Citizen Science on the Social and Semantic Web, PhD proposal, Joel Sachs

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal

Citizen Science on the Social and Semantic Web

Joel Sachs

9:00-11:00am Friday 9 September 2011

Room 325b, ITE Building, UMBC

A question faced by semantic web developers is how much explicit semantics to include in their ontologies. A typical answer is that it depends on the use case, since different use cases demand different thicknesses for the semantic layer. This suggest several questions, including: What types of patterns in the rdf graph make a semantic layer "thick" or "thin"? What does it mean for an ontology to support a use case? and Can we create ontologies that support multiple use cases, in situations where those use cases have conflicting ontology-design requirements?

I explore these questions in the domains of biodiversity informatics and citizen science, and propose to evaluate the extent to which a variety of social and semantic computing use cases can be supported within a common ontological framework. Broadly speaking, these use cases involve social computing mechanisms for publishing ecological observations on the semantic web, with the goal of integrating them with other sources of biodiversity and biocomplextity data (range maps, food webs, evolutionary and taxanomic trees; conservation and invasiveness status, etc.). My hypothesis is that relatively flat and minimally constrained representations are not only sufficient, but often necessary to enable integration with other biodiversity resources on the Semantic Web.

I also explore the related issue of establishing working relationships between expert-engineered ontologies and tag-based folksonomies. I seek to demonstrate that, in many cases, the types of ontologies that are well-suited for biodiversity data integration are also well-suited to tag-driven evolution.


  • Tim Finin (chair)
  • Anupam Joshi
  • Tim Oates
  • Cynthia Parr
  • Yelena Yesha
  • Laura Zavala

Prof. desJardins receives NSF grant to study teaching computers to follow verbal instructions

Professor Marie desJardins receied a three year grant from NSF's Robust Intelligence program to develop techniques that will permit a computer or robot to learn from examples to carry out multipart tasks specified in natural language on behalf of a user. The project, Teaching Computers to Follow Verbal Instructions, is part of a collaborative effort with Rutgers University.

The goal of the work is develop technology for an improved ability for human users to interact with intelligent agents, the incorporation of novel AI research insights and activities into education and outreach activities, and the development of resources for the AI educator community. In addition to permitting intelligent agents to be developed and trained in the future for a broad range of complex application domains, the interactive agents that we will develop will be used for outreach and student learning.

Microsoft at UMBC Tue 9/6 to discuss internship and full-time positions

Microsoft will be on campus to meet with undergraduate and graduate students interested in internship and full-time positions in the Seattle area. Interested students should come to the the Skylight Room in the Commons between 6:30 and 7:30pm on Tuesday September 6.

There are opportunities for Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Information Systems majors and more. Food will be available and also chances to win cool prizes.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP via the Events tab in your UMBCworks account (access myUMBC under the Jobs and Internships topic in myUMBC).

President Freeman Hrabowski on UMBC's Cybersecurity Strategy

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski was recently interviewed by The Daily Record on UMBC's educational and research programs in cybersecurity and their importance to the region and nation.

"We anticipate significant growth in this area over the next five years as the nation continues to stand up our cybersecurity resources. In addition, cybersecurity has implications for a broad range of sectors, including healthcare, energy and financial services. These industries have a strong footing in the Maryland economy, so the job outlook is strong, as is the need for innovative technologies to address new and emerging problems. Our ability to prepare a workforce to address cybersecurity challenges makes Maryland a real leader in this area."

The interview is part of a special supplement on cybersecurity and higher education published in August.

Google Maps Hurricane Irene tracker

click on the image to go to the Hurricane Irene tracker

Google's Crisis Response team has a Hurricane Irene tracker that overlays Google maps. The application shows the hurricane path along with several additional, customizable layers of data: weather radar, cloud imagery, storm surge probabilities. evacuation routes and shelter sites.


Talk: Opportunities in Computational Materials Science

Opportunities in Computational Materials Science

Juana Moreno and Randall Hall

Center for Computation and Technology
Louisiana State University

1:00pm Friday 9 September 2011, ITE 227

The White House Materials Genome Initiative intends to double the speed with which we discover, develop, and manufacture new materials. In order for this initiative to be successful an unprecedented collaboration between computer scientists, applied mathematicians, computational scientists, and engineers with expertise in each of the aspects of the simulation-guided design of modern materials must be established. We must also take advantage of the enormous national investments in the next generation of hyperparallel, heterogeneous, multicore supercomputers to develop experimentally verified algorithms. In this talk I will describe new collaborative efforts in Louisiana towards developing a State-wise team of scientist to attack the challenges in the design of new materials, and the current opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Dr. Juana Moreno is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at LSU. She received her Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Rutgers University and was faculty at the University of North Dakota before joining CCT. Her research focuses on modeling, using a variety of computational tools, the transport and magnetic properties of correlated electron systems, including diluted magnetic semiconductors, heavy fermion compounds and low-dimensional systems.

Dr. Randall Hall received his B.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley and his PhD in Chemistry with Bruce Berne from Columbia University. He was a postdoctoral associate with Peter Wolynes at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He joined the faculty at LSU in 1986. He is currently the Webster Parish Chapter Alumni Professor at LSU. He is a co-PI of the Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Appliations (LA-SiGMA).

Host: Yelena Yesha

New CSEE graduate student orientation, 9am Thr 8/25

The CSEE department will hold an orientation session for new graduate students in its Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering programs at 9:00am Thursday August 25 in Lecture Hall 8 (ITE 102). Here is the schedule.

  • 09:00-09:30am Registration
  • 09:30-09:45am Welcome, CSEE Department Chair Dr. Gary Carter
  • 09:45-10:15am Success Strategies, Dr. Tim Finin
  • 10:15-10:45am CSEE Computer Accounts, CSEE System Administrator Geoffrey Weiss
  • 10:45-11:30am Program specific presentations and discussions
    • Computer Science Program, CS Graduate Program Director Dr. Anupam Joshi (remain in Lecture Hall 8)
    • Electrical Engineering Program, EE Graduate Program Director Dr. Gary Carter (report to ITE 325B conference room)
    • Computer Engineering Program, Dr. Chintan Patel (report to ITE 346 conference room)
  • 11:30-12:30pm Pizza lunch (ITE Building, 3rd Floor, outside 325 suite)
  • 12:30-1:30pm TA and RA Orientation, Dr. Anupam Joshi, (ITE 325B conference room)

Faculty Research Profile: Dr. Chintan Patel


Dr. Chintan Patel, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, specializes in VLSI design and test and has been working on projects dealing with power supply modeling, noise estimation, current measurements circuits and hardware security. “Today’s complex devices operating at very low power supply voltages are very susceptible to even minor variations in the chip’s power supply,” explains Dr. Patel, adding that modeling these variations is crucial during the chip’s design phase in order to devise ways to compensate for these variations during normal operation.


To read more about Dr. Patel's research pursuits, see his full research profile.

Final MDC3 cyber challenge team registration session 9/7

The Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference (MDC3) will provide an opportunity for students and professionals to network in a fun environment while participating in exciting games and learning about computer safety and cybersecurity skills. MDC3 teams of up to six players will compete in one of three categories: high school, college and university, and industry professionals. High school teams will focus on cyber defense techniques whereas college, university and professional teams will compete in a capture the flag match.

Students must be enrolled at a Maryland high school, college, or university. Professionals’ employers must have an office in Maryland and must be either a company or government agency. This summer’s final free Maryland Cyber Challenge orientation session will be held Thursday, August 25th at UMBC.

  • Professional Session: 4:30 – 5:30pm
  • High School & College Session: 6 – 7pm

Who should attend an orientation session?
Students, parents, teachers, administrators, cybersecurity professionals or anyone who wants to learn more about MDC3.

Why should I attend an orientation session?
To learn more about MDC3, including rules, format, scoring and CyberNEXSâ„¢, the system used during the competition.

Where are the orientation sessions?
The UMBC Technology Center, Main Seminar Room 1450 South Rolling Road Halethorpe, MD 21224

A Google a Day puzzles improve Web searching skills

The three Rs (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) were the education basics of generations past, but maybe now we should add a fourth, information Retrieval. We all turn to Web search engines like Bing and Google whenever we need to know something and the technology has revolutionized how we access and even think about information. But how adept are you at using modern search engines?

Google introduced A Google a Day as a daily puzzle to help you improve your search skills.

"A Google a Day is a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google. Questions will be posted every day on and printed on weekdays above the New York Times crossword puzzle. We’ll reveal each puzzle’s answer the next day in the Times and on, along with the search tips and features used to find it.

Just like traditional crossword puzzles, the difficulty of the questions increases over the course of the week, so by Thursday or Friday, even the most seasoned searcher may be stumped." (source)

Here's today's question:

With many people playing, you would expect to find lots of spoilers online as people comment on the daily puzzle on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs. To prevent this, Google's A Google a Day site uses a special interface that "excludes real-time updates and other things that are likely to include spoilers as people post the answers to the puzzle online."

Google is not the first company to think of using Web search games for marketing. Microsoft introduced Club Bing in 2007 to promote its new Bing search engine and now hosts a number of Web search related games on its site.

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