Two Professors Win Prestigious Google Research Scholar Awards

Assistant Professors Ferdinando Fioretto and Endadul Hoque, faculty members in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, have earned highly competitive Google Research Scholar awards.

The Google Research Scholar Program provides unrestricted gifts of up to $60,000 to support research at institutions around the world and is focused on funding world-class research conducted by early-career professors. Award proposals go through an internal, merit-based review process and selected faculty can receive a Google Research Scholar award only once in their career. Award recipients are assigned a liaison at the company to share findings with and as a point of contact for further collaboration.

Ferdinando Fioretto

Fioretto studies how and why quirks can happen when differential privacy policy is applied, and he hopes to find ways to mitigate those factors. Differential privacy, the de-facto standard privacy-enhancing technology, is a strong privacy notion that relies on noise addition to protect individuals’ data. It has been deployed in many contexts, including by the US Census Bureau, Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber and Microsoft.

Fioretto’s concern is that different groups of people, such as minorities, can be impacted unfairly if skewed or faulty data is used to make social and economic policy decisions.

While removing re-identifiable personal data from data pools to protect privacy is regarded as a well-intentioned step, the adoption of privatized data can end up having negative consequences, he says. He cites the example of the federal government’s use of 2020 census data to apportion the country’s 435 congressional seats, divide its $1.5 trillion budget and distribute critical resources to states and jurisdictions.

Overall, Fioretto’s research focuses on artificial intelligence, integration of machine learning and combinatorial optimization, differential privacy, algorithmic fairness, and multiagent systems. He studies how to make artificial intelligence algorithms better align with social values ​​and how to use machine learning to solve complex mathematical optimization problems. Before joining Syracuse University in January 2020, Fioretto was a postdoctoral research associate at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a research fellow at the University of Michigan. He earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Udine, Italy, with a dual degree from New Mexico State University.

“This prestigious award is well-deserved recognition of the kind of innovative and relevant research being conducted by Professors Fioretto and Hoque, and reflects Syracuse University’s commitment to academic and research excellence,” says Gretchen Ritter, vice chancellor and provost and chief academic officer. “We appreciate Google’s recognition of their initial findings and look forward to learning how their work will have practical applications and consequential implications.”

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” Fioretto says. “The main ‘wow’ factor for me is being able to work with collaborators at Google whose work I admire in an area where people have been pushing the boundaries in my field for years now. The overlap between privacy and fairness is a fascinating topic; it has a huge societal impact and its understanding presents new and unprecedented challenges. From a research perspective it is exciting because it is a relatively new field where theory and analysis are still in their infancies.”

Endadul Hoque headshot

Endadul Hoque

Hoque’s project involves developing novel techniques and automated computer tools to detect security bugs in real-world networked systems.

His research interests are broadly in security of computer networks and systems, with a focus on automated vulnerability detection, applied program analysis and building resilient systems. Before joining Syracuse University, he was an assistant professor at Florida International University and a postdoctoral research associate at Northeastern University. He received a Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue University.

Receiving this Google Scholar Research award “is highly motivating,” Hoque says. “The research has the potential to empower developers, industry practitioners and security researchers by changing the current landscape of bug-finding techniques. Such an award reminds us that the research problems we tackle in my group matter in the real world.”

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