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SOSSEC / US Army ERDC Award to Study Adaptive AI

Dr. Timothy Havens, College of Computing, and Dr. Anthony Pinar, Electrical and Computer Engineering, have been awarded a two-year, $428,707 project by the SOSSEC Inc. / U.S. Army ERDC to investigate “Modeling and Algorithm Development for Adaptive Adversarial AI for Complex Autonomy.”

The project will study how autonomous systems operate in complex and unstructured environments, focusing on sensing, processing, and decision-making capabilities.

Havens and Pinar are members of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystem’s Center for Data Sciences.

Tim Havens is associate dean for research, College of Computing, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems, and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems.

Tony Pinar is a lecturer and senior design coordinator in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

The SOSSEC Consortium was specifically formed to address the needs of the Department of Defense (DoD). It was founded on a simple concept: that collaboration, innovation, and cooperation among a broad spectrum of industry, academia and non-profit entities vastly improves the products and services delivered to its clients, according to the organization’s website.

The mission of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), an integral component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, is to help solve the nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources, and environmental sciences for the benefit of the Army, the Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and the public good, according to the organizations’s website.

The Institute of Computing and Cyberersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences through six research centers in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems, for the benefit of Michigan Technological University and society at large.

The ICC’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech. Member scientists are collaborating to conduct impactful research, make valuable contributions in the field of computing, and solve problems of critical national importance.

ICC’s Center for Data Sciences (DataS) focuses on the research of data sciences education, algorithms, mathematics, and applications. DataS fosters interdisciplinary collaborations by bringing together diverse faculty and students from varied disciplines to discover new knowledge and exciting research opportunities in the field of data sciences.

Weihua Zhou Receives PHF Seed Grant

The Michigan Tech Vice President for Research office has announced the Spring 2020 Research Excellence Fund (REF) awards.

Among the recipients is Assistant Professor Weihua Zhou, Applied Computing/Health Informatics, who received a Portage Health Foundation Research Seed Grant.

Zhou’s areas of expertise include image processing and computer vision, machine learning, medical image analysis, health informatics, and text mining.

The proposed project represents Zhou’s continuous research on cardiac resynchronization therapy for patients with heart failure.

His co-investigators are Associate Professor Qing-Hui Chen, M.D., Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Timothy Havens, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor, College of Computing.

Ph.D. candidate Zhuo He, College of Computing, is a research assistant on the project. Rudy Evonich, MD, a cardiologist with the Department of Cardiology at UP Health System Marquette, Mich., is a clinical consultant.

Read the Tech Today announcement here.

Learn more about Michigan Tech REF awards here.

PART II — Jason Hiebel, The College of Computing’s First Graduate


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

By Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, College of Computing and ICC
This is Part II of a two-part article about Jason Hiebel, Ph.D., the first graduate of the Michigan Tech College of Computing. In this piece, Jason reflects on some of the faculty and peers who instructed, challenged, and supported his growth and success during his 10-plus years at Michigan Tech and in the Houghton, Mich., community. Two of Jason’s classmates also share some thoughts and memories. Read Part I of this article here.

Jason Hiebel completed his Ph.D. studies in December 2019, successfully defending his dissertation in early 2020. He signed on to instruct some courses for the Michigan Tech Computer Science department that spring, while he waited for his paperwork to process for a job with the Department of Defense.

But like many in the wake of the global pandemic, Hiebel’s plans were interrupted. He’s teaching a Summer semester 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.”

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.

A wise and supportive and network.

Having been at Michigan Tech for over a decade, Hiebel says he has had the opportunity to learn from and grow with many smart and wise faculty members.

While he wasn’t around while Hiebel was completing his doctorate, late Michigan Tech professor Steve Seidel, (Mathematical and Computer Sciences) played an important role in Hiebel’s educational journey.

“My very first semester here, as a wide-eyed first semester college student, he took the time to talk, explain, and spark interest,” Hiebel says of Seidel. “It was one of the most influential moments from my undergraduate years, and I do think that it was a powerful formative influence. I’ll never forget that moment.”

Hiebel also mentions in particular Associate Professor Laura Brown, Computer Science, who “took a chance on him as a graduate student.”

“Looking back, I see my way of approaching artificial intelligence is very similar to her approach, although I don’t know how much of that was learned,” Hiebel reflects. “I like to think that people naturally think about some things in similar ways.”

Hiebel is also grateful for friends and fellow graduate students, who listened to his ideas time and again as they were taking shape in his mind, asking the hard questions, pushing him to become a better speaker and researcher. He mentions in particular Computer Science Ph.D. candidates Scott Pomerville, Briana Bettin ’20, and Daniel Byrne, Computer Science lecturer Gorkem Asilioglu, and many others “for listening to my ramblings all this time.”

A friend and mentor.

Michigan Tech Ph.D. candidate Scott Pomerville first met Hiebel as an undergraduate. “He was my teacher for an accelerated Introduction to Computer Science course, so in a lot of ways he was my first impression of Michigan Tech,” he says.

“What struck me were Jason’s patience and his ability to explain, and it played a part in making me excited for what was to come,” Pomerville recalls. “After entering the Michigan Tech Graduate School, we became friends. He’s often very down-to-earth and he’s a source of reason, both as a friend and as a fellow researcher.”

Pomerville goes on to say that Hiebel strove to never compromise on what he created, often spending large amounts of time making sure that his research and presentation were the best they could be.

“Jason was quick to help if he knew something, but was even quicker to ask if he didn’t,” Pomerville says. “He’s a role-model, and also someone I can work with peer-to-peer. He has given me both inspiration and motivation as I continue on my own path of research and teaching.”

–Scott Pomerville
Department of Computer Science teaching assistants in 2019. Jason Hiebel is third from right, Briana Bettin is front row, far left.

Going above and beyond.

From their first interactions a decade ago, Computer Science Ph.D. candidate Briana Bettin says that Jason has always been a thoughtful and great teacher.

“He worked in the CS 1121 lab when I originally took the course as an undergraduate and he was so helpful!” she recalls. “I distinctly remember struggling with something in the next class, CS 1122, and thinking ‘things always made sense when Jason explained them in lab… I wonder if he would help me if I emailed him ….’”

And Hiebel did respond to Bettin’s email, even though he wasn’t involved with that course at that time. “I understood so much better based on his explanation,” she says.

Bettin, pictured at left, started at Michigan Tech in 2010. “That’s a decade ago that he was that helpful,” she says, adding that Hiebel has volunteered numerous times to help her out in her time as a Ph.D. student.

“I know he has helped many others as well,” Bettin continues. “He is a wonderful supporter and he goes above and beyond to help out.”

“Jason has grown his knowledge into so many areas of interest, and he works to be a great communicator on each of those topics,” Bettin notes.

“Jason is caring, well-spoken, helpful, supportive, friendly, and fun—which I think are all great strong points!” Bettin adds. “I think strong relationships—no matter where you are—help one persevere, feel confident, and continue forward on your path.”

“Friends like Jason and Scott Pomerville have helped me feel supported, appreciated, and lifted me up when I needed help, advice, or just someone to listen,” Bettin says. “Having people in your corner like that is so important, especially when you’re pursuing something difficult like a graduate degree!”

“We have also played tons of board games together,” Bettin adds. “I honestly think Jason wins the majority of the time.”

Memories and friends who care.

Bettin reflects that it can be easy to feel alone as a grad student, especially if your research really differs from others around you, or you’re starting to explore your specific area more deeply.

“But having friends who listen, care, learn, critique, and support you makes it feel less lonely, and often a lot more fun,” she says. “These past few years have had a lot of memories, but I’ll name a few.”

–Briana Bettin ’20

“We have had many food nights in Scott’s apartment—Tonkatsu, Sukiyaki, Japanese Cheesecake, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Melon Pan are some of the major dishes that were undertaken,” Bettin recalls. “During the melon pan process, I became the guardian of the dough, kneading it to my will. The bread came out perfectly and it was a wonderful treat for Jason’s dissertation defense!”

“I have a really great memory from Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield—my husband, Jason, Scott, and I all purchased the game and waited until the evening of the release day to play together,” Bettin says. “I absolutely love Pokemon. Playing with all of them, I learned all sorts of secrets of the game and new creatures, laughing at jokes all the while. Enjoying my first adventure in that game together was absolutely amazing.”

It’s a night Bettin thinks of and smiles, “because Pokemon has meant so much to me growing up, and I was able to really share the fun of a new adventure with wonderful friends.”

Branching out and some advice.

Hiebel has a broad set of research interests in artificial intelligence, including multi-armed bandits, genetic algorithms, and A.I. education. And he says he has a soft spot for the history of A.I.

In addition to teaching and research, Hiebel is active in competitive programming. He assisted in developing Michigan Tech’s own Bonzai Brawl and coached teams for the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), an annual multi-tiered competitive programming competition among universities around the world, and headquartered at Balor University.

Outside of Tech and his studies, Hiebel says he worked on myriad projects that couldn’t have been farther from what he was doing during the school year. His extra-curricular projects involve image processing, dynamic wireless communication networks, and radar reconstruction.

What advice would Hiebel give other Ph.D. candidates? “Listen to a broad set of perspectives. There are lessons and wisdom all around you which can help you become a better student, a better researcher, a better teacher, and a better person.”

–Jason Hiebel ’20

Take Action for Equity: #BlackInTheIvory, @ADVANCEmtu

The following is a communication and plea from Dr. Adrienne Minerick, Dean, College of Computing, and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering. Minerick is the Principal Investigator of the Michigan Tech ADVANCE award from the National Science Foundation..

In observation of engrained cultural bias against Blacks, Indigenous People, and many other underrepresented minorities, I am participating in #ShutDownSTEM today, June 10, 2020.

I urge you to read stories from #BlackInTheIvory across social media, and follow @ADVANCEmtu on Twitter to learn how you can take action to move our society to equity for all. We need you.

Adrienne R. Minerick, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Computing
Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
PI, NSF ADVANCE at Michigan Tech
Michigan Technological University

ADVANCE at Michigan Tech is dedicated to promoting faculty retention, career success, and STEM equity with an emphasis on advancing underrepresented individuals with intersectionalities. We are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and currently are the recipients of 2 ADVANCE grants. Target audiences for ADVANCE programming include academic leadership, tenured faculty, and under-represented minorities.

zombietango Security Expert to Present Penetration Test Lecture

College of Computing Professor Yu Cai, Applied Computing, has arranged for a special guest lecture on penetration testing by security expert Josh Little of zombietango.

The free, 60-minute technical lecture will take place on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at 2:00 p.m., via an online Microsoft Team meeting.

Join the lecture here. The conference ID: 164 473 926#.

Students enrolled in the summer section of SAT 3812, Cybersecurity I, are required to attend the lecture. All students are welcome and encouraged to join.

Contact Professor Yu Cai for additional information.

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.

Michigan Tech Ranks 22nd in “Cyber Power” Top 100

NCL Logo

Twenty-one Michigan Tech students on three teams finished the spring 2020 semester with impressive success at a recent National Cybersecurity League (NCL) competition. All three teams ranked in the top 100, out of 925 teams nationwide. Assistant Professor Bo Chen, Computer Science, is the faculty advisor to the teams.

Michigan Tech’s overall “Cyber Power Ranking” is 22nd nationally and 6th in the central region, as of Spring 2020. Schools are ranked based on their top team performance, their top student’s individual performance, and the aggregate individual performance of their students.

Team 1 ranked 16th in a field of 925 teams; with Alex Larkin (CS), Jack Bergman (CS), Jon Preuth (CS), Trevor Hornsby (Software), Shane Hoppe, Dakoda Patterson (CS), and Matthew Chau (Cyber).

Team 2 ranked 45th among 925 teams; with Sophia Kraus (EE), Sam Breuer (EE), Ian Hughes (Cyber/CS), Austin Doorlag (CS), Sankalp Shastry, Hunter Indermuehle (EE), and Samantha Christie (CS).

Team 3 ranked 78th of 925; with John Claassen (CS), Stu Kernstock (Cyber), Jacson Ott (Cyber), Bradley Gipson (CNSA), Ethan Frenza (CNSA), Tim Lucero (Cyber), and Anders Jacobsen (EE).

Shane Hoppe was ranked 95th among 5,357 participants in the NCL individual game.

The National Cyber League (NCL) is a biannual cybersecurity competition. Open to U.S. high school and college students, the competition consists of a series of challenges that allow students to demonstrate their ability to identify hackers from forensic data, pentest and audit vulnerable websites, recover from ransomware attacks, and more.

Every year, over 10,000 students from more than 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. participate in the NCL competitions. Student players compete in the NCL to build their skills, leverage the NCL Scouting Reports for career and professional development, and to represent their school in the national Cyber Power Rankings.

Powered by Cyber Skyline, NCL provides a platform on which students can prepare and test themselves against practical cybersecurity challenges that they will likely face in the workforce, such as identifying hackers from forensic data, pentesting and audit vulnerable websites, recovering from ransomware attacks, and more.

The Cyber Power Rankings were created by Cyber Skyline in partnership with the National Cyber League (NCL). The rankings represent the ability of student competitors to perform real-world cybersecurity tasks on the Cyber Skyline platform.

Cyber Skyline logo

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.

Frank Vahid to Present Seminar

This event has been canceled. We hope to reschedule sometime in the future.

The College of Computing is pleased to present a lecture by Dr. Frank Vahid on Canceled. Vahid’s talk, “Teaching lower-division CS/CE: Our improvement experiences and research results for physical and online courses,” relates the story of University of California Riverside (UCR) successful efforts to improve introductory CS courses over the past decade.

Vahid is a professor of computer science and engineering at UCR, and co-founder and chief learning officer of zyBooks.

Vahid’s research focuses on improving college-level CS/CE/STEM education, and embedded systems. He is the author of textbooks from Wiley, Pearson, and zyBooks on topics including C++, C, Java, data structures, digital design, computer organization, embedded systems, computing technology, and introductory math and algebra.

Many universities seek to improve introductory computer science courses, and to offer online courses. Dr. Vahid and his colleagues at UCR have had particular success introducing changes to their teaching methods.

Before improvements, UCR intro courses fell into the common U-shaped grade distribution with a high fail/withdraw rate. After introducing changes–including the replacement of textbooks with web-native interactive, animated content and questions–the grade distribution now looks like a rising staircase (with DFWs on the left and As on the right). Good student performance in subsequent courses and highly-positive course evaluations from both majors and non-majors were received at a school with high enrollments of low-income, first-generation, and minority students. 

Additional UCR course modifications include using the interactive content to encourage class preparation, reserving class time for extensive live coding of examples (with lots of mistakes made) and peer instruction; teaching the Coral language before C++, and switching from one-large-program each week to many small programs–enabled by auto-grading.

UCR started teaching online versions of CS1 and CS2 courses in 2013, making refinements over the years, such as synchronous online scheduled lectures and labs and extensive use of online chat. The modifications have led to students in online sections doing as well as students in physical sections, with equally high course evaluations (and many stating a preference for online). The model has been reproduced at other schools. 

In 2012, Vahid and his colleagues formed zyBooks, a company to provide scalable growth and continual professional improvement of UCR’s online content and platform. The zyBooks platform and content has grown to serve over 500,000 students at 600 universities in the U.S.

Vahid has received several teaching awards, including UCR Engineering’s Outstanding Teacher award and UCR’s Innovative Teaching award, both in 2017. In recent years, he has spoken about CS/CE education at over 50 universities across the country.

Vahid’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, (university and NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants), the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the U.S. Dept. of Education (university and SBIR grants), and companies including Google and Intel. He received his B.S. in computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine.

Vahid has spoken at dozens of U.S. college of universities about UCR’s research, such as the following, in no particular order: Texas A&M, Univ. of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, Univ. of Florida, Univ. of Texas (Austin), UT San Antonio, Florida International Univ., Florida Atlantic Univ., Miami Univ., Miami Dade Community College, Drexel, Tufts, Univ. of Massachusetts Lowell, The College of New Jersey, Southern New Hampshire Univ., Univ. of Minnesota Twin Cities, Univ. of Minnesota Duluth, Michigan State Univ. Central Michigan Univ., Indiana State Univ., California State Univ. Northridge, California State Univ. Fresno, San Jose State Univ., Univ. of New Mexico, New Mexico State Univ., Univ of Alabama Birmingham, Univ. of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Lone Star College, UT Rio Grande Valley, Boston Univ., Rutgers, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Jacksonville State Univ., and more…   

“Plus many many dozens of virtual presentations. It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to visit each department and to meet each and every faculty member, and students too,” Vahid said.

Faculty Candidate Hongyu An to Present Lecture February 12

The Colleges of Computing and Engineering invite the campus community to a lecture by faculty candidate Hongyu An on Wednesday, February 12, at 3:00 p.m. in Chem Sci 101. Hongyu’s talk is titled, “Brain on a Chip: Designing Self-learning and Low-power Neuromorphic Systems.”

Hongyu is a doctoral candidate in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering at Shenyang University of Technology, Shenyang, China, and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Mo., respectively.

In 2019, Hongyu was awarded the Paul E. Torgersen Research Excellence Award and a fellowship from the Advanced Short-Term Research Opportunity Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 2017, he was awarded an NSF Student Travel Fellowship Award, and a paper authored by Hongyu was nominated as best paper in the IEEE International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (ISQED).

Hongyu’s research interests include neuromorphic and brain-inspired computing, energy-efficient neuromorphic electronic circuit design for Artificial Intelligence, three-dimensional integrated circuit (3D-IC) design, and emerging nanoscale device design. 

His research aims to build a self-learning, low-power neuromorphic system. Inspired by the learning mechanism of the human brain, Hongyu proposed and realized an Associative Memory Learning through neuromorphic circuits and memristors. The proposed learning method correlates two concurrent visual and auditory information together through Artificial Neural Networks. 

Lecture Abstract: How can a silicon brain in a chip be built with self-learning capability? What are the challenges for neural network-based artificial intelligence in the next decade, and how can those challenges be solved? 

In order to answer these questions, Hongyu introduces a cutting-edge research topic: Brain-inspired Computing. Also called neuromorphic computing, Brain-inspired Computing aims to physically reproduce the brain’s structure in a silicon chip to resolve critical challenges in deep learning deployment.

In his talk, Hongyu will explore the underlying biological mechanism of associative memory learning, novel non-von Neumann computer architectures, and circuit implementations with transistors and memristors. 

A widespread self-learning method in animals, associative memory enables the nervous system to remember the relationship between two concurrent events. Rebuilding associative memory is significant, both to reveal a way of designing a brain-like self-learning neuromorphic system, and to explore a method of comprehending the function of the human brain.

Hingyu is a reviewer for several top-tier conferences and journals, including IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems (TNNLS), IEEE Transactions on Circuits and System I: Regular Papers (TCAS-1),Design Automation Conference (DAC). Design, Automation and Test in Europe Conference and Exhibition (DATE), International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS).

Visit Hongyu An’s personal website.