UHV faculty member, students partner with national labs on federal research
A University of Houston-Victoria faculty member and UHV students are helping to conduct research on technologies including artificial intelligence for the U.S. Department of Energy, thanks to a $300,000 federal contract awarded to the faculty member and other national laboratories.
Hardik Gohel, a UHV assistant professor of computer science, was awarded a $300,000 federal contract this year with Battelle Savanah River Alliance LLC for research that will apply predictive modeling techniques for detection and monitoring of groundwater contamination. The research is being done in collaboration with researchers from the Savannah River National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is funded for one year through the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program.
This is the first time UHV has received a federal contract for research. Gohel is the principal investigator on this project.
“This contract demonstrates that, like many UHV faculty, Dr. Gohel is engaged in research that speaks to significant challenges and ideas,” said Joann Olson, UHV associate provost for research and dean of graduate studies. “Dr. Gohel’s work is further evidence that through their scholarly activities, many UHV faculty are part of the larger conversation in their fields.”
The research is being done for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, and although the contract is for one year, there is a possibility of extending the research for several more years. The collaboration also will strengthen ties between the Department of Energy’s sites and national laboratories with minority-serving institutions with science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, such as UHV.
For this project, undergraduate and graduate students will be working on technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning and databases. The students also will be given an opportunity to participate in summer internships that are aligned with ongoing Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management research under the direction of the partnered national laboratories. Two undergraduates will be recruited to work on this project as well.
The internship will be performed at the partnered national laboratory and will use their facilities and equipment under the guidance of a senior research mentor, Gohel said. The two graduate students working under Gohel on this project are Shilpa Bhatkande and Patrick DeMarco.
“In artificial intelligence and machine learning, most technologies can be used to solve critical problems that current energy and environmental management organizations are having,” Gohel said. “The state-of-the-art technology of artificial intelligence and machine learning have already proven in other areas to be useful for energy and environmental projects. This research will promote the education and development of the next generation workforce in critical science, engineering, technology and math-related disciplines that compliment current and future missions of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management.”
DeMarco, a Houston resident, is in the Master of Science in computer science graduate program and has worked on his part of the project for most of the spring semester. He previously worked in the hospitality industry and during the pandemic decided to change careers. DeMarco has since become immersed in his new field and works in an IT role while taking online graduate courses.
“The work is challenging and has been a great transition for me to work more with technologies and gain experience in this field,” he said. “I am excited to be a part of this project and use skills that will help me in my new career.”
For his part, DeMarco has worked with compiling data and organizing it into databases so that the data can be used for machine-learning algorithms. DeMarco has taken several courses in the program, and he feels well-prepared for the project and confident in his abilities thanks to the faculty at UHV. He plans to pursue a career in software engineering when he graduates.
“This experience will definitely help me, and I know having this research project on a resume will open doors for me,” DeMarco said. “I look forward to learning more on this project. It’s good, challenging work.”
Bhatkande, a Katy resident who is in the Master of Science in computer information systems graduate program, has worked on research about how technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can help with detecting groundwater contamination. She presented the research this spring at the annual Waste Management Symposia, an international conference about the management of radioactive waste and other related waste topics. This was the university’s first time participating and being recognized at the international conference.
“Being at the conference was the best exposure for any student, as we were there with the top universities in the world and many other people in the field of waste management,” Bhatkande said. “Working on the research for the Department of Energy has been a great start for me in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. I am so proud of myself and cannot be thankful enough to everyone who has helped me.”
Through this research project, Bhatkande has been able to use what she is learning from her UHV courses and apply it to a real-life situation. She also appreciates that her research efforts could help communities and the planet. Bhatkande hopes that this contract will be the beginning of more opportunities for students to conduct federal research and gain invaluable research and networking experiences.
“There has been great teamwork between UHV and the national laboratories, and I have met so many wonderful people because of my part as a research assistant,” she said. “I am looking forward to what is next for both this project and my career.”
To learn more about this research project and available research assistant positions, contact Gohel at email@example.com.
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.