Troi Williams awarded the 2019 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant

July 3, 2019

Troi Williams

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering would like to recognize Troi Williams for receiving a 2019 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant for his proposal entitled “Hunting Mosquito Breeding Habitats Using Drones and State-Dependent Measurement Models.” Williams is a doctoral student advised by Yu Sun, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Affairs, in the USF Robot Perception and Action Lab (RPAL). This is the third year Microsoft Research has offered the dissertation grant program, and out of more than 200 proposals submitted, 11 candidates were chosen to receive the prestigious award.  

This award consists of research funding of up to $25,000 for academic year 2019-20, as well as travel and accommodations to attend the Ph.D. Summit. The summit is a two-day workshop where students will be able to present their research, receive career coaching and meet with Microsoft researchers in their field. “This award will create opportunities for me to collaborate with researchers at Microsoft, other Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant Fellows, and expose me to other research areas that I can explore as a professor. This award will also help me purchase equipment, such as drones and cameras, for my dissertation research,” Williams said.

Part of the award that Williams has received will go toward purchasing a drone kit and depth camera. This equipment will aid in his research to improve the decision-making skills of autonomous robots in real-world tasks. The goal of this research is to be able to use drones to identify the breeding habits of mosquitoes and fight the spread of malaria. According to Williams, “it will also advance a novel, fundamental research direction in robotics that focuses on estimating variable measurement error given the states of a robot and its environment.”

Williams was inspired to pursue his doctoral degree through conversations with his advisors at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and Norfolk State University, where he obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees, respectively. After returning briefly to UVI as a computer science instructor, he decided to join Sun’s research group for his doctoral work. Prior to enrolling at USF, his research experiences included internships with NASA Johnson Space Center, Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Cisco Systems (funded by the GEM Fellowship program).  More recently, he spent last summer with the Intel FLEX IT Group and the Intel Artificial Intelligence Product Group in Santa Clara, California.

His current research interests are, “intelligent unmanned systems (including land- and aerial-based vehicles), understanding how properties of the world introduce error (bias and uncertainty) in robot sensor measurements, and creating techniques for modeling measurement error using machine learning. These interests will broadly impact how autonomous robots navigate and how robots assess their competencies while performing tasks,” Williams stated.  During his doctoral program, Williams has also received support from the NSF Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Activity, GEM Fellowship Program, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. Program and the Florida Education Fund’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program.

The Dissertation Grant is awarded to underrepresented, doctoral students in their fourth year or beyond of a program in the field of computing. They must be enrolled in a North American university and working on a dissertation related to one of Microsoft Research’s areas of expertise. Proposals were reviewed by Microsoft researchers with topical expertise appropriate to the proposal and were rated on the scientific quality and potential impact of the research.