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Dr. Xu Yuan, an assistant professor in the School of Computing and Informatics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, recently received one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program recognizes researchers in the early stages of their careers. The program’s CAREER Award acknowledges a faculty member’s potential as a researcher and a teacher.

As part of the award, Yuan will receive a $500,000 grant over several years to fund his research into malicious attacks on social media platforms and how to stop them. His research will use technology that can emulate human learning (think: from infancy to adulthood) to eventually detect malicious content.

A rich knowledge base will grow over time and be deployed on social networks to single out these attacks, including misinformation campaigns and the stealing of personal information.

“The online social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have revolutionized into the mainstream media for the fast-spreading news and into major communications platforms for interactions among friends, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Yuan in his proposal.

“However, social networks also have become the popular hangouts for malicious users, which rampantly shuttle in social networks and post spammy messages, intentionally polluting social environments, deceiving normal users, stealing personal information, and misleading political opinions,” he continued.  

Yuan works on cutting edge research in computer science, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cybersecurity. His research has already been supported by multiple NSF grants and been published in more than 70 research articles.

“Receiving the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award is clear evidence of his outstanding research accomplishments,” said Dr. Azmy Ackleh, dean of the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. “The fact that Dr. Yuan is the ninth recipient of the prestigious CAREER award in the College of Sciences reflects on the outstanding quality and strength of our early career faculty.”

Ackleh noted that five of the nine CAREER grants received by college faculty were awarded in the past four years and said this demonstrates the college's continued success in recruiting high-caliber faculty “capable of competing with the strongest research programs in the country” and making UL Lafayette a Research 1 top-tier university. Only 3% of public and private institutions in the United States have earned this prestigious designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

The NSF is an independent federal agency. It provides funds for nearly a quarter of all federally supported research American colleges and universities conduct. NSF first presented the CAREER Award in 1995.

In 2021, three UL Lafayette faculty members from the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences received the CAREER Award: Dr. Nicholas Kooyers, Dr. James Nelson and Dr. Mohsen Amini Salehi. Other past recipients include: Dr. Sheng Chen, a 2018 honoree; Dr. Danella Zhao, 2011; Dr. Miao Jin, 2009; Dr. Dmitri Perkins, 2005; and Dr. Hongyi Wu, 2004.

Yuan joined the faculty at UL Lafayette in 2017 and earned his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Virginia Tech in 2016.

Photo caption: Dr. Xu Yuan, assistant professor in the School of Computing and Informatics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. (Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

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