MS defense: Recovering from Soft Node Failures in Wireless Sensor Networks using Neural Networks

MS Thesis Defense

Recovering from Soft Node Failures in
Wireless Sensor Networks using Neural Networks

Shivvasangari Subramani

9:00am Tuesday, 26 April 2011, ITE 346

In the past few years, wireless sensor networks (WSNs) have become important in different applications because of their robustness in hostile environments. WSNs need to perform in a timely manner in the face of interference, attacks, accidents, and failures. Being a battery operated system, there is a trade-off between performance and energy utilization. In this thesis we focus on WSN accuracy and consider ways to improve the performance of WSNs when sensors become damaged, resulting in poor input signal quality. When all other components of the sensor like the processor, memory, and battery are working, our proposed solution is to learn to undo the damage in a node by training on neighbors sensor values.

Thesis Committee:

  • Dr. Anupam Joshi
  • Dr. Tim Oates (chair)
  • Dr. Mohamed Younis

MS defense: Graph-Theoretic Approach to Collusion Detection in Multi-Agent Systems

MS Thesis Defense

A Graph-Theoretic Approach to
Collusion Detection in Multi-Agent Systems

Peter Hamilton

9:00am Thursday, 28 April 28 2011, ITE 325B

The study of trust and cooperation is a major component of multi-agent systems research. Such work often focuses on how best to estimate the reliability of a specific agent, or how to create strategies and protocols that engender the most cooperation from the most agents. However, when cooperation is not a desired aspect of a multi-agent system, these actions define collusive behavior, which can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the system.

This thesis defines a generic, graph-theoretic approach to collusion detection known as CODING. This approach detects group-based collusion, targeting two basic collusion mechanisms that rely on large numbers of colluding agents for success. CODING analyzes and classifies agent interactions from the system and constructs a series of interaction graphs from this data. These graphs are processed for structures that correspond to collusion mechanisms; the agents composing these structures are reported as colluders. CODING is applied to a game theory domain, in which it must detect agents adhering to group strategies in round-robin tournaments composed of single-player strategies.

Thesis Committee:

  • Dr. Marie desJardins (chair)
  • Dr. Tim Finin
  • Dr. Tim Oates


MS defense: Feature Extraction using a Hierarchical Growing Neural Gas

M.S. Thesis Defense Announcement

Feature Extraction using a Hierarchical Growing Neural Gas

Roger Guseman

12:00pm 25 April 2011, ITE 210

Unsupervised, data-driven, automatic feature extraction from image data is an interesting and difficult problem. High dimensional data, such as images, often contain less information than they do data. For an agent to better reason about this data, finding the "interesting" features in the data is helpful. A current technique, known as the Growing Neural Gas (GNG), is a neural network approach to feature extraction. There are, however, adaptations that can be made to the Growing Neural Gas in order to increase its performance.

Contributions of this work include development of a new neural network algorithm extending the Growing Neural Gas framework, known as the Hierarchical Growing Neural Gas (HGNG), identification of how the parameters of the HGNG affect feature extraction performance, and theoretical and empirical comparisons of performance between the normal GNG and the HGNG neural networks.

Thesis Committee:

  • Dr. Tim Oates (chair)
  • Dr. Tim Finin
  • Dr. Marie desJardins


MS defense: Problem selection of program tracing tasks in an intelligent tutoring system

Master's Thesis Defense Announcement

Problem Selection of Program Tracing Tasks in an Intelligent
Tutoring System and Visual Programming Environment

David Walser

2:00pm Thursday, 28 April 2011, ITE 325b

Intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs) have been shown to be an effective supplementary teaching tool or aid for many domains. Applying ITSs in open-ended domains such as computer programming is especially challenging, most notably when trying to assist with the process of programming itself. Existing ITSs for programming focus on a very limited set of problems and concepts and are only useful early in an introductory CS course and a few limited places afterward. Visual programming environments are another tool that have been used in introductory CS courses to help students learn basic concepts. The key idea behind my work is the recognition of the importance of students' ability to read, understand, and trace code in order to write programs successfully. A broader goal of my work is to show that an ITS based on a visual programming environment can be used to support students throughout an entire introductory CS course, without being severely constrained and limited to a small number of concepts and to low-level, simple tasks. In my system, called RUR-ITS, students are given a program and are asked to predict the robot's behavior when running this program in a given environment. RUR-ITS allows each problem to be assigned a difficulty level and multiple concepts that it involves within the conceptual model. RUR-ITS can then use a problem selection algorithm to choose a problem that is most able to help the student master the concepts that they have not yet mastered.

Thesis Committee:

  • Dr. Marie desJardins, Chair
  • Dr. Tim Finin
  • Dr. Tim Oates


talk: Working Together Apart, 12:00 4/29

Spring 2011 Information Systems Distinguished Lecture

Working Together Apart

Dr. Judy Olson

Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine

12:00pm Friday, 29 April 2011, ITE Lecture Hall VII

Our research group has been investigating the factors that make long distance teamwork work. I will review that work and talk about the issues that remain, the factors that technology and social practices can't solve–cultural differences and different timezones. And, I will introduce our "theory made practical," our turning the theory into an online assessment tool.

Judith Olson is the Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences in the Informatics Department at the UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in the School of Social Ecology and the Merage School of Business. She has researched teams whose members are not collocated for over 20 years, summaries of which are found in her most cited paper, “Distance Matters,” (Olson & Olson, 2000), and in her key theoretical contribution in the book Scientific Collaboration on the Internet (Olson, Zimerman, and Bos, Eds., 2008). Her current work focuses on ways to verify the theory's components while at the same time helping new scientific collaborations succeed. She has studied distributed teams both in the field and in the laboratory, the latter focusing on the communication hurdles distributed teams have and the consequent underutilization of remote team members skills and the reduction in trust. She is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and with her husband and colleague, Gary Olson, holds the Lifetime Achievement award from the Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction.

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Semantic Analysis of XML Schema Matching for B2B (Dissertation Defense)

PhD Dissertation Defense Announcement

A Semantic Analysis of XML Schema Matching
for B2B Systems Integration

Jaewook Kim

11:00am Thursday, 21 April 2011, ITE 346

One of the most critical steps to integrating heterogeneous e-Business applications using different XML schemas is schema matching, which is known to be costly and error-prone. Many automatic schema matching approaches have been proposed, but the challenge is still daunting because of the complexity of schemas and immaturity of technologies in semantic representation, measuring, and reasoning. The dissertation focuses on three challenging problems in the schema matching. First, the existing approaches have often failed to sufficiently investigate and utilize semantic information imbedded in the hierarchical structure of the XML schemas. Secondly, due to synonyms and polysemies found in natural languages, the meaning of a data node in the schema cannot be determined solely by the words in its label. Thirdly, it is difficult to correctly identify the best set of matching pairs for all data nodes between two schemas. To overcome these problems, we propose new innovative approaches for XML schema matching, particularly applicable to XML schema integration and data transformation between heterogeneous e-Business systems. Our research supports two different tasks: integration task between two different component schemas; and transformation task between two business documents which confirm to different document schemas.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Dr. Yun Peng, Chair
  • Dr. Charles Nicholas
  • Dr. Zary Segall
  • Dr. Milton Halem
  • Dr. Hyunbo Cho (POSTECH, Korea)
  • Dr. Nenad Ivezic (NIST)

talk: Cybersecurity Threat is Real (new time: 10am)

The Threat is Real

Sherri Ramsay
Director, NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center

10:00am Friday 22 April 2011, 229 ITE

Sherri Ramsay, the Director of the National Security Agency's National Threat Operations Center, will present an overview of contemporary issues in cybersecurity entitled "The Threat is Real". The NSA Threat Operations Center monitors the operations of the global network to identify network-based threats and protect U.S. and allied networks.

Sherri Ramsay serves as the Director of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service Threat Operations Center, an organization operating under Signals Intelligence and Information Assurance authorities simultaneously to establish real-time global network awareness and threat characterization. Ms. Ramsay most recently served in the Information Assurance Directorate as Deputy Chief of the Vulnerability Analysis and Operations Group. She began her career at NSA as a computer programmer and served as a Software Acquisition Manager, System Acquisition Manager, and Program Manager for several large-scale programs. She spend a year of extensive leadership training, research and developmental assignments while participating in OPM’s Executive Potential Program.

Ms. Ramsay graduated Magna Cum Laude with General Honors from the University of Georgia in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Mathematics and Education. She graduated with Honors from the Johns Hopkins University in 1984 with a Masters Degree in Computer Science. In 1992, she graduated from OPM’s Executive Potential Program. She graduated in 1998 form the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Ft. McNair, with a Mater’s Degree in National Resource Strategy. Prior to joining NSA, Ms. Ramsay taught high school mathematics. She received the NSA Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1998 and 2000, the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation in 1998, the Louis Tordella Award in 2003, and the Presidential Meritorious Executive Award in 2009.

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Visionaries in IT Forum May 4: Catherine Kuenzel of Northrop Grumman

Catherine Kuenzel of Northrop Grummon will speak on Your Future in Emerging Technologies as part of the UMBC Visionaries in Information Technology Forum on May 4, 2011. Her talk will cover emerging technologies in health, homeland security, cyber security and renewable energy.

Kuenzel is the the Vice President of Federal Mission Programs for the Civil Systems Division of Northrop Grumman's Information Systems. She has extensive experience in the information technology industry. She is skilled at leading teams that supply a full range of IT solutions to governmental clients, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense. Her current team provides services to a wide range of civil enterprise systems, from cyber security to law enforcement to document and records management.

The UMBC Visionaries in Information Technology Forum is an annual, four-part breakfast series created to help elevate the prominence and recognition of Maryland as a critical hub of information and emerging technologies. The forum is free and includes a complimentary breakfast. It will meet May 4, 2011 from 7:30am to 9:00am at the BWI Airport Marriott, 1743 West Nursery Road, Baltimore, MD 21240. Since space is limited, registration is required.

Dissertation Defense: Towards Relational Theory Formation from Undifferentiated Sensor Data

Dissertation Defense

Towards Relational Theory Formation
from Undifferentiated Sensor Data

Marc Pickett

10:00am Monday, 18 April 2011
ITE 325b, UMBC

Human adults have rich theories in their heads of how the world works. These theories include objects and relations for both concrete and abstract concepts. Everything we know either must be innate or learned through experience. Yet it's unclear how much of this model needs to be innate for a computer. The core question this dissertation addresses is how a computer can develop rich relational theories using only its raw sensor data. We address this by outlining a "bridge" between raw sensors and a rich relational theory. We have implemented parts of this bridge, with other parts as feasibility studies, while others remain conceptual.

At the core of this bridge is Ontol, a system that constructs a conceptual structure or "ontology" from feature-set data. Ontol is inspired by cortical models that have been shown to be able to express invariant concepts, such as images independent of any translation or rotation. As a demonstration of the utility of the ontologies created by Ontol, we present a novel semi-supervised learning algorithm that learns from only a handful of positive examples. Like humans, this algorithm doesn't require negative examples. Instead, this algorithm uses the ontologies created by Ontol from unlabeled data, and searches for a Bayes-optimal theory given this "background knowledge".

The rest of the dissertation shows in principle how Ontol can be used as the "workhorse" for a system that finds analogies, discovers useful mappings, and might ultimately create theories, such as a "gisty" theory of "number".


  • Tim Oates, Associate Professor, UMBC
  • Tim Finin, Professor, UMBC
  • Rob Goldstone, Professor, Indiana University
  • Sergei Nirenburg, Professor, UMBC
  • Matt Schmill, Research Faculty, UMBC

Serial entrepreneur David Turock to talk at Baltimore Emerging Technology Center

The Baltimore ACM Chapter, the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, and the Emerging Technology Center are hosting a free, public lecture on entrepreneurship by David Turock at 7:00pm, Wednesday 27 April in the ETC Canton facility (2400 Boston St., Baltimore).

David Turock will present a side-by-side comparison of two telecommunications start-ups that he launched: one successful, and one not. He compares and contrasts their funding sources, agility and scalability of their business models, hiring practices, and more. His experience and lessons learned will be valuable for aspiring tech entrepreneurs. He finishes with how his interests have shifted to using technology to promote social and environmental causes.

David Turock is a veteran entrepreneur and currently a Director of Counsel RB Capital. He holds a patent on VoIP, and is an expert on telecommunications technologies and their applications. Mr. Turock began his career working with AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1982 and Bell Communications Research in 1988, and subsequently founded enhanced telephone service provider, Call Sciences. He later formed Interexchange, which designed and operated one of the world's largest debit card systems. Most recently, from 2001 to 2007, Mr. Turock was Chief Technology Officer of Therap Services, a provider of informatics services to disabled patients. Mr. Turock received his B.S. in Experimental Psychology from Syracuse University, his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Cognitive Psychology from Rutgers University, and his M.S.E. in Computer Science from the Moore School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Baltimore ACM chapter invites attendees for pizza starting at 6:30pm. There is no charge, but please RSVP to Emil Volcheck at

The ETC Canton facility is located at the American Can Company complex, 2400 Boston Street in Baltimore. ETC is on the 3rd floor of the building that houses the Austin Grille restaurant and the entrance is next to the Lenscrafters store. There is a 3 hour visitor parking in front of the building on the Boston Street side.

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