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Press release
January 27, 2010

Search Engine Developed to Help Haiti Victims

Irvine, Calif., January 27, 2010 – Computer Science Professor Chen Li and six students are participating in a global effort of building a web portal called “Person Finder: Haiti Earthquake” ( hosted by Google to help people find, identify, and reunite with the loved ones that have gone missing as a result of the recent earthquake in Haiti. The ICS team has also developed a search interface available at

Many volunteers around the world are actively contributing to the “Person Finder: Haiti Earthquake” project in order to collect data about affected people and import the data into a central repository. The team, led by Prof. Li, is contributing records to the repository by crawling and pulling data from various websites, including CNN iReport and Red Cross. The team is also studying how to make the information more discoverable by developing a powerful search interface. Contributing members include students: Sattam Alsubaiee, Alexander Behm, Inci Cetindil, Shengyue Ji, Dustin Lakin, and Rares Vernica. The team began their work over the holiday weekend that immediately followed the disaster.

The Haiti Earthquake project is part of Prof. Li’s Family Reunification project, which was developed originally to aid efforts in reuniting families after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. Using a singular search engine from which families can search for lost persons, users can quickly scan ever-changing databases, without having to visit each web site independently.

Li’s collective search engine utilizes a technology that helps make information access easier by supporting “type-ahead, fuzzy” search. The developed techniques can search for results as users type in query keywords character by character. The techniques can even find records that match a keyword approximately. For example, if a user searches for people by typing in a name "emanuel philippe", their fuzzy search can also find similar names such as "manuel philip". Similar techniques have been used to implement the PSearch project, which supports type-ahead, fuzzy search on the UCI directory.

Li's research interests are in the fields of database and information systems, including Web search, data integration, data warehouses, data cleansing, and data-intensive computing. His research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), gift funds from Google and Microsoft, and a fund from Calit2.

Media interested in interviewing ICS faculty, students or alumni should contact Matt Miller at (949) 824-1562 or via email at