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Presidential Career Award

Cyrus Shahabi wins highest honor bestowed by U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers

September 09, 2004 —

Cyrus Shahabi
Cyrus Shahabi, associate professor of computer science and research area director of information management in the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC), has been awarded the coveted 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).  

Shahabi was recognized for his innovative work in multidimensional databases and related techniques for storing and analyzing streaming data.  These large, complex streaming technologies have wide-ranging applications in a variety of fields, including scientific data analysis, medicine and education. A prototype streaming architecture, called Yima, has already been developed at USC to handle multiple simultaneous high-bandwidth streams of images and sound, all synchronized to single-frame accuracy over the Internet. 

“Cyrus’s accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable for a young faculty member,” said Viterbi School Dean C. L. Max Nikias.  “We are very excited that he is being acknowledged for his exceptional talents in streaming technologies. He is extraordinarily gifted and has the ability to make real headway in this field.”

The awards, presented today in a ceremony at the White House, are given annually to approximately 60 of the finest junior faculty in science and engineering across the country.  According to the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy, which administers the awards, recipients possess “talents and potential that are expected to make them leaders in 21st century science and technology.”  

Jack Marburger, left, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Arden L. Bement Jr., right, National Science Foundation acting director, present Cyrus Shahabi with his award at a Sept. 9, 2004 White House ceremony.
Shahabi is the fifth member of the Viterbi School faculty to win the award, which is supported by nine federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation. NSF contributes to the awards program through its own prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program.  Junior faculty receiving one of these grants become eligible for PECASE awards, but only 5 percent of CAREER awardees will receive the PECASE award annually.

Shahabi won an NSF CAREER award in 2003. The grant provided him with $400,000 over five years for research, teaching and outreach activities in the management of immersive sensor data streams.

In his award letter from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Shahabi was called “a shining example to future generations of researchers” and cited for his “talent and commitment” to the field.  

Shahabi is currently at work on AIMS, “An Immersidata Management System.”  “Immersidata” consists of multidimensional sensor data streams produced by a user’s interaction within a three-dimensional environment of images and sound.  Users interacting in a typical immersive environment are tracked and monitored through various sensory devices, such as tracking sensors that they wear on their heads, hands and legs, or by using video cameras and haptic devices, such as a “cyber glove.”

“These are the user interfaces of the future,” Shahabi said, “which will become increasingly popular as the next generation of the Internet — Internet 2 — comes online.” 

“Internet 2 promises to be totally immersive, involving processing and accessing enormous amounts of data,” added Gérard Medioni, chairman of the computer science department.  “ Shahabi’s work on multimedia indexing, using feature extraction and wavelets is clever, elegant and efficient.  It has the potential of becoming the reference in the field.”
The main objective of the AIMS project is to address the challenges involved in managing the multidimensional sensor data streams generated in immersive environments.

“Immersive data can be multidimensional, spatio-temporal and delivered in continuous data streams,” Shahabi said.  “At the same time, it can be potentially large in size and bandwidth requirements, and it can be noisy.”

Currently, Shahabi is applying the techniques developed in the AIMS  project to design backend storage and database architectures for two different application domains.  One is in the area of scientific data analysis, supported by a grant from NASA/JPL and Chevron-Texaco’s Center for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies (CiSoft) at the Viterbi School of Engineering.  The other is in the area of education, with development of the “20 20 Classroom,” which gives users an interactive classroom environment via the computer in which to learn.  Shahabi co-leads that project, which is being conducted within the Integrated Media Systems Center. 

“Receiving this kind of national recognition and encouragement puts an extra responsibility on my shoulders to conduct the highest quality research for the broadest impact on society,” Shahabi said.  “My dream is to make these data tools practical and readily available to every scientist, engineer and researcher who works with immersive applications.  That would have a significant impact on science and engineering.”
Shahabi at post-award reception in Indian Treaty Room at White House's Eisenhower Executive Office building.

Shahabi has received four significant grants in the last year in the field of multidimensional databases and scalable, end-to-end streaming architectures. These technologies enable efficient delivery of multiple synchronized streams of high quality audio and video data over the Internet.

He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from USC and has been a key investigator in the university’s Integrated Media Systems Center since it was founded in 1996.

Shahabi came to USC from Iran in 1992, after earning a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering from Sharif University of Technology. He also directs USC's Information Laboratory.

 He is a resident of Irvine, CA, and the author of two books, more than 100 articles, book chapters and conference papers.
--Diane Åinsworth