Natacha Ngea ’17, B.S. in Computer Engineering, recognized by UMBC

Natacha Ngea, future software engineer, reflects on the impact of mentorship

Natacha Ngea
B.S., Computer Engineering
Hometown: Yaounde, Cameroon
Plans: Software engineer, Harris Corporation

I have had multiple mentors and coaches at UMBC. Their support and feedback have been invaluable in succeeding and building my brand, and to find my voice.

Natacha Ngea (back row, fourth from right) at the Grace Hopper Conference in 2015; photo courtesy of CWIT.

When Natacha Ngea transferred to UMBC from Howard Community College, she knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in computer engineering and she hit the ground running. She became involved with the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) as T-SITE Scholar. She also received a Returning Women Student Scholarship through UMBC’s Women’s Center, as well as a First Generation scholarship through the McNair Scholars Program, and Society of Women Engineers scholarship.

Ngea particularly credits relationships she developed through CWIT, the Women’s Center, and the Division of Information Technology, as an intern, for helping her access networking opportunities and resources that supported her success.

Ngea pursued a number of exceptional experiences during her time at UMBC. She earned a scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing, which inspired her to persevere through the challenges of completing her degree as one of few returning women students of color in a computing field. Through attending the conference, she secured an opportunity to intern at IBM in summer 2016.

After taking a course with Tammy Henderson, lecturer of Africana Studies, Ngea was inspired to become a mentor to fellow UMBC students, sharing knowledge gleaned from conferences and workshops, including the National Society of Black Engineers Convention. She also enjoyed working directly with low-income high school students, helping them to prepare for the SATs, and connected with fellow students through the Catholic Retrievers, Jubilee Choir, and Gospel Choir.

Adapted from an article on UMBC News. Portrait by Marlayna Demond ‘11 for UMBC.

Matthew Landen ’17, B.S. in Computer Science & Mathematics, recognized by UMBC

Matthew Landen, peer mentor, pursues security-focused computer science Ph.D.

UMBC’s class of 2017 is graduating this week and UMBC News has provides that highlight examples of the very capable and accomplished new graduates. Matthew Landen, who received a B.S. in both Computer Science and Mathematics, is one of them.

Matthew Landen
B.S., Computer Science and Mathematics
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland
Plans: Ph.D., Georgia Tech

UMBC has taught me the value of and need for collaboration. The world is currently faced with complex problems which cannot be solved by one individual.

Matthew Landen (front row, far right) after a performance with UMBC’s Musical Theatre Club; photo courtesy of Landen.

In his time at UMBC, Meyerhoff Scholar Matthew Landen has excelled in the classroom, the lab, the theatre, and the boardroom.

Landen has pursued several research opportunities, presenting at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day and, most recently, working in the Multi-Agent Planning & Learning (MAPLE) lab led by Marie desJardins, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology and professor of computer science and electrical engineering. There he was particularly known for helping his peers understand complex concepts.

Landen also worked with students as a teaching fellow for Computing 101, and regularly volunteered to hold extra study sessions for students to support their success. In fall 2016, he became the head teaching fellow for the course, and worked closely with Stacy Branham, lecturer of information systems, to lead class activities, grade assignments, and answer students’ questions.

Landen’s exceptional work led to his induction into the Phi Kappa Phi honors society, and he recently received a highly prestigious and competitive graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Beyond excelling as a student, peer mentor, and researcher, Landen has been actively involved in UMBC’s Musical Theatre Club for each fall showcase performance and each spring musical during his four years on campus. He has also served as webmaster for UMBC’s Student Government Association, collaborating with fellow computing students to design websites to help SGA stay organized, transparent, and effective as the primary governance body for UMBC undergraduates.

Landen will pursue his Ph.D. in computer science at Georgia Tech, with a focus on intelligent security systems.

Adapted from an article on UMBC News. Portrait by Marlayna Demond ‘11 for UMBC.

UMBC CSEE Alumni Semmel and Hill address UMBC’s Class of 2017

Global leaders in research and industry to address UMBC’s Class of 2017

UMBC will welcome two alumni—known today as global leaders in their fields—as commencement speakers at this spring’s undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies.

On Wednesday, May 24, Dr. Ralph D. Semmel, ‘92, computer science, will speak at the graduate commencement ceremony. Semmel is the director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), which conducts research and development for the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and the intelligence community. He oversees the scientific and technological contributions of APL staff on national and global levels.

“We are absolutely delighted to have Dr. Semmel back on campus to share his story with our graduates,” says Karl V. Steiner, vice president for research.

UMBC physics professors Jim Franson and Todd Pittman both launched their careers at APL, and UMBC and APL have continued to develop meaningful connections throughout the years. “A growing number of our former students now have exciting and impactful careers at APL,” Steiner notes. “The close proximity of our two institutions makes us perfect partners for future collaborations.”

Before his current role, Semmel founded APL’s Applied Information Sciences Department and Infocentric Operations Business Area and served in numerous other research and leadership roles at APL, Wang Laboratories, the MITRE Corporation and the U.S. Army. He has also served on a number of boards, panels, and committees at federal science and technology organizations.

Stephanie C. Hill ‘86, computer science and economics, will speak to the Class of 2017 at UMBC’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 25. She is the vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Cyber, Ships and Advanced Technologies (CSAT) line for Rotary and Missions Systems.

After graduating from UMBC, Hill became a software engineer at Lockheed Martin. Since then, she has held a wide range of senior leadership positions at the company in information systems, civil business, electronic systems, and sensors business.

“Stephanie Hill is such a great choice for undergraduate commencement speaker. As a female African American computer scientist who has had an incredibly successful career in technology leadership, she embodies UMBC’s commitments to diversity, civic engagement, social responsibility, and lifelong learning,” says Marie desJardins, associate dean in the College of Engineering and Information Technology and professor of computer science.

“She is also an outspoken proponent of STEM education and outreach, and is an inspiring role model for all of our students,” says desJardins.

Several organizations and publications have recognized Hill for her impressive career path and her work to advance STEM education. In 2014, she was included on EBONY Magazine’s Power 100 list, which recognized President Hrabowski in 2016. Locally, Hill was presented with the Greater Baltimore Committee’s President’s Award for supporting the development of minority-owned businesses.

Hill currently serves on the S&P Global Board of Directors and is the chair of the Greater Baltimore Committee. Driven by her passion for STEM education, she is also involved with Project Lead the Way, a national organization that provides STEM teacher training for K-12 educators.

UMBC will honor Hill with a doctorate of public service and Semmel with a doctorate of science.

Community members who aren’t able to attend the ceremonies in person can view them live through the commencement webcast, or follow them on Twitter @UMBC and through #UMBCgrad. Videos of the remarks will also be available online after the ceremonies.

Originally published as a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks.

Prof. Marie desJardins named by Forbes as one of 21 women who are advancing AI research

An article on Forbes’ site this week cites UMBC’s Professor Marie desJardins as one of 21 women who are advancing A.I. research. The article notes that artificial intelligence is “eating the world, transforming virtually every industry and function” and highlights women who are AI educators, researchers and business leaders who are driving the development and application of AI technology.

Professor desJardins joined the faculty at UMBC in 2001, after spending ten years as a research scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Center of SRI International in Menlo Park, California. She received her Ph.D. in computer science in 1991 from the University of California, Berkeley where her dissertation advanced autonomous learning systems in probabilistic domains.

The Forbes article states that

Marie desJardins has always been driven by broad, big-picture questions in AI rather than narrow technical applications. For her PhD dissertation at Berkeley, she worked on “goal-driven machine learning” where she designed methods an intelligent agent can use to figure out what and how to learn. As an Associate Dean and Professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), desJardins has published over 120 scientific papers and won accolades for her teaching, but is equally proud of work she’s done with graduate students on self-organization and trust in multiagent systems.

When desJardins started her career, the AI and computing industry attracted more diverse, multi-disciplinary talent. Over time, she observed that conferences are “increasingly dominated with papers that focused almost exclusively on one subproblem (supervised classification learning) and much less welcoming of work in other subareas (active learning, goal-directed learning, applied learning, cognitive learning, etc),” which she is worried will exacerbate the diversity gap in AI.

“We are already seeing a reconsideration of more symbolic, representation-based approaches,” desJardins observes. “Ultimately I think that we will build more and more bridges between numerical approaches and symbolic approaches, and create layered architectures that take advantage of both.”

Her current research focuses on artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, planning and decision making, and multi-agent systems. She has published over 125 scientific papers on these topics, and was recently named one of the “Ten AI Researchers to Follow on Twitter” by TechRepublic. At UMBC, she has been PI or co-PI on over $6,000,000 of external research funding, including a prestigious NSF CAREER Award, and has graduated 11 Ph.D. students and 25 M.S. students. She is particularly well known on campus and in her professional community for her commitment to student mentoring: she has been involved with the AAAI/SIGART Doctoral Consortium for the last 16 years and has worked with over 70 undergraduate researchers and four high school student interns. She was awarded the 2014 NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award and the 2016 CRA Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award in recognition of her commitment to undergraduate research.

Prof. Ting Zhu receives NSF CAREER award to develop Internet of Things technology


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Ting Zhu, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, its prestigious CAREER Award for his work to significantly improve the existing sensing capabilities of common technologies, such as cell phones. The five-year grant will total nearly $500,000.

“We congratulate Dr. Zhu on his NSF CAREER Award, an important recognition of his inventive work and what it may mean for other fields,” said Karl V. Steiner, vice president for research. “Dr. Zhu’s recognition adds to our growing list of outstanding young faculty recognized by peers and national funding agencies for their potential to advance science and technology.”

Ting Zhu, right, works with a student in the lab.

Zhu’s research may have impacts on the daily lives of people who use their cell phones to track activities, like exercise and sleep. He finds that although many mobile phones have activity monitoring systems built in, these capabilities are often not used to their fullest potential.

“The purpose of my research is to enable Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices to conduct accurate, efficient, and scalable N-way sensing,” explains Zhu. “This award will allow me to leverage sensing capabilities from different IoT devices to significantly improve people’s daily life for applications such as personal health monitoring, indoor localization, and smart home automation.”

To integrate research with education, Zhu will collaborate with his colleagues at UMBC to disseminate his research to local communities and recruit underrepresented groups. His work also has potential applications for enhancing the teaching of sensing technologies in classrooms, and his lab will provide opportunities for diverse UMBC students to complete hands-on research related to sensing technologies, as well as potentially exploring connections with virtual reality and 3D scanning.

In the last two decades, UMBC faculty have received 34 NSF CAREER awards. Additional UMBC faculty honored with CAREER awards so far in 2017 include Lee Blaney, assistant professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, for his work on water contamination, and Tinoosh Mohsenin, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, for her work on energy efficient implementation of deep learning technologies and machine learning algorithms that are developed to function similarly to the brain.

Republished from UMBC News; Photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

CyberCorps SFS students to meet at UMBC, Friday May 26

CyberCorps SFS Spring Meeting at UMBC

9am-1pm, Friday, 26 May 26 2017, ITE 456, UMBC
open to the public

Six CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) students from Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College will present their results solving IT security problems for their county governments. In spring 2017, these students worked collaboratively in a special applied research course at their school to help their county government. In fall 2017, these students will transfer to UMBC to complete their four-year degrees. This activity is part of a pioneering program centered at UMBC to extend SFS scholarships to community college students.

This summer, these students will join forces with SFS scholars at UMBC to work collaboratively on an applied research problem involving analysis of a policy and set of scripts that enable machine owners at UMBC to lower the UMBC firewall on their machines.

09:00  light refreshments
09:30  Introduction, Alan T. Sherman, UMBC
09:35  Report from Montgomery College, Joe Roundy and students
10:40  Report from Prince George’s Community College, Casey W. O’Brien and students
11:45  Introducing the summer research study problem, Jack Suess and Damian Doyle, UMBC Division of Information Technology
12:00  lunch and informal discussions
13:00  adjourn

CyberCorps: Scholarship For Service (SFS) is a unique program designed to increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government’s critical information infrastructure. This program provides scholarships that may fully fund the typical costs incurred by full-time students while attending a participating institution, including tuition and education and related fees. Additionally, participants receive stipends of $22,500 for undergraduate students and $34,000 for graduate students. The scholarships are funded through grants awarded by the National Science Foundation.

Host: Alan T. Sherman () is a professor of computer science and Director of the UMBC Center for Information Security and Assurance (CISA), which center is responsible for UMBC’s designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education and Cyber Defense Research.

Joe Roundy is the Cybersecurity Program Manager at Montgomery College, Germantown.

Casey W. O’Brien is Executive Director and Principal Investigator of the National CyberWatch Center, Prince George’s Community College.

Support for this event is provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS Grant 1241576.

Designing & developing effective mobile applications demos, 11:30-2:30 May 11, UMBC

Image by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC: Michael Bishoff explains the PhotoDrop app to visitors at the 2016 demo presentation of the projects from the interdisciplinary course “Designing and Developing Effective Mobile Applications.”


UMBC students will demonstrate collaborative mobile computing projects developed in integrated classes offered by Computer Science and Fine Arts. The demonstrations will take place from 11:30am to 2:30pm on Thursday, 11 May 2017 on the seventh floor of the UMBC library. Pizza and refreshments will be served at the event.

The faculty behind  the Designing and Developing Effective Mobile Applications class created the course specifically to prepare students for careers requiring interdisciplinary, team-based approaches to creative projects. Viviana Cordova, assistant professor of visual arts, and Nilanjan Banerjee, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, jointly developed and taught the course with support from the Hrabowski Fund for Innovation.

Brief descriptions of the ten group projects that will be demonstrated is available on this poster.

Virtual Reality Design for Science student projects, 12-1:30 Wed. 5/10, ITE 201b


Everyone is invited to see presentations and demonstrations of  six class projects done by the 17 students in CMSC 491/691, Virtual Reality Design for Science, taught by CSEE Professor Jian Chen this spring.  The demonstrations and presentations will take place 12:00-1:30pm Wednesday, 10 May 2017 in the π² Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab located in room 201b in the ITE building. Join us in this new adventure to explore ideas and foster interaction and interdisciplinary science. Pizza will be provided.

  • Utilizing VR simulations to study the effect of food labeling on college students meal choices, by Elsie, Kristina, and Michael
  • Integrating spatial-and-non-spatial approaches for interactive quantum physics data analyses, by Henan, John, and Nick
  • Analyzing the benefits of immersion for environmental research, by Caroline, James, and Peter
  • CPR training effectiveness, by Joey, Justin, and Zach
  • Quantitative measurement of cosmological pollution visualization, by Kyle, Pratik, and Vineet
  • Memorable mobile-VR-based campus tour, by Abhinav and Vincent

Support for this new course was provided by an award from the UMBC Hrabowski Fund for Innovation to CSEE Professors Jian Chen, Marc Olano and Adam Bargteil.  The project-oriented class introduces students to the use of hybrid reality displays, 3D modeling, visualization and fabrication to conduct and analyze scientific research. The new course embraces the university’s goal of advancing interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research activity.

The UMBC π² Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab is funded by a $360,000 NSF award, with additional support from Next Century Corporation. In the lab, users wear 3D glasses with sensors attached to them and operate handheld controls that allow them to sensorially immerse themselves in data, which appears on dozens of high-resolution screens that are precisely aligned to work together. Users control the data by manipulating it in the space around them. The user’s body is fairly stationary, but the brain thinks the body is moving within the virtual world. The lab brings together tools “that will allow humans and the computer to augment each other,” notes Dr. Chen.

CS Ed Club’s Meet Your Prof. Series: Marie desJardins, Noon Mon May 8, ITE227

This semester, the CS Education Club has started a mini lecture series for students to interact with faculty outside of the classroom. They will have Dr. Marie desJardins as their next speaker. She will give an informal presentation followed by a discussion at 12:00 Noon on Monday May 8 in ITE 227. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.

Dr. desJardins is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Engineering and Information Technology and a full Professor in the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering department. She has had an amazing career as a computer science researcher and educator. She has done research ranging from Artificial Intelligence to building a community of CS educators and improving CS education at the high school level in Maryland. She oversees the MAPLE lab, with a primary research interest in multi-agent intelligent systems. She has been an advocate for a better student experience as an administrator in COEIT, as well as the director of the Grand Challenges program at UMBC. Read more of her background on her website.

Please RSVP on myUMBC at the CS ED Club’s event page.

talk: Big Microbiome Data, 10am Tue May 2, UMBC

Information Systems Eminent Scholar Talk

Big Microbiome Data

Xiaohua Hu, Drexel University

10:00am Tuesday, 2 May 2017, ITE 459, UMBC

We know little about the microbial world. Microbiome sequencing (i.e., metagenome, 16s rRNA) extracts DNA directly from a microbial environment without culturing any species. Recently, huge amount of data are generated from many micorbiome projects such as Human Microbiome Project (HMP), Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT), et al. Analyzing these data will help us to better understand the function and structure of microbial community of human body, earth and other environmental eco-systems. However, the huge data volume, the complexity of microbial community and the intricate data properties have created a lot of opportunities and challenges for data analysis and mining. For example, it is estimate that in the microbial eco- system of human gut, there are about 1000 kinds of bacteria with ten billion bacteria and more than four million genes in more than 6000 orthologous gene family. The challenges are due to the complex properties of microbiome: large-scale, complicated, diversity, correlation, composition, hierarchy, incompleteness etc.

Current microbiomes data analysis methods seldom consider these data properties and often make some assumptions such as linear, Euclidean space, metric-space, continue data type, which conflict with the true data properties. For example, some similarities are non-metric because the prevalent existence of some species; and the interactions among species and environment are complex in high order. Thus it is urgent to develop novel computational methods to overcome these assumptions and consider the microbiome data properties in the analysis procedure.  In this talk, we will discuss some computational methods to analyze and visualize microbiome big data. Our studies are focusing on 1) novel machine learning and computational technologies for dimension reduction and visualization of microbiome data based on non-Euclidean spaces (manifold learning) to discover nonlinear intrinsic features and patterns in these data to overcome the linear assumptions, 2) novel statistical methods for variable selection in microbiome data by integrating group information among variables.

Xiaohua Tony Hu is a full professor and the founding director of the data mining and bioinformatics lab at the College of Computing and Informatics. He is also serving as the founding Co-Director of the NSF Center on Visual and Decision Informatics, IEEE Computer Society Bioinformatics and Biomedicine Steering Committee Chair, and IEEE Computer Society Big Data Steering Committee Chair. He joined Drexel University in 2002. He founded the International Journal of Data Mining and Bioinformatics, the IEEE International Conference on Big Data and the IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedicine. In 2001, he founded the DMW Software in Silicon Valley, California. He received many awards, including NSF CAREER Award and IEEE Data Mining Outstanding Service Award.  Tony’s current research interests are in data/text/web mining, big data, bioinformatics, information retrieval and information extraction, social network analysis, healthcare informatics, rough set theory and application. He has published more than 270 peer-reviewed research papers in various journals, conferences and books He has obtained more than US$8.5 million research grants in the past ten years as PI or Co-PI. He has graduated 19 Ph.D. students from 2006 to 2017 and is currently supervising nine Ph.D. students.

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