Research Labs & Initiatives

Research Labs & Initiatives

Research Labs

AFOSR Center of Excellence in Assured Autonomy in Contested Environments

AFOSR Center of Excellence in Assured Autonomy in Contested Environments

Directed by Dr. Warren Dixon - Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Dept.

The University of Florida (UF), Duke University (Duke), the University of Texas Austin (UTA), and the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) propose to establish an Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Center of Excellence (CoE) for Assured Autonomy in Contested Environments in collaboration with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the munitions (RW), sensors (RY), and space vehicles (RV) directorates within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Autonomous systems must execute high level missions plans with verifiable assurances despite uncertain adversarial environments where the integrity and availability of sensor information and communications are challenged. Key innovations include analysis, design and synthesis tools that enable autonomous mission execution despite uncertainty within complex dynamics while accounting for the integrity and privacy of information on computationally constrained resources.

To address such challenges, we develop a tightly integrated set of fundamental theories and methods across six diverse research topics. 

The Center of Excellence addresses many areas of direct relevance to collaborating researchers within AFRL: (space) situational awareness; sensing and communication latency/intermittency; information provenance and integrity; private computation and communication; and collaborative effects resulting from agent coordination/disaggregation in a network and over complex network channel dynamics.

Biosecurity Research & Extension (BRE) Lab @ UF IFAS

Biosecurity Research & Extension (BRE) Lab @ UF IFAS

Directed by Dr. Amanda Hodges - Entomology & Nematology (EntNem) Dept.

BRE focuses on entomology, crop-based pest management, and invasive species biology. 

The BRE lab critically addresses invasive arthropod issues in Florida from a cross-commodity perspective.  Although many areas of Florida are urban, agricultural production and exports continue to be a vital and critical component of Florida’s economy.  Approximately 9.25 million acres of Florida land is managed by over 47,500 commercial farms.  In terms of U.S. production, Florida continues to rank #1 in cash receipts for numerous fruit and vegetable crops. Florida ranks #2 nationally in the production of greenhouse and nursery crops.  Total crop cash receipts in 2011 were $6.8 billion.  In the U.S., Florida ranks as #7 nationally in agricultural exports, with a cash value of around $4 billion. 

Invasive species and agricultural biosecurity topics are increasingly important for professionals working in agricultural and natural area disciplines. In Florida, approximately two to three new insect and related arthropod species are detected every month.  Florida’s subtropical to tropical climate is favorable for the establishment of many non-native arthropods.  Trade and travel patterns in recent years have resulted in an increased occurrence of non-native pest arthropods in Florida and the continental U.S.  Research and extension programs in our laboratory focus on:

  • Improving predictions of pest potential;
  • Promoting the early detection of exotic, invasive species;
  • Pest management, diagnostic, and invasive species research related to Hemipteran insects.

All BRE projects are focused on immediate grower or stakeholder needs, and research results are often delivered to clientele through extension publications, meetings, or other appropriate products.

Example projects have included monitoring and biological control of an emerging population of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, within different cropping systems in Florida. Pest monitoring for both native and emerging invasive species within various crops, such as peach, grape, tomato, sorghum, peanut, soybean, cotton, and tobacco. Quarantine laboratory-based research related to pest establishment questions has also occurred.

Current BRE Projects

UF Institute of Food & Agriculture Sciences (IFAS)

The Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR)

The Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR)

Directed by Dr. Christopher McCarty - Anthropology (Anthro) Dept.

Florida’s Data at Your Fingertips

BEBR produces Florida’s official state and local population estimates and projections. These estimates and projections are used for distributing state revenue-sharing dollars to cities and counties in Florida and for budgeting, planning and policy analysis by state and local government agencies, businesses, researchers, the media, and members of the general public.

BEBR was founded in 1930 and is part of the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. and has been a source of Florida data for decades.

BEBR published the Florida Statistical Abstract each year from 1967 to 2011. This award-winning research volume of statistical data about Florida is the leading source of data on Florida and its cities and counties, providing information on population, housing, employment, income, education, health, tourism, elections, and much more.

Continuing in this tradition, we offer data on a variety of topics for the state and various geographic regions within the state, as well as data outside of Florida. In addition to free population and consumer sentiment data, our data services staff can help with existing secondary data from other sources and organizations. We offer data search, data processing, and data analysis services.

The Data Science Research (DSR) Laboratory

The Data Science Research (DSR) Laboratory

Directed by Dr. Daisy Zhe Wang - Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Dept.

The Data Science Research (DSR) Lab at the University of Florida focuses on large-scale data management, data mining and data analysis using technologies from database management Systems (DBMS’s), Statistical Machine Learning (SML), and Information Visualization. Such research in a Big Data era is called Data Science, which is a professiona research agenda, as well as a sport! The goal of Data Science research is to build systems and algorithms to extract knowledge, find patterns, generate insights and predictions from diverse data for various applications and visualization.

The research challenges in Data Science research include:

  • Terabytes, even petabytes of data are generated each day;
  • Almost every discipline is facing big data analysis problems, including medical sciences, life sciences, bio-informatics, law school, civil engineering and government;
  • Data comes in different forms, such as free text, structured data, audio/video, images;
  • Analysis tasks performed over the data are becoming more and more sophisticated;
  • High performance computing platforms are advancing fast (e.g., cloud computing, multi-core machines, GPU, mobile-computing);
  • Communication and feedback needs to be established between machine, algorithms and people.

Doctor of Plant Medicine Program (DPM)

Doctor of Plant Medicine Program (DPM)

Directed by Dr. Amanda Hodges - EntNem Dept.

The Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) program provides interdisciplinary graduate education within the discipline areas of Entomology, Nematology, Plant Pathology, Agronomy, Horticulture, and Soil Science. Research, extension, and student learning experiences associated with the DPM program may include participation from faculty across several units within IFAS (the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences), and often involve innovative pest and pathogen management solutions. DPM students are required to complete two substantial internships, and at least one internship within the private sector or a non-academic environment.

The Program was established in 1999 by the University of Florida, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (UF, CALS). The discipline departments of Plant Pathology, Entomology and Nematology, and Agronomy provided key leadership for DPM Program establishment. UF, CALS departments currently involved in the DPM Program include:

DPM graduates may pursue careers as diagnosticians, crop consultants, plant inspectors, survey specialists, regulatory scientists, extension specialists, private industry consultants, small business owners, applied research specialists, managers, or other plant health professionals. 

Further, The DPM Director also directs the Biosecurity Research and Extension (BRE) Laboratory and many DPM projects align with BRE research. 

Just & Green Transportation Lab

Just & Green Transportation Lab

Directed by Dr. Xiang 'Jacob' Yan - Civil & Coastal Engineering Dept., Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Engineering (ESSIE)

Our work focuses on using data science and artificial intelligence (machine learning) to make transportation more equitable and sustainable. Bridging transportation engineering, data science, and urban planning, we take an interdisciplinary approach to transportation research that connects technological innovations with community needs. We work closely with public agencies and industry partners to develop intelligent decision-support tools that can help them better plan for and manage new mobility systems such as shared e-scooters.

Areas of focus include:

The Mulligan (Human Genetics) Lab

The Mulligan (Human Genetics) Lab

Directed by Dr. Connie J. Mulligan - Anthro Dept.

The Mulligan Lab analyzes genetic variation in order to investigate genetic contributions to health and disease and to reconstruct human evolutionary history. In order to understand complex disease, we take a biocultural approach. We investigate genetic (candidate genes and genetic ancestry), epigenetic (specific genes and genome-wide), biological (blood pressure, biomarkers), psycho-social (stress exposures, anxiety, depression) and socio-cultural (discrimination experiences, personal social networks) data in order to create the most comprehensive picture of blood pressure variation (African Americans living in Tallahassee, FL) and the impact of stress on health outcomes (new mothers and their newborns in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and genetic and epigenetic signatures of stress and trauma (Syrian refugees in Jordan). For the study of population history, we assay genetic variants in the mitochondrial genome, autosomes and sex chromosomes, and ancient DNA in order to provide the most complete representation of human evolution.

We are particularly interested in the first migrations of anatomically modern humans out of Africa as well as the recent colonization of the New World. We study populations from around the world with an emphasis on the Arabian Peninsula, Horn of Africa, Mongolia and the New World for our population history studies and the continental US, Democratic Republic of Congo and Jordan for our disease studies.

Current research @ The Mulligan Lab includes:

  • Biocultural investigations of human health and disease;
  • Genetic and sociocultural risk factors for hypertension in African-Americans;
  • Effect of genetic variants, trauma exposures, and resilience on psychosocial stress and mental health in Syrian refugee youth living in Jordan;
  • Association of epigenetic alterations, maternal prenatal stress exposure, and birth outcomes among new mothers and newborns in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • Human Population History:
    • Biocultural evolution of populations in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa;
    • Colonization of East Asia and the New World.

The Natural Language Processing (NLP) Research

The Natural Language Processing (NLP) Research

Directed by Dr. Bonnie Dorr - CISE Dept.

The UF Natural Language Processing (NLP) Research Lab  conducts research on topics concerning the analysis and synthesis of multiple human languages. NLP Lab researchers apply techniques from sociolinguistic computing and machine learning and develop explanatory NLP representations designed for cross-disciplinary human-centered solutions. Among the research areas explored by NLP are :

  • Machine Learning NLP:
    • Deep Learning approaches to understanding, generation, translating language
    • Hybrid approaches that leverage linguistic representation and ML
  • Sociolinguistic Computing:
    • Inference of hidden mental states: beliefs, concerns, intentions, moral values
    • Correlations between extracted mental states and human language/behavior
  • Multi-level Language Technologies
    • Linguistics-based and ML-based tools and technologies at multiple linguistic levels
    • Development of syntactic, semantic, lexical algorithms for analysis and synthesis
  •  Multilingual and cross-Cultural Processing:
    • Mapping NLP algorithms across languages and cultures
    • Syntactic, Lexical, and Semantic equivalences and distinctions across languages and cultures
  •  Explanatory Language Representations:
    • Unveiling beliefs, concerns, to explain linguistic utterances
    • Detection of emotions, sentiment, stance to understand/predict in interactions
    • Linguistic and cultural dimensions underlying authorship style
  •  Human-Centered NLP:
    • Chatbots assisting human agents in simulated world
    • Question answering, recommendations 

Nonlinear Controls & Robotics (NCR) Lab

Nonlinear Controls & Robotics (NCR) Lab

Directed by Dr. Warren Dixon - MAE

The Nonlinear Controls and Robotics group at the University of Florida is focused on the development of theoretical methods motivated by systems that exhibit uncertain nonlinear behaviors. The unifying theme of all the projects is the use of Lyapunov-based methods for design and also the stability analysis of the resulting closed-loop system. In addition to expertise in nonlinear systems, NCR researchers focus on methods to compensate for uncertainties in the dynamics through various adaptive and learning control methods. Specific research projects and the related publications can be mapped into the following general domains. Below is a brief description of the domains, with links to further descriptions and related publications.

Their research thrusts are grouped into into the following categories:

  • Aerospace & Maritime Systems
  • Assured Autonomy
  • Bionics
  • Image Feedback
  • Network Systems
  • Robotics
  • Theory

The Optical Science & Nonproliferation Group

The Optical Science & Nonproliferation Group

Directed by Dr. Kyle C. Hartig - Materials Science & Engineering (MSE ) Dept.

Thrust Area 1: Remote Sensing

Active Detection:

  • Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF)
  • Laser filamentation as a tool for standoff detection of solid and aerosol materials in the environment

Passive Detection

  • Drone-based radiation detection (e.g. CZT detectors packaged and deployed on drones)
  • Laser absorption spectroscopy (LAS)
  • Hyperspectral imaging and spectroscopy

Thrust Area 2: Fundamental Plasma Physics & Diagnostics

Laser Induced Plasmas as Surrogates for Donations

  • Combustion and oxidation within laser produced plasmas
  • Spatio-temporal evolution of complex mixed plasma plumes formed following laser ablation
  • Signatures and observables of detonations (e.g. radio-frequency emission from detonations)
  • Modeling of laser produced plasmas (collaboration with Prof. Ryan Houim in MAE)

Thrust Area 3: Data Science

  • Machine learning for signature discovery in optical and radiation detection spectra
  • Automated identification and quantification of material composition and characterization
  • Tagging and tracking of nuclear materials
  • Domestic and international safeguards

The Social-Cognitive & Affective Development (Ebner) Lab

The Social-Cognitive & Affective Development (Ebner) Lab

Led by Dr. Natalie Ebner - Psychology (Psych) Dept.

The Social-Cognitive and Affective Development Lab conducts research on social-cognitive and affective development in adulthood using behavioral, pharmacological, and neuroimaging methodologies.

Current aging research focuses on physical and cognitive functions and psychopathology common in the elderly. Largely ignored is negative age-related change in socioemotional capacities that can adversely affect health. Adopting pharmacological, neurofeedback, and applied interventional approaches, my research targets this understudied field to determine factors that contribute to, and neurobiology that underlies, successful socioemotional aging.

Our lab pursues the long-term goal of developing viable treatments towards functional improvement in the elderly. Our work is important from a developmental perspective, qualifies general theories of memory and decision making, and has practical implications for social interactions and health in aging.

The Trace Innovation Initiative

The Trace Innovation Initiative

Directed by Dr. Sid Dobrin - English Dept.

The Trace innovation initiative is a research endeavor developed and maintained by the University of Florida’s Department of English. Trace works at the intersection of writing studies, digital media studies, and ecocriticism. Providing an interdisciplinary forum for scholars, we focus on the ethical and material impact of media. Trace acts as a hub for several distinct projects including an online journal, Sequentials, ARCs, and MassMine for which we are always seeking submissions. We welcome submissions that contribute to the theorization and invention of nature, technology, and culture.

Our current faculty and graduate student’s Trace projects include work with or about:

  • 3D Modeling and 3D Printing
  • Animal Studies
  • Applied Visual Rhetoric and Comic Studies
  • Artificial Intelligence/Life
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Circulation studies
  • Comic studies
  • Critical code studies
  • Datamining
  • Digital Game Design and Game Studies
  • Digital Pedagogy
  • E-Waste
  • Ecocriticism
  • Hacking and DIY
  • Media Archaeology
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Motion Capture Technologies and Kinetic Rhetoric
  • Posthumanism
  • Translation Studies
  • Ubiquitous Computing
  • Visual Rhetoric

The Web Lab

The Web Lab

Directed by Dr. Gregory D. Webster - Psych Dept.

The Web Lab is a personality and social psychology research laboratory that specialize in a broad range of research areas within personality and social psychology with an emphasis on analyzing large, pre-existing data sets.

It is currently conducting research in the following areas:

  • Personality traits (Big  Five, Dark Triad, aggression)
  • Personality perception of strangers & fictional characters
  • Romantic and sexual relationships
  • Intensive data analysis of large, pre-existing data sets
  • ​Novel applications of cutting-edge data collection and analytic methods to social–personality psychology:
    • Meta- analysis
    • Measurement modules
    • Social network analysis
    • Advanced regression techniques