Professor Matuszek’s Research Highlighted in Various News Publications



A study by CSEE professor Cynthia Matuszek on gender bias in online images associated with a variety of occupations has recently received a lot of attention. The study, which was carried out with former University of Washington colleagues Matthew Kay and Sean Munson, resulted in a paper to be presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Seoul, Korea in mid-April.

The paper, Unequal Representation and Gender Stereotypes in Image Search Results for Occupations, was recognized as a best paper of the 2015 ACM CHI Conference. This conference is considered the most prestigious in the field of human–computer interaction, and is one of the top ranked computer science conferences. 

"This project was a joint effort between myself and the two other authors," Dr. Matuszek explains. "The project was originally developed after I saw a presentation in which the images chosen to represent different professions were extremely one-sided and didn't seem representative.  Our primary goal was to learn more about the software design space: does gender in image search results affect whether people think the search results are good?  On the flip side, does showing different genders in different roles (that is, showing a male vs. a female nurse) affect how people think of those occupations?  You need to know the answers to questions like that before you can create, e.g., an image search engine that is really well and thoughtfully designed."

Not surprisingly, Dr. Matuszek's work has been noted by the popular press, with recent stories in the Washington Post WonkblogThe Atlantic and many online news outlets. The Washington Post article quotes Dr. Matuszek on the genesis of the study.

In addition, many images retrieved by the web’s top search engine happen to be hyper-sexualized caricatures. Some female construction workers in midriff-baring flannel and jean shorts seem better dressed for a Halloween party than, say, a demolition site. (Researchers dubbed this the “sexy construction worker problem.”)

"It’s part of a cycle: How people perceive things affects the search results, which affect how people perceive things," said co-author Cynthia Matuszek, who now teaches computer ethics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Matuszek recalls sitting in a robotics lecture last year at the University of Washington, where she earned her doctoral degree in computer science. A male colleague illustrated researchers in his Powerpoint presentation as “all guys, classic nerds,” she said. But a caretaker was shown in a slide as "a plump woman in her thirties who was wearing a pink suit." The stereotypes irked Matuszek, and she's not the only one wondering about the power of images.

About eight months ago, Matuszek and her colleagues at the University of Washington decided to test the power of popular image. They wanted to know if something as seemingly trivial as search results could sway someone’s perception of how many women work in a certain field, and whether they’re competent. The researchers surveyed 21 people — a pool too small to make any sweeping statement, Matuszek acknowledges, but big enough for a glimpse into our cultural psyche — starting with questions like: What percentage of construction workers are women? Do you believe the person in this photo is good at their job? Two weeks later, they followed up, prompting participants to sift through Google image results before answering the same inquiries. Responses changed after Google images were introduced, according to the study, which was published this week. Search results could determine 7 percent of a participant's subsequent opinion about the number of men and women in a particular field, the authors calculated. And a worker was, on average, deemed more competent if he or she fit into a gender stereotype.

As Adrienne LaFrance notes in a recent Atlantic article about Matuszek's study, "Google image searches don't just reflect the sad state of diversity in corporate leadership; they actually influence the ways in which people think about what it means to be a CEO."

The study concluded that "shifting the representation of gender in image search results can shift people’s perceptions about real-world distributions."[i]


[i] Kay, Matthew, Cynthia Matuszek, and Sean A. Munson. Unequal Representation and Gender Stereotypes in Image Search Results for Occupations. ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Seoul, Korea. 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.









Prof. Oates: Stop Fearing Artificial Intelligence


UMBC's Professor Tim Oates has a column on the online TechCrunch site describing why we should Stop Fearing Artificial Intelligence. Professor Oates has 20 years of experience working with a wide range of AI technologies, including machine learning, robotics and natural language processing. In the piece, Dr. Oates explains that

"As yet another tech pioneer with no connection to artificial intelligence steps out to voice his fears about AI being catastrophic for the human race, I feel the need respond. … Conflating facts of technology's rapid progress with a Hollywood understanding of intelligent machines is provocative (honestly, it's a favorite in my most-loved science fiction books and movies), but this technology doesn't live in a Hollywood movie, it isn't HAL or Skynet, and it deserves a grounded, rational look.

and discusses some of the limitations of current intelligent systems like IBM's Watson. Like most AI researchers, he's a believer in Strong AI — the idea that there is no theoretical reason why a machine can not exhibit behavior as skillful and flexible as humans — but doubts the such machines will be neccessarily dangerous.

"But let's suppose, for a second, that an AI does learn to think intelligently outside its programming and that it’s become discontent. Would this superhuman intelligence inherently go nuclear, or would it likely just slack off a little at work or, in extreme cases, compose rap music in Latin? In a world filled with a nearly infinite number of things a thinking entity can do to placate itself, it's unlikely "destruction of humanity" will top any AI's list."

Stop Fearing Artificial Intelligence is a well written and thought provoking article.

CSEE faculty develop wearable systems to monitor sleep quality

CSEE Professors Nilanjan Banerjee, Ryan Robucci and Chintan Patel with Dr. Richard Allen at Johns Hopkins University were awarded a TEDCO Maryland Innovation Initiative grant to develop a wearable system that can non-intrusively monitor sleep quality in a home setting. The grant will fund students in the eclipse cluster. The researchers will work closely with JHU to develop and help commercialize this novel sensor system.

TEDCO is an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding to foster startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy and support the commercialization of qualified university technologies.

CSEE Faculty Involved With NSF's CS10K Teacher Training Project


CSEE’s Marie desJardins is currently collaborating with Maryland educators and researchers for the NSF-funded CS10K Teacher Training Project. The project seeks to change how computer science is taught by high school teachers. Researchers work together with high school teachers to craft new curricula for high school computer science programs. This project is unique in that actual high school teachers are creating the new curricula, rather than professional curriculum writers. The CS10K Maryland Project team includes faculty from UMCP, as well as high school teachers from Charles County and Baltimore County.

The CS10K team has facilitated the creation of “a complete curriculum package for a new College Board Advanced Placement (AP) course called CS Principles.” Originally, the goal of the CS10K team was to train 10,000 teachers to teach computer science in 10,000 schools nationwide. The project has been revised to reflect its new goal of training teachers in all U.S. schools.

In academia there is a growing concern that females–as well as minorities and those with disabilities–are being repeatedly discouraged from pursuing programming in high school. Professor desJardins is trying to change this by directing the CS Matters in MD Project. (CS Matters in MD is part of the larger, NSF-supported initiative known as CS 10K.)

“I believe that CS should be included throughout the K-12 curriculum as a set of basic skills and knowledge for today’s world,” desJardins said. “All citizens of the 21st century, especially the next generation of knowledge workers, will benefit greatly from learning about computational thinking and the problem-solving skills that are a core part of computer science.”

In addition, desJardins explains that, “We need to expand the pool of available workers to fill the many computing-related jobs that our economy demands, and in order to be sure that the technology we develop is robust and useful, we need to increase the diversity of the computer scientists who take those jobs.  To meet these goals, we must broaden our notion of what it means to teach computer science (beyond just teaching coding skills), and we must reach a broader audience at an earlier age.  Our ‘CS Matters in Maryland’ project is particularly focused on creating appealing and engaging curriculum materials for the newly announced AP CS Principles course, and on training teachers to deliver this material effectively to a diverse population of learners.”

More information about CS Matters in Maryland and the CS10K Project can be found here.

Marie desJardins Collaborates with Howard County Parents and Teachers for HowGirlsCode


CSEE’s Marie desJardins recently collaborated with a group of Howard County parents and teachers to create HowGirlsCode, an educational program that “educates and inspires young girls to pursue computer related activities, courses, and careers.”

The program–originally called Computer Mania Club–is based out of Fulton Elementary School. Over the course of ten weeks, students meet for weekly two-hour sessions, working on projects such as Lego Mindstorm robots and 3D printing. Students also work with programming tools such as MIT’s Scratch program. The curriculum for the program is largely based off of materials from the website.

UMBC alumna Katie Egan and her husband Kent Malwitz have been instrumental in getting the club off the ground. Malwitz, who is the President and Chief Learning Officer for UMBC Training Centers, originally recruited Marie desJardins to participate in a brainstorming session for the club back in 2013. Professor desJardins now serves as a member of the Advisory Board for HowGirlsCode.

Bethany Meyer, Senior Web Developer at MGH, Inc., was a recent guest speaker for HowGirlsCode. During her presentation, Meyer explained how she got into coding, citing as an example a website that she created when she was 13 years old. Meyer went on to present more recent projects, such as and “I think a lot of people have negative stereotypes in mind when they think of programmers,” Meyer says. “My goal was to break down some of those stereotypes by showing…[students] that the work can be really exciting and that it involves creativity and interacting with others. I hope that I inspired some of them to teach themselves to make websites. ”

A recent Baltimore Sun article notes that there has been a marked increase in student signups for HowGirlsCode since last year. More courses will be offered in the spring, due to increasing demand. At some point, the coding club could possibly expand to other schools. Currently, Egan is trying to turn HowGirlsCode into a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization. This would allow the club to have better access to resources such as facilities, grants and funding. Ideally, she hopes to turn the club into a nonprofit by September 2015.

The Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab has a similar program, called Girls Who Code. The Hopkins APL program, which is intended for middle and high school students, is based on a national nonprofit of the same name.

Anupam Joshi named an IEEE Fellow

CSEE Professor Anupam Joshi has been named an IEEE Fellow, recognized for his for contributions to security, privacy and data management in mobile and pervasive systems. This designation is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors on individuals with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement. No more than 0.1% of the total IEEE voting membership can be selected in a year.


Dr. Joshi joined UMBC’s faculty in 1998 and currently is the Oros Family Professor of Technology and Director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity. He previously held faculty appointments at the University of Missouri, Columbia and Purdue University. He received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Purdue University and a B. Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. While at UMBC he has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in operating systems, mobile computing and security. He developed and teaches an Honors College seminar on “Privacy and Security in a Mobile Social World”. He has mentored nine Ph.D. graduates and a large number of M.S. students.

Joshi has made many contributions to the design, analysis and development of intelligent systems for mobile, social and secure computing. Twenty years ago he was one of a handful of researchers who recognized that mobility introduced new challenges for data management, security and privacy over and above those brought about by wireless connectivity. His key insight was to model mobile and pervasive systems as distributed systems that are both open, in that they do not pre-identify a set of known participants, and dynamic, in that the participants change regularly.

He observe that applications on mobile devices require greater degrees of decision making and autonomy as they become increasingly sophisticated and intelligent and can’t always assume connectivity to central servers. Entities in these pervasive computing systems must exchange information about the data and services offered and sought and their associated security and privacy policies, negotiate for information and resource sharing, be aware of their context, and monitor for and report on suspicious or anomalous behavior. Dr. Joshi has addressed these challenges across the stack, from network protocols to data management to policy controlled interactions between autonomous entities.

Much of his research has been done in collaboration with colleagues in industry such as IBM, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Qualcomm. It has been funded by not just them, but also NSF, DARPA, AFOSR, ARL, NIST and other federal agencies. Joshi has published prolifically with more than 200 publications in refereed journals and conferences, many of which are highly cited. He has served as the General or Program Chair of many key conferences including the IEEE International Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics which will be held in Baltimore in May 2015.

The IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for advancing technology for humanity. Through its 400,000 members in 160 countries, it is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Dedicated to the advancement of technology, the IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed more than 900 active industry standards.

talk: Increasing Base-Station Anonymity in Wireless Ad-hoc and Sensor Networks, 1:15pm Wed 11/12


UMBC ACM techTalk

Increasing Base-Station Anonymity in
Wireless Ad-hoc and Sensor Networks

Profesor Mohamed Younis
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

1:15pm Wednesday, 12 November 2014, ITE 325b

In many applications of ad-hoc networks, the bulk of the traffic is targeted to few nodes. For example, in wireless sensor networks the base-station (BS) collects data from a large number of sensor nodes. Another example is a surveillance network in which the gathered intelligence data about criminal activities flow towards field commanders and/or an in-situ BS. Such a network operation model makes the BS a critical asset for these applications. An adversary can nullify the value of a network by simply disrupting or physically damaging the BS, without targeting individual data sources. The failure of the BS can also cause a loss of important data that may not have been processed and can cause a major negative impact if the BS represents a commanding authority for the network. Therefore, concealing the location and role of the BS is of utmost importance for maintaining a robust network operation.

Packet encryption does not achieve BS anonymity since an adversary can intercept the individual wireless transmissions and employ traffic analysis techniques to follow the data paths without knowing the content of intercepted traffic. Since all active routes end at the BS, the adversary may be able to determine the BS’s location and launch targeted attacks. Similarly, camouflaging or hiding the BS does not provide protection when its location is unveiled via traffic analysis. Employing spread spectrum signaling methods is not a sufficient BS anonymity countermeasure as adversaries are becoming more advanced and equipped with sophisticated intercept technologies. In addition, signal spreading reduces rather than eliminates the prospect of transmission detection. This talk will highlight the traffic analysis threat, present anonymity assessment metrics, provide an overview of effective cross-layer techniques developed in the ESNet Lab for increasing the BS anonymity, and outline open research problems.

Dr. Mohamed Younis is an associate professor in the department of computer science and electrical engineering at the university of Maryland, Baltimore County. He received his Ph.D. degree in computer science from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Before joining UMBC, he was with the Advanced Systems Technology Group, an Aerospace Electronic Systems R&D organization of Honeywell International Inc. While at Honeywell he led multiple projects for building integrated fault tolerant avionics and dependable computing infrastructure. He also participated in the development of the Redundancy Management System, which is a key component of the Vehicle and Mission Computer for NASA-s X-33 space launch vehicle. He has published over 150 technical papers in refereed conferences and journals. Dr. Younis has five granted and two pending patents. In addition, he serves/served on the editorial board of multiple journals and the organizing and technical program committees of numerous conferences. Dr. Younis is a senior member of the IEEE.

Dr. Olano discusses the Maryland Gaming Industry with the Baltimore Sun


civ beyond earth

CSEE’S Dr. Marc Olano, Director of the Computer Science Game Development Track and Co-director of the VANGOGH Lab, talked with the Baltimore Sun’s Scott Dance about fluctuations in the local video game industry.

In recent years, the local gaming industry has been subject to major upheavals, resulting in the closure of several well-known gaming companies. Fortunately, the local gaming industry finally seems to be on the uptick, with announcements of new titles from two studios. Firaxis released “Civilization: Beyond Earth” on October 24th, and the newly resurrected Big Huge Games will be launching “DomiNations” in 2015. These announcements signal a rebirth of sorts for the Maryland gaming industry.

The Baltimore Sun article can be found here.

CSEE Faculty Mentioned in Article about Catonsville HS Cyber Club

catonsville hs cyber club

CSEE Faculty members Rick Forno and Marie desJardins were mentioned in a recent Baltimore Sun article, in which the Catonsville High School Cyber Club is interviewed as they prepare for the final round of the Maryland Cyber Challenge.

The Maryland Cyber Challenge & Competition, designed by Dr. Rick Forno, was created to encourage more high school students to consider STEM careers. This statewide cyber security competition consists of three competitive divisions: high school, college age, and professional. During the final round of the challenge, which takes place October 29th-30th, teams compete to solve increasingly complex tasks.

The popularity of the Maryland Cyber Challenge, and the recent proliferation of high school cyber clubs both tie into the state of Maryland’s plan to “put more of an emphasis on computer science education.” Professor Marie desJardins and Catonsville High School teacher Christina Morris are both part of CS Matters in Maryland, an NSF-funded project that seeks to “increase the expertise of high school computer science teachers in Maryland.”

The Baltimore Sun article and video can be found here.

Computer Engineering researchers develop system to detect dangerous driving behaviours

CSEE Professor Chintan Patel and computer engineering student Gurashish Singh recently demonstrated a prototype system that can detect distracted driving behavior at the ATPA expo, the largest gathering of industries involved with transportation. Their novel wearable proximity sensor-based system alerts drivers who show signs of falling asleep, being distracted or driving dangerously.

The project is a collaboration between Professors Ryan Robucci, Chintan Patel and Nilanjan Banerjee. The system was built by graduate students Gurashish Singh and Tsu An Chen. This short video shows some of the dangerous behaviors being detected.

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