring program that is intended to build independence and confidence in research. Results of the research will advance the state of CyberHealthGIS, addressing both the theoretical and methodological shortcomings of the current state of research. The expected outcomes will include joint faculty-student publications in leading research journals, seminars, and conferences, and student presentations of their research.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Daniel W. Goldberg, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M Departments of Geography and Computer Science & Engineering

Dr. Goldberg is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Computer Science & Engineering at TAMU. Dr. Goldberg is the Principal Investigator of the TAMU CyberHealthGIS REU program. He joined TAMU in 2012 after receiving his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Southern California. Dr. Goldberg is the Director of the TAMU GeoInnovation Services Center and the TAMU Esri Development Center (EDC). His research interests lie at the intersection of Geography and Computer Science, and are particularly focused on the development of CyberGIS applications and backend data storage, processing, and visualization techniques. Dr. Goldberg is a past CyberGIS Fellow at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and has served as a member of several national boards in his sub-discipline of Geographic Information Science including the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).

Dr. Tracy A. Hammond, Professor, Texas A&M Department of Computer Science & Engineering

Dr. Hammond is the Director of the Sketch Recognition Lab and Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. Dr. Hammond is the Co-PI of the TAMU CyberHealthGIS REU program. She is an international leader in activity recognition (focusing on eye, body, and sketch motions), haptics, intelligent fabrics, SmartPhone development, and computer human interaction research. Dr. Hammond’s publications on the subjects are widely cited and have well over a thousand citations, with Dr. Hammond having an h-index of 18, an h10-index of 26, and four papers with over 100 citations each. Her research has been funded by NSF, DARPA, Google, and many others, totaling over 3.6 million dollars in peer reviewed funding. She holds a PhD in Computer Science and FTO (Finance Technology Option) from MIT, and four degrees from Columbia University: an M.S in Anthropology, an M.S. in Computer Science, a B.A. in Mathematics, and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics. Prior to joining the TAMU CSE faculty Dr. Hammond taught for five years at Columbia University and was a telecom analyst for four years at Goldman Sachs. Dr Hammond is the 2011-2012 recipient of the Charles H. Barclay, Jr. '45 Faculty Fellow Award. The Barclay Award is given to professors and associate professors who have been nominated for their overall contributions to the Engineering Program through classroom instruction, scholarly activities, and professional service. Dr. Hammond has been featured on the Discovery Channel and other news sources. Dr. Hammond is dedicated to diversity. She focuses a significant amount of her efforts on improving diversity in computer science, and published an award winning paper at FIE on the topic. She regularly sends 5-10 students yearly to Tapia and Grace Hopper, and has presented herself three times at Grace Hopper and Tapia, including mentoring workshops to junior faculty and undergraduates. She has recently founded a non profit organization, Wired Youth, with her graduate student Stephanie Valentine, teaching cybercitizen and computer science skills to young girls.

Dr. Jennifer A. Horney, Associate Professor, Texas A&M Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Jennifer Horney is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, a Faulty Fellow of the Hazards Reduction and Recovery Center, and the Public Health and Environment Lead of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, part of the University’s Environmental Grand Challenge. Dr. Horney is the Co-PI of the TAMU CyberHealthGIS REU program. Dr. Horney’s research focuses on measuring the health impacts of disasters, as well as linkages between disaster planning and household actions related to preparedness, response, and recovery. Dr. Horney received her PhD and MPH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently leads a number or research projects funded by federal, state, and local agencies. She was a member of a team of public health practitioners who responded to Hurricanes Isabel, Charley, Katrina, Wilma, and Irene, where she conducted rapid assessments of disaster impact on the health of individuals and communities. She has also worked with public health agencies globally around disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and pandemic influenza.

Dr. Andrew G. Klein, Professor, Texas A&M Department of Geography

Dr. Klein is a Professor in the Department of Geography at Texas A&M University. Dr. Klein is the Co-PI of the TAMU CyberHealthGIS REU program. He received a B.A. from Macalester College and a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Cornell University. He applies Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing techniques to examine the impact of humans in and around McMurdo Station, Antarctica and other aspects of the Cryosphere.


Texas A&M University Facilities: Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the flagship research University of the Texas A&M University System. Located in College Station, Texas, TAMU has a full complement of dedicated research and teaching labs which will support the proposed work of this project. Each of the TAMU colleges participating in this proposal, the TAMU Dwight Look College of Engineering, College of Geosciences, College of Architecture, have open-access computer labs that will be available for use by students and faculty participating in the project. Faculty and students will have university user accounts created for them which will make these resources available to project participants. These labs contain research quality desktop machines loaded with all software necessary for this project. These software include GIS software (ArcGIS), statistical software (SAS, STATA), and office computing and productivity (Microsoft Office). These machines are also accessible via remote desktop, so students and faculty will be able to remote-desktop into workstations as needed. The TAMU GeoInnovation Service Center and the TAMU Sketch Recognition labs of the TAMU core faculty who are PI and Co-PI on this proposal (Goldberg & Hammond, respectively) can house up to a combined 35 student research assistants and will be available for this project and have dedicated research computing infrastructure and devices that will be available for this project. These resources include desktop machines, mobile phones (iPhones and Android devices) as well as tablets (iOS-, Android-, and Windows-based). Each college and TAMU itself have dedicated IT support staff who will be available to support software and hardware issues if/when they arise during student research. The TAMU College of Geosciences houses a dedicated data center in the Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building (O&M) which will act as the primary data storage facility. This data center houses multiple redundant servers which are backed up in real-time and made available as on-demand computing resources via virtualization software (VMWare). Student will be permitted to use these resources as well as the dedicated and protected data storage and network connectivity that are offered and supported by the College of Geosciences dedicated IT staff. Student and faculty participants will be provided with individual disk storage appropriate to the needs of their proposed projects as well as shared storage accessible for research team use and the use of the entire REU Site cohort. TAMU Central IT houses and supports the TAMU Supercomputing Center which will be available for use by students and faculty participating in this project. The TAMU Office of Research Compliance & Biosafety operates the TAMU Institutional Review Board (IRB) and provides a series of online training courses on Research Ethics, Responsible Conduct of Research, Data Security & Confidentiality, and Conflict of Interest which the students participating in this project will enroll in and complete. The TAMU Supercomputing facility provides access to state-of-the-art supercomputing resources for the TAMU campus and offers access to an IBM iDataplex Cluster with 3,168 cores and a Dell Linux cluster with 22,656 cores which will be utilized in this project. This facility provides user support and training courses which will be utilized in this project.

TAMU Department of Geography: The TAMU Department of Geography is located within the TAMU College of Geosciences (CLGE) which houses four academic departments including Atmospheric Science, Geography, Geology & Geophysics, and Oceanography. The CLGE maintains its own secure data centers located in the Eller Oceanography & Meteorology (O&M) building on the main College Station campus as well as an off-site redundant backup facility on the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) site across town in College Station. Both facilities are physically secured with keycard access and have dedicated backup power and dedicated environmental and fire suppression systems in place. The CLGE has a dedicated IT staff 6 full time employees who support all CLGE systems including desktops, servers, disk arrays, virtual machines, and other CLGE computing and peripheral resources. The Department of Geography provides desks, computers, and room keys to all REU students situated in the Geography department. Additionally, department regularly holds brownbag lunches that highlight graduate and faculty research as well as techniques for succeeding in their long term career goals. All REU participating REU students from this site are welcome to participate no matter where they are situated. The Department of Geography owns and maintains its own teaching labs that will be used in this REU. These labs can accommodate up to 50 students total across 4 physical rooms. All labs have state of the art desktop computers connected via 1Gb lines to the data center in the O&M building. These labs have A/V equipment for presentations and remote video conferences.

The Texas A&M GeoInnovation Service Center: The Texas A&M GeoInnovation Service Center (GSC), is a service unit within the Department of Geography directed by Dr. Daniel W. Goldberg. The GSC occupies 1,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 18 research assistants. The GSC employs 6 full time staff as professional developers and support for Aggie Geocoder. The GSC runs as a series of interconnected virtual machines (VMs) across five separate physical servers (Dell R820’s), totaling over 1.6 terabytes of available RAM. The storage area network that supports these servers is composed of several redundant Dell Powervault stacks (Dell MD1200). Backups of all systems are taken daily and stored offsite with critical systems replicated in real time to a hot backup at off-site locations. All 18 desks have state-of-the-art desktop machines with 1Gb connections to the data center in O&M. The GSC maintains a set of tablet, device, and laptop machines for research use which can be checked out by student researches.

TAMU Department of Computer Science & Engineering (CSE): CSE is in the Dwight Look College of Engineering (DLSE), which is home to nearly 9,500 engineering majors in 12 departments. In 2005, the Engineering Workforce Commission, named the college 7th in the nation in number of engineering degrees granted, 8th in number of Hispanics and 6th in number of women granted degrees, and 12th nationally for the number of doctoral degrees granted. CSE, of which the Sketch Recognition Laboratory, directed by CoPI Hammond is a division of, is one of the many departments located within the College of Engineering. US News and World Report ranks the DLSE as 7th in the nation for public engineering colleges, and 13th overall. The CSE department provides desks, computers, and room keys to all REU students situated in the computer science and engineering department. Additionally, they hold weekly brownbag lunches that highlight graduate and faculty research as well as techniques for succeeding in their long term career goals. All REU participating REU students from this site are welcome to participate no matter where they are situated. Prior Sketch Recognition Lab REU and current PhD student (and NSF GRFP awardee), Stephanie Valentine, has created a mentoring booklet specifically for REU students coming from out of town to help them situate themselves and have a great experience. Stephanie will serve as a general mentor for all the students, giving additional research insight from a successful graduate student perspective. In the two years since she has been here, her mentees (in collaboration with CoPI Hammond) have won a GRFP (now a PhD at U Wash), LSAMPS fellowship (now a PhD at TAMU), and a CRA finalist (now a MS at TAMU).

Sketch Recognition Lab (SRL): Located on the TAMU campus, SRL occupies 2000 square feet of space across two buildings. SRL contains a significant amount of equipment for use by the REU students, including PCs (Dell XPS) and Macs, and specialized hardware for experimentation and research purposes. Computer all have 21" Cintiq pen-display monitors. Other available devices include Wacom pen-display monitors, Wacom pen-display monitors, Tablets, smartphones, Wii Nintendo remotes, Xbox Kinect sensors, CyberGloves, Cyber Touch gloves, eye-trackers, augmented reality goggles, brain computer interfaces, 3-D motion trackers, and a SMARTBoard. The lab contains prototyping platform devices and sensors likr lilypad arduino, breadboards, vibeboards, bluesmirfs, conducting thread rolls, sewing machine, wire rolls, multimeters, soldering irons, and soldering wires. Classroom space is also available dedicated for special lab use. The classroom is card-controlled access for students and visiting researchers, and is equipped with computers and Tablet PCs. Students and visiting researchers can use Tablets in class and check them out. All REU site students will have access to this lab and can safely store equipment in this lab.

Funding Sources

United States National Science Foundation (NSF)

This project is supported by a grant from the US National Science Foundation (NSF Project# 1560106). The faculty & students supported by the Texas A&M CyberHealthGIS REU program would like to acknowledge and thank that US National Science Foundation and especially the reviewers and the program staff for their support of this program.