Large NSF Award Granted to Prof. Gao’s Social Network Research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Jie Gao, Associate Professor of Computer Science (CS) at Stony Brook University (SBU), funding to conduct research into the way information is disseminated within social networks. The project focuses on modeling the precise methods in which information spreads and uses these models to encourage positive behaviors.

The project, which is a collaborative effort with Professor Grant Schoenebeck at the University of Michigan has implications not only for the field of computer science, but for sociology and economics as well. Jason Jones is listed as the project’s Co-Principal Investigator. Jones is a member of Stony Brook’s Sociology Department who has his PhD in Psychology. The total award amount is $720,000 with SBU receiving $356,845.

“Beliefs and behaviors propagate through social interactions as a contagion. Understanding how these contagions spread is crucial in discouraging damaging behaviors.” Gao said.

The project began in early September and is slated to continue until August 31, 2018. The department was awarded several NSF grants this fall including such topics as Internet censorship and cybersecurity. What makes this project particularly interesting is its unique interdisciplinary approach. Gao will use her expertise to conduct rigorous mathematical analysis, while Jones will synthesize the data for application in fields other than computer science. The progressive collaboration and the continued focus on integrating computer science within every discipline on campus.

Once the researchers have completed their model, they will use social experimentation to test its veracity. The late summer of 2018 certainly appears to be a time to look forward to, as this intriguing research, made possible by the generous award from National Science Foundation, should yield some interesting results for not only computer science, but for sociology, economics, and our understanding of social networks as a whole.

Gao received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Technology in China, and eventually went on to get her PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University. This award is not her first from the National Science Foundation. She received the NSF Career Award in 2006 and was also a recipient of the CS department’s Research Excellence Award in 2012.