CMSC 201: Computer Science I for Non-CS Disciplines – Spring 2019

CMSC 201 Computer Science I for Non-CS Disciplines
Spring 2019

This spring, Dr. Susan Mitchell will teach a special section of CMSC 201 Computer Science I designed for social and biological sciences and humanities majors. The course will cover the same content and have the same rigor as all other sections of CMSC 201 and prepare students to continue on to CMSC 202 if they wish.  As with other sections, it fulfills any major’s requirement for CMSC 201. The key difference will be that the assignments and projects will emphasize topics applicable to many non-CS disciplines, such as statistical analysis, working with large data sets, and data visualization. The catalog description is:

An introduction to computer science through problem solving and computer programming. Programming techniques covered by this course include modularity, abstraction, top-down design, specifications documentation, debugging and testing. The core material for this course includes control structures, functions, lists, strings, abstract data types, file I/O, and recursion.

The course will include a lecture from 2:30pm to 3:45pm on Mondays and Wednesdays (Section 24-LEC) and a one-hour lab on either Tuesdays 11:30-12:20 (Section 19-DIS) or Wednesdays 4:00-4:50 (Section 21-DIS).

Permission from the instructor is required to register for this section. No prior programming experience is required. The only prerequisite is that students must have completed MATH 150, 151 or 152 with a C or better; OR have MATH test placement into MATH 151; OR have completed MATH 155 with a C or better.

For permission or questions, email Dr. Susan Mitchell at

UMBC CS & CE tenured/tenure track faculty positions for 2019

CSEE Professor Tinoosh MohseninCSEE Professor Tinoosh Mohsenin in her laboratory



Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty Positions in CS and CE

Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

UMBC’s Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering invites applications for multiple, open rank, tenured/tenure-track positions in Computer Science (CS) and Computer Engineering (CE) to begin in the Fall of 2019. Applicants should have or be completing a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline, have demonstrated the ability to pursue a research program, and have a strong commitment to undergraduate and graduate teaching.

We welcome candidates in all areas of specialization. Some areas of interest for CS applicants include but are not limited to: information assurance and cybersecurity; mobile, wearable, and IoT systems; big data with an emphasis on machine learning, data science, brain-inspired methods, and high-performance computing; knowledge and database systems; visualization.

Some areas of interest for CE applicants include but are not limited to: hardware focused applicants in Digital, Analog, Mixed-mode VLSI design and test, integrated sensors and processing, SoC, new and emerging design technologies, hardware implementations for neuroscience and health-related wearables, cyber physical systems, hardware security and assurance.

The CSEE department is research-oriented and multi-disciplinary, with programs in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Data Science, and Cybersecurity. Our faculty (33 tenure-track, 10 teaching and 18 research) enjoy collaboration, working across our specializations as well as with colleagues from other STEM, humanities and the arts departments and external partners. We have more than 2000 undergraduate and 560 M.S. and Ph.D. students in our programs.

UMBC is a dynamic public research university integrating teaching, research and service. The 2018 US News and World Report Best Colleges report placed UMBC 7th in the Most Innovative National Universities category and 13th in Best Undergraduate Teaching, National Universities. Our strategic location in the Baltimore-Washington corridor is close to many federal laboratories and agencies and high-tech companies, facilitating interactions, collaboration, and opportunities for sabbaticals and visiting appointments.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, statement of teaching and research experience and interests, CV, and three letters of recommendation at Candidates who are under consideration for an on-campus interview will be required to submit a commitment to inclusive excellence statement, which can be submitted as part of the initial application. For full consideration submit application materials by December 15, 2018. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Send questions to and see for more information. UMBC is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

talk: Challenges of Smart Cities Cybersecurity and Privacy with Blockchain, 11am Thr 11/15

The Challenges of Smart Cities Cybersecurity and Privacy with Blockchain

Dr. Jacob Mendel, Tel Aviv University

11:00am Thursday, 15 November 2018, ITE 459, UMBC

The last decades have witnessed unprecedented population and urbanization growth with the implication that today, for the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. The consequences of the cybersecurity threats of this urbanization trend along with the notion of smart cities are the main subject of this session. The smart city (system of systems) integrates Big-data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to optimize the operation cost, efficiency and to provide a better services to the residents. Smart cities worldwide are checking blockchain as the foundation for urban living. Using blockchain technology in smart city can create a marketplace for Smart Grid.

The increased complexity of smart cities (system of systems), globally connected, economic and political systems has increased the cybersecurity vulnerability. The cybersecurity threats get magnified by the city big-data and its dependency on the technology. The cybersecurity challenges that smart cities faces demand for research and investment in physical security and economic security. In this session we will highlight various cybersecurity and blockchain parameters of a smart city, existing cybersecurity challenges and possible solutions.

Dr. Jacob Mandel is The Moshe Hogeg Blockchain Research Institute managing director at the Tel Aviv University, and former the General Manager Cyber Security COE at Intel. He is a serial cyber security entrepreneur; He has been the CEO and Co-Founder of SCsquare Ltd., where he founded a business enabler for cybersecurity technologies. Dr. Jacob holds 16 approved patents in the area of cybersecurity. His career in cybersecurity over the past 20 years is a unique mixture of broad practical experience and research expertise. His practice included extensive involvement in cybersecurity offensive projects (software and hardware), business development and product management. Proven worldwide track records in secure operating systems, digital rights management, security certification (CC, FIPS), penetration test, reverses engineering, Machine Learning, Blockchain, IoT security and Smart Grid cybersecurity.

His current main research interest is on The Economic Perspective on Smart Grid Cybersecurity and Blockchain technology with a special focus on malware attacks, privacy issues and business continuation. He holds a PhD in Economics from Poznan University of Economics and Business, Poland and Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

UMBC’s Alan Sherman and colleagues receive over $5M in NSF support for cybersecurity education

UMBC’s Alan Sherman and colleagues receive over $5M in NSF support for cybersecurity education

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Alan Sherman, professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE), and his colleagues, two grants totaling over five million dollars to support students and research at UMBC.

Tools to assess learning

One of the two NSF grants asks the question, what is the most effective way to teach cybersecurity—with competitions, games, hands-on experiences, or other techniques? Through this award, Sherman and colleagues will focus on developing evidence-based tools to assess the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching cybersecurity.

Sherman is working with Dhananjay Phatak, associate professor of CSEE; Linda Oliva, assistant professor of education; and collaborators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to create two educational Cybersecurity Assessment Tools (CATS) that assesses a student’s conceptual understanding of cybersecurity. The first tool will be a concept inventory for students in any first course in cybersecurity. The second will be for students graduating from college who will be entering a career in cybersecurity.

Training future cybersecurity professionals

Sherman was awarded more than $4.9 million over five years through NSF’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. The program is designed to increase the number of cybersecurity professionals that are trained to enter careers in government, focused on protecting the nation’s information, communications, and computer systems. Rick Forno, assistant director of UMBC’s Center for Cybersecurity, is co-PI on the new SFS program grant, as well as UMBC’s prior SFS awards.

This funding will allow Sherman to extend the work that he began with support from his previous NSF CyberCorps grant, which ends in August 2019. The Scholarship for Service program at UMBC will support 34 students who are pursuing degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels in computer science, computer engineering, information systems, cybersecurity, and other cyber-related programs.

The grant funding will also allow Sherman to develop stronger connections with two community colleges in Maryland. Each year, one student graduating from Montgomery College and one student graduating from Prince George’s Community College will be selected to participate in the program beginning in their last year at community college, and continuing through their transfer to UMBC to complete their four-year degree. This collaboration will continue to strengthen the talent pipeline and increase the number of cybersecurity professionals who pursue public service careers.

The scholar experience

The SFS program and other cybersecurity education initiative help students develop their abilities to be prudent, thoughtful, and strategic in “managing trust and information in an adversarial cyber world.” Sherman explains, “Students must also pay careful attention to details and master relevant technical knowledge and skills, such as cryptology, network protocols, system design, and secure programming.”

Each student who receives a scholarship completes a summer internship with a government agency at the local, state, federal, or tribal level. Each recipient is also required to complete government service in a cybersecurity-related position in their field after graduation.

Based on a cohort model, the UMBC program encourages the SFS scholars to learn from each other and to engage in cybersecurity research on campus, such as through Sherman’s Cyber Defense Lab. Each January, the scholars complete a week-long collaborative research project in which they analyze a specific aspect of the security of UMBC’s computer system.

“As we enter the next five years of this grant, UMBC’s SFS program remains a unique, robust opportunity for students to explore the wide range of possibilities in the cybersecurity discipline,” explains Forno. “It allows them to fully prepare for and commit themselves to entering the federal cyber workforce, and make a difference on Day One no matter where they begin their careers in the service of our nation.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks. Banner image: Rick Forno, left, and Alan Sherman. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

Richard Forno: Threats remain to US voting system – and voters’ perceptions of reality

As Americans go to the polls, the voting process and the information environment are still not secure. AP Photo/David Goldman

Threats remain to US voting system – and voters’ perceptions of reality

Richard Forno, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

As the 2018 midterms proceed, there are still significant risks to the integrity of the voting system – and information warfare continues to try to influence the American public’s choices when they cast their ballots.

On the day of the election, there were a number of early hitches in voting at individual polling places, such as polling places opening late and vote-counting machines not plugged in. But there seem not – at least not yet – to be major problems across the country.

However, not all the election-related news and information voters have been encountering in recent days and weeks is accurate, and some of it is deliberately misleading. As this election’s results come back, they will reveal whether the misinformation and propaganda campaigns conducted alongside the political ones were effective.

Securing election systems

America’s electoral process remains highly fragmented, because of the country’s cherished tradition of decentralized government and local control. While this may leave some individual communities’ voting equipment potentially vulnerable to attack, the nation’s voting process overall may be more trustworthy as a result of this fragmentation. With no unified government agency or office to provide, administer and protect election technologies, there’s not one central national element that could fail or be attacked.

Across the country, though, many districts’ voters will cast ballots with the help of machines that have long-standing security concerns. Fortunately, 45 states keep a paper record of each vote cast – whether for fear of threats to voting integrity or just budget constraints preventing purchase of newer gear. But that means five states – Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware – don’t keep paper records of their voters’ choices.

Voting machine vendors have been reluctant to appear before Congress to explain their systems’ security practices – and shortcomings. However, federal agencies have helped some states reduce the likelihood of voting machines being hacked or physically tampered with.

Beyond voting machines

Election security is about much more than voting machines and vote-counting systems, though they are the most visible technologies at work on Election Day. State systems that track voter registrations, or allow users to register online, are enticing targets for hackers, too. Security firm Carbon Black reported that 81 million voter records from 20 states are available in online forums. This data, obtained by hacking various official and corporate databases, could be used to facilitate voter fraud or sow confusion at polling places on Election Day: How would you feel if you were told that someone using your name and address had already voted?

There are security concerns even in states like Oregon, where everyone votes on paper and mails in their ballots in advance of Election Day. That state’s election officials were targeted by hackers seeking to gain access to state email and database systems. With that access, attackers might be able to digitally impersonate a government official to send false or confusing emails, press releases or other notifications to citizens, journalists or poll workers.

Also at risk are public-facing official websites that carry election information. Merely changing the reported location of polling places or voting hours could prevent some people from voting. Also vulnerable are states’ methods of announcing preliminary election results. At a major internet security conference in August, children were able to compromise replicas of several states’ election-reporting systems. The most remarkable was that in just 10 minutes, an 11-year-old boy cracked the security on a copy of the Florida secretary of state’s website and was able to change the publicly announced vote totals for candidates. That could be enough to cast doubt on whatever was later reported as the official results – and the integrity of the system itself.

Managing information on social media

A more difficult threat to defend against is information warfare, which doesn’t attack voting machines or election officials’ computers. Rather, it targets voters’ perceptions and decisions, seeking to influence how they vote.

Long before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, information warfare was influencing elections around the world, including in Ukraine, Myanmar and Egypt. But after 2016, Facebook and Twitter came under intense scrutiny for their role in providing digital environments that facilitated the spread of misinformation to sow discontent, and special counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russians’ influence efforts.

In the run-up to the 2018 midterms, Russians and others were still hard at work trying to influence Americans to vote in ways that help foreign interests. In October, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a Russian woman with creating thousands of fake social media accounts allegedly representing American citizens to “create and amplify divisive social media and political content” before the election.

This year, though, unlike two years ago, social media companies are taking action. Twitter and Facebook have both deleted thousands of accounts they identified as engaging in propaganda and influence-peddling. And they have made other efforts to identify and fight falsehoods on their platforms, too.

Nevertheless, online misinformation continues to thrive. More than 80 percent of the Twitter accounts that often shared links to false and misleading information in 2016 are still active today. And the amount of online misinformation is higher than it was two years ago.

Investigating alleged wrongdoing

U.S. intelligence and police agencies are concerned about the potential effects of misinformation on the American electorate. But large proportions of the country don’t trust those organizations to be politically independent. It doesn’t help that the White House continues to claim, without evidence, that voter fraud is a significant problem.

Mainstream news organizations can find themselves under scrutiny too, either for reporting falsehoods that appear to gain traction online or for failing to filter out or properly identify inaccurate information for their readers.

Looking ahead

Protecting democracy is a huge challenge. I’ve written before that it involves more than technical solutions to computer problems. The U.S. government, and the people it serves, must find the desire and the drive to establish secure and trustworthy procedures for running elections across the country. Education is also key, teaching people from an early age how to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and think critically about the information they encounter. Facts are not subject to alternative views; without widespread agreement on common objective realities, society and government cannot function well.

Technology continues to evolve, presenting challenges to individuals and society alike. Emerging “deepfake” technology is already helping create convincing videos of people appearing to say and do things they never said or did. In addition, intelligent social media bots are becoming more human-like, making identifying and blocking them much more difficult. That’s just some of the challenges that democracies will face in the future.

Many of these problems will not have a clearly defined fix, because they involve a nuanced balancing of individual rights and social necessities. Real and lasting solutions must come from civil discourse by rational and objectively informed people who have, above all, the actual honest desire to do it right.The Conversation

Richard Forno, Senior Lecturer, Cybersecurity & Internet Researcher, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

talk: Unbiased Decisions with Biased Data, Nov 14

Differential Fairness for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Systems: Unbiased Decisions with Biased Data


Prof. James Foulds
Information Systems, UMBC

5:30-7:30 14 November 2018
MD-AI Meetup, Emerging Technology Centers, Baltimore

With the rising influence of machine learning algorithms on many important aspects of our daily lives, there are growing concerns that biases inherent in data can lead the behavior of these algorithms to discriminate against certain populations. Biased data can lead data-driven algorithms to produce biased outcomes along lines of gender, race, sexual orientation, and political ties, with important real-world consequences, including decision-making for lending and law enforcement. Thus, there is an urgent need for machine learning algorithms that make unbiased decisions with biased data. We propose a novel framework for measuring and correcting bias in data-driven algorithms, with inspiration from privacy-preserving machine learning and Bayesian probabilistic modeling. A case study on census data demonstrates the utility of our approach.

Dr. James Foulds is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems at UMBC. His research interests are in both applied and foundational machine learning, focusing on probabilistic latent variable models and the inference algorithms to learn them from data. His work aims to promote the practice of probabilistic modeling for computational social science, and to improve AI’s role in society regarding privacy and fairness. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of California, Irvine, and was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, followed by the University of California, San Diego. His master’s and bachelor’s degrees were earned with first class honours at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where he also contributed to the Weka data mining system.

Register to attend at the MD-AI meetup site.

Meet the Staff: Rebecca Dongarra

Name: Rebecca Dongarra

Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in Biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, currently pursuing a master’s degree in Instructional Systems Development through UMBC

Hometown: West Friendship, Maryland

Current role: Academic Affairs Manager

Rebecca moved from the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences as the Data and Events Coordinator to join CSEE. She was a team member on the STEM BUILD at UMBC Initiative grant supported by NIH from 2016 to 2018. Prior to working in higher education, Rebecca established herself as a small business owner and local community leader. When not working, Rebecca enjoys hiking, volunteering with YMCA and USA swim teams and keeping busy with gardening.

Alumni startup at bwtech@UMBC earns unique award for AI work with UMBC research team

Alumni startup RedShred earns unique award for AI work with UMBC research team

The artificial intelligence startup RedShred—cofounded by two UMBC alumni and housed in the bwtech@UMBC incubator—has received a rare Phase II Small Business Innovation Research Award from the National Science Foundation to expand in a new direction, in collaboration with UMBC faculty and graduate students.

Jeehye Yun ‘97, computer science, and Jim Kukla ‘97, M.S ‘00, computer science, launched RedShred in 2014, with the support of a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer Award from NSF. For the past four years, RedShred has created software to help universities and other institutions sort through complex government listings in search of opportunities (requests for proposals, or RFPs) that meet their needs and expertise. The new Phase II award will support RedShred as they make their products available to companies in the commercial sector.

“At RedShred our mission is to help people read less and win more,” says Yun. “We’re excited about this Phase II grant, which allows us to commercialize our Phase I research and development, and develop new mechanisms to help people understand increasingly complicated documents.”

UMBC faculty and students have collaborated with RedShred to advance the technologies behind their products. Tim Finin, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, and several graduate students have worked with RedShred to better understand how large documents, such as RFPs, tend to be structured, even when each one is formatted differently and doesn’t follow a template. They describe this process as identifying the document’s semantic DNA.

By defining and identifying the core elements of each RFP, UMBC student researchers have been able to create “at-a-glance” summaries of these highly complex documents that provide all the necessary information and save the client the time of wading through levels of detail.

“Our collaboration with RedShred has given UMBC students great opportunities to participate in both basic and applied research focused on developing an innovative commercial product,” explains Finin. “This has involved both undergraduate and graduate students majoring in computing as well as the arts and humanities. For example, computer science graduate student Muhammad Rahman Ph.D. ‘18, computer science, developed a problem he encountered when working with RedShed into his Ph.D. dissertation, which he completed his summer.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article written by Megan Hanks

Professional Graduate Programs Open House, Sat. 10/20 (CYBR, DATA, …)

Professional Graduate Programs Open House, Sat. 10/20

The Fall Open House for UMBC’s Professional Programs (Main Campus offerings) takes place on Saturday, October 20 in the first floor of PAHB from 9:30-11:30am. Students interested in exploring and/or pursuing these graduate programs (degrees and/or certificates) or just want to learn more about these fields are encouraged to register and attend. CSEE students interested in pursuing a BS/MPS option for selected programs (such as CYBR or Data Science) are especially welcome.

Programs represented include

Faculty program directors will be presenting in individual breakout sessions and relevant support staff will be on-hand to provide administrative overviews, answer questions, and mingle. Refreshments will be provided.

If you are interested, please RSVP at If you have questions contact:

UMBC students win top prize at Maryland Cyber Challenge

Busy teams of students clustered around laptops in a room overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Tuesday, focused on solving as many challenges as possible during a “capture-the-flag” style competition. After hours of intense competition in cyberspace, UMBC’s team emerged victorious, named champions of the college division of the 2018 Maryland Cyber Challenge.

Started in 2011, the competition is part of the annual CyberMaryland Conference. UMBC’s team included Niara Richards ‘22, computer science; Nithya Prakash ‘22, information systems; Josh Mpere ‘19, computer science; Seamus Burke ‘20 computer science; and Swathi Krithivasan ‘22, computer science. They worked together to test their skills in a series of real-world cybersecurity challenges over the course of two virtual qualifying rounds and then the final competition, beating talented teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy and University of Maryland, University College.

“It was my first time competing in the Maryland Cyber Challenge, although I have a pretty extensive competition background,” said Burke. “I am especially proud of my freshman teammates who put in a ton of effort, solved challenges, and didn’t get discouraged when the challenges got more difficult.”

Burke is a Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) Scholar and Mpere is a Cyber affiliate. Richards, Prakash, and Krithivasan all participate in UMBC’s Cyber Scholars Program, which works to prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

All five members of the winning team will receive a monetary award and an offer to complete a summer internship to continue growing their experience and skills. Additionally, the university will receive new technologies (including software) to support more UMBC students in developing their cybersecurity skills.

“The competition was a fantastic experience and gave me a lot of exposure into topics that I otherwise would not have gained, especially as a freshman,” said Krithivasan. “We had a mix of both upper and underclassmen on our team, which really enabled us to learn and grow from working with each other.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks. Banner image: Nithya Prakash, Swathi Krithivasan, and Josh Mpere being recognized at the award ceremony. Photo by Mike Lackner, computer science and informatics, and technology instructor at Loyola Blakefield High School.

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