This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Two faculty members receive Fulbright awards

Becker, Chomicki win prestigious grants

Published: November 16, 2006

Reporter Editor

Two UB faculty members have received prestigious Fulbright Scholar awards for 2006-07.

Recipients are Matthew Becker, associate professor, Department of Geology, College of Arts and Sciences, and Jan Chomicki, associate professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Recipients of Fulbright Scholar awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and demonstration of extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.

This year, approximately 800 U.S. faculty members and professionals received Fulbright grants to lecture and conduct research abroad; a similar number of foreign scholars received awards to come to the U.S., primarily as researchers.

Founded in 1945 by Sen. J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright program is America's flagship international educational exchange activity and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

"Colleges and universities are increasingly challenged to internationalize their campuses by developing and strengthening international programs, as well as by adding a global, multicultural dimension to the traditional curriculum," said Patti McGill Peterson, executive director of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers the Fulbright program. "The contributions of visiting and returning U.S. Fulbrighters are instrumental in achieving these goals."

Chomicki, whose Fulbright grant runs from February through August 2007, will be teaching an advanced course on data integration in the Institute of Informatics at Warsaw University in Warsaw, Poland.

Becker, director of the geology department's hydrogeology program, will lecture and conduct research in the area of "hydrogeophysics" at the University of Trento in Trento Italy. His grant also runs from February through August.

"This is an emerging field that combines electromagnetic and seismic imaging tools to enhance our understanding of hydrogeologic (ground water) systems," Becker explains. "We will be combining hydrologic investigation tools, such as pump testing, water-quality monitoring and dye-tracer studies, with geophysical tools, such as ground-penetrating radar and electrical-resistivity measurements.

"This approach will be used to characterize the karstic (cave) limestone systems of the Brenta Dolomites that overlook Trento," he says, noting that Trento gets more than 30 percent of its drinking water from karstic systems, "so it is important to understand and protect the environmental quality of these systems."

Becker will be working with Alberto Bellin, a well-known quantitative hydrologist in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Trento.

He will be accompanied to Trento, a city in northeastern Italy in the Italian Alps, by his wife, Amy, and three boys, ages 3, 7 and 9. "The boys will be enrolled in a local Italian-speaking elementary school. None of us speaks much Italian, so it should be a learning experience," he says.

A UB faculty member since 1998, Becker is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them the UB Young Investigator Award and the NASA New Investigator Award. He also spent a sabbatical year as a National Research Council Senior Research Associate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

His extramural grant support since 1998 totals more than $2 million as a principal investigator and more than $1 million as a project director.

He earned a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Texas-Austin in 1996.

Returning to Warsaw will be a homecoming of sorts for Chomicki, who was born and educated in the city, receiving a master's degree in computer science from Warsaw University in 1979. He moved to the U.S. in 1984 to pursue a doctorate at Rutgers University.

He defines data integration as "a body of techniques that makes it possible to combine information stored in multiple, independent data sources, and present a single, unified interface to that information to the users."

Chomicki, who has taught a data integration course at UB for four years, says that while in Warsaw he will be teaching the course to fourth- and fifth-year students. "UW (Uniwersytet Warszawski in Polish) students have a very good mathematical training, so I will be able to teach the course emphasizing the logical aspects of data integration," he notes.

He adds that while at the university he also will supervise student research and initiate scientific collaboration with faculty.

Chomicki joined the UB faculty in 2000. He previously was on the faculty at Kansas State University and Monmouth University in New Jersey after receiving his Ph.D. in computer science from Rutgers in 1990. He also has served as a research consultant for Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, and as a visiting researcher at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories.

The principal investigator or co-principal investigator on six National Science Foundation grants since 1991, Chomicki is the author or co-author of numerous scholarly publications and the editor of two books: "Logics for Emerging Applications of Databases" and "Logics for Databases and Information Systems."