Category Archives: News

Soner Onder to Give Invited Talk

Soner Onder
Soner Onder

Tech Today announced that Soner Onder (CS) is giving an invited talk titled “Program semantics meets architecture: What if we did not have branches?” at a workshop organized in honor of the 80th birthday of Yale Patt of University of Texas, Austin. Patt is a very prominent researcher with decades of accomplishments in Computer Architecture.

The workshop titled “Yale: 80 in 2019, Pushing the Envelope of Computing for the Future” scheduled to take place on July 1-2, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, is organized by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and Barcelona Supercomputing Center, and is being sponsored by Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities) of Spain, among others.

Grant Funds Virtual Keyboard Research

What if an everyday surface, like a table, could be transformed into a rich, interactive surface that can remotely operate things like computers, entertainment systems, and home appliances?

That’s what Michigan Tech Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) researchers Keith Vertanen (CS)  and Scott Kuhl (CS) set out to do with a $44,000 seed grant from Electrical and Computer Engineering alumnus Paul Williams ’61.

Vertanen and Kuhl are members of the ICC’s Center for Human-Centered Computing, which integrates art, people, design, technology and human experience in the research of multiple areas of human-centered computing. They were assisted in this research by PhD candidate Siva Krishna Kakula, and undergraduate Zachary Garavet.

The team’s research goals were threefold:

  • To create machine learning models that can precisely locate a user’s taps on a surface using only an array of inexpensive surface microphones
  • To demonstrate the feasibility and precision of the models by developing a virtual keyboard interface on an ordinary wooden table
  • To conduct user studies to validate the system’s usability and performance.

Read the full story.

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

2018-19 Songer Award Recipients. Pictured Left to Right: Abby Sutherland, Billiane Kenyon, Jeremy Bigalke, Rupsa Basu, Matthew Songer, and Laura Songer.

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students. Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine. This is the second year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. In the Spring of 2019, the Songer’s gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 22. Applications may be emailed to

The selection committee will consist of Matthew Songer, Laura Songer, Shekhar Joshi (BioSci) and Megan Frost (KIP). The committee will review undergraduate and graduate proposals separately and will seek additional comments about the proposed research on an ad-hoc basis from reviewers familiar with the topic of the research proposal. Primary review criteria will be the originality and potential impact of the proposed study, as well as its feasibility and appropriateness for Michigan Tech’s facilities.

The committee expects to announce the recipients by early May of 2019. This one-time research award will be administered by the faculty advisor of the successful student investigator. Students will be expected to secure any necessary IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds must be expended by the end of spring semester 2020; extensions will not be granted. Recipients must submit a detailed report to the selection committee, including a description of results and an accounting of finds utilized, no later than June 30, 2020.

Any questions may be directed to Megan Frost (, David Hemmer ( or Shekhar Joshi (

Crowdsourced App Gauges Flood Waters

Top of Agate St, Houghton on the day of the flood.When flood waters rise, more data helps better predict and monitor changing conditions. And soon there will be an app for that.

The system is called the Integrated Flood Stage Observation Network (IFSON) and can take crowdsourced flood data, like smartphone photos, webcams and social media posts, then use image processing to assess flood stage and potential damage. Later versions of the app will use machine learning techniques. With those risks identified, IFSON can communicate flood information to first responders in real time. The platform will be adaptable for different neighborhoods and communities.

Read the full story on

On the Road

Timothy Havens

Tim Havens (ECE/CS) presented a paper entitled, “SPFI: Shape-Preserving Choquet Fuzzy Integral for Non-Normal Fuzzy Set-Valued Evidence,” this month at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence in Rio de Janeiro. Havens also co-authored two other papers presented at the conference. WCCI is the biennial meeting of the three leading computational intelligence conferences: International Conference on Fuzzy Systems, International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, and Congress on Evolutionary Computation. Co-authors on the paper were Tony Pinar (ECE), Derek Anderson (U. Missouri) and Christian Wagner (U. Nottingham, UK). As general chair of the Int. Conf. Fuzzy Systems 2019 in New Orleans, Havens also presented a pitch for the upcoming event at the WCCI awards banquet.

Additionally, Havens presented an invited seminar, “How to Win on Trivia Night: Sensor Fusion Beyond the Weighted Average,” at MIT Lincoln Laboratory on July 16.

Undergraduate Programming Competition Win

18th Annual NMU Invitational Programming Contest Logo with 95 Students, 6 Schools, 34 TeamsComputer science undergraduate students received top honors at the 19th Annual Northern Michigan University Invitational Programming Contest held March 24, 2018. Tony Duda, Justin Evankovich, and Nicholas Muggio took first place; Michael Lay, Parker Russcher, and Marcus Stojcevich took second. Michigan Tech earned the highest program count and No. 1 ranking.


“We are proud of our students for representing Husky values of possibility and tenacity.” —Min Song, Chair, Computer Science

Webinar to Discuss Cyber-physical Security

The USDOT ITS Professional Capacity Building Program is hosting a webinar, free and open to all interested, on the topic “Transportation Cyber-physical Security: Things We Should Know,” from 1-2 p.m. May 10.

Threats to cyRoom full of computer servers going around in a curve.ber-physical systems are targeting institutions and infrastructures around the world, and the frequency and severity of attacks are on the rise. Industries considered the most lucrative targets include healthcare manufacturing, financial services, education, government and transportation. Hacking is about more than companies, organizations and banks—it also affects transportation-critical infrastructure (e.g., automotive systems and field devices).

Webinar registration and additional information can be found here.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Ruihong Zhang

Per the article in Tech Today, this week, College of Sciences and Arts Dean Bruce Seely recognizes Ruihong Zhang, lecturer in Computer Science for more than 13 years, as the newest member of the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Seely selected Zhang for her role in delivering foundational CS courses while enrollment has increased dramatically.

Asked to discuss her approach to teaching, Zhang says she finds herself balancing four pairs of ideas: her teaching goals vs. student learning goals; what she wants to teach vs. what students want to learn; her teaching style vs. student learning styles; and self-evaluation of teaching vs. student evaluations.

Zhang recently offered three foundational courses for CS majors: Data Structures, Databases and Introduction to Programming. None are easy. With its focus on different algorithms for structuring data, for example, Data Structures challenges students.

“During class, I constantly ask motivational questions, encouraging students to have short discussions with each other before presenting answers,” Zhang says.

The goal is to promote student engagement. Databases are equally essential, but this class is more practical and requires attention to detail. She relies upon lab sessions, not lectures, to “help students troubleshoot problems. They like these sessions and feel they learn a lot in one class period.”

Growing enrollment and larger class sections over the past three years have created serious teaching challenges, but Zhang has adapted in several ways. First, she begins the semester by asking students to introduce themselves and find a team partner. This enhances small-group work and short discussions. In each session, “I ask three to five interesting, but not too difficult, questions for students to approach as a team.”

After a few minutes, depending upon the problem, “I go over the answers or ask for responses from the teams. Many students actively participate and feel no pressure about giving wrong answers in front of the class.”

Zhang also has cut back on detailed PowerPoints, asking students to take their own notes. “Research shows that writing notes with paper and pencils helps people to retain knowledge.” Coincidentally, students must set aside electronic distractions to follow the discussion.

Because studeRuihong Zhangnts will not always ask questions in large classes, Zhang holds extra office hours and evening study sessions led by herself, student mentors or teaching assistants. “This semester we offered four weekly study sessions for Data Structures, led by mentors from the Computer Science Department’s new Student Academic Mentor (SAMs) program.”

Finally, Zhang is aware that different students have different skills and learning approaches and considers these when designing homework problems. “The problems have different levels of difficulty. I strive to use real life problems whenever it is appropriate. I often include challenging problems with extra points for students willing to study and work more after class.”

In summary, Seely indicates “This is the picture of a committed teacher constantly adjusting to changing conditions in her classes. The idea of balancing the potentially competing factors she identifies seems to be serving Ruihong’s students well.”

Zhang will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer, recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.