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Computer science faculty member receives 2016 Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award

Two IUPUI researchers were named recipients of the 2016 Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award during the IUPUI Research Day earlier this month.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Gavriil Tsechpenakis, associate professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, School of Science at IUPUI; and Dr. Carmella Evans-Molina, associate professor, Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine. 

Established in 2010, the Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award recognizes outstanding IUPUI researchers who are showing great promise in becoming nationally and intern ationally known for their accomplishments in advancing the frontiers of knowledge.

Specifically, the award is for outstanding accomplishments in research and creative activity by an associate professor within the first three years of promotion or appointment in the given rank.

"Dr. Tsechpenakis is an energetic, visionary and hardworking researcher. His expertise is in computer vision, biomedical imaging and computational biology," Simon Rhodes, dean of the School of Science and professor of biology, said in a letter of recommendation.

The human brain has an amazing capacity to functionally recover from strokes that damage local neuronal circuitries, but little is known about the principles of such a highly adaptive system, according to Rhodes. Recent advances in imaging and computational technologies allow for visualizing and processing the small insect brain in its entirety; scientists most often use the Drosophiamelanogaster, or fruit fly, for such studies.

"Using data acquired with state-of-the-art imaging techniques at two Drosophila neuroscience laboratories, Dr. Tsechpenakis seeks to pattern the detailed morphology and dynamics of individual neurons during development, and reconstruct neuronal circuits and model their changes during brain development," Rhodes said.

Tsechpenakis received a $573,000 NSF CAREER Award for his "Modeling the Structure and Dynamics of Neuronal Circuits in the Drosophila larvae using Image Analytics" project.

Tsechpenakis' research focus on the bottom-up reconstruction of a model brain is "an impressive line of research," said UCLA computer science professor Demetri Terzopoulos. "It goes beyond the application of computer vision methods; it requires knowledge of basic neuroscience and a deep understanding of the biological problem, the data and data-acquisition issues. In this domain, [Tsechpenakis] is already considered a pioneer."

"Given Dr. Gavriil Tsechpenakis' scientific curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, research drive, strong work ethic and technical skills as a computer scientist, I am confident that he will continue to have a fruitful academic career at IUPUI, continuing to produce trailblazing research achievements that promise to bring international recognition to your university," Terzopoulos said in a letter of recommendation.

The IUPUI professor earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.