IST doctoral student receives NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Scott Pezanowski, a doctoral candidate in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, has received the NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship given by the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium for 2018-2019.

The mission of the program is to expand opportunities for Pennsylvanians to learn about and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space programs by supporting and enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, research and outreach programs. The one-year fellowship consists of a $5,000 monetary award, presented to outstanding graduate students pursuing degrees in STEM fields related to NASA research and development.

Pezanowski’s research explores ways to detect and classify textual geographic statements of movement in an effort to improve understanding of animal migration patterns. He is focusing on classifying existing statements about animal movements categorized by the type of animal.

While a fair amount of research has studied movement for purposes such as urban planning and wildlife protection, Pezanowski explained, it has mostly been collected through GPS sensors. This method ignores geographic movements described implicitly in the large quantity of written text found in sources such as in online news sources, social media and digitized journals.

Through his research, Pezanowski has been locating online search results that potentially contain statements about the geographic movement of animals. Then, he filters the results using geographic information retrieval (GIR) techniques and initial hand labeling and machine learning methods to find those with statements about animals moving geographically.

“This portion of my research will produce a corpus of geographic statements of movement about animals that are labeled by the type of animal, which other scientists can use to advance similar efforts,” he explained.

Pezanowski possesses a combination of research experience in geospatial sciences and data sciences through his work at The GeoVISTA Center at Penn State, which works to address the array of research challenges and opportunities posed in developing useful and useable technologies that can take advantage of the wealth of existing geospatial data.

“Geospatial problems pose many unique challenges,” he said. “In addition, given the types of sensors common in geospatial sciences, such as GPS and remotely-sensed imagery, the acquisition of large amounts of data is common. Therefore, current techniques in data sciences involving computer automation to derive meaningful information will be extremely valuable in solving some of these challenging geospatial problems.”

Given the ever-growing quantity of data with a geospatial component, Pezanowski added that the data sciences will be key to solving current and future geospatial research challenges.

“My research could potentially improve the knowledge of animal migration patterns by helping to incorporate historical accounts of animal migration patterns or current accounts of animal migrations through crowd contributed information,” he said.

He explained that future extensions of his research would likely involve adapting the techniques to other distinct movement types.

“For example, detecting statements that involve the illegal trafficking of animals, goods and humans is a potential application,” he said.

Pezanowski plans to utilize funds from the award to acquire needed computing resources to advance his research.

“I am very proud to have received this award and am happy the NASA Space Grant Consortium sees my research as valuable,” he said. “I am also happy to be recognized for my outreach efforts as I take pride in spreading information about some of the unique and interesting geospatial research challenges.”

“I have worked with Scott for a decade on spatial information processing and visual analytics,” concluded Prasenjit Mitra, Pezanowski’s adviser. “I am not surprised that his research has been recognized by NASA’s program. It testifies to the excellent quality of Scott’s research contributions.”

Last Updated May 22, 2018