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.

talk: NSF Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research Workforce Development and Education Programs

UMBC Information Systems Department

Innovations in NSF Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research Workforce Development and Education Programs

Dr. Sushil K. Prasad
National Science Foundation

2:00pm Tuesday, 18 September 2018, ITE459, UMBC

The National Science Foundation Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) has growing research and education programs, including programs for early career multidisciplinary faculty such as CAREER and CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII). OAC is pleased to announce its newest program, its core research program solicitation (NSF 18-567), with the goals of supporting all aspects of advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) research that will significantly impact the future capabilities of advanced research CI, as well as the research career paths of computer as well as computational and data-driven scientists and engineers. Through this solicitation, OAC seeks to foster the development of new knowledge in the innovative design, development, and utilization of robust research CI. The OAC core research areas include architectures and middleware for extreme-scale systems, scalable algorithms and applications, including simulation and modeling, and the advanced CI ecosystem, including tools and sociotechnical aspects.

OAC also introduced a CyberTraining program (NSF 18-516) for education and training aimed to fully prepare scientific workforce for nation’s research enterprise to innovate and utilize high performance computing resources, tools and methods. The community response in its two rounds of competition have exceeded expectations. OAC also has programs for research training of undergraduate students (REU sites).

I will introduce these and share some of the recent awards. I will also touch on other OAC opportunities in cyberinfrastructure including those on high performance computing (HPC) hardware, software, data, networking and security, and on NSF’s ten big ideas, including Harnessing the Data Revolution.

Sushil K. Prasad is a Program Director at National Science Foundation in its Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate leading its emerging research and education programs such as CAREER, CRII, Expeditions, CyberTraining, and the most-recently introduced OAC-Core research. He is an ACM Distinguished Scientist and a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University. He is the director of Distributed and Mobile Systems Lab carrying out research in Parallel, Distributed, and Data Intensive Computing and Systems. He has been twice-elected chair of IEEE-CS Technical Committee on Parallel Processing (TCPP), and leads the NSF-supported TCPP Curriculum Initiative on Parallel and Distributed Computing for undergraduate education.

talk: Phishing in an Academic Community, a Study of User Susceptibility and Behavior

The UMBC Cyber Defense Lab

Phishing in an Academic Community:
a Study of User Susceptibility and Behavior

Alejandra Diaz
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

12:00–1:00pm, Friday, 14 September 2018, ITE 227

(joint work with Alan T. Sherman Anupam Joshi)

We present an observational study on the relationship between demographic factors and phishing susceptibility at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). From March through May 2018, we performed three experiments that delivered phishing attacks to 450 randomly-selected students on three different days (1,350 students total) to examine user click rates and demographics within UMBC’s undergraduate student population. The participants were initially unaware of the study. We deployed the Billing Problem, Contest Winner, and Expiration Date phishing tactics. Experiment 1 impersonated banking authorities; Experiment 2 enticed users with monetary rewards; and Experiment 3 threatened users with account cancellation.

We found correlations resulting in lowered susceptibility based on college affiliation, academic year progression, cyber training, involvement in cyber clubs or cyber scholarship programs, amount of time spent on the computer, and age demographics. We found no significant correlation between gender and susceptibility. Contrary to our expectations, we observed an inverse correlation between phishing awareness and student resistance to clicking a phishing link. Students who identified themselves as understanding the definition of phishing had a higher susceptibility rate than did their peers who were merely aware of phishing attacks, with both groups of students having a higher susceptibility rate than those with no knowledge whatsoever. Overall, approximately 70% of the students who opened a phishing email clicked on it.

Alejandra Diaz () is a cyber software engineer at Northrop Grumman. She earned her BS in computer science from UMBC with a concentration in cybersecurity in May 2017, and her MS in computer science in August 2018. As a Cyber Scholar and a Society of Women Studying Information Security Scholar, she has a special interest in the human aspects of cybersecurity.

Host: Alan T. Sherman,

Support for this research was provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant 1241576, the U.S. Department of Defense under CAE grant H988230-17-1-0349, and IBM.

NSA highlights strong partnership with UMBC through Featured School campaign


NSA highlights strong partnership with UMBC in Featured School campaign

Over the past two decades, UMBC and the National Security Agency (NSA) have developed a strong relationship, which has led to research, internship, and career opportunities for faculty, students, and alumni. UMBC is the first institution to be highlighted in NSA’s Featured School Series, which launched on September 4.

“UMBC’s long-standing partnership with NSA has provided valuable experiences for our students, faculty, and alumni to pursue internships, careers, and collaborative research opportunities,” said President Freeman Hrabowski. “Through this work we are helping to address the need for well-trained cyber professionals by creating a network of talented people to protect the state, nation, and world.”

More than 1100 NSA employees are UMBC alumni, including Darniet Jennings ‘98, M.S. ‘99, Ph.D. ‘03, information systems management. Jennings continued his dissertation research when he took a job at NSA, where he developed a system to manage big data effectively, which was patented in 2010.

The opportunities at NSA include careers in a broad range of disciplines including cybersecurity, engineering, computer science, language, and biological and chemical sciences. Regina Hambleton ‘87, mathematics, has held a number of positions at NSA and is currently the Agency’s deputy director of Engagement and Policy. She began working at NSA while she was a student at UMBC, and participated in a program that allowed her to spend a semester at UMBC taking courses followed by a semester working at NSA.

The partnership between NSA and UMBC also helps prepare an increasing number of graduates for careers in cybersecurity-related fields, to protect the nation from cyber threats.

Charles Nicholas, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, is also highlighted in the Featured School Series campaign. He has spent two sabbaticals at NSA during his time at UMBC, and has mentored students who completed NSA internships, in addition to students who went on to pursue careers at NSA. Nicholas is interested in the intersection of cybersecurity and data science, and the tools that are used to compare malware specimens.

“There are so many opportunities in the intelligence community, including at NSA,” Nicholas says. “It is important for students interested in those careers to develop technical ability, as well as critical and creative thinking, and I enjoy the chance to help them grow those skills.”

For more information about the partnership, and a few UMBC alumni who work at NSA, visit the UMBC page on the NSA website.

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks. Banner image by Marlayna Demond for UMBC.

talk: Ballerina, a modern programming language focused on integration, 2pm Thr 9/6, ITE325

Ballerina, a modern programming language
focused on integration

Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana
Founder, Chairman and Chief Architect, WSO2

2:00-3:00pm, Thursday, 6 September 2018, ITE325, UMBC

Ballerina is a concurrent, transactional, statically typed programming language. It provides all the functionality expected of a modern, general purpose programming language, but it is designed specifically for integration: it brings fundamental concepts, ideas and tools of distributed system integration into the language with direct support for providing and consuming network services, distributed transactions, reliable messaging, stream processing, security and workflows. It is intended to be a pragmatic language suitable for mass-market commercial adoption; it tries to feel familiar to programmers who are used to popular, modern C-family languages, notably Java, C# JavaScript.

Ballerina’s type system is much more flexible than traditional statically typed languages. The type system is structural, has union types and open records with optional/mandatory fields. This flexibility allows it also to be used as a schema for the data that is exchanged in distributed applications. Ballerina’s data types are designed to work particularly well with JSON; any JSON value has a direct, natural representation as a Ballerina value. Ballerina also provides support for XML and relational data.

Ballerina’s concurrency model is built on the sequence diagram metaphor and offers simple constructs for writing concurrent programs. Its type system is a modern type system designed with sufficient power to describe data that occurs in distributed applications. It also includes a distributed security architecture to make it easier to write applications that are secure by design.

Ballerina is designed for modern development practices with a modularity architecture based on packages that are easily shared widely. Version management, dependency management, testing, documentation, building and sharing are part of the language design architecture and not left for later add-on tools. The Ballerina standard library is in two parts: the usual standard library level functionality (akin to libc) and a standard library of network protocols, interface standards, data formats, authentication/authorization standards that make writing secure, resilient distributed applications significantly easier than with other languages.

Ballerina has been inspired by Java, Go, C, C++, Rust, Haskell, Kotlin, Dart, Typescript, Javascript, Swift and other languages. This talk will discuss the core principles behind Ballerina including the semantics of combining aspects of networking, security, transactions, concurrency and events into a single architecture.

Sanjiva Weerawarana founded WSO2 in 2005 with a vision to reinvent the way enterprise middleware is developed, sold, delivered, and supported through an open source model. Prior to starting WSO2, Sanjiva worked for nearly eight years in IBM Research, where he focused on innovations in middleware and emerging industry standards. At IBM, he was one of the founders of the Web services platform, and he co-authored many Web services specifications, including WSDL, BPEL4WS, WS-Addressing, WS-RF, and WS-Eventing. In recognition for his company-wide technical leadership, Sanjiva was elected to the IBM Academy of Technology in 2003.

Sanjiva also has been committed to open source development for many years. An elected member of the Apache Software Foundation, Sanjiva was the original creator of Apache SOAP, and he has contributed to Apache Axis, Apache Axis2 and most Apache Web services projects.

In 2003, Sanjiva founded the Lanka Software Foundation (LSF), a non-profit organization formed with the objective of promoting open source development, not usage, by Sri Lankan developers. He is currently its chief scientist and a director. LSF’s success stories include many Apache Web services projects and Sahana, the predominant disaster management system in the world. In recognition of his role in promoting open source participation from developing countries, Sanjiva was elected to the board of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in April 2005, where he served for two years.

Sanjiva also teaches and guides student projects part-time in the Computer Science & Engineering department of the University of Moratuwa, and he is a member of the university’s Faculty of Engineering Industry consultative board. Prior to joining IBM, Sanjiva spent three years at Purdue University as visiting faculty, where he received his Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1994.

Game Developers Club Fall 2018 Opening Meeting and Game Jam, 1pm Fri 9/7


Game Developers Club Fall 2018
Opening Meeting and Game Jam

The UMBC Game Developer’s Club (GDC) explores the art and science of game development in a club environment and includes members from many backgrounds, including computing, digital art, computer modeling and music composition.

Their first meeting will start next week at 1pm on Friday, September 7th, in Engineering 005a. This meeting will kick off their annual Fall Game Jam, where participants will have a chance to propose game ideas, form teams, and develop a prototype over the course of the weekend (9/7 through 9/9).

The meeting will start with announcements and a brief presentation about the club for new members, followed by game idea proposals and the Game Jam itself. If you want to propose an idea for the Game Jam, be ready to give a brief presentation on the following things on September 7th:

  • A 1-2 sentence summary of your idea
  • What you want to have done by the end of the game jam
  • What team roles you still need to fill
  • Whether it will be 2D/3D/no preference
  • Game engine preference (if any)


talk: Methods and Models: Data Science for Campus Parking, 11:15am Mon 8/13

Methods and Models: Data Science for Campus Parking

Professor John Hoag
Associate Professor, Ohio University
11:15-12:15pm Monday, 13 August 2018 in ITE 325B

How can data science improve the parking experience for students, faculty, and staff? Or are there other motives at work? This talk will define and approach this perennial campus problem from perspectives of telematics and modeling, starting with the “Smart Cities” life cycle of data collection and analysis – from best practices through optimization. Next, we will consider relevant probabilistic models and their implementations over a century of study. We will conclude by discussing unintended consequences such as LPRs and other outcomes.

Dr. John Hoag is Associate Professor of Information and Telecommunication Systems at Ohio University in Athens, OH. He earned Ph.D. and M.S. Degrees in Operations Research from Ohio State University and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. His current portfolio can be termed Smart Cities, which subsumes transportation, energy, finance, public health, and more, for which he is forming interdisciplinary public-private teams whose scope encompasses data collection, telemetry, storage, and analysis. The Smart Cities displaced work he started in bioinformatics and translational biomedical science, where his efforts focused on computational complexity and system performance. He maintains an adjunct appointment in EECS at Case Western Reserve University.

Host: Dr. Richard Forno ()

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