A record seven professors from Binghamton University have received a financial award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be put toward their research projects.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award is awarded to faculty members and supports their research for five years. According to DISCOVER-e Binghamton Research, three winners — Jeremy Blackburn, Aravind Prakash and Mo Sha — are assistant professors of computer science. The other winners are Emrah Akyol, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Jessica Hua, associate professor of biology, Nicholas Gaspelin, assistant professor of psychology and John Swierk, assistant professor of chemistry.

Gaspelin described the motivation behind his project, which focuses on understanding the processes and factors behind visual attention and distraction in humans.

“Why are we sometimes distracted by seemingly irrelevant objects, like a brightly colored advertisement?” Gaspelin wrote in an email. “Why do we sometimes miss seemingly salient objects that were designed specifically to attract our attention? My NSF project aims to develop a new technique to concurrently measure eye movements and brain waves, via infrared [eye-tracking] and electroencephalogram (EEG).”

Gaspelin said the award will greatly benefit his experiment and provides the foundation needed to have it run.

“We will be able to hire top-quality personnel to conduct research,” Gaspelin wrote. “I will also be able to purchase scientific equipment such as computers and supplies to conduct human subject research. We hope to learn about the relationship between eye movements and the underlying brain processes involved in them. This would allow us to study issues like visual distraction in humans with better tools.”

Hua received the largest grant out of all seven professors. She described her project’s focus on pollutants and how they influence diversity and disease dynamics.

“The project asks the question: ‘Why are some communities more vulnerable to diseases than others?’” Hua wrote in an email. “Our research will focus on biodiversity-disease (BDD) relationship which has generated considerable attention in the scientific community as a theoretical framework for predicting community disease outcomes. We will test the central hypothesis that cryptic differences in a population’s response to past conditions will (i.e., evolutionary history) play an important role in understanding when biodiversity will reduce disease risk.”

Hua also explained how her research project will branch out into future programs she believes will benefit students.

“These funds will also help to develop a Summer Research and Outreach program that supports undergraduate artists, engineers, biologists and educators and a [third-grade] science training program,” Hua wrote. “Collectively, this integration will facilitate citizen data collection efforts, diversify STEM training and engagement and broaden access to authentic research opportunities.”

Ethan Hryhorenko, a sophomore majoring in biology, said the professors receiving the award will greatly benefit students interested in research.

“I think it’s good for the overall look of the campus, since these professors and their research projects will hold a very high impact on what students get involved with,” Hryhorenko said.