Outstanding Data Science Faculty Research Award

This annual faculty research award is aimed to recognize significant achievements in data science research of a core or an affiliate faculty member of the School of Data Science during each calendar year. The winner of this award will receive a one-time $2,000 research stipend that can be used to cover any research-related expenses, such as conference travel, data and software purchase, and compensation for study participants.


An eligible candidate for this award is an individual who:

  • has been a core or an affiliate faculty of the School of Data Science at UNC Charlotte for at least a full year at the time of the application; and
  • has not received this award in the past 3 years

Winners of the Award


Hamed Tabkhi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research is dedicated to bringing the latest advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science to improve the safety, health, and well-being of our communities. He has led multiple multidisciplinary projects involving academia, stakeholders, and leading industries to translate theoretical research into tangible, real-world benefits through responsible and ethical AI and data analytics applications. His work spans several critical areas, including AI for public safety, smart transportation, and healthcare. Tabkhi’s research efforts have garnered support from various federal and state agencies, securing $5M in research funding as the lead Principal Investigator. Hamed’s research is deeply rooted in the principles of data science, with a special emphasis on using data-driven methods to transform existing legacy infrastructure and practices within our communities and workplaces. Over the last three years, he has led a $2.3 million National Science Foundation project focused on Responsible AI for public safety, which has been recognized as an NSF spotlight project and success story. He was also the keynote speaker at the NSF Smart and Connected Communities PI meeting. During the last three years, Hamed has authored 12 peer-reviewed journal articles and 27 conference papers, making substantial contributions to the field of data science, including a high-impact journal, recently published in IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering.


The research committee has identified Shan Yan as the recipient of 2022 Outstanding Data Science Faculty Research Award. The following is a brief summary of his achievement:

Dr. Shan Yan is Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Biological Sciences within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) and Affiliated Faculty with the School of Data Science (SDS) at UNC Charlotte. He has initiated and directed the Charlotte Biology and Biotechnology (CBB) Exchange Group co-sponsored by North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBC) and UNC Charlotte since 2017. He is Director of the Board for the Federation of American Society For Experimental Biology (FASEB, representing ~27 scientific societies and ~115k scientists), and is also Program Leader of the Genome Integrity and Cancer Initiative (GICI) at UNC Charlotte. He has served as grant reviewer for the NIH study sections and NSF Review Panels. Dr. Yan also serves as managing editor or editorial board member for several journals such as Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, and manuscript reviewer for ~46 scientific journals including Science, PNAS, and eLife. His research laboratory is focused on the molecular mechanisms of genome integrity and cancer etiology using Xenopus egg extracts and mammalian cell lines as model systems. His research program is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and often involves collaborators with expertise in data science, structural bioinformatics, chemistry and nanoparticles, physics and structural biology, cancer biology and therapeutics. During 2022, he published 4 peer-reviewed articles and 2 preprints as corresponding or senior author, and submitted 1 patent application to USPTO as sole inventor. His original research article on APE1 function and mechanism in liquid-liquid phase separation and nucleolar DNA damage response in Nucleic Acids Research has led to his Forum Article featured in Trends in Cell Biology. These high-impact studies in top-tier journals have been highlighted in a news release in EurekAlert by AAAS and media reports such as Science Magazine. Dr. Yan also co-authored a research article in Small demonstrating a nanoparticle-based approach for targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs to pancreatic cancers, which has brought a total cost of $2.1M NIH/NCI R01 grant to UNC Charlotte (as Co-Investigator). In 2022, his pioneering research on APE2 in genome integrity has also been awarded a NIH/NCI R03 grant (as Principal Investigator).


The research committee has identified Dr. Laura Gunn as the recipient of 2021 Outstanding Data Science Faculty Research Award. The following is a brief summary of her achievement:

Dr. Laura Gunn is Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences (PHS), Affiliate Faculty with the School of Data Science (SDS), and Director of Biostatistics Core within the College of Health & Human Services (CHHS). She is also an Honorary Research Fellow with Imperial College London’s School of Public Health within the Faculty of Medicine. The scope of her research is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, with a focus on solving complex public health, healthcare, and medical problems through biostatistical modeling, oftentimes with a focus on addressing health disparities. This includes population-based modeling of chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease risk prediction modeling, prevention of diabetes-related adverse outcomes, etc.), healthcare expenditure and outcomes research, and (international) behavioral health interventions for at-risk populations (e.g., childhood obesity in Qatar, mental health among low-income and older UK populations, etc.), among others. During 2021, her research comprised 20 published/in-press peer-reviewed manuscripts. She was first, second, or last author in 18 of these publications, leading the data science/biostatistical design and modeling for these projects. Her publications span journals such as the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Journal of Public Health, BMC Medicine, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, and BMC Public Health, among others. A recognition of one of her publications came from BMC Medicine as one of only four publications last year qualifying as a “selection of key papers that highlight some of the best Diabetes research published in the journal in recent years” (Editor’s Choice: Diabetes Week 2021). Laura’s grant efforts as co-PI and co-I/biostatistician were extensive, with 10 external grant submissions in 2021 totaling requested funds over $19.6 million and with several of these projects funded, under contract negotiations, and with NIH grants management specialists for anticipated funding.