Marie desJardins discusses CS education on the Kojo Nnamdi show, Noon Tue June 17


UMBC CSEE Professor Marie desJardins will be a guest on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show from 12:00 to 1:00pm tomorrow, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. She will be one of three experts discussing Coding and the Computer Science Conundrum with Kojo and callers. Listen live over the air on WAMU (88.5 mhz) or online.  After she broadcast, you can hear it on the segment’s page or download it from their podcast archives.

The program’s description is:

“For years following the dot-com bust, computer science enrollment plunged steadily, prompting hand wringing over America’s competitiveness in technology and innovation. But a nationwide push to bring coding to classrooms, plus rapid innovation in apps and communications, has prompted a 13.4% jump in computer science majors in the 2012-13 academic year alone. But retaining those budding programmers — especially females and minorities — remains a significant challenge. Kojo explores local and national efforts to boost computer science competency, and learns how educators are revamping computational learning to give it relevance far beyond the classroom.”

The expert guests are:

Listeners can ask questions or make comments during the show via Twitter (@kojoshow) or phone (800-433-8850).

Jane Gethmann receives outstanding non-exempt staff award

CSEE’s Jane Gethmann, Assistant to the Chair, received UMBC’s inaugural Karen L. Wensch Endowment Award for Outstanding Non-Exempt Staff earlier this month. She has played a leadership role in our Department since she joined it in 1997 and has been a key staff member for the thousands of faculty, staff and students who have been part of our department in the past 17 years.

The following is the citation for her well deserved award.

Jane Gethmann first came to UMBC in 1971, and over the years has worked in Financial Aid, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Graduate School. She joined the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in 1997, and is known as the glue that holds the department together, going above and beyond her responsibilities.

In addition to assisting the chair and handling administrative and financial duties, Gethmann also takes the lead when additional resources are needed or when she sees a way to increase efficiency in the department. She has served as facilities manager and scheduling coordinator, managed the Computer Science Help Center, coordinated part-time faculty hiring, and created a graduate admissions database. She also managed the installation of a new teaching laboratory, working with faculty and Facilities Management in order to get it up and running by the start of the semester.

A leader and trusted advisor, Gethmann’s vast knowledge of UMBC and departmental procedures as well as her excellent judgment make her invaluable to those she serves. She is a dedicated people person with a helpful and positive attitude. Whether working with faculty, staff, students, or visitors, her goal is to help people solve whatever problem they are facing, and ensure that they have what they need.

Jane plans to retire at the end of this academic year. We will miss her and all that that she has done for UMBC and our department.

UMBC Chess team to compete in 2014 Final Four of College Chess

This coming weekend, the UMBC chess team will play for the President’s Cup in the Final Four of College Chess. UMBC will compete with chess teams from Webster University, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and Texas Tech University.

The match has been held each year since 2001 between the top four US schools from the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship and the winner is considered the top chess team among U.S. colleges and universities.  UMBC has placed first at the Final Four a record six times.

CSEE Professor Alan Sherman, who is the director of the UMBC chess program, will accompany the team to the match, which will be held at the New York Athletic Club in New York City on Friday through Sunday, April 4-6, 2014. Games will be broadcast live on Monroi.

The UMBC team will consist of:

  • Board 1: GM Niclas “The Dark Knight” Huschenbeth (USCF rating 2610)
  • Board 2: GM Akshayraj “The Indian Knight” Kore (2519)
  • Board 3: M Levan “The Georgian Gangster” Bregadze (2469)
  • Board 4: IM and WGM Nazi “The Black Widow” Paikidze (2378)
  • Alternate: WGM Sabina “Sunshine” Foisor (2315)

Talk: What can a Humanoid Robot Learn?, 10am Fri 4/2 UMBC

UMBC ACM Student Chapter

Tech Talk: What can a Humanoid Robot Learn?

Professor Tim Oates, UMBC

10:00am-11:00am Friday, 4 April 2014, ITE346

We hope everyone had a fun spring break! We are back with another talk in our UMBC ACM techTalk series. Professor Tim Oates, who is also one of the faculty advisers of the ACM student chapter, will talk about “What can a Humanoid Robot Learn?”. Dr. Oates will split the talk into two sessions. In the first half, he will introduce the topic and talk about current research being pursued in the area of humanoid robots. Whereas, the second half of the talk will be an interactive session focusing on ideating challenges and future research directions. To make the discussion interactive, Dr. Oates encourages you to spend a few minutes beforehand to think about what you would do if you had access to a humanoid robot for research purposes.

Abstract: Robots and AI have a long history together, both in the popular culture and in research.  In this talk I will review some of my past work at the juncture of robotics, AI, and machine learning, as well as ongoing work with collaborators at UMCP along the same lines.  With those collaborators, I wrote a proposal to buy a few humanoid robots that was funded, so I’ll next describe the robots that we’ve bought.  Finally, I’d like to have an open discussion about my ideas for research using these robots, and ideas that those in the audience might have as well.  My goal is to get as many people as is practical involved with the robots, which are relatively expensive and thus not a common resource.  If you’re coming to the talk, spend a few minutes beforehand thinking about what you would do if you had access to a humanoid robot for research purposes.

Dr. Tim Oates is an Oros Familty Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He received B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1989, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1997 and 2000, respectively. Prior to coming to UMBC in the Fall of 2001, he spent a year as a postdoc in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2004 Dr. Oates won a prestigious NSF CAREER award. He is an author or co-author of more than 100 peer reviewed papers and is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. His research interests include pattern discovery in time series, grammatical inference, graph mining, statistical natural language processing, robotics, and language acquisition.

RSVP for the talk at

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.

Prof. desJardins interviewed in VOA story on Int. Women's Day

UMBC Professor Marie desJardins

CSEE professor Marie desJardins was interviewed for a story, Education Key Theme for International Women’s Day, by the Voice of America on International Women’s Day (March 8).

“If you look at the statistics, well over half of all STEM jobs in the next 10 to 15 years are in computing … yet when people talk about STEM, they tend to think about biology, physics,” said University of Maryland Baltimore County Professor Marie Desjardins who teaches computer science and engineering. “Those are great areas, but those are not where the big job growth is going to be.”

DesJardins also says exposing kids at an early age is key to getting them interested in STEM.

“Let your girls try things that are not typically girly,” she said. “Make sure your kids are getting that from an early age so they think of themselves as creators of technology and new ideas not just following the rules.”

DesJardins says she emphasizes that computer science is really about helping make the world a better place.

Here is the video that accompanied the VIA story.

See Dr. desJardins in the segment from 1:25-2:19

Professors Adali and Westlake receive grant to improve treatment for stroke victims


CSEE Professor Tülay Adali and Professor Kelly Westlake from the University of Maryland School of Medicine received an award from the joint UMBC-UMB Research and Innovation Partnership Seed Grant Program for a project  that ultimately will improve the recovery of stroke victims. The new joint UMBC-UMB Seed Grant Program pairs primary investigators from UMBC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore to conduct research as a team. Successful partners are offered research funding of up to $75,000 over twelve months to pursue their collaboration.

Nearly 800,000 U.S. citizens have a stroke each year, making it the leading cause of long-term disability. Treatment for stroke victims is mainly targeted towards residual functional deficits, especially regaining hand functions. Their project (“Independent Vector Analysis to Investigate Cognitive Neural Networks after Stroke: A Comparison between Two Rehabilitation Interventions”) will have a direct impact on stroke rehabilitation through objective evaluation of the two main treatment paradigms currently in use: unimanual (involving one hand) and bimanual (involving both hands) training. The evaluation will use the new class of medical image analysis techniques, independent vector analysis (IVA) algorithms, developed by Dr. Adali and her research group. The new class of IVA algorithms successfully captures subject variability and perform significantly better than the approaches traditionally used for the problem.

The initial results of the project demonstrate the advantages using IVA for the problem and will be presented this month at the 48th Annual Conference on Information Sciences and Systems in Princeton, NJ. The PIs are preparing two journal submissions, one based on the methods developed for the task and a second one emphasizing clinical significance of the results. These results will also provide the preliminary data for the proposal that Professors Adali and Westlake plan to submit to the NIH later this year.

Prof. Marie desJardins receives NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) has selected CSEE professor Marie desJardins as one of four awardees of the 2014 NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award. The award comes with a gift to UMBC of $5,000, sponsored by AT&T that can be used to further Professor desJardins mentoring activities. The award will be presented at the 2014 NCWIT Summit which will take place at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa in Newport Beach, California in May 2014.

NCWIT is a non-profit community of more than 500 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women’s participation in technology and computing. Their  annual NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award recognizes U.S. Academic Alliance representatives for their outstanding mentorship, high-quality research opportunities, recruitment of women and minority students, and efforts to encourage and advance undergraduates in computing-related fields.

Prof. Fow-Sen Choa Elected SPIE Fellow

CSEE professor Fow-Sen Choa has been selected as a Fellow of SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

SPIE Fellows are honored for their technical achievements and for their service to the general optics community and to SPIE in particular. Professor Choa was cited for for achievements in the development of standoff chemical sensing using quantum cascade lasers. In the announcement of Dr. Choa’s section, the SPIE noted that

“Choa has contributed significantly to the advancement of standoff chemical sensing using quantum cascade lasers, achieving a greater than 41 feet standoff chemical detection distance. In addition his research on MOCVD growth and regrowth of quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) has led to the development of high power QCLs, integrated widely tunable QCLs, and power scalable surface-emitting QCL arrays. He has developed large format (64×64) photon counting arrays and demonstrated current-bias-mode photon counting techniques to simplify the bias circuits for 64×64 single photon arrays. Notably, his research has extended into broadband, low crosstalk, low noise semiconductor gain materials, Photon-neuron interactions, high speed long distance (loss-limited) multimode fiber transmissions, and other technologies associated with optical networks, lasers, and integrated coherent receivers.

A prolific scientific author, Choa has published nearly 200 refereed conference papers and over 70 peerreviewed articles, has received nearly 50 grants, and has been issued 10 patents. He has also served the greater optical community by serving as an associate editor, topical editor, and reviewer for several journals and he has been recognized as for his expertise as research faculty for eight years.

Choa has made sustained contributions to the SPIE community by serving on program committees of the SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Conference. He has authored and co-authored more than 50 SPIE journal and conference publications including three invited papers.”

In his opto-electronics and MOCVD lab at UMBC, Dr. Choa uses a Chemical Vapor Deposition System to grow semiconductors, which include semiconductor lasers, semiconductor detectors, semiconductor optical amplifiers, modulators, and optical switches. A member of MIRTHE (Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment), whose mission is to conduct research with postdocs and graduate students, while engaging undergraduate students, high school teachers and students in science and engineering projects as a way to encourage them to pursue careers in the field, Dr. Choa is responsible for providing MIRTHE with mid-IR materials, lasers, detectors and subsystems.

The semiconductors grown in his lab can also be applied for chemical detection and breath analysis using photo-acoustic (PA) effects. “When the wavelength of the photon matches with molecules’ vibrational transition, light can generate acoustic signals through thermal expansion,” he explains. “Using the PA effect, people have demonstrated parts per billion chemical detection sensitivities. Using the chemical sensing capability we can monitor contamination in our environment and the chemical content of our breath as precursors of our health conditions.”

Tim Finin appointed co-editor of CACM Viewpoints

CSEE professor Tim Finin has been appointed as a co-editor of the Viewpoints section of the Communications of the ACM, the monthly magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery. ACM was founded in 1947 and is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society with the mission of providing resources that advance computing as a science and a profession.

The Communications of the ACM was started in 1957 and is sent to all ACM members (currently over 100,000) and is considered “the leading print and online publication for the computing and information technology fields”. CACM’s Viewpoints section is publishes short articles expressing opinions and views that pertain to issues of broad interest to the computing community, covering a wide range of topics, including scientific, technical, educational and social. Each month a handful of articles are published from those contributed by a set of distinguished ACM columnists and submitted by ACM members and computing professionals.

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