University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


UH Engineer Part of Team Awarded $7.5 Million MURI Grant to Analyze Social Behavior and Predict Outcomes

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version


Rashda Khan
Zhu Han, a UH engineering professor, is working on a $7.5 million DoD grant project using game theory to analyze and influence social behavior.
Zhu Han, a UH engineering professor, is working on a $7.5 million DoD grant project using game theory to analyze and influence social behavior.

It’s no secret that data is everywhere today – endless streams of information are constantly being collected through our smartphones and mobile devices, by sensors placed on bridges and in buildings and even through our smart thermostats and refrigerators.

Finding ways to harness these enormous data sets into useful tools that can aid in decision- and policymaking is now the focus of researchers across the country. Among them is UH electrical and computer engineering Professor Zhu Han, who is part of a team awarded $7.5 million through the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant.

Four universities — University of Houston along with the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Maryland at College Park and Princeton University — are joining forces on the five-year project titled “Innovation in Mean Field Game (MFG) Theory for Scalable Computation and Diverse Applications.” UCLA is the lead on the project.

The project is one of 24 MURI awards totaling $169 million announced this year. It brings together a multidisciplinary team of eight experts specializing in a myriad of areas — math, optimization, artificial intelligence, game theory, electrical engineering and psychology. 

Han will receive $1.2 million of the award. His research focus includes wireless resource allocation and management, wireless networking and communications, wireless multimedia, security and game theory.

“UH research serves as the bridge between the UCLA theoretical part and the University of Maryland social network part,” Han said. “I’m the translator that can talk with both of them.”

The team will study the use of advanced game theoretical approach – a set of mathematical concepts, theorems and algorithms – to analyze social behavior in the context of large-scale, ultra-dense wireless systems, such as social networks.

“The mean field game, or MFG, is a type of dynamic game that can quantify the behavior of multiple users – billions of users – and analyze it,” Han said. The impact on future networks, including the future of the Internet of Things, could be huge. “It’s difficult to have some type of centralized control, but some kind of theoretical approach may provide guidance on how to have optimal control over future networks.”

The team’s efforts are geared toward accurate modeling of knowledge evolution and opinion formation in social networks, social and culture norm dynamics, socio-economic dynamics in energy consumption and crime modeling, election modeling and psycho/socio/mathematical models of rational and irrational agents. Results of the study will be used for modeling and predicting game outcomes.

According to the project abstract, the researchers hope insights gained will allow the use of MFG Theory in diverse applications, such as crowd control, evacuation planning, urban planning, policy making and more.

In addition to the overall project goal, Han also has a personal goal. “I hope to become a kind of guru in MFG and know how to implement it in many different scenarios, especially social networks,” he said.

The highly competitive MURI program complements other DoD basic research efforts by supporting multidisciplinary teams with larger and longer awards in carefully chosen research topics identified for their potential for significant and sustained progress in areas related to national security and military capabilities.

The list of awards is available on the DoD website.




Related News Stories

Cullen College Staff Wins UH President’s Excellence Award

Delvina Branch, winner of a President's Excellence Award, with Renu Khator, UH president; Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell dean of the UH Cullen College of Engineering; and Suresh Khator, associate dean of graduate programs and computing facilities at the Cullen College.

Delvina Branch, office coordinator in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, received a 2018 President's Excellence Award.

“It was a tremendous honor to be nominated and to win,” said Branch, who has worked at UH for four years. “I truly appreciate my department for thinking of me and nominating me.”

Mission: Possible — Mapping Dangerous Terrain

UH researchers are testing prototypes for the project in Brays Bayou.

UH Engineers Focus on Degradable Reconnaissance Vehicles and Evasive Drone Maneuvers


Ensuring military forces have up-to-date information about a potentially hostile region offers obvious advantages, but current methods for doing that – especially along shorelines, where underwater mines and other hazards can pose serious risks – all have drawbacks. It is especially difficult if keeping the technology out of enemy hands is a priority.

UH Researchers Win $1M Award to Boost Student Success

Lisette Montemayor, incoming freshman, is part of UH's newest Student Success Program funded by the NSF.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $999,029 grant to a team of University of Houston researchers for a new program aimed at studying the impact of scholarships, engagement and other support on low-income students and their academic success.

Upcoming Events / Seminars