CSEE Lecturer Susan Mitchell successfully defends Ph.D. dissertation

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Congratulations to CSEE lecturer Susan Mitchell who, on April 6, 2012, successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Software Process Improvement through the Removal of Project-level Knowledge Flow Obstacles: The Perceptions of Software Engineers.”

Eight years ago, Dr. Mitchell began working toward her Ph.D. in Software Engineering through UMBC’s Information Systems Department. Working as a lecturer in the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department while pursuing her degree part-time, Dr. Mitchell’s triumph is an inspiration to all those working stiffs who someday dream of doing the same.

Dr. Mitchell's incentive to go back to school was closely tied to her work as a lecturer. “I teach CMSC 345, Software Design and Development, and I wanted to further my knowledge in the software engineering field,” she says. Designed around the completion of a software-design project, the course mimics a job in the software industry.

Her dissertation—“Software Process Improvement through the Removal of Project-level Knowledge Flow Obstacles: The Perceptions of Software Engineers”—is a case study of a software development team at a major U.S. Department of Defense contracting organization. “Through qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups, I was able to locate obstacles to the flow of knowledge within the team that, as perceived by the software engineers, if mitigated or removed, would increase individual efficiency and end-product quality.”

Dr. Mitchell describes software development as a "very human-centric, knowledge intensive endeavor.” “I believe that the major strides in software process improvement (i.e. efficiency and end-product improvements) will not come from process automation or standardization or from the introduction of new development tools, but from changes in the ways that software engineers and managers approach development,” she explains.

Though her title may have changed, Dr. Mitchell's plans are to remain at UMBC as a lecturer. She does hope, however, to continue her research in the area of software process improvement. 

Dr. Tim Oates Promoted to Full Professor

The Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department wishes to extend its congratulations to Dr. Tim Oates for his promotion from associate professor to full professor.

In 2001, after receiving his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Dr. Oates began teaching at UMBC. His course repertoire includes Introduction to Machine Learning, Discrete Structures, Data Structures, and the ever-popular Robotics.

As the director of UMBC’s Cognition, Robotics, and Learning (CoRal) Lab, his research centers on machine learning. The vision of the lab is to “understand how artificial systems can acquire grounded knowledge from sensori-motor interaction with their environment that enables cognitive activities like natural language communication and planning,” says the lab’s website. More about his research interests can be found in his research profile.  

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Oates contributed to the department last year as chair of the ABET Assessment committee. He is also the advisor for UMBC’s student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society.

UMBC chess team ties for second place at 2012 President's Cup

UMBC’s legendary chess team tied for second place last Sunday in the 2012 President’s Cup in Herndon, Virginia. UMBC tied with the University of Texas-Dallas with a final score of 7.5 points. Both schools were bypassed for first place by Texas Tech University with a mere ½ point lead.

Started by CSEE professor Dr. Alan Sherman in the early 90’s, UMBC’s chess team has gained a reputation that rivals that of many Ivy League schools. Since its inception, the team has won or tied for first nine times at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship (Pan-Am) and six times at the President’s Cup.

When Dr. Sherman started the chess program, he never dreamed that its success would become such an iconic part of UMBC's idenitity. “Eventually, I realized that I was the right person, at the right place, at the right time, to make some significant contributions to college chess, while helping students, the community, and UMBC along the way,” writes Sherman on his website where he chronicles the history of chess at UMBC.

Sherman began by recruiting students with strong backgrounds in chess. Then, in 1994, he convinced Igor Epshteyn, a former coach of the Olympic Reserve Team, to coach at UMBC. From then on, the program continued to gain momentum.

Now, like any other college sport, the program offers prestigious scholarships for its members. The current team members, made up of Grand Master Leonid Kritz, Grand Master Giorgi Margvelashvili, International Master Sasha Kaplan, and Woman Grand Master Sabina Foisor, are all attending the university on chess scholarships.

In a Baltimore Sun article, Dr. Sherman commented on the team's performance last weekend:

"It was an extremely close event, and it could have gone to either of the top teams," Alan T. Sherman, director of UMBC's Chess program, said after the President's Cup. "The team is overall happy with its performance."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Grand Master Giorgi Margvelashvili (right)–a Sophomore majoring in Financial Economics– competes in the President's Cup last Sunday.

Right: International Master Sasha Kaplan (left)–a Junior majoring in Mathematics–at the President's Cup last Sunday.

CSEE Professor Dr. Penny Rheingans receives USM Regents Faculty Award for Mentoring

Dr. Rheingans has been the Director of UMBC’s Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) since the summer of 2009. Since then, she has mentored over a hundred students within the CWIT and SITE scholarship programs.

Congratulations to Dr. Penny Rheingans, the recipient of one of this year’s University System of Maryland (USM) Regents’ Faculty Awards for Mentoring.

Awarded to no more than four USM professors each year, the USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Mentoring is regarded as the highest honor that the Board gives out to recognize outstanding faculty achievement. Mentoring is one of the five award categories, which includes Teaching, Scholarship, Research, or creative activity, Public Service, and Innovation.

“I feel humbled by being honored this way,” says Dr. Rheingans. “Most of the things I'm being honored for are the result of the inspiration and hard work of a whole team of people. I could not have done nearly so much without them.”

Each year, nominees for the mentoring award are chosen who have not only fulfilled their university-sanctioned obligations, but have “clearly exceed[ed] ordinary expectations,” says the USM website. Mentoring nominees are recognized for their influence in areas like developing their students’ careers, aiding with retention and graduation rates, and improving post-baccalaureate progression and employment rates. After being nominated by the Regents’ Faculty Awards Committee, nominees are ultimately chosen by the Board of Regents.

Dr. Rheingans’ most notable mentoring contributions have been her work as the Director of UMBC’s Center for Women in Technology (CWIT). In 2008, troubled by the obstacles facing women in the field and the fact that they made up a mere 10% of Computer Science majors at UMBC, Dr. Rheingans accepted an invitation to become Interim Director of CWIT. The position was a good fit, and in the summer of 2009, she became Director.

“My core goal has been to make the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) a more welcoming place for a broad array of students, in particular for women and those who support them,” wrote Dr. Rheingans in an essay to the award’s Institutional Faculty Nominating Committee (IFNC) that details her mentoring contributions. “My role as CWIT Director is to continue to inspire ripples of positive change, reaching well beyond my personal grasp.” 

As Director, Dr. Rheingans has helped scholars succeed by serving as a personal mentor and maintaining an infrastructure for student support. She will soon take on a similar role with the Transfer-Scholarships in Information Technology and Engineering program (T-SITE). Debuting next Fall, the T-SITE scholarship program targets transfer students majoring in technology fields.  

 “I chose to become a professor, in large part, because I wanted to help students learn new things, explore new fields, and develop new skills,” says Rheingans, who has been teaching in some capacity since high school. Teaching was something that always interested Rheingans, who came to UMBC in 1998 as an assistant professor. 

“Mentoring just seemed like a natural extension of teaching,” says Rheingans. “A good teacher inspires individual interactions beyond the classroom — that's the heart of mentoring.”

Dr. Rheingans will be recognized for this honor at UMBC’s Annual Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony on April 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. desJardins competes in American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Congratulations to Dr. Marie desJardins, who placed 44th out of 593 competitors in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, New York last weekend. The tournament—directed by New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz—is the nation’s oldest and largest crossword competition.

Competitors are judged based on their accuracy and speed while solving eight original crossword puzzles. Dr. desJardins placed 5th of the 87 Mid-Atlantic competitors, she was the 8th ranked woman in the entire tournament, and the top-ranked woman from the Mid-Atlantic.

Dr. desJardins was also awarded an “I Beat Dr. Fill” button for scoring higher than Dr. Fill, a crossword-solving program designed by software engineer Matt Ginsberg. The program pulls answers from databases of old crosswords, dictionaries, and sources like Wikipedia, but can sometimes get caught up on tricky clues, says a Boston Globe article.

Photo Courtesy www.crosswordtournament.com

Dr. Hillol Kargupta to speak at VERGE

Dr. Hillol Kargupta will be one of over 80 speakers at GreenBiz's VERGE conference in Washinton D.C., which takes place this Wednesay, March 14–16.

The conference foucses on sustainability by exploring technological advances that deal with energy, information, buildings, and transportation.

Speakers include the likes of AOL Co-founder, Steve Case, Robin Chase, founder of carsharing revolution, Zipcar,  textbook publishing mogul Tim O'Reilly, and other executives working at the intersection of technology and enivronmental awareness.

The VERGE website credits Dr. Kargupta as a "Guru" for Data Mining for M2M Applications. He is the president of Agnik, a data analytics company for distributed, mobile, and embedded environments that has been developing vehicle performance monitoring software.

On Thursday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m., Dr. Kargupta will discuss "Connected Cars and Beyond" with Shelby Clark Founder & Chief Community Officer of RelayRides, Tim Johnson Strategic Opportunity Manager of Sprint, Nick Pudar Vice President of Planning and Business Development at OnStar, and Marc Gunther Senior Writer at the GreenBiz Group. Register at the VERGE website to watch a live stream of Dr. Kargupta's and other presentations for free.

New T-SITE scholarship program targets tech transfer students

Next fall, a new scholarship program geared toward transfer students majoring in technology fields will offer ten students the support—both financial and otherwise—that they need. It’s called T-SITE (Transfer-Scholarships in Information Technology and Engineering), and similar to the previous SITE (Scholars in Information Technology and Engineering) program, is supported by an NSF S-STEM grant.

The program is the brainchild of a team of seven women sprinkled throughout IT and Engineering departments in the College of Engineering and Information Technology at UMBC. Dr. Penny Rheingans, Director of the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) and a professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, is the Principal Investigator for the project. Five professors will serve as faculty mentors for the future scholars: Dr. Marie desJardins (Computer Science), Dr. Gymama Slaughter (Computer Engineering), Dr. Anne Spence (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Taryn Bayles (Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering), and Dr. Carolyn Seaman (Information Systems). Dr. Susan Martin, the Associate Director of CWIT, has been reaching out to Maryland community colleges and will teach a transfer student seminar for the selected scholars. “I don’t think any of us could do it without the others,” says Dr. Rheingans of her team of dedicated collaborators.

“It’s particularly hard for transfer students to really become an integrated part of the community,” says Dr. Penny Rheingans. Transfer students often are at a disadvantage because they miss out on all the orientating activities showered on freshman, she explains. As a result, they’re less aware of campus resources and tend to feel disconnected from the campus community. T-SITE aims to change all that.

Starting in the fall of 2012, the grant will award ten financially needy transfer students with partial scholarships: $6,700 each, capped by an individual student's financial need. Eligible students must intend to major in one of the five IT or Engineering majors: Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and Information Systems. In addition to financial support, future T-SITE scholars will be warmly integrated into the CWIT Scholars community, where they can take advantage of its outpouring of resources and community events.  

“We are leveraging CWIT to make this work and we’re taking advantage of CWIT infrastructure. It’s an extension of CWIT in that we’re looking at it as a vehicle for increasing diversity in these fields,” says Dr. Rheingans. “Not just gender,” she adds, “but gender’s what we’re particularly good at.”

Like the CWIT program, T-SITE won’t limit the scholarship pool by gender. “We would want men that we bring in as part of the T-SITE program to be supportive of increasing gender diversity,” says Dr. Rheingans. “Having allies that believe in the mission is part of what makes it work.”

Dr. Rheingans’ experience with the successes of the CWIT and SITE programs makes her confident that the T-SITE programs will give its scholars a leg up. “The support network makes a huge difference,” says Dr. Rheingans, who explains that the CWIT and SITE programs had nearly 90% retention in the major compared to the nationwide statistic of around 50%.

In addition to community support, the team has conceived a transfer student transition seminar to ensure that T-SITE scholars have the means to make a smooth transition. Taught by Dr. Martin, the seminar will have students connect with campus resources, identify and apply for internships, develop a career portfolio, learn about their own leadership styles, practice collaboration, and get insights from industry speakers. “The real purpose is to help them with the transition to UMBC and to address the professional development issues that are on the minds of transfer students,” says Dr. Martin.

Dr. Martin has been collaborating with UMBC’s Transfer Student Alliance to reach out to Montgomery College, the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), and Prince George’s Community College for help identifying qualified students. Application materials are available on the CWIT website and transfer students entering UMBC for the Fall 2012 semester must apply by April 20, 2012. The scholarship committee—made up of the band of five faculty mentors, Dr. Rheingans, and Dr. Martin—will then interview candidates to select the first cohort of ten T-SITE scholars.

Though the current NSF grant will support the T-SITE program for three years (30 students in all), Dr. Rheingans hopes the program will extend well beyond that. “This is something for which the need will not go away,” she says about supporting transfer students. Though the renewal of the program into future years isn’t a certainty, chances are that when the time comes, the team will re-submit a proposal to seek further funding. “It’s hard to imagine not wanting to do that.”

To apply for the T-SITE scholarship program by April 20, 2012, take a look at the application materials.

Professor desJardins attends Grace Hopper and Frontiers of Engineering Education Conferences

Dr. Marie desJardins had the opportunity to attend two invitation-only professional development events in November 2011.

The Senior Women's Summit at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Portland, Oregon, brought together senior women who are leaders in their fields in academia, industry, and research labs. The event featured a panel on career advancement, working sessions on leadership and developing a "brand" as a senior scientist, and networking opportunities for the women to share their experiences and advice with each other. Dr. desJardins reports, "I was inspired by the amazing senior women at this event, and by their accomplishments in the field. It was particularly interesting to realize that some of the women who are more senior than I am—department chairs, deans, vice presidents—were wrestling with many of the same questions I've been asking myself, about what career choices and leadership opportunities would be most satisfying to pursue, as I enter the second half of my professional career."

The Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) Symposium, organized and sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering, provided an opportunity for early- and mid-career faculty to share their experiences and ideas about innovative strategies for improving engineering education. In the symposium's poster session, Dr. desJardins gave a presentation on the honors seminar that she teaches at UMBC, called "Computation, Complexity, and Emergence." The course brings together students from a wide range of backgrounds to explore complex systems and understand the importance of complexity in understanding processes and behaviors in many different application fields. Dr. desJardins's presentation emphasized the importance of teaching non-engineers about engineering and computational topics, the value of interdisciplinary learning environments, and the importance of emphasizing student-centered learning methods. The FOEE Symposium also included panels and presentations on project-based learning, assessment of learning outcomes, active learning, and design-based learning. Meeting other faculty from across the country who are teaching and innovating at a wide range of academic institutions, was also the source of new friendships as well as exciting new ideas for engaging students and increasing the depth of their learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom.

One of the most valuable parts of the FOEE symposium, according to Dr. desJardins, was the small-group mentoring sessions with senior leaders from industry and academia. She had the opportunity to have breakfast with Larry Shuman (Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh) and lunch with Stephen Director (Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Northeastern University), and was inspired and fascinated by their stories of implementing major curricular changes at their respective universities.

Photo Courtesy www.gracehopper.org

talk: Energy Efficient and High Performance Architectures for DSP and Communication Applications

EE Graduate Seminar

Energy Efficient and High Performance Architectures
for DSP and Communication Applications

Tinoosh Mohsenin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering

CSEE Dept/UMBC

11:30am-12:45pm, 9 March 2012, ITE 231

Many emerging and future communication applications require a significant amount of high throughput data processing and operate with decreasing power budgets. This need for greater energy efficiency and improved performance of electronic devices demands co-optimization of algorithms, architectures, and implementations. This talk presents several design projects that illustrate the cross-domain optimization.

The design of System-on-Chip (SoC) blocks becomes increasingly sophisticated with emergent communication standards that have large real-time computational requirements. Two such algorithms, Low Density Parity Check (LDPC) decoding and Compressive Sensing (CS), have received significant attention. LDPC decoding is an error correction technique which has shown superior error correction performance and has been adopted by several recent communication standards. Compressive sensing is a revolutionary technique which reduces the amount of data collected during acquisition and allows sparse signals and images to be recovered from very few samples compared to the traditional Nyquist sampling. While both LDPC decoding and compressive sampling have several advantages, they require high computational intensive algorithms which typically suffer from high power consumption and low clock rates. This talk presents novel algorithms and architectures to address these challenges.

As future communication systems demand increasing flexibility and performance within a limited power budget, multi-core and many-core chip architectures have become a promising solution. The design and implementation of a many-core platform capable of performing DSP applications is presented. The low power and low area core processors are connected through a hierarchical network structure. The network protocol includes contention resolution for high data traffic between cores. The result is a platform with higher performance and lower power consumption than a traditional DSP with the ease of programmability lacking in an ASIC. Early post place and route results from a standard-cell design gives processor areas of 0.078 mm2 each using TSMCs 65 nm.

Dr. Mohsenin received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Sharif University of Technology, Iran and the M.S. and PhD degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Rice University and University of California Davis in 2004 and 2010, respectively. In 2011, she joined the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she is currently an Assistant Professor. Dr. Mohsenin's research interests lie in the areas of high performance and energy-efficiency in programmable and special purpose processors. She is the director of the Energy Efficient High Performance Computing (EEPC) Lab, where she leads projects in architecture, hardware, software tools, and applications for VLSI computation with an emphasis on DSP workloads. Dr. Mohsenin has been consultant to early stage technology companies and currently serves as a member of the Technical Program Committees of the IEEE Biomedical Circuits & Systems Conference (BioCAS), the Life Science Systems and Applications Workshop (LiSSA), and IEEE Women in Circuits and Systems (WiCAS).

Host: Prof. Joel M. Morris

In the News: Forno on cloud security

Military personnel are facing an increasing security threat posed by their smart phones and other mobile devices, argues an article on DefenseSystems.com. While the potential of mobile devices to leak personal secrets has been a cause for concern for all, the issue has the potential to be devestating for soldiers who could unwittingly leak crucial information to the enemy through compromised networks.

In the article, our very own Richard Forno, graduate program director for cybersecurity, shares his own concerns about cloud safety:

“One key area of emerging concern is data-in-motion within a cloud — i.e., ensuring that data is protected as it transits and/or exists in multiple servers at the same time, and by extension, the issue of ‘availability’ of data in a cloud environment,” Forno said. “The more moving parts you have to deal with, the easier it is to gum up the works, inadvertently cause self-inflicted problems, or make it easier for an adversary to do the same thing.”

 

Check out the entire article: "Smart phones pose emerging security threat."

 

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