Vanderbilt researcher wins NSF CAREER award to close a gap in network analysis by better modeling negative online interactions like unfollowing and blocking

Tyler Derr, assistant professor of computer science, has won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to advance network analysis methods for data that inherently contain both positive and negative interactions, such as that found in e-commerce and online social media.

Tyler Derr

The prestigious five-year award honors early career faculty with the potential to serve as role models in research and education and lead advances in their fields. The grant for $550,000 is administered by the NSF’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS).

“Traditional methods in network analysis have predominantly overlooked the modeling of negative relations in data. In today’s context, where polarization is on the rise, online social media users not only form positive friendships but also engage in negative actions such as unfollowing, blocking, and developing distrust or even animosity,” said Derr, assistant professor of computer science and an affiliate of the Vanderbilt Data Science Institute.

The project aims to address this gap by developing specialized network analytical methods, including graph neural networks, that capture both positive and negative relations. These advancements will enable improved analysis of historical data, lead to valuable insights into the direction of public sentiments and provide more accurate predictions for the future.

Derr’s research interests include data mining and machine learning, especially in social network analysis, deep learning on graphs, and data science for social good. Complementing his role at the Data Science Institute, Derr plans to continue his collaboration as a faculty fellow in Vanderbilt’s Frist Center for Autism and Innovation by mentoring students through their Autism Summer Internship program. Additionally, he plans to actively engage with mentoring incoming first-generation students in Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering and more broadly continue his role as a faculty leader in the school’s Summer Book Club.

Derr joined the Vanderbilt engineering faculty in 2020. He directs the Network and Data Science (NDS) lab at Vanderbilt and is a visiting faculty member this summer at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate (AFRL/RI) and its Information Institute through their Visiting Faculty Research Program (VFRP).

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 615 343-6314