Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest research topics with the aim of creating intelligent machines that can perform tasks that usually require human-level intelligence. In industry, numerous companies and startups have built and marketed powerful AI solutions for a variety of real-life applications including virtual assistants, recommendation systems, image and speech recognition and autonomous vehicles. In academia, more than 450,000 technical papers were published in AI from 2019 to 2022. Researchers are continually exploring new ways to expand the capabilities of AI and use it to solve complex problems in diverse fields. The research areas in AI include machine learning (ML), computer vision, natural language processing, robotics and explainable AI with a growing interest in understanding how AI systems work and how their decisions are made.
AI contributes to providing solutions to solve the challenges faced by the society from food safety assurance for a growing population to climate change analysis. AI facilitates the interaction of humans with machines through speech recognition to understand the natural languages spoken by humans, text recognition to analyze handwritten texts and computer vision to understand visual inputs.
Being one of the most in-demand research areas, numerous upcoming funding opportunities are available in AI. AI is also one of the priority areas for the National Science Foundation in 2023 with an estimated support of around 734 million USD. While it will be challenging for countries in Lebanon and the MENA region to attract funding in research related to pure AI topics, it is feasible to attract funding in applied AI topics. In this context, AI can be used to solve the pressing problems that the country and region are facing, especially in health, environment, climate, agriculture and transportation.
Members of the cluster: Dr. Joe Tekli and Dr. Abdallah Moubayed. Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Wissam Fawaz, Dr. Samer Saab, Dr. Chadi Abou-Rjeily, Dr. Zahi Nakad, Dr. Wassim Habchi and Dr. Pierrette Zouein.
Initially a buzzword used in industry and marketing, the term e-health has recently entered the scientific literature and is being used extensively in academia. E-health is broadly defined as the use of information and communication technologies for the delivery of healthcare. The research in e-health is broad and ranges from medical imaging and telemedicine to the delivery of healthcare and disease outbreaks. E-health technologies also include data processing and communications with a focus on improving the diagnostic quality, medical wearables and telemedicine/health informatics technologies. Telemedicine and health informatics are transdisciplinary fields encompassing several areas including but not limited to medical sciences, biomedical engineering, computer engineering (software and hardware) and AI/machine learning.
Research in e-health is highly relevant to the MENA region and Lebanon where the applied research can target the refugees, rural areas with inadequate healthcare, digitizing and modernizing the healthcare system, crisis management systems, predictive modeling of disease outbreaks, wearable devices, crisis management, early warning systems and low-cost mobile monitoring and diagnostic technologies. E-health research has been very useful in Europe and the Americas and there is a growing need in developing this technology and expanding its use in Lebanon and the MENA region.
E-health services are especially needed during pandemics to predict disease outbreaks and decrease the transmission of contagious diseases. The primary focus is to foresee the needed medical support especially for remote and underserved areas. From 2019 to 2022, the most impactful research among all cluster topics under Scopus was related to COVID-19.
Members of the cluster: Dr. Zahi Nakad, Dr. Joe Tekli, Dr. Pierrette Zouein and Dr. Marc Haddad. Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Abdallah Moubayed, Dr. Wissam Fawaz and Dr. Chadi Abou-Rjeily.
Environmental Engineering and Water Resources
The aim of this cluster is to develop innovative solutions that address environmental challenges related to air pollution and climate change as well as water quality, availability and sustainability. Research in environmental engineering and water resources plays a critical role in promoting sustainable and resilient water systems capable of supporting the human and ecological needs. Research in this area covers contaminants, water management and conservation, water supply systems, sustainable waste management, sustainable transportation and mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable building and construction as well as sustainable cities and human settlements. This area of research is timely and is continuously gaining momentum in the scientific community.
The activities of the “Environmental Engineering and Water Resources” research cluster are aligned with the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) set by the United Nations under the title “Clear Water and Sanitation”.
In Lebanon, research in this area is of paramount importance given the poor management of the water resources, the high levels of pollution in lakes and rivers and the limited availability of water resources in some regions and their vulnerability to drought. Moreover, most cities in Lebanon suffer from high levels of air pollution and the country’s rich biodiversity is under threat from environmental degradation and climate change. Environmental engineering and water resources research can help Lebanon to protect its natural resources and manage its water resources in a way that ensures the availability of clean water for current and future generations. Moreover, research in this field can help support the development of sustainable agriculture practices that can increase crop yields and boost rural livelihoods.
Members of the cluster: Dr. Mahmoud Wazne and Dr. Jean Chatila. Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Nissrine El-Hassan, Dr. Grace Abou-Jaoude, Dr. Marc Haddad and Dr. Pierrette Zouein.
Research in the “Natural Hazards” cluster aims to enhance safety and resilience by addressing a range of potential hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. A better understanding of these natural events can contribute to reducing the harm that affects the human population, infrastructure and environment. Research in natural hazards covers implementing strategies for disaster risk reduction, hazard assessment and mapping, hazard mitigation, crisis management, predictive and preventive modeling, early warning systems, post-disaster recovery, environmental monitoring and risk assessment.
The following Scopus Topic Clusters fall under the broad research area of natural hazards. TC.226: “Earthquakes; Seismology; Seismic Response”, TC.371: “Seismic Waves; Seismology; Seismic Data”, TC.553: “Landslides; Debris Flow; Slope Stability”, TC.515: “Geographic Information Systems; Maps; Models”, TC.153: “Remote Sensing; Image Classification; Satellite Imagery” and TC.972: “Photogrammetry; Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV); Remote Sensing”.
Research on natural hazards is particularly important for Lebanon given its vulnerability to a range of natural disasters including earthquakes, landslides and wildfires. The high population density in the country’s urban areas renders the potential impact of natural hazards more disastrous. The 2020 Beirut explosion revealed the unpreparedness of the country to face disasters and uncovered the absence of pertinent emergency plans to better cope with these disasters. As such, research on natural hazards can help the country in identifying areas of high risk and develop appropriate strategies to mitigate these risks.
Member of the cluster: Dr. Grace Abou-Jaoude. Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Mazen Tabbara, Dr. Jean Chatila and Dr. Zahi Nakad.
The pursuit of clean and cost-effective energy has led to significant research in the field of renewable energy. Renewable energy research aims to improve the efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness pertaining to the production, storage and distribution of alternative sources of renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass energy. This multidisciplinary field encompasses a wide range of topics including the development of solar cells and wind energy systems as well as the integration of electric vehicles, smart grid technologies and energy storage systems. Using advanced technologies like sensors, automation and machine learning, smart grids can help to manage the complex and dynamic nature of renewable energy generation and consumption. The integration of electric vehicles into smart grids reduces reliance on fossil fuels and further promotes the adoption of sustainable transportation.
Research in renewable energy is critical to address the global energy challenges including climate change and energy security. The activities of the “Renewable Energy” research cluster are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations; in particular, SDG7: “Affordable and Clean Energy” and SDG11: “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. In Lebanon, implementing sustainable renewable energy solutions is instrumental for addressing the pressing environmental and economic challenges paving the way towards a more sustainable future.
Renewable energy is a very hot topic with governments and funding agencies (especially in Europe) investing heavily in this area. This area is important to Lebanon and the MENA region. Countries in the Arab league had considerably profited from the “Horizon 2020 framework program” to attract funding in renewable energy in the order of 61.5 million USD. The findings and innovations in renewable energy research can also pave the way for new job opportunities and economic growth in the clean energy sector.
Members of the cluster: Dr. Nagham El-Ghossein, Dr. Harag Margossian, Dr. Raymond Ghajar, Dr. Michel Khoury, Dr. Amne El-Cheikh, and Dr. Nissrine El-Hassan . Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Mahmoud Wazne, Dr. Zahi Nakad, Dr. Wissam Fawaz, Dr. Chadi Abou-Rjeily, Dr. Dani Tannir, Dr. Marc Haddad and Dr. Pierrette Zouein.
Robotics is a rapidly growing field, with many applications in industry, healthcare and other areas. Research in robotics is focused on developing new types of robots with autonomous decision-making capabilities in dynamic environments. Advanced robots possess a certain level of intelligence that renders them capable of interacting with complex environments, adapting to changing situations and learning from their experiences. These include industrial robots deployed in factories, medical robots used for surgeries and other medical procedures as well as humanoid robots that interact with humans in a more natural way. Autonomous vehicles are another important application of robotics, with many companies developing self-driving cars that can operate safely and efficiently on roads.
Engineers and researchers continue to push the boundaries of robotics technology with a significant emphasis in research related to human-robot interaction, soft robots, cognitive robots, aerial robots, multi-robot systems, swarm robotics, robot perception, robot learning as well as the development of robots for use in hazardous or extreme environments.
Research in robotics is multidisciplinary covering several areas including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering. The following Scopus Topic Clusters fall under the broad research area of robotics. TC.988: “Reinforcement Learning; Robots; Artificial Intelligence”, TC.333: “Kalman Filters; Target Tracking; Algorithms”, TC.667: “Embedded Systems; Scheduling; Real Time Systems”, TC.9: “Control; Controllers; Linear Matrix Inequalities”, TC.101: “Robots; Robotics; Manipulators”, TC.285: “Multi Agent Systems; Motion Planning; Robots”, TC.211: “Decision Making; Fuzzy Sets; Models”, TC.591: “Robots; Robotics; Human Robot Interaction” and TC.573: “Fuzzy Systems; Fuzzy Inference; Neural Networks”.
Members of the cluster: Dr. Samer Saab, Dr. Noel Maalouf, Dr. Charbel Tawk and Dr. Barbar Akle. Supporting SOE faculty: Dr. Zahi Nakad and Dr. Dani Tannir.