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SIUE professor wins inaugural faculty collaboration award, credits his mentor

Shown from left are SIUE Chancellor James T. Minor, Dr. John Matta, Dr. Koushik Sinha, SIUC Chancellor Austin Lane and SIU System President Dan Mahony. (Courtesy SIUE)


The inaugural SIU System Faculty Collaboration Award presented during the Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting featured two professors with a long-standing partnership.  

John Matta, Ph.D., associate professor and department chair of the SIUE Department of Computer Science and Koushik Sinha, Ph.D., associate professor of the SIUC School of Computing now share an award for their collaborative project “Estimating the Burden of HIV in Semi-Urban and Rural Illinois.”

The co-awardees and their student teams used respondent-driven sampling, known as snowball sampling, to conduct in-depth interviews with hard-to-reach communities representing drug injectors, prostitutes, gay men, street youth and the unhoused in Southern Illinois. Once the data was collected, the professors used statistical mathematics to interpret the results. 

“Dr. Sinha and I are not medical professionals as much as computer scientists,” said Dr. Matta. “We look at everything with a science point of view.” 

Dr. Matta began his Ph.D. nearly 10 years ago at SIUC where Dr. Sinha was his advisor. “We were student and teacher to start,” said. Dr. Matta. “I learned how to do this from him. We’re more collaborators now.” 

The team approached their award-winning subject with the philosophy choose computer science for the hardest problems. According to Dr. Matta, “As a social science HIV is a very difficult situation. It’s a very difficult one to this day.”  

The Faculty Advisory Committee for the SIU System (FACSS) created the Faculty Collaboration Award to foster continued collaboration among faculty across SIU System campuses. FACSS members intend for this award to recognize faculty collaborators in the areas of teaching; scholarship and creative activities; service; and/or antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion (ADEI). 

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