Peruvian PhD student wins 2010 IBM Innovation Award


Peruvian PhD student wins 2010 IBM Innovation Award
Florez received US$ 20,000 after obtaining one of IBM’s Scalable Data Analytics Innovation Awards (Photo: El Comercio)

Omar Florez, 26, a computer science graduate student from Utah State University and research intern at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, won a 2010 IBM Innovation Award, reported El Comercio.

Florez received US$ 20,000 after obtaining one of the Scalable Data Analytics Innovation Awards given by IBM’s Research and Collaboration center.

Born in Arequipa, with undergraduate studies made in the Universidad Nacional San Agustín (UNSA) in systems engineering, Florez is a PhD candidate in computer science at Utah State University since 2007.

Florez showed especial interest in science since he attended school. During his years as an undergraduate at UNSA, he did research that was presented to Japan, China, and the United States.

A brilliant student since his high school years, his university work drew the attention of Utah State and they suggested him to study a doctorate.

“I did not think twice the proposal and went over there,” said Florez currently in Peru. “I am conducting research three years ago.”

“I come back to Peru once a year where I organize conferences in order to take students to Brazil, Chile or the United States,” said Florez, who travels around the country visiting different universities.

The purpose is to have Peruvian students travel abroad in order for them to study and upgrade their knowledge, he said to El Comercio.

The Awarded Project

The work Florez has done so far is centered in social research and can be seen in his website.

In his native Arequipa, he developed an application that enables interaction between a computer and a person, through voice and audio, in order to help blind people and Parkinson patients, who can “speak” to the computer.

Florez won IBM’s Scalable Data Analytics Innovation Awards with a project he is currently developing for this doctoral thesis.

The Project consists of capturing information from moving vehicles in an expressway through a video camera. These movements will become messages reporting unsafe situations on the highway that can help establish traffic measures.

The purpose, according to Florez, is “to find abnormal situations in the freeways or dangerous situations that put in risk people’s security.”

City transit authorities will be able to make decisions based on “quantitative evidence obtained automatically of what is happening in the expressways,” he explained.

Florez plans to invest the award Money in his future travels and studies. He also hopes to go back and work for IBM.

“At the end I want to return to Peru and try to change things. There is little research in my country. We basically consume technology but do not produce it,” he said.