Student Chosen for Frontier Development Lab Challenge

Space sciences Ph.D. student Megan Mark was selected to participate in the prestigious Frontier Development Lab 2022 Challenge this summer.

The 8-week event at the SETI Institute in Mountain Valley, California, brings together top graduate students from around the world to tackle various challenges using, in some capacity, artificial intelligence (AI). Frontier Development Lab (FDL) is a public-private partnership between NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the SETI Institute, Trillium Technologies and leaders in commercial AI, space exploration and earth science.

Mark, who also has a master’s degree in space systems from Florida Tech, was on the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Knowledge Graph Discovery team. Members were charged with exploring this question: Can we use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to develop more effective discoveries by embedding modern language models with the ‘scientific expertise’ to suggest potentially useful connections for researchers?

The results?

The team developed a baseline for a multi-domain knowledge graph that can be used to connect information, datasets and more to each other. Various methods and approaches were applied, including word co-occurrence, semantic similarity, cosine similarity and topic modeling. The baseline can be integrated across a wide swath of sciences to allow for better discovery of data and knowledge, Mark said, and it can provide researchers opportunities for new discoveries, as well as a more efficient search for related datasets or information.

“Megan was the lead presenter on her team, and she did a fantastic job,” said Hamid Rassoul, Mark’s Ph.D. advisor and a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Space Sciences. “This is a wonderful educational opportunity and I hope more Florida Tech students consider applying.”

Mark agreed.

“Experiencing FDL was awe-inspiring to say the least. Even though I had no knowledge about AI and natural language processing, I was welcomed by the program, the participants and my team with kindness and the understanding that we were all there to learn and build something that hasn’t been done before,” she said.

This was no vacation in sunny California, she said.

“We only had eight weeks to accomplish a task to help solve a problem that is an ongoing challenge for humanity. It was grueling and exhausting, but I have made wonderful friends from all over the world because of it,” she said. “That is what I believe is the best part of it. Not only have I walked away with new knowledge of how to use and apply AI, but I’ve made lifelong friends from various academic backgrounds all over the world that I would have never met otherwise.”

Mark’s team included Roelien Timmer, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Fech Scen Khoo, a post-doc at the University of Oldenburg, and Marcella Scoczynski, associate professor, Federal University of Technology-Puerto Rico.

The team mentors were Anamaria Berea, Ph.D., an associate term professor from George Mason University, and Greg Renard, head of AI for AAICO.

The 2022 Showcase recording includes discussions of the projects undertaken at the 2022 FDL Challenge.

From her successes in California, Mark will head north in December to present the final work of her FDL team at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in Chicago. Considered among the most influential events in the world dedicated to the advancement of Earth and space sciences, the AGU Fall Meeting will draw more than 25,000 attendees from more than 100 countries.

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