SIF58 SEAS Link Lab for Cyber Physical Systems
Project Manager: John Stankovic, School of Engineering and Applied Science
The purpose of this project is to launch a lab to enhance excellence in CPS research.
BoV Approved: September 2016
Project Dates: 10/20/2016 – 12/31/2020
Funding Awarded: $4,810,000
Society's biggest Grand Challenges today -- energy, health, transportation, and environment -- can only be addressed when scientists and engineers from different disciplines work together. However, interdisciplinary research and training is harder to do when academic institutions are organized according to conventional disciplinary silos. The purpose of this award is to launch a visionary new laboratory to support collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training. The lab is called the Link Lab because it will "link" multiple departments through cross-cutting mechanisms such as shared lab space, grant-management and fundraising support, and mentoring that bridges multiple disciplines. By promoting collaboration across departments, the Link Lab is helping to build critical mass and increase visibility in an important cross-cutting research area, despite our small size compared to other top engineering schools. The Link Lab is a cornerstone in the E-school's larger strategy to "punch above our weight" through cross-cutting initiatives, which also includes an increased focus on interdisciplinary hiring, joint appointments, and revised P&T guidelines that reward and recognize interdisciplinary research. The Link Lab will be the first of several cross-cutting labs and will serve as a model for the future of the E-school, ushering in a new paradigm of interdisciplinary collaborative research and training in engineering.
Current Status: Completed
The PAC reviewed this award three times, in October 2017, August 2019, and a final review in March 2021. This award has many success stories, including the renovation of space to create a 17,000 square foot co-located facility, the use of the cluster hire mechanism to hire seven assistant professors, and a remarkable level of student participation and training. The level of engagement with graduate students and expansion in the education space is excellent. The original intent of the lab, to promote interdisciplinary research, has been achieved through the strategic recruitments, seamless collaborations with central IT & financial services, acquiring sponsored programs funding from federal and industry sponsors, and increasing collaborations with industry via an industry affiliation program. An NSF Research Traineeship (NRT), a major grant for creating a multidisciplinary graduate education training program in cyber-physical systems, was awarded as a result of the faculty, students, and infrastructure created with the SIF funding. A new certificate program was developed as a result of the NRT. Sustainability plans of the lab stayed on course with funding from Sponsored Programs, support from the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the form of an F&A sharing agreement, and philanthropic engagement with the help of the University Advancement Office. The diversification of the sustainability portfolio is impressive and can serve as a model to other SIF awards. This award is a prime example of the intention of the SIF program—a seed investment that created a sustainable, transformative operation.