Category: News

Bo Chen, Grad Students Present Posters at Security Symposium

College of Computing Assistant Professor Bo Chen, Computer Science, and his graduate students presented two posters at the 41st IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, which took place online May 18 to 21, 2020.

Since 1980, the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy has been the premier forum for presenting developments in computer security and electronic privacy, and for bringing together researchers and practitioners in the field.

Chen leads the Security and Privacy (SnP) lab at Michigan Tech. He is a member of Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) and its Center for Cybersecurity (CyberS).

His research focuses on applied cryptography and data security and he investigates novel techniques to protect sensitive data in mobile devices/flash storage media and cloud infrastructures. Chen is also interested in designing novel techniques to ensure security and privacy of big data.

Chen will serve as general chair for the First EAI International Conference on Applied Cryptography in Computer and Communications (AC3), which will be held in Xiamen, China, in May 2021.

Visit Chen’s faculty website here.

Poster: A Secure Plausibly Deniable System for Mobile Devices against Multi-snapshot Adversaries
Authors: Bo Chen, Niusen Chen
Abstract: Mobile computing devices have been used broadly to store, manage and process critical data. To protect confidentiality of stored data, major mobile operating systems provide full disk encryption, which relies on traditional encryption and requires keeping the decryption keys secret. This however, may not be true as an active attacker may coerce victims for decryption keys. Plausibly deniable encryption (PDE) can defend against such a coercive attacker by disguising the secret keys with decoy keys. Leveraging concept of PDE, various PDE systems have been built for mobile devices. However, a practical PDE system is still missing which can be compatible with mainstream mobile devices and, meanwhile, remains secure when facing a strong multi- snapshot adversary. This work fills this gap by designing the first mobile PDE system against the multi-snapshot adversaries.

Poster: Incorporating Malware Detection into Flash Translation Layer
Authors: Wen Xie, Niusen Chen, Bo Chen
Abstract: OS-level malware may compromise OS and obtain root privilege. Detecting this type of strong malware is challeng- ing, since it can easily hide its intrusion behaviors or even subvert the malware detection software (or malware detector). Having observed that flash storage devices have been used broadly by computing devices today, we propose to move the malware detector to the flash translation layer (FTL), located inside a flash storage device. Due to physical isolation provided by the FTL, the OS-level malware can neither subvert our malware detector, nor hide its access behaviors from our malware detector.

The 41st IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy was sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Security and Privacy in cooperation with the International Association for Cryptologic Research. The Symposium was May 18-20, 2020, and the Security and Privacy Workshops were May 21, 2020.


Michigan Tech Team Places 4th Overall in TiM$10K Challenge

A team of five Michigan Tech students received Honorable Mention honors and 4th Place overall in the second annual SICK Inc. TiM$10K Challenge, a national innovation and design competition. University students from around the country participated in the event designed to support innovation and student achievement in automation and technology.

The Michigan Tech team members — Brian Parvin (ME), Paul Allen (EE), David Brushaber (CompEng), Kurtis Alessi (CompEng) and Alex Kirchner (CompEng) — earned Honorable Mention (fourth place overall) for their project, “Evaluating Road Markings (the Road Stripe Evaluator).

The team is advised by Tony Pinar, Lecturer and Senior Design Coordinator, Electrical and Computer Engineering. Their project was sponsored by SICK Inc. Watch the team’s video about the project below.

SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge 2020 – Evaluating Road Markings (The Road Stripe Evaluator)


Adrienne Minerick, dean of Michigan Tech’s College of Computing, said in a June 1, 20920, Tech Today article that the accomplishments of these outstanding students illustrates Michigan Tech’s creativity and tenacity when faced with a challenge. “Our rapidly growing presence in cybersecurity is built upon our students deep knowledge of the fundamentals combined with the learning environment that promotes agility to meet (and exceed) any challenge. These hardworking and bright students deserve this recognition of their competitiveness. All of us in the College of Computing are proud.”

For the competition, teams were supplied with a 270-degree SICK LiDAR sensor and accessories, and challenged to solve a problem, create a solution, or bring a new application to any industry that utilizes the SICK LiDAR.

Each team submitted a video and paper for judging upon completion of its project. A panel of judges decided the winning submissions based on creativity and innovation, ability to solve a customer problem, commercial potential, entrepreneurship of the team, and reporting.

The Tech team developed an innovative product to help resolve issues caused by poor road markings, while reducing maintenance costs and improving motorist safety. Their new software uses reflectivity values obtained using a SICK LiDAR unit to identify deterioration of road stripes and recommend timely repainting, also aiding in the safety and reliability of self-driving vehicles on roadways.

They constructed a prototype to demonstrate functionality, in the form of a pushable cart that evaluates road markings. An intuitive user interface displays the markings being evaluated, and indicates if they meet necessary levels of reflectivity.

Pinar said the team was well organized and demonstrated an excellent work ethic from day one. “It was exciting to watch them identify a salient problem and develop a functional proof-of-concept solution despite the setbacks that affected us all after spring break,” he said.

“This was a unique project in that the team was required to identify a problem and develop a solution to it that is based on SICK’s TiM LiDAR, while most teams are handed a problem and asked to create a solution,” Pinar noted. “I think this format allowed the team to exercise even more innovation than on a ‘typical’ project.”

The same team of students was awarded Honorable Mention honors at this spring’s Design Expo Senior Design competition for their project, “Road Marking Reflectivity Evaluator.”

SICK, Inc. is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sensors, safety systems, machine vision, encoders and automatic identification products for industrial applications.


Part I | Jason Hiebel, The College of Computing’s First Graduate

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing and ICC
This is the first part of a two-part article about Jason Hiebel, Ph.D., the college of Computings first graduate. Watch this blog and College of Computing social media channels for “Part II, A Supportive and Wise Network.”

PART I | THE FAST TRACK

A Profile of Dr. Jason Hiebel: The College of Computing’s First Graduate

In fall 2007, Jason Hiebel enrolled in his first semester at Michigan Tech. He’s been studying, teaching, and researching computer science and mathematics at Tech ever since, participating in December 2019 Commencement ceremonies. Shortly after, he successfully defended his dissertation and was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, the very first from the College of Computing.

“Graduating when I did, and becoming the first Ph.D. for the College of Computing, was really a fluke of timing,” Hiebel says. “But after all my time here in Houghton and with the Computer Science department, I am pleased to have the honor of being the college’s first Ph.D. It’s something that can be mine and mine alone, and I’m okay with being a little bit greedy about it!”

Husky Tenacity

Hiebel grew up north of Green Bay, Wis., and attended Bay Port High School, where he was active in the chess club and the marching band.

He says that during high school, “I was also the kind of person to push for opportunities far beyond those normally available. For example, while our school did offer some computer science courses, they were mostly self-taught in a small computer lab. But I wanted to be a computer scientist, and I wanted to be a professor—even if I lacked an understanding of what that truly entailed at the time.”

So, he pushed himself to complete the entire computer science curriculum before the end of his sophomore year, then took the AP exam. Following, Hiebel continued with the curriculum thanks to the State of Wisconsin, which paid for him to complete several computer science courses at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

“These were not opportunities that were typically available to me or anyone else at Bay Port,” Hiebel notes. “I had to fight for these opportunities, with the school and the state. But that Tenacity is exactly what Huskies are all about, right?”

All in all, Hiebel says he started at Michigan Tech as a junior in the Computer Science department and as a sophomore overall.

The Fast Track to Teaching and Research

During his first few weeks at Michigan Tech, Hiebel’s sole major was Computer Science. But soon, he began to pursue a double major in another field he enjoys: mathematics.

Hiebel completed his B.S. in Computer Science in summer 2010, and while he was finishing his B.S. in Mathematics, he dual-enrolled as a graduate student in Computer Science. He completed the Mathematics B.S. a year later, and in spring 2012 he received his Master of Science in Computer Science.

In pursuit of his Ph.D., Hiebel was supported by graduate teaching assistantships (GTA), teaching assistantships, and graduate research stipends (GRA). He spent several summers interning at MIT Lincoln Labs, the Department of Defense, and the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI).

“As a GTA, I did my fair share of grading and also led the lab sections for the introductory courses for three semesters,” Hiebel explains. For two semesters, as an instructor, he taught the accelerated introductory programming course (CS1131) and the undergraduate AI course (CS4811). Some semesters he was both a GTA and an instructor. Finally, with the support of his advisors, Hiebel was able to advance his research full time with a GRA stipend.

As a master’s student, Hiebel worked on developing tools for AI education with Laura Brown and another graduate student. As a Ph.D. student, his focus was on building his dissertation research under graduate advisors Laura Brown and Zhenlin Wang.

“Jason’s research applies machine learning to computer system optimization. He has become an expert in both fields,” says Professor Zhenlin Wang, Computer Science.

“The nature of this type of research makes it very challenging for a student to focus, as it requires continual effort and extended skills,” Wang adds. “Throughout his Ph.D. study, Jason consistently demonstrated diligence, perseverance, and creativity. For these reasons and others, Jason has always been a stand-out among our graduate students.”

In his dissertation, Hiebel investigates the application of online machine learning methods, particularly multi-armed bandit methods, to performance optimization problems in computer systems.

“Computers offer a myriad of configurations for customizing how the system performs. Depending on what you run on the system, different configurations can have a drastic effect on performance,” Hiebel explains. “Ideally, we would like to match the configuration to the workload, but doing so requires a broad expertise of how different components of an individual system interact.”

“My work focuses on modeling this type of configuration problem and uses artificial intelligence to automatically, without human intervention, select the best-performing configurations for a given workload.”

Looking Ahead

Hiebel signed on to instruct some spring 2020 semester courses for the Computer Science department while he waited on his paperwork to process for a job with the Department of Defense. “With the growing pains of the new college, there was a need for a few more people to teach and I was happy to lend my experience,” he says.

But like many in the wake of the global pandemic, Hiebel’s plans are in flux right now. He’s teaching a Summer Track A course at Michigan Tech, and advising an undergraduate research project, as well.

“Mainly, I’ll just be waiting for things to open back up so I can get processed for the job I’m waiting for,” Heibel says. “During that limbo, I hope to tackle some research problems and continue to keep myself busy.”
Hiebel says that in the short term, he is hoping to lend his expertise to government research. But in the long term, his aspirations are to return to academia.

“Only time will tell where I end up,” he muses. “But wherever I do end up, I think I will be happy if I’m working on interesting problems and using the skills and knowledge I gained as a Ph.D. student here at Tech.”

In the meantime, Hiebel enjoys living in the Houghton community. He’s a big fan of winter, and even Houghton summers are far too warm for his tastes. “Small town life suits my sensibilities better,” he confirms.


Dan Madrid ’10, CNSA, Elected to Alumni Board

Daniel Madrid ’10, Computer Network and Systems Administration, of Livonia, Mich., has been elected to a six-year term on the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors effective July 1, 2020, the Office of Alumni Relations has announced.

Madrid is a product manager in the Mobility Products Solutions: Connected Vehicle unit of Ford Motor Company, where he has worked for nine years. He is also a member of Ford’s Michigan Tech Recruiting team.

The Alumni Board is a group of volunteers elected from around the country. Board members work with the Alumni Engagement team to develop and support programs for students and alumni.

Learn more about Dan Madrid and his wife Kaylee in these Michigan Tech posts and articles:
https://www.mtu.edu/magazine/2017-1/stories/alumni-engagement/
https://www.mtu.edu/magazine/2015-2/stories/something-borrowed/
https://www.mtu.edu/techalum/issue/april-25-2017-vol-23-no-17/network-mentor-connect-volunteer/
https://blogs.mtu.edu/alumni/2020/02/10/cool-hobbies/

View Dan Madrid’s LinkedIn page here.

The additional new members are:
• Arick Davis ’15, Electrical Engineering, Grand Rapids, MI
• Darwin Moon ’79, Mechanical Engineering, Madison, AL
• Peter Moutsatson ’88, Mechanical Engineering, Manassas, VA
• Drew Vettel ’05 ‘06, Mechanical Engineering, Sheboygen Falls, WI
• Brandon Williams ’00, Electrical Engineering, San Diego, CA

Alumni Board Elections are held in even-numbered years, but nominations are continuously open. Learn more about the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors here.


Computing Awards COVID-19 Research Seed Grants

The College of Computing is pleased to announce that it has awarded five faculty seed grants, which will provide immediate funding in support of research projects addressing critical needs during the current global pandemic.

Tim Havens, College of Computing associate dean for research, said that the faculty seed grants will enable progress in new research that has the potential to make an impact on the current research. Additional details will be shared soon.


Congratulations to the winning teams!

Guy Hembroff (AC, HI): “Development of a Novel Hospital Use Resource Prediction Model to Improve Local Community Pandemic Disaster Planning”

Leo Ureel (CS) and Charles Wallace (CS): “Classroom Cyber-Physical Simulation of Disease Transmission”

Bo Chen (CS): “Mobile Devices Can Help Mitigate Spreading of Coronavirus”

Nathir Rawashdeh (AC, MERET): “A Tele-Operated Mobile Robot for Sterilizing Indoor Space Using UV Light” (A special thanks to Paul Williams, who’s generous gift to support AI and robotics research made this grant possible)

Weihua Zhou (AC, HI) and Jinshan Tang (AC, MERET): “KD4COVID19: An Open Research Platform Using Feature Engineering and Machine Learning for Knowledge Discovery and Risk Stratification of COVID-19″


Weihua Zhou

Nathir Rawashdeh

Jinshan Tang

Guy Hembroff

Leo Ureel

Bo Chen

Chuck Wallace


Meet Bonnie Henderson, Data Science Master’s Student and CCLC Coach

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing

Data Science graduate student Bonnie Henderson began her master’s degree at Michigan Tech in fall 2019. From Jarrell, Texas, Henderson earned a B.A. in mathematics and French at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas.

Henderson is a recipient of Michigan Tech’s David House Family Fellowship, which she describes as a great honor. Her research interests are in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“The fellowship has made an incredible difference in my life,” Henderson says. “As the first person in my family to go to college, it is an amazing opportunity to pursue my graduate studies fully funded.”

This January, Henderson began managing the College of Computing Learning Center (CCLC), an undergraduate learning lab staffed entirely by student coaches and available to all Michigan Tech students in Computing classes.

“I mostly work to help manage the CCLC,” Henderson says. “I help tutor students in undergraduate computer science courses during CCLC walk-in hours, help run CCLC staff meetings, and when the time comes, I’ll help manage the interviewing and hiring process for new tutors.”

Many Opportunities for Learning

Henderson says her work with the CCLC often presents computer science issues and computing problems that are not always common in data science, providing her with many opportunities for learning.

“Studying data science, I work a lot with programming,” Henderson says. “However, I often work with problems related to mathematics in programming and not always the typical undergraduate programming issues.”

What Henderson likes best about tutoring is what she learns along the way. “Since I did not complete my undergraduate degree at MTU, I’m not always familiar with the problems that students are facing when they come in for tutoring. Everyone looks at a problem a little differently, and I get the opportunity to be exposed to many different thought processes and unique solutions.”

New Methods of Virtual Support

Not surprisingly, the plans for the CCLC have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. “Before this news, we were planning on hosting workshops and other events for students in the College of Computing and other departments, such as guided study groups, exam review sessions, and specialized support for individual classes,” Henderson says.

But since the CCLC cannot offer conventional face-to-face tutoring right now, these plans are changing and Henderson and the CCLC are responding with new methods of virtual support. “We have started sending out a weekly CCLC email to students, which shares coding tips and tricks, quizzes, and news, and we are working to encourage more student involvement, especially with the current difficulties we are all facing,” Henderson explains.

So, instead of hosting face-to-face events, CCLC walk-in hours are now being hosted through Zoom, and the Learning Center is maintaining a Canvas page where students can find help and find information on their own. They also hope to host some virtual workshops soon. Students can sign up for the CCLC Canvas page here: https://mtu.instructure.com/enroll/KWFTJ9.

Balancing Life, Work and School

Henderson says the most challenging thing about balancing life, work, and school is finding a separate time and place for each one.

“I’ll often be looking at one thing, and something in it reminds me of a problem from something else. I have a tendency to hop around a lot, and sometimes things may get lost,” she says. “It has become increasingly difficult working and studying from home, as everything is now sharing the same physical space.”

To help with that, Henderson says it’s helpful to try to have different spaces for the things she has to do. “Like one chair for working and another chair for schoolwork, even if they are in the same room. Some sort of distancing between everything is definitely needed.”

Learn More About the CCLC

Visit the CCLC website here. Visit the CCLC’s Infinite Loop: Resources to Explore, Learn, Code, Repeat.

The Dave House graduate student assistantships provide $30,000 annually for three years to each of three graduate assistants in Michigan Tech’s Master of Science in Data Science program.

About Dave House ’65, University Friend and Donor

Dave House ’65 (EE) is a longtime friend and generous donor to Michigan Tech.

“I support Michigan Tech because I believe in the critical importance of higher education, not only for the state and the nation, but most importantly for our graduates, House says in an EE department alumni profile.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution changes everything, and Michigan Tech is perfectly positioned to prepare our students for these changes. I support fellowships in data science because of the role that sensing, networking, big data, artificial intelligence and human/machine interfacing has in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Supporting graduate and research activities is critical to keeping Michigan Tech agile and at the cutting edge of this revolution.”

The Data Science Master of Science

The Data Science Master of Science degree is offered jointly by the College of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science. Associate Professor Laura Brown, Computer Science, is director of the program.


Tim Havens Quote in Enterprisers Project Article

Tim Havens, associate dean for research, College of Computing, and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, was quoted in the article, “Artificial intelligence (AI) vs. machine learning (ML): 8 common misunderstandings,” published May 19, 2020, in the online publication, The Enterprisers Project.

In there article, Havens likens the way AI works to learning to ride a bike: “You don’t tell a child to move their left foot in a circle on the left pedal in the forward direction while moving your right foot in a circle… You give them a push and tell them to keep the bike upright and pointed forward: the overall objective. They fall a few times, honing their skills each time they fail,” Havens says. “That’s AI in a nutshell.”

Link to the article here.

The Enterprisers Project is a community and online publication built to discuss the evolving role of the CIO and how IT leaders drive business value in a digital world. It is a collaborative effort between Harvard Business Review and Red Hat that delivers daily analysis and advice on topics ranging from emerging technologies to IT talent. Articles in the publication are written by CIOs, for CIOs and other IT executives, who share lessons learned from innovating in true partnership with the business.


MTU’s Adrienne Minerick Elected to Lead Engineering Educators

by Allison Mills, University Marketing and Communications

Adrienne Minerick, dean of the College of Computing, is president-elect of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). She will serve as president-elect from June 2020 to June 2021, a year that will surely be shaped by COVID-19 response efforts and their impacts on education, engineering industries and student lives. She will serve as president from June 2021 to June 2022, and as past-president the following year.

“ASEE is the place where engineering and engineering technology educators plan for the futures our students will encounter,” Minerick said. “I am able, willing and ready to help seed conversations that enable engineering professionals to leverage the rapid growth in computing and cybertechnologies to ensure our students engineer a bright future.”

Diversity in engineering education is key, she added. “Study after study, many by ASEE authors, has shown that increasing diversity of teams decreases engineering failures. We are in an exciting time when traditional engineering and educational practices are being re-examined from additional — and different — perspectives.”

Drawing on her research experience in microfluidics, her leadership in the College of Computing and championship of the ADVANCE program, Minerick plans to shift the governance mindset to encourage engineering access and mobility of ideas.

“I am thrilled that Adrienne will be following me as president-elect and then president of ASEE. Two women from Michigan Tech for two years in a leadership role at ASEE is fantastic,” said Sheryl Sorby, ASEE’s next president and professor in the Engineering Education Innovation Center at Ohio State University, who formerly taught in Michigan Tech’s Engineering Fundamentals program. “Adrienne shows steady, solid leadership and is insightful and visionary. She is someone who gets things done!”

Read the full story on mtu.edu/news and learn more about Michigan Tech’s contributions to ASEE.


Havens, Yazdanparast Publish Article in IEEE Transactions on Big Data

An article by Audrey Yazdanparast (2019, PhD, Electrical Engineering) and Dr. Timothy Havens, “Linear Time Community Detection by a Novel Modularity Gain Acceleration in Label Propagation,” has been accepted for publication in the journal, IEEE Transactions on Big Data.

The paper presents an efficient approach for detecting self-similar communities in weighted graphs, with applications in social network analysis, online commodity recommendation systems, user clustering, biology, communications network analysis, etc.

Paper Abstract: Community detection is an important problem in complex network analysis. Among numerous approaches for community detection, label propagation (LP) has attracted a lot of attention. LP selects the optimum community (i.e., label) of a network vertex by optimizing an objective function (e.g., Newman’s modularity) subject to the available labels in the vicinity of the vertex. In this paper, a novel analysis of Newman’s modularity gain with respect to label transitions in graphs is presented. Here, we propose a new form of Newman’s modularity gain calculation that quantifies available label transitions for any LP based community detection.

The proposed approach is called Modularity Gain Acceleration (MGA) and is simplified and divided into two components, the local and global sum-weights. The Local Sum-Weight (LSW) is the component with lower complexity and is calculated for each candidate label transition. The General Sum-Weight (GSW) is more computationally complex, and is calculated only once per each label. GSW is updated by leveraging a simple process for each node-label transition, instead of for all available labels. The MGA approach leads to significant efficiency improvements by reducing time consumption up to 85% relative to the original algorithms with the exact same quality in terms of modularity value which is highly valuable in analyses of big data sets.

Timothy Havens is director of Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC), the associate dean for research for the College of Computing , and the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems.

View the article abstract here.


Ford Mobility Funds A.I., Acoustics Research

Imagine if your car could tell you when you are passing by an area occupied by rare migratory birds, or if it could listen to roads and bridges to determine when infrastructure repairs need to be made.

A recent gift of $149,518 from Mobility Research at Ford Motor Company is funding research that could make this possible.

Dr. Timothy Havens, Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, and Dr. Andrew Barnard, Great Lakes Research Center, will lead an exploration of how future connected vehicles could use AI and acoustics to detect, classify, and localize external sound events, and evaluate and monitor transportation infrastructure.

The gift will fund two graduate fellowships, a team of undergraduate students in the SENSE Enterprise, and build and develop a mobile acoustics test bed that will allow students, Havens, and Barnard to conduct cutting-edge research in AI and acoustics.

Michigan Tech would like to thank Chad Esselink (’94, Computer Science) and Tavan Eftekhar at Ford Mobility Research for making this possible.

The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) is the research arm of the College of Computing at Michigan Tech. The ICC provides faculty and students the opportunity to work across organizational boundaries to create an environment that is a reflection of contemporary technological innovation. This collaboration allows for a convergence in communication, control and computing that mirrors today’s industry and society.

The Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) provides state-of-the-art laboratories to support research on a broad array of topics. Faculty members from many departments across Michigan Technological University’s campus collaborate on interdisciplinary research, ranging from air–water interactions to biogeochemistry to food web relationships.