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Winter 2020 Staff Highlight: Dr. Rong Zhao

As Director of the Software Systems Division of CEWIT, Dr. Rong Zhao initiates and facilitates collaborations between CEWIT faculty and student researchers, and the Center’s academic and corporate partners, as well as develops and coordinates industry outreach and economic development activities while managing the brainstorm process to determine the timeline and possible innovations. With 24 years of software research and development experience and more than 19 years of project management and technology commercialization experience, Rong works on expanding the center’s partnership with the New York State Department of Health, SUNY System Administration and other SUNY campuses, as well as the University’s School of Medicine, University Hospital and other units on campus to create joint research and development initiatives.

Rong is a faculty member of Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University and the Managing Director of the Center for Visual and Decision Informatics at SBU, which is an  Industry-University Cooperative Research Center  designated by the  National Science Foundation (NSF) . He is also a coordinator for the New York State  Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR)  program. His areas of expertise include data mining, machine learning, software engineering, user interfaces, mobile computing, and healthcare technologies. He has published peer-reviewed papers in major journals and conferences and authored chapters in several books.

Since joining CEWIT in 2006, Rong has had an opportunity to work on many projects which involved other universities, state and local government agencies, a wide range of companies, and collaborators from different SBU departments. Rong, along with his CEWIT colleagues, have created systems that continue to be used to support research initiatives and operations at SBU and other organizations; as well as other applications that have been commercialized by CEWIT’s industry partners, resulting in real economic and societal impact. 

One of Rong’s favorite projects was collaboration with Biodex Medical Systems, a Long Island based manufacturer of physical medicine, nuclear medicine and medical imaging products. Working with Biodex’ engineers, Rong’s team developed two computer games: Catch , for balance training and fall prevention, and Kick for gait training, which were then deployed on Biodex’s balance system and gait trainer product. In these “rehab games”, the CEWIT team created a highly engaging virtual reality environment for competition-type training. These interactive applications were designed to reduce stress and enhance the effectiveness of rehabilitation training undertaken by patients recovering from various medical conditions. In a recent TV news program, a 12-year-old student athlete in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who sustained a spinal injury during gymnastics practice, told the reporter that she liked playing the Catch game on the balance machine and believes it will help her return to gymnastics. After finishing the Biodex project, two of the students who were part of Rong’s team and worked on these games, formed a startup to pursue a career in developing these so-called “serious games”. This is just one of many examples of CEWIT making a multi-faceted impact in the real world through its R&D projects.

Rong has served as a software architect for several tech startups developing enterprise software, advanced analytics, and innovative healthcare solutions. He recently co-founded Orchid Imaging, a startup focused on commercializing high-speed and high-resolution 3D scanning technology developed at SBU. He has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies and served as an advisor, consultant or expert witness for companies in various industries. 

If you’d like to reach out to Dr. Rong Zhao to discuss possible collaborations, please contact him at 631.216.7007 or email him at