Prof. Marie desJardins is UMBC’s Presidential Teaching Professor for 2014-17

CSEE Professor Marie desJardins has been named as UMBC’s Presidential Teaching Professor for 2014-17. Dr. desJardins joined the UMBC faculty in 2001 after earning her Ph.D. in computer science from UC Berkeley and spending ten years at SRI International as a research scientist. She has made significant contributions to the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, brought over six million dollars to UMBC as PI or co-PI in external grant funding, and held leadership positions in the top professional organizations in her field.

Dr. desJardins is an outstanding teacher, earning praise from students in courses from freshman-level courses for non-majors to specialized graduate-level seminars. She was named one of UMBC’s “Professors Not to Miss” in 2011 and is one of the first cohort of Hrabowski Academic Innovation Fellows. She is also well known for mentoring students at all levels, having graduated ten Ph.D. and 22 M.S. students, mentored over 50 undergraduates in research and served on the dissertation and thesis committees of more than 30 other students. She was recently recognized for mentoring by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, who selected her as one of four awardees of the 2014 NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.

Within the department and university, Dr. desJardins’s commitment to teaching and student success goes far beyond the classroom. She has served as the computer science undergraduate program director and led an effort to redesign the introductory computing course to better serve new students. In addition to mentoring her own graduate students, she is the Faculty Advisor for the Women in Science and Engineering Graduate Association and a member of the Center for Women in Technology Advisory Board. She is regularly invited to participate on panels, give presentations in the Honors Forum and other campus events, and to run workshops for graduate students and junior faculty.

Outside of UMBC, Dr. desJardins has built an international reputation as an advocate for high-quality education, mentoring, and diversity at all levels of the profession. She has been chair, mentor, reviewer, and/or panelist of the AAAI/SIGART Doctoral Consortium for the last 14 years; this event has provided valuable feedback and mentoring to hundreds of computing graduate students during that time. She co-founded the AAAI Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence annual symposium. She regularly publishes articles on her research and innovations in computing education, including tools and techniques for classroom teaching, new courses, and analyses of the state of computer science education at the high school level.

Dr. desJardins is also a nationally recognized leader in computer science education and has received multiple NSF awards to support her work in this area. She gives frequent presentations around the state and the country on high school computer science education and preparing a diverse population of students to succeed in computing careers. She is a founding member of the Maryland chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association, and has organized several professional development workshops for high school teachers. Her NSF-funded CE21-Maryland (Computing Education for the 21st Century) grant explored the landscape of high school CS education in Maryland, culminating in a statewide summit for educators, administrators, and community members that was held at UMBC in May 2013. A recent NSF CE-21 grant will result in curriculum creation and professional development for 100 Maryland high school teachers, focused on the new CS Principles course that is scheduled to become a new AP offering in 2016. Other funded grants in the educational arena include her Hrabowski Innovation Fund award to create the ACTIVE Center, an NSF TUES award that is developing a new freshman-level computing course, an NSF T-SITE grant to build a community of transfer scholars in IT/engineering, as well as multiple smaller awards to run workshops and support graduate student development.

We congratulate Professor desJardins for her selection as Presidential Teaching Professor and look forward to the Presidential Faculty and Staff Awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 2 in the University Center Ballroom. Not only is she an outstanding and dedicated classroom teacher, her contributions to research, teaching, mentoring, and educational innovations have been broad and sustained.

talk: Scalable monitoring & kernel learning for energy grids, Noon Thr 3/13


Scalable monitoring and kernel learning for energy grids

Vassilis Kekatos
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Minnesota

12:00pm-1:00pm, Thursday, 13 March 2014, ITE 325b, UMBC

The smart grid vision urges for enhanced situational awareness, sustainability, and economics over our energy systems. While meters are being installed throughout the grid, algorithms that can effectively process this big data deluge are now demanded. Aligned to that end, this talk focuses first on scalable grid monitoring. Albeit control centers monitor their local grids independently, deregulation and renewables call for power system state estimation (PSSE) at the interconnection level. To address the complexity and communication challenges involved, a decentralized PSSE framework based on the alternating direction method of multipliers has been developed. Beyond conventional least-squares, our framework can identify outliers and circuit breaker statuses as verified on IEEE grids having thousands of nodes. Electricity market inference is the second theme of this talk. We will first demonstrate how grid topologies can be revealed using only publicly available real-time energy prices. This becomes feasible after recognizing that the price matrix can be factorized as the product of the grid Laplacian times a low-rank and sparse matrix. Leveraging the link between energy markets and the underlying physical grids, we will then cast day-ahead price forecasting as a kernel learning task. Through a novel nuclear norm-based regularization, kernels across pricing nodes and hours are systematically selected. Numerical tests using real data from the Midwest ISO market corroborate the interpretative merits of our schemes.

Dr. Vassilis Kekatos is currently a postdoctoral associate with the ECE Dept. of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He obtained his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering and Science from the University of Patras, Greece, in 2007. In 2009, he received a Marie Curie fellowship. During the summer of 2012, he worked as a consultant for Windlogics Inc. His current interests lie in the areas of signal processing, optimization, and statistical learning towards modernizing our energy systems.

Host: Tulay Adali

Cyberdawgs Reach Finals of Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

UMBC’s intercollegiate cyber competition team (the “CyberDawgs”) are heading to the finals of the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) on March 26-29 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab – Kossiakoff Center in Laurel, MD!

Nearly 300 students from schools throughout the Mid-Atlantic region competed in several qualification rounds to determine the eight finalist teams. Joining the CyberDawgs at the finals will be teams from Anne Arundel Community College, Liberty University, West Virginia University, Towson University, Radford University, Capitol College, and Millersville University. The winner of the Mid-Atlantic finals will advance to the National CCDC Finals in San Antonio, TX later this spring.

The 2014 MA-CCDC finals scenario challenges teams to defend their networks against a series of escalating cybersecurity attacks occuring during a simulated disaster management situation in Maryland.

The 2014 National CyberWatch Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) presented by National CyberWatch Center is in its ninth year of providing a unique experience for college and university students to test their cybersecurity knowledge and skills in a competitive environment.

Hands-on Raspberry Pi workshop, 2-4 Friday March 7, ITE240

The UMBC Council of Computing Majors will hold its first hands-on Raspberry Pi workshop from 2:00-4:00 this Friday, March 7, in ITE240.

The Raspberry Pi is a $35 credit-card-sized, single-board computer that runs a version of Unix. Originally developed for teaching computer programming to children, it is now being used in many useful and exciting applications, from near-space weather balloons to baby monitors to media servers. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

The initial workshop will cover the Raspberry Pi, its Raspbian Unix OS, and how to program it using Python for real-world applications. There will be 20 Pi computers for participants to use. The workshop is designed so freshman and non-computer science majors can attend and participate. If you know anyone who would be interested in attending, please send them the link and information!

Space is limited, so sign up to reserve a seat.  Intermediate and advanced workshops will follow later in the semester. See the Pi FAQ for general information on the Pi and Raspbian for information on its operating system.

For more information, contact CCM president Austin Murdock ().

talk: Learning and Optimization for Complex Dynamic Networks, 11:45am Tue 3/11


Learning and Optimization for Complex Dynamic Networks: The
Cases of Future Power Systems and Cognitive Wireless Networks

Dr. Seung-Jun Kim, University of Minnesota

11:45-12:45 Tuesday, 11 March 2014, ITE325b, UMBC

With enormous growth in sensing and communication capabilities as well as processing power to analyze collected data, we are witnessing exciting opportunities in diverse disciplines to study complex interactions of networked entities. The overarching theme is to explore cutting-edge computational intelligence tools from signal processing, machine learning, optimization, and control to make sense of amassed data and exploit complex interactions to make significant real-world impacts. In this talk, I will make cases for two prime examples, namely, future power systems and cognitive wireless networks. The role of contemporary tools including online learning, sparse and low-dimensional models, distributed and robust algorithms, will be emphasized.

Seung-Jun Kim received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea in 1996 and 1998, respectively, and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2005, all in electrical engineering. From 2005 to 2008, he worked for NEC Laboratories America in Princeton, New Jersey, as a Research Staff Member. He is currently with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Digital Technology Center at the University of Minnesota, where he is a Research Associate Professor and a Research Associate. His research interests lie in applying signal processing, optimization, and machine learning techniques to various application domains including wireless communication and networking and smart power grids.

Host: Tinoosh Mohsenin,

talk: Predictive Analytics for Insider Threats, 4pm Wed 3/5

Predictive Analytics for Insider Threats

Ben Shariati
Visiting Lecturer & Interim Assistant CYBR GPD

4:00pm Wednesday, 5 March 2014, ITE325b

This talk will discuss how using operational cyber analytics for predictive security intelligence support a powerful defensive cybersecurity capability. Specifically, I will share elements of my commercial research on how organizations can predict malicious behavior (both user and digital) on their networks by incorporating tailored algorithms and artificial intelligence capabilities as part of an overall cybersecurity sensor architecture. Additionally, this talk will briefly discuss the impact that mobile devices have on the insider threat vulnerability within the government and private sector.


Ben Shariati is a Ph.D. candidate in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity at the George Washington University, where his dissertation work examines the analysis and management of cybersecurity concerns of critical infrastructures. His research and professional interests include mobile device security, emerging technology evaluation, risk analysis, audit, and compliance. For AY13-14, Mr. Shariati is a visiting lecturer and Interim Assistant Director of the Graduate Cybersecurity Program overseeing program activities at The Universities at Shady Grove. In addition to teaching several courses at UMBC, Mr. Shariati has taught graduate cybersecurity courses at George Washington University and undergraduate technical certification classes Hagerstown Community College.

Mr. Shariati is a technology and business executive with over 20 years of experience specializing in strategic and operational cybersecurity program activities and development for international organizations. His career highlights include serving as a lead enterprise security architect at the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, VA, a cybersecurity advisor at Cell Trust Corporation, and Technology Advisor/Cybersecurity Architect for the United Nations Pan American Health Organization.

Samuel Lomonaco: Strange World of Quantum Computing, NASA Mon. 3/10


CSEE Professor Samuel Lomonaco will give an invited talk on “The Strange World of Quantum Computing” as art of the NASA Goddard Engineering Colloquium Series at 3:00pm Monday, March 10 in the Building 3 Auditorium.

Abstract: Quantum computers have the potential to greatly increase computational power beyond the capabilities of conventional computers by exploiting the bizarre quantum properties of the subatomic world. This talk will give an introductory overview of quantum computing in an intuitive and conceptual fashion. No prior knowledge of quantum mechanics will be assumed.

talk: Probabilistic Information for Spectrum Sensing and Utilization, 11:45 3/7, UMBC

Exploiting Probabilistic Information for Spectrum Sensing
and Utilization: towards Efficient Wireless Coexistence

Prof. Xiangwei Zhou
University of Illinois, Carbondale

11:45am Friday, 7 March 2014, ITE 325b, UMBC

With the rapid growth of wireless devices and applications, the electromagnetic radio spectrum is considered to be in short supply. To overcome spectrum scarcity and satisfy emerging user demands, cognitive radio, which can sense and adapt to the surrounding spectral environment, has been introduced to enhance the utilization of the spectrum. However, it is a challenging task to design a robust and cost-effective system involving identification and reuse of spectrum opportunities changing over time, frequency, and space. In this talk, I will focus on efficient spectrum sensing and utilization techniques for dynamic spectrum access. In particular, I will emphasize the importance of exploiting probabilistic information unique to such a system. I will present novel techniques from the perspectives of both a single user and a multi-user network. In the end, I will discuss further extension of the work to enable the coexistence of heterogeneous wireless networks.

Xiangwei Zhou received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, in 2011. He received his M.S. degree in Information and Communication Engineering from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China and his B.S. degree in Communication Engineering from Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China, in 2007 and 2005, respectively. Since 2013, Dr. Zhou has been with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as an Assistant Professor. Prior to that, he was a Senior Systems Engineer with Marvell Semiconductor, Santa Clara, California, from 2011 to 2013. Dr. Zhou’s general research interests include wireless communications and statistical signal processing, with current emphasis on cognitive radio and heterogeneous coexistence, cyber-physical systems, and cross-layer optimization. He is now serving as an Editor for IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications.

Host: Mohamed Younis,

talk: Strong, usable access control for personal data, 1pm Thr 3/6, UMBC


Toward strong, usable access control for personal data

Michelle Mazurek
Carnegie Mellon University

1:00pm Thursday, 6 March 2014, ITE 325b, UMBC

Users create, store and access a lot of personal data, both on their devices and in the cloud. Although this provides tremendous benefits, it also creates risks to security and privacy, ranging from the inconvenient (private photos posted around the office) to the serious (loss of a job; withdrawal of college admission). Simply refusing to share personal data is not feasible or desirable, but sharing indiscriminately is equally problematic. Instead, users should be able to efficiently accomplish their primary goals without unnecessarily compromising their privacy. In this talk, I describe my work toward developing usable access-control mechanisms for personal data. I review the results of three user studies that provided insight into users’ policy needs and preferences. I then discuss the design and implementation of Penumbra, a distributed file system with built-in access control designed to support those needs. Penumbra has two key building blocks: semantic-tag-based policy specification and logic-based policy enforcement. Our results show that Penumbra can enforce users’ preferred policies securely with low overhead.

Michelle Mazurek is a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, co-advised by Lujo Bauer and Greg Ganger. Her research interests span security, systems, and HCI, with particular emphasis on designing systems from the ground up for usable security. She has worked on projects related to usable access control, distributed systems, and passwords.

Host: Penny Rheingans,

POSTPONED: talk: Underwater Acoustic Communication…, Noon Mon 3/2

Due to uncertainty about the weather, this talk has
been postponed and will be rescheduled soon

Underwater Acoustic Communication and
Networking for Ocean Sampling

Dr. Aijun Song

Assistant Research Professor
College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment
University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716

Noon – 1:00pm Monday, 3 March 2014, ITE325b, UMBC

On our planet Earth, the marine ecosystem is undergoing significant changes due to human activities and natural processes. These changes call for enhanced capabilities to sample and communicate in the oceans. With this background, underwater acoustic communication has attracted much attention across multiple disciplines, as a means to access oceanographic data in real-time and to support navigation of underwater vehicles. This talk will focus on my recent efforts in 1) characterization and modeling of the ocean environment as a communication medium, 2) development of high data rate acoustic modems, both software and hardware, and 3) application of underwater acoustic communication networks in ocean sampling.

Dr. Aijun Song received his Ph.D. degree in the Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware in 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), University of Delaware. During this period, he was also an Office of Naval Research (ONR) postdoctoral fellow, supported by the special research award in the Ocean Acoustics program. Since 2008, he has been an Assistant Research Professor of the CEOE, University of Delaware. His research interests include advanced signal processing and communication techniques for mobile radio frequencies as well as for underwater acoustic environments, underwater acoustic signal propagation, and the general area of ocean sampling.