Two UMBC student teams win USM COVID-19 app challenge

Two UMBC student teams win USM COVID-19 app challenge

Earlier this summer, the University System of Maryland (USM) COVID-19 Task Force invited members of the USM community to develop mobile apps that would help Maryland residents respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the six winning teams just announced are two groups from UMBC. One team developed an app to support the healthcare of people with COVID-19. The other focused on connecting residents with dining options and restaurant policies as they change during the pandemic.

Community participation

Each of the six winning teams received a $3,000 award, provided by UMBC’s Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. The apps submitted were reviewed by a panel of judges from large corporations, start-up companies, and academia. 

Undergraduate and graduate students were invited to participate, as well as university staff, faculty, postdoctoral researchers, members of USM-affiliated startup companies, and small businesses. Winners hailed from UMBC, University of Baltimore, Towson University, and University of Maryland, College Park.

Tracking health conditions of COVID-19 patients

In the community category, Kirubel Tolosa M.S. ‘23, information systems; Pradeep Margasahayam Prakash M.S. ‘21, information systems; and Raghav Deivachilai M.S. ‘23, computer science, created an app called Follow-up. The app enables healthcare providers to track the condition of people with COVID-19 who are isolating at home. By receiving regular symptom updates, physicians and nurses are able to more easily follow-up with their patients as needed.

The Follow-up team entered the app challenge with the goal of developing an app that would help address the spread of the virus and its impact on affected individuals. At the same time, they knew they had to design and prototype their app in a short time frame, so their scope and requirements had to be manageable.

“This challenge has taught us the value of teamwork and collaboration,” said Tolosa, on behalf of the group. “We are looking forward to working on this app further to put it to use in a real-world setting.”

Supporting restaurants during COVID-19

The app Snuggrub, developed by Emily Sullivan ‘21, computer science, and Dominic Crofoot ‘19, computer science, was a winner in the student category. Sullivan and Crofoot focused on the way that many formerly full-service restaurants shifted to pick-up only service or outdoor dining during the pandemic. At the same time, dining regulations, guidance, and options began changing frequently. They developed a way for users to stay up-to-date on information about nearby restaurants without needing to contact individual businesses to ask the same questions repeatedly. 

The app allows users to stay informed and receive real-time updates while making decisions based on current information. It also supports restaurants in connecting with customers and providing them with the information they need to dine safely.

The opportunity to develop an app to help address a challenge facing people across the state was appealing to Sullivan and Crofoot because it allowed them to put their skills to the test. They met when they were both interns at the Anne Arundel County Office of Information Technology. While Sullivan is still a UMBC student (and interning with the federal government), Crofoot is currently a full stack developer for Anne Arundel County.

“Dominic and I both have experience creating applications from our jobs, but this process was totally different since we were creating something from the ground up and we were doing it with such a small team and short deadline as well,” says Sullivan. “This definitely was a learning experience in personal discipline and timeline management.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks

UMBC collaborates with MxD to develop cybersecurity curriculum for workers in manufacturing

UMBC Professor Nilanjan Banerjee. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

UMBC collaborates with MxD on cybersecurity curriculum for workers in manufacturing

UMBC researchers will collaborate with the Chicago-based MxD to develop a curriculum and online platform for manufacturing professionals to increase their cybersecurity skills and to protect manufacturing plants from cyber breaches. The work is funded by a $650,000 grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment, under the U.S. Department of Defense. 

MxD is one of 14 federally-supported institutes known collectively as Manufacturing USA. It has awarded millions of dollars to research and development projects across 35 states to advance U.S. manufacturing practices and increase global competitiveness. This UMBC collaboration will be the first initiative focused on increasing manufacturing workers’ knowledge of cybersecurity.

The content of this program is completely new, as there are no existing platforms that focus on the intersection of cybersecurity and manufacturing, says Nilanjan Banerjee, principal investigator on the grant. 

Banerjee, professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE) at UMBC, shares, “The program will accelerate training of practitioners in the manufacturing industry in cybersecurity. It will also expand UMBC’s impact on cybersecurity education in the manufacturing sector.”

Intersection of cyber and manufacturing

Donna Ruginski. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

Banerjee will collaborate with a number of colleagues at UMBC to develop a curriculum tailored for people who already work in the manufacturing industry. Project co-PIs include Donna Ruginski, executive director of cybersecurity initiatives at UMBC, and Keith J Bowman, dean of UMBC’s College of Engineering and Information Technology. Alan Sherman, professor of CSEE; Linda Olivia, assistant professor of education; and Megean Garvin, director of research and assessment for the Maryland Center for Computing Education, will assess the curriculum developed to ensure it meets program goals.

Bowman helped establish the connections between UMBC and MxD, and is eager to watch the work develop. “This project fully leverages MxD, UMBC Training Centers, and UMBC assets in cybersecurity, manufacturing, and training,” says Bowman. “I have known MxD team members, including Federico Sciammarella, president and chief technology officer of MxD, ever since its origins, and I look forward to building on this collaboration.”

The first step of the multi-phased project will identify the skills most needed to protect manufacturing facilities from cyberattacks on their computer systems and machinery. UMBC and MxD will create a short-term training program for manufacturing professionals to develop these skills. 

“People will come out of this program with a certification that shows they have the tools to be successful in a cybersecurity role in manufacturing,” said Lizabeth Stuck, senior director of MxD Learn, the institute’s workforce development arm. “This has the dual benefit of upskilling workers who may be sidelined during the COVID-19 crisis and increasing the security of U.S. manufacturers from cyber-attacks.”

Addressing current needs

Banerjee explains that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased unemployment and a need for more opportunities for workers to quickly expand their skill sets. With this in mind, the program will be designed for workers to complete in less than a year and through a web-based format.

For maximum flexibility, the platform will offer both synchronous and asynchronous material. It will be launched and led by UMBC Training Centers, a not-for-profit owned by UMBC that offers professional and technical training in areas such as cybersecurity, project management, and leadership and innovation. The platform will likely launch in late January 2021. 

“This program will have a direct impact on the Defense Industrial Base Supply Chain,” says Ruginski. “It will create a robust workforce that has the cybersecurity skills required to assist companies in staying secure in the fast-paced cybersecurity manufacturing industry.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article written by Megan Hanks

2020 MCC Virtual Career Fair

2020 MCC Virtual Career Fair

The Maryland Career Consortium (MCC) consists of career center directors and staff of fifteen colleges and universities in the greater Baltimore region, including UMBC.

MCC collectively facilitates the career exploration and development of our students and alumni through collaborative job fairs and networking events. Through these programs, MCC seeks to support the workforce development needs of the region. The consortium also provides an ongoing forum for collaboration and broad-based support for the professional development of its members.

The annual MCC Career Fair provides students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni from all member institutions the chance to connect with employers around the region. Discover career opportunities that may be your professional calling. This event is just like an in-person job fair, but online! Discover career opportunities that may be your professional calling. This event is just like an in-person job fair, but online! It’s an easy and efficient way to find full-time jobs, internships, and co-ops.

This recruiting event is complimentary for students and alumni across all majors and degrees. Get more information HERE, register HERE, and, if you are already registered, login HERE.

Unique research experiences open doors for UMBC’s Class of 2020

Danilo Symonette, right, with his friends at a restaurant. Photo courtesy of Symonette.

Unique research experiences open doors for UMBC’s Class of 2020

Danilo Symonette, Robin Bailey, and Hye-Jin Park are earning their UMBC degrees this month having researched in top labs and being invited to present their findings to colleagues across the country. They sound like phenomenal Ph.D. students, but they’re actually all undergraduates.

Symonette ‘20, computer science, has earned one of the most prestigious graduate fellowships in the U.S. after completing years of research in artificial intelligence. Bailey ‘20, biological sciences, conducted research at Harvard Medical School’s Joslin Diabetes Center. Hye-Jin Park ‘20, psychology, researched the experiences of Asian immigrants in the United States, including discrimination and resilience. 

Their interests vary greatly, but each celebrates the impact that UMBC mentors have had on their college careers, including the chance to access incredible opportunities.

Finding a community

When Symonette transferred to UMBC from the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata, Maryland, he knew he wanted to study computer science and conduct research on artificial intelligence, which he sees as a “revolutionary” field. He quickly found a supportive community of friends and mentors at UMBC, and became a McNair Scholar. 

UMBC’s McNair Scholars program is a Federal TRIO program that supports students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in preparing for graduate education. The program emphasizes intensive research experiences and mentoring. Symonette’s McNair mentors helped him define and achieve his goals and navigate challenges along the way.

Danilo Symonette, left, and two of his friends at UMBC. Photo courtesy of Symonette.

“Being a McNair Scholar has entirely shaped my experience at UMBC and given me the community I needed to support my ambitions and pursue opportunities,” says Symonette. The program also introduced him to some of his favorite people at UMBC.

The value of mentorship

Don Engel, assistant vice president for research, is Symonette’s advisor on the award that supports his artificial intelligence work. He has been one of his most impactful mentors over the years. “Don Engel gave me the freedom to explore any and all of my ideas,” says Symonette. “He advised me on career decisions, wrote countless letters of recommendation, and always supported and believed in me no matter how lofty my goals seemed.” 

Engel connected Symonette with the neuro-AI lab at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, where Symonette is currently interning. Symonette accepted a full-time job offer to work at APL starting in June. This allowed him to explore his interests at the intersection of computer science, neuroscience, and psychology, and further refine his graduate school career goals. 

“Danilo is one of the most talented and motivated students with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. He has been a wonderful teammate to a broad range of student, faculty, and external research collaborators,” shares Engel. “I’m looking forward to following Danilo’s career, which I’m sure will be exciting and impactful.”

Symonette has also found mentors outside his discipline who have helped him develop a well-rounded perspective. They include Simon Stacey, director of the Honors College; former UMBC professor Marie DesJardins, now a dean at Simmons College; and Christy Ford Chapin, associate professor of history. Symonette says that Chapin helped him elevate his grad school essays and fellowship applications “to the highest level they could be.”

Exploring opportunities beyond UMBC

In addition to connecting Symonette with mentors, the McNair Scholars program also provided him with travel funding to visit several graduate schools across the country. 

In 2018, he completed the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) summer research program and focused on machine learning. The following year, he attended the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program at the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, which was sponsored by the Southern Regional Education Board. “I saw a slew of Ph.D. students from underrepresented backgrounds come on stage and encourage me to pursue graduate education,” Symonette shares.

In 2019, he headed to MIT and studied models that detect confusion in features that rely on voice. His work was used as a foundation to develop sensors for a teacher education platform, to make it more effective. 

“That experience equipped me with the inspiration, motivation, and knowledge to plan my next steps,” he says. Over the next 18 months, Symonette explains, “I was accepted to the top computer science Ph.D. programs in the world and won the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.” 

Today, he describes the LSAMP and McNair programs as “the vehicles through which I arrived at many of the pivotal moments in my journey.”

Inspiring younger students

While focusing on his courses and research at UMBC, Symonette also enjoyed gaining early experience as an educator. He served as a teaching assistant for Computer Science 202, inspired by his own earlier challenges with the course. 

“I struggled a lot in CS202 when I came from community college,” Symonette recalls. “Seeing all the errors and mistakes troubling students during office hours and being able to help them through those same situations…was extremely rewarding.” 

Symonette also found ways to connect with younger students, to encourage them to pursue degrees and careers in computing. He served as the head of outreach for UMBC’s Computer Science Education Club, establishing strong partnerships with local high schools.

“I wanted to expand our outreach efforts so that more people could volunteer,” he says. He connected with Lori Hardesty, associate director for applied learning and community engagement at UMBC’s Shriver Center, to ensure the program would have the structure to be successful in the long term. 

“We managed to get a consistent group of students volunteering at Landsdowne High School last semester and supporting the high school’s computer science and robotics club,” says Symonette. “It’s been great to connect with high school students, especially at a school like Landsdowne. There are students from similar backgrounds as me that I have a chance to inspire. It continues to motivate me to do research in AI and education.” 

After working at APL for a year, Symonette will begin a Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University in fall 2021, with the goal of becoming a professor. “I’m looking forward to broadening my perspective, accessing opportunities, and developing as a researcher and educator—everything that comes with studying in a top-tier Ph.D. program,” he says. “I can’t wait to bring all of that back to my community.” 

You can read more about Robin Bailey and Hye-Jin Park in the UMBC News article from which this was excerpted. Adapted from a UMBC News article written by Megan Hanks.

$ git remote <graduation>


$ git remote <graduation>


Here is an opportunity for students (undergrad and grad) who will graduate anytime in 2020 (i.e., May, August, or December) and use GitHub. 

$ git remote <graduation> is an online graduation ceremony being held by GitHub to celebrate recent (and planned) graduates of the Class of 2020.  If you have a GitHub account, you can apply to participate by midnight (PDT) Monday, May 25.

If you do, you’ll be recognized by GitHub, get some swag mailed to you, and may be selected for highlighting during the live-stream event on the GitHub Education Twitch Channel at Noon ET on Monday, 15 June 2020.

You can apply on GitHub by following the detailed instructions in this GitHub repository. There are three ‘tiers’ to the celebration.

Tiers reward the effort graduates make for this celebration. By adding yourself to the yearbook and writing a post on DEV, you will get access to extra benefits. Make sure you submit your pull request before midnight Monday, May 25th PDT.

Tier 1 ✉: Add yourself to the Yearbook by submitting a pull request to this repository and filling the swag shipping form.

Tier 2 🛍: Follow the steps on Tier 1 and write a post on DEV about a project you’ve built while being a student. You can use this template to get started!

Tier 3 🏅: The best project posts on DEV will be highlighted live on stream during the graduation.”

We thank Computing Engineering alumna Sarah Khalife (BS ‘14) who now works at GitHub for sharing this opportunity with us.

Robots and COVID-19; An Interview with Balaji Viswanathan, CEO of Invento Robotics

May 6, 2020, Interview by Cheryl Dunigan

Balaji Viswanathan started his career at Microsoft, and moved from there to develop startups in such diverse areas as robotics, education and finance. He has embraced the true calling of an entrepreneur, using long term goals to develop companies that actively seek to make a global impact. This is exemplified by his Bengaluru-based company, Invento Robotics, which is currently using its humanoid robots to provide a myriad of services, from taking temperatures to collecting patient information to bringing medications and food to patients in isolation wards, in an effort to fight COVID-19.

For the UMBC community, perhaps the most interesting fact about Mr. Viswanathan is that he is an alumnus of UMBC, graduating with an MS in Computer Science in 2007.

How did UMBC prepare you for your career as an entrepreneur?

I learned robotics and AI at UMBC with Professors Finin, Oates, DesJardins and Peng. I took masters level courses in the topic (AI, Artifical Neural Networks and Robotics) published a workshop paper on Swarm robotics 15 years ago that we are now implementing in the field.

A lot of ideas talked about at the Ebiquity lab by Finin, Joshi et. al. were years later implemented in the industry, only under different names. UMBC’s work was quite ahead of its time.

Please talk a bit about any faculty or staff that had a positive impact on your experience as a student at UMBC.

I was a TA for 2 years at UMBC. This gave me exposure to a variety of faculty and their teaching methods. I liked the laid back approach of Yun Peng, the very energetic approach of Tim Oates and the to-the-point approach of Marie desJardins.

What’s one piece of career advice you would give to current UMBC engineering, biotech and/or IT students?

What Universities think of now, industries will plan 10 years from now. Don’t forget to dream and don’t be guided by what industries want now. You have to pull the industry rather than allow industry’s mediocrity to pull you.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time at Microsoft?

I have never encountered as many smart people as I did at Microsoft. And despite that, the company was struggling at that time. My biggest takeaway was it takes far beyond just having talent to succeed in business. I saw so many great ideas — like App Store, multi touch interfaces get buried only to be used later by Apple and other companies.

You are the most followed writer on Quora, a question-and-answer website. Of the thousands of questions you have answered, which one sticks in your mind the most?

My favourite one that I have also pinned is recounting my experience of meeting my childhood idol — the famed scientist Dr. Abdul Kalam, who was President of India at the time.

On Quora, you discussed how aspiring entrepreneurs can convert crises into opportunities. Can you discuss the role a widespread problem or crisis played in the development of your startups?

We were building healthcare related tech for over 3 years, but until COVID hit there was no demand for them. Thus, we put it in cold storage. However, when COVID hit China we thought it was time to pull those ideas from cold storage and revive the company with it. We were heavily dependent on events & hospitality industry and our customers came to a grounding halt. We had to execute a fast pivot.

You have developed many robots to help in the fight against COVID-19. Mitra provides patient screening, and Astra is remote-controlled and can disinfect a standard-sized room in 15 minutes using UV rays. What is the timeline for bringing these kinds of robots to the commercial market?

The Mitra is already commercial in the market and getting deployed in hospitals across India. The Astra is going through testing and certification and should be commercial by end of May. The RoboDoc — our dream product — might take about 6 months to be commercial.

In addition to being used for patient screening at hospitals, the temperature sensor attachment that your team has developed has enormous distribution possibilities (in airports, sporting facilities, etc…).  Which functions of your robots, either current or in production, do you think will potentially have the greatest impact on public health in the future?

The ability to have Level 2 autonomy with 80% of the time the robot moving around in predictable, low risk environments and using the help strategically in 20% of the risky situations is the core of what we build at Invento. These could be used in a range of situations including disinfection, surveillance patrol, takeout from restaurant etc. While people always think of robot or human, this approach puts a robot+human like you in front of your PC.

Are you interested in using your robots in biosafety level 4 research facilities for vaccine development?

We don’t yet have the capability.

In a former interview you stated, “As an entrepreneur in the mid-20s, we are more prone to the “shiny object syndrome” where a lot of different things look attractive. Age and wisdom bring more focus and stability.”Has the COVID-19 crisis caused you to rethink the long term direction of Invento Robotics or any of your other ventures?

One thing I have learned is that most people including investors cannot predict the future of technology. Almost every futuristic prediction has been wrong in its entry time or their impact. That means we have to stick to our vision for the long term ignoring the noise. At the same time we have to look for sudden route changes along the way.

I will give this example. Imagine you are driving to the Niagara Falls. Along the way, you should not change your destination, but can take small detours and re-plan the route based on traffic conditions and accidents.

You have said that some of your robots will become affordable for the average consumer in 5 or so years. What do you see-2030 looking like in terms of the roles of robots in everyday life?

In 2030, I see robots as common as computers and smartphones now. You might have a dozen of them in your home doing everything from clean, engaging children, taking care of the elderly, and cooking.

UMBC’s Naghmeh Karimi receives NSF CAREER Award to develop long-lasting security for cryptographic chips


Naghmeh Karimi receives NSF CAREER award to develop long-lasting security for cryptographic chips


Naghmeh Karimi is the most recent UMBC faculty member to receive a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, totaling approximately $500,000 over five years, will support her work to investigate how device-aging related risks compromise the security of cryptographic devices.

Karimi explains that cryptographic chips offer continued advances in authenticating messages and devices as well as preserving the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. They do so by implementing cryptographic algorithms in hardware. These chips combine the benefits of cryptographic applications with the speed and power advantage of hardware implementations. 

Despite their significant benefits, cryptographic chips can be compromised by adversaries who have gained physical access to the chips. Current protections against such attacks do not consider the aging of devices, which can shift device parameters over time.

Addressing security vulnerabilities 

Aging makes cryptographic chips operate slower and, ultimately, results in their malfunction, says Karimi. She explains that the typical lifetime of integrated circuits is 7 to 8 years. As the devices age, their performance decreases. Karimi is exploring the specific security vulnerabilities of aged devices and how they can be protected.

“We want to preserve the security of devices over their lifetime,” Karimi says.

Karimi and her research team will study whether the success of the side-channel analysis and fault-injection attacks increase in older devices. Karimi will create and test several countermeasures to protect devices against such attacks.

Connecting students with opportunities in tech security

The CAREER Award funding will support several UMBC undergraduate and graduate student researchers working with Karimi to develop long-lasting security solutions for hardware platforms. 

At the same time, Karimi will also develop and launch a new course in UMBC’s computer science and electrical engineering department on cryptography, hardware security, and testing. She will also work with the UMBC Cyber Scholars Program to connect students with internship opportunities focused on hardware security, to give them additional hands-on experience in the field. 

“The success of this project will enable us to develop long-lasting security for trusted hardware platforms,” Karimi says. “This will result in aging-resistant security solutions that benefit society through devices that remain secure over their lifetime.”

Adapted from a UMBC News article by Megan Hanks. Banner image: UMBC’s ITE building. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

UMBC researchers develop better techniques to render characters with realistic skin

Subsurface rendering comparison from close to far at 1920×1080 on NVIDIA Quadro P4000 (implemented in UE4)


UMBC researchers develop better techniques to
render video game characters with realistic skin


Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have developed a new solution to render an essential detail in many video games: human skin. The research is published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques [1]. Marc Olano, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UMBC, led this research alongside Tiantian Xie, Ph.D. ’22, computer science. Xie, under the guidance of Olano, has worked with researchers Brian Karis and Krzysztof Narkowicz at the gaming company Epic Games, developing a keen understanding of gamers’ user experience, including the precise level of realism and detail that players are looking for in human characters.

Game developers seek to create visuals that are as realistic as possible without stepping into the “uncanny valley.” This term describes when the graphics in a game attempt to portray a human as closely as possible, and gets close to mimicking real life, but not quite close enough, in a way users find disturbing. This creates an unpleasant feeling in users that might distract from their enjoyment of the game.

In many games, human skin is rendered in such a way that it looks like a plastic object. This plastic look can occur because animators aren’t accounting for subsurface scattering – a key element of how light interacts with a textured 3D surface. Subsurface scattering is animators’ main priority when it comes to transforming skin from looking like plastic to looking truly real.

Olano’s method builds upon research developed by large gaming companies to create realistic depictions of human skin that will also load quickly within a gaming interface. “Our method adds an ability to adaptively estimate how many samples you actually need to get the look that you want without having to do a lot of additional computation to get a smooth image,” explains Olano.

The method minimizes the amount of computation needed to create photo-realistic images. Previous techniques were either not realistic enough, or ran too slowly for use in games, negatively affecting the gaming experience. The new method is based on techniques developed for offline film production rendering. Xie, the first author of the paper, states, “Offline rendering techniques are not suitable for real-time rendering because adding the technique itself in real-time introduces a large overhead. Our technique eliminates this overhead.”

Olano and his team created an algorithm to determine the pixels that would need to be rendered differently than the others due to light gradient change. Their sampling method uses temporal variance to lower the overall number of changes within each frame while still maintaining a realistic depiction of subsurface scattering. Since fewer changes are needed per frame, the method creates an efficient way of rendering realistic skin within the capabilities of today’s computing power.

The algorithm used by Olano’s team is built upon a foundation of research that is known and accessible to game developers. This offers a promising path for the gaming industry to pursue realism while maintaining an awareness of the computational ability of an average gaming system. Developers may be able to begin using this technique soon to create more realistic human figures in games, growing the gaming market even more.

[1] Tiantian Xie, Marc Olano, Brian Karis, and Krzysztof Narkowicz. 2020. Real-time subsurface scattering with single pass variance-guided adaptive importance sampling. Proc. ACM Comput. Graph. Interact. Tech. 3, 1, Article 3 (Apr 2020), 21 pages. DOI:

Adapted from a press release written by Morgan Zepp that appeared in EurikAlert.

CyberCorps SFS Spring Meeting at UMBC

Scholarship for Service
The Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program is designed to recruit and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to meet the needs of Federal, State, local, and tribal government.

CyberCorps SFS Spring Meeting at UMBC


10:00am-2:00pm Friday, 22 May 2020
Open to the public


UMBC’s Spring CyberCorps Scholarship for Service meeting will take place from 10 am to 2 pm on Friday, 22 May 2020. It will feature a discussion with Dr. Dan Guernsey (NSA) on Ghidra, Software Reverse Engineering, and Cybersecurity Careers at NSA, presentations by SFS students, and a hands-on Capture the Flag exercise.

10:00-10:30 Student presentations
Scholarship for Service (SFS) students from UMBC, Montgomery College (MC), and Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) will present their results solving IT security problems for their universities, county governments, and local companies. This activity is part of a pioneering program centered at UMBC to extend SFS scholarships to community college students. In January 2020, all SFS scholars at UMBC, PGCC, and MC worked collaboratively to analyze the security of a custom shadow-IT software application to query research grant information

10:30-11:30 Discussion with Dr. Dan Guernsey (NSA)
Learn about Ghidra, software reverse engineering, and cybersecurity careers at NSA. Ghidra is a software reverse engineering framework developed by NSA’s Research Directorate for NSA’s cybersecurity mission. It helps analyze malicious code and malware like viruses, and can give cybersecurity professionals a better understanding of potential vulnerabilities in their networks and systems (GitHub).

11:30-12:30 Lunch and discussion among attendees

12:30-2:00 Hands-on cyber defense exercise
Sharpen your cybersecurity skills by participating in a hands-on Capture the Flag exercise developed by the UMBC Cyber Dawgs and Cyrus Bonyadi, an SFS scholar and a member of the Cyber Dawgs, whose cyberdefense team won first place at the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) in April 2020 and is competing in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC).



Participants and organizers

Dr. Dan Guernsey earned the Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Tulsa. Since 2011, he worked at the Department of Defense as a Computer Scientist and Architectures Researcher. During his studies at Tulsa, Dr. Guernsey contracted with the DoD Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Secret Service, and local law firms. He performed reverse engineering and authored software analysis tools for product evaluation and digital forensics. His work helped solve criminal cases and helped resolve civil disputes involving software copyrights. Dr. Guernsey is an Adjunct Instructor at UMBC in the graduate Cybersecurity Program.

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

Richard Forno is a senior lecturer, Director of the UMBC Graduate Cybersecurity Program, and Assistant Director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity.

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

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

Support for this event is provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant DGE-1753681 and by the Department of Defense under CySP grant H98230-19-1-0308.

talk: Identifying and Addressing Concerning Behavior in the Digital Age, 12-1 Fri 5/8

two secret service agents confer

The UMBC Cyber Defense Lab presents

Identifying and Addressing Concerning
Behavior in the Digital Age


Jason W. Wells
Graduate Student, Cybersecurity MPS
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

12:00–1pm Friday, 8 May 2020, webex


The United States Secret Service (USSS) is widely known as the premier law enforcement agency that is charged with protecting some of the most important political figures in the world. Some of these protectees include the President of the United States, the Vice-President, the First Family and Second Family, and Heads of State visiting the United States, to name a few. A major part of the protective mission of the USSS is focused around “protective intelligence,” where agents are trained to identify concerning and threatening behavioral indicators in others, and then to address those issues in a proactive and positive manner and ensure that the community is safe from harm. This proactive methodology has been researched and applied for decades and has a very high rate of success. Now, other law enforcement agencies throughout the country have started to apply this training to their agents and officers. Can these methodologies be used and/or modified to recognize threats in cyberspace as well?

Jason Wells is a former special agent with the United States Secret Service, where he served for nine years from 2005 – 2014. During that time, Mr. Wells was extensively trained in identifying and addressing threat-related and concerning behavioral indicators, and how to address those behaviors in a positive and proactive manner. In 2016, Mr. Wells published his first book Our Path to Safety: A U.S. Secret Service Agent’s Guide to Creating Safe Communities (ISBN-13: 978-0-9982488-0-6) on how the community can identify these behavioral conditions in the same way that federal law enforcement does every day. Mr. Wells earned his undergraduate degree from the Virginia Military Institute and his first graduate degree from Henley-Putnam University in Strategic Security and Protection Management in 2014. Additionally, Mr. Wells has published 11 editorial articles in print media on improving safety and security methodologies in schools and businesses. Currently, he is an SFS scholarship graduate student at UMBC with plans to complete his degree in spring 2020. He and his wife, Blythe, have two children and have lived in Baltimore County since 2008.

Host: Alan T. Sherman, Support for this event was provided in part by the National Science Foundation under SFS grant DGE-1753681. The UMBC Cyber Defense Lab meets biweekly Fridays. All meetings are open to the public. Upcoming CDL Meetings: May 22, Spring SFS Meeting at UMBC, 9:30am-2pm, via WebEx.

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