NRL Stennis Partners with University for Student Program

8/10/2004 - 38-04r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

The Naval Research Laboratory has partnered with the University of New Orleans (UNO) in a new, challenging research and recruitment program.

The Computer Science Department at UNO has been designated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the site for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in the area of Spatio-Temporal Database Systems (STDS). NRL at the Stennis Space Center (SSC) is one of the managers of the program as well as one of the hosts for the students for their research experience.

"The goal of REU is to attract talented, upper-level undergraduate students representing a wide spectrum of this country's ethnic and cultural diversity, and to immerse them in a challenging research experience," said Dr. Mahdi Abdelguerfi, Project Manager, and Chairman of UNO's Computer Science Department.

STDS is the accurate modeling of the real world involving objects whose position, shape and size change over time. Real life examples that need to handle STDS include storage and manipulation of ship and plane trajectories, fire or hurricane front monitoring, and weather forecasting. Geographical Information Systems are also an important source for spatio-temporal data.

According to Dr. Abdelguerfi, the project is motivated by the fact that summer programs do not allow sufficient time for students to fully experience a program. "Having access to a mentor and to the research facility for an entire year will allow them to develop an expertise in their selected research topic and complete a meaningful research project," he said.

"This program will attract highly motivated students that will, hopefully, become NRL employees," said Mr. Kevin Shaw, head of NRL's Digital Mapping, Charting and Geodesy Analysis Program (DMAP). Three of Mr. Shaw's team members are products of similar programs from UNO - Dr. Roy Ladner, who helped write the initial REU proposal, Ms. Elizabeth Warner, and Mr. Udaykiran Katikaneni, all former UNO students now employed with NRL.

The first class of this three-year NSF funded program began June 4. The year-long program, broken down into four phases, will enable the students to experience first-hand the process of scholarly research and discovery that lie at the core of academic life. Phase I of the program was held at UNO and involved short introductory courses on STDS. During Phase II the students were given a comprehensive project list along with background reading assignments. It is in this phase that the students will select a project and write a detailed prospectus of their proposed research.

Phases III and IV place the students into a research environment at UNO, NRL SSC or the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans where they will work part time while carrying a full academic load. At the completion of the program, the students will be assisted in the process of applying to the graduate school of their choice. "At the end of the first year, we expect the majority of the students to be admitted to a graduate school for fall 2005," said Dr. Abdelguerfi.

Additionally, the program provides the students the opportunity for research collaboration with other undergraduate students, the ability to attend workshops and research seminars, the opportunity to enhance their oral and presentation skills and research paper preparation, and the preparation for admission to graduate school.

Ms. Rachel Tabb, a student from UNO's Computer Science Department, will work with NRL's DMAP team where her work will directly contribute to a Navy STDS-related requirement.

The DMAP team is part of NRL's Marine Geosciences Division, Mapping, Charting and Geodesy Branch, and is especially focused on advanced object-oriented modeling, database design, advanced geospatial portal implementation, environmental data dissemination, emerging digital mapping standards, and technical reviews for Navy usage of geospatial information.

The team also developed the Geospatial Information Database (GIDB) Portal System and is responsible for overall project development for the Tactical Environmental Data Services project, a new environmental data dissemination system for Tactical Decision Aids and Warfighters. "Ms. Tabb will have the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge with spatio-temporal data issues, interaction with an object-oriented spatio-temporal database, development of a web-browser graphical user interface, and experience of working with and contributing to the technology that is scheduled to become the Navy's method for distributing meteorological and oceanographic data to warfighters," said Mr. Shaw.

Additional information on the REU program can be found at Information on the DMAP team's ongoing research and development, and access to the GIDB Portal System can be found at

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About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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