Dr. desJardins and team win Hrabowski Innovation grant for ACTIVE

It was a case of lab envy that inspired professor Marie desJardins to dream up ACTIVE, the new dynamic laptop lab that will sprout up in the Engineering/Computer Science building next fall.

The culprit? CASTLE, the Active Science Teaching and Learning Environment created by the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences in 2010 (pictured below). While teaching in the space for one of her courses, she looked at the low-profile computer screens, wall-mounted monitors, and circular workstations and thought: “Why don’t we have one of these?”

CASLTE Lab UMBCWhen the Hrabowki Fund for Innovation was announced, Dr. desJardins and a team of CSEE professors including Penny Rheingans, Tim Finin, and Charles LaBerge submitted a proposal to make a similar lab space a reality. This February, the team was awarded a Hrabowski Innovation Implementation and Research Grant to create ACTIVE (Active Computing Teaching and InnoVation Environment), a new classroom that will make group work and active learning a priority.

This semester, the future site will be transformed from an abandoned classroom to a “dynamic laptop laboratory”. desJardins and co. envision a room with movable furniture and easily-accessible floor power outlets. The idea is to create an open space that will make it easy for students to collaborate and for teachers to interact with students. This physical re-design is being supported by a grant from BAE Systems and the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

Instead of filling the space with bulky, expensive desktop computers that will be outdated in a few years, the lab will network students’ personal laptops using special software. It will allow for screen and application sharing between computers, an instant messaging tool between teachers and students, the ability to edit and create documents collaboratively, and more. desJardins explains it as a virtual infrastructure laid over the physical space.

“The key innovation is that courses that have traditionally been taught in a primarily lecture-based format will be able to take advantage of the physical space and software support to incorporate group activities, collaborative online problem solving and programming, real-time quizzes, and interactive laboratories that are interspersed with mini-lectures,” says Dr. desJardins. These teaching techniques will ultimately help students learn better.

A section of Dr. desJardins’ CMSC 101:  Introduction to Computing is one of four pilot courses that will be taught in ACTIVE come fall 2013. Others include Dr. Rheingans’ CMSC 346: Data Visualization, Dr. Finin’s CMSC 331: Programming Languages, and Dr. LaBerge’s CMPE 450: Computer Engineering Capstone.

Some classes have been begging for such a set up. CMSC 101 relies on group activities to help students—especially women and underrepresented minorities—feel engaged and incorporated into the Computer Science community. Last year it suffered when taught in a traditional computer lab, where the rows of cumbersome computers made it impossible for students to see the board or to break into teams. ACTIVE will make Dr. LaBerge’s Computer Engineering Capstone even more true to working in the industry by emulating state-of-the-art industrial research and development companies like Apple and Microsoft.

This summer, all four professors will re-design their classes to best make use of the space.

Dr. Tim Finin says that adapting his Principles of  Programming Languages class will “be a challenge,” but, a worthwhile one. Increasing active learning in the class will help transfer students —who typically take it in their first semester—with the often-difficult adjustment. Dr. Finin is considering techniques like “Pair Programming” and having students program in-class.

He sees the new space as a “step in trying to understand how we can teach better by exploiting new technology.” Finin thinks that the relationship between technology and education is bound to grow. “[Technology] could potentially have as big an impact on education as online-shopping had on retail sales, or as the web had on the news industry,” he says.

desJardins predicts that ACTIVE will help professors learn how to teach better, switching the focus from teaching content to teaching skills. Throughout the semester, the team will evaluate the effectiveness of their classes and share their findings at the Provost’s Teaching and Learning Symposium. They hope to share their experiences, and the space, with other professors at UMBC—professors who one day might say to themselves: “Why don’t we have one of these?”

Meet new CSEE Lecturer, Dr. Sadeghian

PedrameditedNew Computer Science Lecturer, Pedram Sadeghian, always knew that teaching was for him. It was figuring out what to teach that was the challenge.

Dr. Sadhegian studied Psychology as an undergraduate. It wasn’t until after college, when—out of curiosity—he took a class in C programming, that he fell in love with the subject. “I liked the whole concept of problem solving and algorithm development,” says Dr. Sadeghian. “It is a fun challenge to get a program to run and produce the correct output.”

He got his Master’s in Computer Science and his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Louisville.  After graduating in 2006, Dr. Sadhegian dove right into a career in teaching.

“It never gets boring,” he says. As a teacher, he is always learning something new. Dr. Sadeghian taught briefly in Kentucky until a position at Howard Community College (HCC) lured him to Maryland in 2007. For six years, he coordinated and taught classes in HCC’s Computer Science and Information Systems program.

The biggest difference between HCC and UMBC?

“Parking,” he laughs. But, also class size. This semester, Dr. Sadeghian has a whopping 190 students—even a few former HCC students—in his two classes. He is teaching CMSC 104: Problem Solving and Computer Programming, a non-major course that ex-plores fundamental problem solving and algorithm development, and CMSC 201: Computer Science I, an introductory computer programming class for majors. For most students, these classes are their very first encounter with Computer Science.

For Dr. Sadeghian, that’s what makes them his favorite classes to teach. He enjoys the responsibility of opening young minds to the field, and ultimately, future careers, in Computer Science. To do that, Dr. Sadeghian knows that he must engage his students.

“I really like to make the class session interactive and dynamic,” he says. Dr. Sadeghian demonstrates programming concepts on the computer, rather than stuffing them into slides. He gives live demos, knowing that even when mistakes happen, students are engaged and learning better.

His goal is to be the best teacher that he can be.

“The qualities of a good teacher are that they are interested in the subject, are prepared for their lecture, explain concepts clearly, give meaningful examples and assignments, and are ready to address questions both in the classroom and during office hours,” he says. “I try to demonstrate these qualities in my courses.”

CSEE Department welcomes Don Engel as Affiliate Assistant Professor

DonEngelThe CSEE department welcomes Dr. Don Engel as an Affiliate Assistant Professor. Dr. Engel currently works as UMBC’s Assistant Vice President for Research, where he manages prospective internal and external research partnerships.

“I believe this [new appointment] will make me better at my core duties by putting me in the same situations that UMBC students, staff, and faculty face every day,” he says. He is eager to draw on his background in Computer Science and Physics through research and teaching.

“Perhaps most importantly, I like the people in the department and am glad to be a member of the departmental community in a formal way.”

Currently, Dr. Engel is working with CSEE professor Dr. Tim Finin and Dr. Anupam Joshi on research with NIST, while also exploring research opportunities in Big Data and Bioinformatics. He hopes to eventually teach classes that are at the intersection of computer science with physics, the life sciences, linguistics, and politics.

Dr. Engel has had a passion for Computer Science since elementary school, when he taught himself BASIC. He has written a handful of applications including when2meet.com, a scheduling tool that coordinates busy schedules that was inspired by his stint in student government, and ShowMe3D, an iPhone application that takes and displays 3D photos. “I code to solve problems I’ve run into firsthand and because it’s fun to learn new things and apply them,” he says.

 

Cindy Greenwood joins CWIT as Assistant Director, Cyber Scholars Program coordinator

The Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) welcomes Cindy Greenwood as their new Assistant Director. Ms. Greenwood will spearhead the new Cyber Scholars Program which kicks off this fall.

Cindy Greenwood loved college so much that she never wanted to leave.

So she didn’t.  

When an Advertising and Public Relations internship during her senior year of college showed Ms. Greenwood that it wasn’t the career for her, she switched gears. She let her heart decide.

“I felt like I could make more of a difference by going into higher education,” she says.

Greenwood knows first-hand the difference that the college experience can make. Raised in Ishpeming, Michigan–a small town of no more than 7,000 people that is “half the size of UMBC,” she says—Ms. Greenwood thought it would always be her home. That is, until she left for Grand Valley State University.  

“A college campus is like no place else. You can do anything,” says Ms. Greenwood. “You can go from a cultural event where you’re trying food from Cambodia, to a dance party with glowsticks.” The atmosphere of possibility urged her to try new things, like studying abroad in Australia.

Afterwards, a master’s program in Higher Education Administration at the Leadership Center of Washington State University beckoned to her. After graduating, Ms. Greenwood spent eight years working for and with college students, first at Ferris State University in Michigan, and then at the University of South Florida.

In 2011, she joined UMBC as the Alumni Programming Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Advancement. Here, she started the Student Alumni Association to help connect current students with alumni. Hungry for more one-on-one time with undergraduates, Ms. Greenwood volunteered to be the advisor for the UMBC Vegetarian Student Group.

It’s the chance to work with students on a daily basis that drew her to the Assistant Director position in the Center for Women in Technology, she says. Ms. Greenwood will coordinate the new Cyber Scholars Program, which is run in partnership by CWIT and the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity. Her duties include overseeing the Cyber Scholars Living Learning Community, planning events, advising scholars, and teaching a seminar and bridge program for Cyber Scholars.

“The scholars programs are really interesting [at UMBC] because they really touch on every part of students’ lives,” says Greenwood.

An advocate of social justice and equality, Ms. Greenwood says she identifies with CWIT’s mission to bolster support for women in the male-centered fields of Engineering and Information Technology. She is a co-chair of UMBC’s Presidents Commission of Women. In the end it all comes back to her experience in college.

“I’ve had some good female mentors throughout my career,” says Ms. Greenwood, “and I definitely hope to be that to other females as well.”

*Ms. Greenwood joins CWIT as Assistant Director on January 28, 2013.

CSEE Alumni Donald Miner and Adam Shook publish book on MapReduce

UMBC Computer Science Alumni Donald Miner (BS ’06, PhD ’10) (left) and Adam Shook (BS ’09, MS expected ’13) (right) have written a book on the popular MapReduce paradigm that has revolutionized the way collections of computers are used to process large amounts of data in parallel. Their book, MapReduce Design Patterns Building Effective Algorithms and Analytics for Hadoop and Other Systems, was published by O’Reilly Media in December.

“Adam and I were teaching Hadoop classes and we saw a gap: students would pick up on how hadoop worked mechanically, but struggled to understand how to solve problems with it,” explains Donald, who now works as a Solutions Architect at EMC Greenplum. “This book is intended for people who have a basic understanding of Hadoop, but want to start solving their problems effectively.”

Adam and Donald met in fall 2008 during an Artificial Intelligence class at UMBC. Donald, a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Marie desJardins on machine learning and multiagent systems research, was teaching the class. Adam, an undergraduate Computer Science student, was taking the class. Later, the pair ended up working together at ClearEdge IT Solutions.

“We worked well together and our skills and interests complemented each other well, so when I had the opportunity to write this book I knew it would be a much better book doing it with him than doing it alone,” says Donald.

Now Adam works with big data technologies like Hadoop, Accumulo, Pig, and ZooKeeper as a Software Engineer at ClearEdge IT Solutions. He is working towards his Master’s in Computer Science at UMBC under Dr. Tim Finin. His research deals with developing an efficient in-memory distributed database for Semantic Web applications.

“I don’t know how I do it,” says Adam about working full time, being in graduate school, and writing a book. “Caffeine helps.” He plans on finishing up his degree in 2013.

CSEE professor Kargupta and co-authors win IEEE 10-Year Highest-Impact Paper Award

On December 12, CSEE professor Hillol Kargupta will receive the 10-year Highest-Impact Paper Award from the IEEE International Data Mining Conference (ICDM) in Brussels, Belgium.

The winning paper—“On the Privacy Preserving Properties of Random Data Perturbation Techniques”—discusses privacy-preserving data mining and it also received the 2003 ICDM Best Paper Award. It is co-authored by former UMBC PhD student Souptik Datta (CS '08) and Dr. Kargupta’s colleagues at Washington State University—Qi Wang and Professor Krishnamoorthy Sivakumar.

Privacy Preserving Data Mining (PPDM) is important in many domains where the data is privacy sensitive and exposing the data to a third party for mining is not an option. Researchers have come up with many PPDM algorithms that attempt to protect data privacy while allowing analysis of the data for detecting patterns. Many of these algorithms make use of randomized techniques. This paper offers a perspective on the structure of random noise using theories of random matrices and their spectral properties in order to analyze their role in preserving data privacy while still keeping data patterns intact for analysis. It points out that spectral properties of random matrices can be exploited to create attacks on many commonly used privacy-preserving data mining algorithms.

Kargupta and his associates point out is that you must be very careful when using random noise to protect data, since it can be easily filtered out. “Random noise is really not that unpredictable,” explains Kargupta, since it has a pattern of its own.

Out of all of the papers on data mining published within the last ten years, this year Dr. Kargupta’s paper was chosen by IEEE as the most impactful paper in its field.

Sherman and Dykstra invited to give keynote presentation at IDGA forensics conference

CSEE professor Dr. Alan Sherman and his Ph.D. advisee Josiah Dykstra have been invited to give the keynote address at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s (IDGA) Forensic Enabled Intelligence Summit. Scheduled to be held in Washington D.C. in April 2013, the conference is one of the IDGA’s most anticipated government technology summits of the year.

The keynote will discuss Sherman and Dykstra’s research in cloud forensics. Their work explores ways to conduct forensic exams of crimes  committed in the cloud.

CSEE Professor Tim Oates named Oros Family Professor of Computer Science and Technology

Dr. Oates is a Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at UMBC. He is the Principal Investigator of UMBC’s Cognition, Robotics, and Learning (CoRaL) Lab, where he pursues research in the broad areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and natural language processing.

 

Congratulations to Dr. Tim Oates, named an Oros Family Professor in Computer Science and Technology. The five-year endowed professorship will fund Dr. Oates’ newly proposed research project in the area of mobile healthcare.

"I was delighted to recommend Dr. James T. Oates' appointment as Oros Family Professor in Computer Science and Technology, an endowed professorship established to honor and support the work of faculty pursuing scholarly activity in computer science,” says Dr. Warren Devries, Dean of UMBC’s College of Engineering and Information Technology. “Tim Oates is a first rate teacher and scholar, and I had a chance to work with him as a key part of the College and CSEE department's accreditation activity. Taken together this is precisely the type of faculty member this professorship is intended to recognize. The CSEE department's faculty, staff and students are fortunate to have Tim Oates as a mentor and colleague."

The funds will support graduate students to work with Dr. Oates on a project to improve healthcare in developing countries. “The issue is that in developing countries, almost everything is still done on paper,” explains Dr. Oates. That means that every record—things like immunization records and medical histories–are taken by hand. It’s an inefficient process that makes it hard to keep track of medical data.

His proposed solution is to develop an algorithm that can extract data from a cell-phone photo of the paper record. Once digitized, the medical data can be more easily shared and analyzed.

Dr. Oates chose to develop this technology for cell phones because they are a common and reliable tool in these areas, he explains. In many cases, cell phones can be found where basic needs are absent. “There are people living in villages that don’t have access to clean water, but they have cell phones,” he says.

Dr. Oates joins last year’s Oros Family Professor appointee, Dr. Anupam Joshi, who is similarly using the funds for his research in mobile healthcare.

 

Anthony Johnson, Professor CSEE, Physics, elected to APS Executive Board

Dr. Anthony Johnson, a Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Physics, was elected to serve on the American Physical Society’s (APS) Executive Board. With over 50,000 members, APS is one of the world’s leading organizations of physicists. It is dedicated to advancing research in the field through journals, scientific meetings, education, outreach, advocacy and international activities.

This one year term will be Dr. Johnson’s second appointment on APS’s Executive Board. He previously served nearly twenty-years ago while working for AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Dr. Johnson is the director of UMBC’s Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research (CASPR). His research is in the area of ultrafast optics and optoelectronics- the ultrafast photophysics and nonlinear optical properties of bulk, nanoclustered, and quantum well semiconductor structures, untrashort pulse propagation in fibers and high-speed lightwave systems.

Earlier this month SPIE (The International Society for Optics & Photonics) interviewed Dr. Johnson and his colleague Dr. Elaine Lalanne about their research in the UMBC/ CASPR Ultrafast Optics & Optoelectroncis Lab during the SPIE 2012 Defense, Security + Sensing Conference. You can watch the video below:

Banerjee, Lachut receive best paper nomination for work with green homes

Minimizing Intrusiveness in Home Energy Measurement”, a paper written by CSEE Assisant Professor Nilanjan Banerjee, Computer Science graduate student David Lachut, and their colleagues at the University of San Francisco, was nominated for the best paper award at ACM's BuildSys workshop.

The paper outlines the design of a system that will analyze and manage energy use in homes. “The overarching goal of our work is to automate the process of adapting energy demand to meet supply, which requires a comprehensive understanding of home energy use,” explains the abstract. Banerjee and his collaborators have collected data on energy-consumption from six both on and off-grid homes. “Our techniques reduce the energy footprint of the system as well as the amount of physical infrastructure required, making adoption of the system more attractive, particularly to those who live in homes powered by renewable energy sources.”

You can learn more about Dr. Banerjee’s work with renewable-energy driven devices and green homes at the website for his Mobile, Pervasive, and Sensor Systems Laboratory.

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