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.

Penny Rheingans interviewed on WYPR for Ada Lovelace Day

CWIT Director and CSEE professor Penny Rheingans was interviewed by Sheila Kast on today's Maryland Morning show on WYPR as part of a segment on Ada Lovelace Day (October 16). You can listen to the WYPR interview here.

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer in the mid nineteenth century. She is considered the "first computer programmer" because she was the first person to develop an algorithm intended to be executed by a machine. Ada Lovelace Day is about "sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM."

Computer Science Mini-Summit reveals trouble with high school CS curricula

Filling the Black Hole

On August 8, 2012, Computer Education for the 21st Century’s Computer Science Education Mini-Summit revealed the problem with high school Computer Science curricula, and, more importantly, what’s being done to fix it.

Photos: Shelby Clarke

“High School is a black hole for most students with respect to Computer Science,” says Jan Cuny, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Program Director for Computing Education.  In August, Cuny spoke about the scarcity of Computer Science in High Schools and what’s being done to encourage students—especially women and minorities—to pursue the field.

This was music to the ears of the roughly fifty high school and middle school teachers, university professors, and administrators that attended Computer Education for the 21st Century (CE21)’s Computer Science Education Mini-Summit at UMBC. The brainchild of CSEE professors Marie desJardins, Penny Rheingans, and CWIT’s Associate Director, Susan Martin, the day-long summit was a way for Computer Science teachers to network, share best teaching practices, and get involved in fixing a problem close to their hearts. 

Probably more telling than any facts or figures on the subject was the testimony of four high school and middle school Computer Science teachers, which told how widely the high school Computer Science experience varies across our state. Dianne O’Grady-Cunniff, who teaches classes like Web Design, Keyboarding, and Introduction to Engineering Design, says that the success of her Computer Science program at Westlake High School is largely due to her school administration’s outpouring of support.  

But, support and resources must go hand in hand for success. Femi Ajimatanrareje of Prince Georges County’s DuVal High School knows this first-hand. While the administration supports his vision, resources have been hard to come by. In order to teach courses like Introduction to Engineering Design and Foundation to Technology, Ajimatanrareje had to pick up a class supply of computers and then network them himself.

Then there are schools that have the resources but lack support. Nancy Ale, who teaches courses like Software Applications, Information Communication Technology, Robotics, and Internet Safety to Sixth graders, is facing resistance from an administration that wants her to backpedal by teaching Keyboarding instead.

Most troubling are Computer Science programs that are desperate for both resources and support. Peter O’Conner, who teaches Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science at Boonsboro High School in Western Maryland, has to teach Computer Science in the school’s Chemistry lab. Not only are resources stretched, but O’Connor attributes a lack of understanding of the discipline on the part of guidance counselors, the administration, parents, and even students, to low enrollment. That coupled with the courses’ distinctions as electives, means that few students are willing to take his courses when familiar offerings like Art or Tech Ed would suffice. Out of the few students who do pursue Computer Science are even fewer women. In a course of 20 students, says O’Conner, he might only have two girls.

One thing that the four teachers did have in common was the conviction that demystifying Computer Science to the masses is the first step in reversing the trend in waning enrollment levels. People hear Computer Science and think Microsoft Power Point or word processing. Or, if programming does come to mind, the concept is, at best, ambiguous, or, at worst, terrifying.

Also crucial is the regulation of the subject at the state level. In her keynote speech, Jan Cuny shared staggering stats that reinforced the teachers’ testimony: Twenty years ago 25% of high schoolers took Computer Science, and now the figure is down to 19%. A mere 1% of students enter college claiming a Computer Science major. Out of that 1%, 0.3% are women.

So what’s the solution? A good first step is Computer Science: Principles, a future Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course being developed by the Collegeboard and NSF to help broaden participation in the field. As of now, there are more than 25 pilot sites in Berkeley, CA, Los Angeles, and Chicago that offer the class, but the goal is much broader. The CS 10K project strives to reach 10,000 teachers, and 10,000 schools by the fall of 2016. NSF has  backed the program with $38 million in funds.

The proposed course will introduce high schoolers to programming and teach them the fundamental concepts of computing, how this knowledge can be applied, and how computing has the potential to change the world. As an AP course, it will act as a bridge to the study of Computer Science in college. The hope is that the course may help fill the widening Computer Science “black hole” and help foster future analytic minds capable of creating the technologies of tomorrow.




Meet the new professors in UMBC's CSEE Department

New Kids on the Block

The Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department welcomes three new professors starting Fall 2012. Learn what makes them tick.

Nilanjan Banerjee

Though technology has become an essential resource for many, it’s using up more and more of another kind of resource: energy. Not only is energy production costly, but it’s not infallible. For a generation that’s come to rely on technology, what do we do when we’re unexpectedly cut off? That’s a question that new Computer Science and Electrical Engineering professor Nilanjan Banerjee, 30, is answering with renewable energy-driven devices that keep us connected, especially when we need it the most. Read More…


Jian Chen

Few things are more daunting than an excel spreadsheet full of data. Even scientists can react to massive data sets with blank stares. That’s where the work of new CSEE assistant professor Jian Chen comes into play. As a designer of visualization and interaction techniques, Chen translates data into symbols that humans are good at interpreting.

“I have been working with biologists, physiologists, neurologists, cognitive scientists, and structural engineers to study cutting edge visualization science,” says Chen. Read More…


John Park

Even though this will be my first real term as a full-time lecturer at UMBC, I'm actually an old hand here.  I have been teaching part-time at UMBC for 4 years, during which I've taken turns at teaching CMSC 104, 202, and 331, in various forms, including developing and teaching CMSC 202H, the new honors section of that course.  I've had extensive industry experience in many subfields of Computer Science, including operating systems, real-time control systems, artificial intelligence/machine learning, digital imaging and graphics, and bioinformatics.  I'm now eager to apply that experience to a much broader range of courses in the department, combining sound theory with practical considerations and applications.  This coming fall, however, I'm easing into the new job by starting with CMSC 104 and 201. Read More…

Environmentally Aware

New CSEE assistant professor Nilanjan Banerjee works on building renewable energy-driven devices.

Though technology has become an essential resource for many, it’s using up more and more of another kind of resource: energy. Not only is energy production costly, but it’s not infallible. For a generation that’s come to rely on technology, what do we do when we’re unexpectedly cut off? That’s a question that new Computer Science and Electrical Engineering professor Nilanjan Banerjee, 30, is answering with renewable energy-driven devices that keep us connected, especially when we need it the most.

Consider the following: a natural disaster strikes and you need to find a path to safety. Cell phone towers are down and there’s no wireless internet signal for miles. That's where Dr. Banerjee’s self-sustainable solar-powered emergency mesh comes in. It’s kind of like Google Maps, except it could save your life.

Made up of ultra-low power solar nodes that can be charged with solar panels, the mesh’s goal is to provide natural disaster survivors with a risk-free path to an emergency shelter. Risk-free means that you’ll be guided around burning buildings, car accidents, and other hazards, even if it means taking a bit of a detour. Just pull out your iPhone, or android, or other smartphone, and connect to the mesh when all other wireless networks are down. A digital map will appear and lead you to safety.

The medical and military worlds are two other areas where lives literally count on dependable technology. Here, Banerjee has tied his interest in renewable-energy driven devices to things like EKG data  collection and communication between military busses and tanks.

Green homes are another area of interest for Banerjee, who has been installing monitoring systems in both on and off-grid homes to try and gauge energy consumption. The way it works is they collect instantaneous residual battery voltage and the energy consumed by the house. “Our goal is to make it easier for off-grid and grid-tied home residents to make smart choices about managing energy,” explains the project website. In fact, he’s got a smartphone application in the works that would use this information to tell homeowners when they should use highly consumptive devices like a clothes dryer, and that could send warnings about critical battery situations in the home.

Banerjee discovered renewable energy-driven devices as a Computer Science Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was drawn to the challenge of making these highly efficient devices, and in light of growing global environmental concerns, he thought the field was especially relevant.

After graduate school, Banerjee took a position as an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas. He started a lab, Mobile, Pervasive, and Sensor Systems Laboratory, which focused on three key areas: renewable energy driven systems, healthcare systems, and mobile phone based systems. As a professor, his course repertoire included subjects like programming paradigms, mobile and pervasive computing, and mobile phone application development.

During his inaugural Fall semester at UMBC, Banerjee will teach Computer Architecture for the first time. He describes his teaching method as “hands on.” Students in his class will see lots of demonstrations, and the chance to learn how to build real systems. Because, while the research is important to him, so is the teaching. After all, it was UMBC’s mix of strength in both research and undergraduate teaching, explains Banerjee, that drew him to the university in the first place.



Visualize This

New CSEE assistant professor Jian Chen creates visualizations to represent large data sets. 

Few things are more daunting than an excel spreadsheet full of data. Even scientists can react to massive data sets with blank stares. That’s where the work of new CSEE assistant professor Jian Chen comes into play. As a designer of visualization and interaction techniques, Chen translates data into symbols that humans are good at interpreting. 

“I have been working with biologists, physiologists, neurologists, cognitive scientists, and structural engineers to study cutting edge visualization science,” says Chen.

Take her work with bats. Chen has been helping biologists analyze bat flight kinematics among species. She looks at how their wings morph during flight, and expresses the information with colorful representations that are easier to grasp than numbers.

Chen’s most recent research grant supports a project that works on expressing massive biology datasets in a simple way. The method is called “PathBubbles.” This interactive pathway visualization tool displays gene products as dots, and the connections between those genes as lines. The color of those dots varies depending on importance, and different colored lines can suggest things like binding between gene products or the sharing of a small molecule.

When a user clicks on a particular dot, it opens up a database of information about each gene product  and each interaction. Scientists can even add dots and lines to the database, as well as information about how the new genes should interact with genes already present in the database. With this new information, the system will be able to predict the effect of the newly-introduced gene product on the biological pathways.

Though PathBubbles is being developed to represent data from gene studies, its ability to graphically test different hypotheses has the potential to be applied to other fields like Chemistry, Engineering, Physics, and Computer Science.

For Chen, who says she was born to be a designer, creating visualizations is about allowing us to understand more, better, and faster. “It may lead to significantly better approaches to human knowledge discovery and decision making in many disciplines where visualizations have found successful application, including Neuroscience, Biomedicine, Bioinformatics, Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Business, Economics, and Education.”

Chen fell in love with visualizations as a Master’s student at Tsinghua University and Tianjin University in China, where she was working towards a Mechanical Engineering degree.

After that, Chen got her Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Houston, followed by her Ph.D. from  Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Her first experience with visualizations was as a research associate at Brown University, where she spent three years. Her time in academia convinced Chen that it was where she wanted to stay.

So, despite offers from labs, she took a teaching job at the University of Southern Mississippi. During her three years as an assistant professor, Chen taught both undergraduate and graduate courses like Software Engineering, C Programming, Game Design, 3D Interaction, and Visualization. She started a lab, the Interactive Visual Computing Lab (IVCL), which she hopes to one day bring to UMBC.

“It is an honor for me to join UMBC,” says Chen, who will be teaching Data Structures this fall. Her advice for students who take her class in the fall is to use the knowledge you learn in the classroom to solve real-world problems—not surprising, considering this is what Chen’s research is all about.



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