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    Research Excellence Fund Awards Announced

    by Vice President for Research Office

    The Vice President for Research Office announces the Fall 2020 REF awards. Thanks to the individual REF reviewers and the REF review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

    Research Seed Grants:

    • Sajjad Bigham, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
    • Bo Chen, Computer Science
    • Daniel Dowden, Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Ana Dyreson, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
    • Hassan Masoud, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
    • Xinyu Ye, Civil and Environmental Engineering


    ME-EM’s Bo Chen is Co-PI of New DoE Grant

    by Sponsored Programs

    Darrell Robinette (ME-EM/APSRC) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $1,348,109 research and development co-op/joint agreement from the Department of Energy.

    The project is entitled, ” Energy Optimization of Light and Heavy Duty Vehicle Cohorts of Mixed Connectivity, Automation and Propulsion System Capabilities via Meshed V2V-V2I and Expanded Data.”

    Jeff Naber (ME-EM/APSRC), Bo Chen (ME-EM/APSRC), Jung Yun Bae (ME-EM/APSRC) and Chris Morgan (PHC/APSRC) are Co-PI’s on this potential 2.3-year project. Bo Chen is a researcher with the ICC’s Cyber-Physical Systems research group.


    You’ve got #tenacity. Tell us about it.

    It has definitely been a memorable semester! You’re on the home stretch now and you will get it done. After all, you’re a Husky … and you’ve got #tenacity. Tell us about it.

    Share by email.

    1. Email computing@mtu.edu
    2. Share a few words about your Fall 2020 Husky #tenacity
    3. Send us a photograph (or two)
    4. We’ll publish your #tenacity on our website and social media channels

    Fill out a Goole form.

    https://forms.gle/GLgUQHtCP69HkLfm8


    MTRI Research Scientist Joel LeBlanc to Present Lecture Dec. 4, 3 pm

    Senior Research Scientist Joel LeBlanc of Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) will present his lecture, “Testing the Validity of Physical (Software) Models in Inverse Problems,” on Friday, December 4, 2020, at 3:00 p.m. via online meeting.

    The lecture is presented by the Michigan Tech Department of Computer Science.

    Lecturer Bio

    LeBlanc has a Ph.D. in Statistical Signal Processing. His areas of expertise include statistical signal processing, applied nonconvex optimization, EO/IR imaging, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging. His research interests are in information theoretic approaches to inverse-imaging, computational techniques for solving large inverse problems, and fundamental limits of sensing.

    Lecture Abstract

    Numerical simulations are the modern analog of the “physical system” referenced by Rosenblueth and Wiener in their 1945 paper “The Role of Models in Science.” This talk will introduce the inverse-problem approach for making inferences about the physical world and discuss how the Maximum Likelihood (ML) principle leads to both performant estimators and algorithm agnostic bounds on performance. The resulting estimators and associated bounds are only valid when global convergence is achieved, so I will present new results on global convergence testing that I believe are widely applicable. Finally, I will discuss some of my ongoing research interests: optimal resource allocation and testing for adversarial behavior through model relaxation.

    Michigan Tech Research Institute focuses on technology development and research to sense and understand natural and human-made environments. Through innovation, education, and collaboration, the Institute supports meaningful solutions to critical global issues, from infrastructure to invasive species, national security to public health.


    Briana Bettin, Part II: Research, Mentors, Creative Energy

    Briana Bettin, front, far right, with fall 2019 Computer Science dept. teaching assistants

    Michigan Tech 2020 Ph.D. graduate Briana Bettin, Computer Science, is among six new faculty members the College of Computing welcomed this fall. Bettin is an assistant professor for the Department of Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

    This semester, she is teaching courses including CS1121 Introduction to Programming in C/C++, and pursuing research and other projects with faculty and students.

    In this, Part II of this profile of Briana Bettin, Bettin and her faculty mentors talk research, education, and novel ideas.

    Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, published Oct. 28, 2020, here.

    Mental models, constructing knowledge, programming analogies.

    Briana Bettin’s research interests are many. They include user experience, human factors, human-computer interactions, mental models, information representation, rural digital literacy, education, engagement, retention, and digital anthropology. Her Ph.D. dissertation aims to better understand how novice programmers approach learning programming, and how their construction of programming ideas might be better facilitated.

    “I delve into mental models research and explore theories for how students might construct knowledge,” she explains. “Specifically, the major studies in my dissertation explore how prior applicable knowledge might allow for transfer to programming concepts, which can feel very novel to students who have never programmed before.”

    Bettin is also exploring methods for designing programming analogies, testing their application in the classroom, and observing how their use may impact student understanding of specific topics. “I take a very user experience-oriented approach, and work to apply methods and ideas from user-experience research in the CS classroom space,” she says.

    Creative energy, insight, and humanity.

    With Computer Science department faculty members Associate Professor Charles Wallace and Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Bettin has worked on projects studying how novice programmers communicate. She and Ureel also worked on several ideas in the introductory CS classrooms, including exploring pair programming obstacles in the classroom and in research.

    “I got to know Dr. Wallace during my Ph.D., and I love getting his perspective on research ideas,” Bettin says. “He has so many interesting ideas, and he’s so fun to talk to!”

    “Briana brings loads of creative energy, insight, and humanity to everything she does,” says Wallace. “We are very fortunate to have her with us.”

    Passionate about Computing Education.

    Other research collaborators include Lecturer Nathan Manser, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, and Senior Lecturer Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Engineering Fundamentals, College of Engineering, with whom Bettin has explored topics in technology acceptance across engineering and computer science.

    “Briana has been an enthusiastic addition to our research group,” Jarvie-Eggart says, who is working with Steelman and Wallace on improving engineering students’ acceptance of programming. “She really is amazing!”

    Jarvie-Eggart sat in on Bettin’s Intro to Programming class in fall 2019, and noted that Bettin’s. approach of teaching algorithmic thinking and logic—before students begin programming—helps make programming more accessible to all.

    “It builds foundational knowledge from the ground up,” she says. “Our research team is very excited about using her progressive CS education approaches to teach engineers programming.”

    Stefka Hristova, in Michigan Tech Humanities, has always been supportive, helping me cultivate an interdisciplinary research vision and voice,” Bettin says. “Dr. Robert Pastel has also been so valuable in helping me approach my research with strong design. He has given me a lot of insight and I am so appreciative!”

    “Briana is passionate about Computing Education, and she is invested in infusing equity and diversity into the STEM field,” Hristova says.


    In Part III of this article, to be published soon, Briana Bettin talks about peer mentors and friends … and they say a few words, too.


    Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, here.


    Sangyoon Han to Present Chemistry Seminar this Friday, Nov. 13, at 3 pm

    A Chemistry Seminar will be presented Friday, September 13, 2020, at 3:00 p.m., via online meeting.

    Dr. Sangyoon Han will present his lecture, “Toward Discovery of the Initial Stiffness-Sensing Mechanism by Adherent Cells.” Han is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering, an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, and advisor for the Korean Student Association. Han is a member of the ICC’s Center for Data Science.

    Lecture Abstract

    The stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) determines nearly every aspect of cellular/tissue development and contributes to metastasis of cancer. Adherent cells’ stiffness-sensing of the ECM triggers intracellular signaling that can affect proliferation, differentiation, and migration of the cells. However, biomechanical and molecular mechanisms behind this stiffness sensing have been largely unclear. One critical early event during the stiff-sensing is believed to be a force transmission through integrin-based adhesions, changing the molecular conformation of the molecules comprising the adhesions that link the ECM to the cytoskeleton. To understand this force transmission, my lab develops experimental and computational techniques, which include soft-gel-based substrates, live-cell imaging, computer-vision-based analysis, and inverse mechanics, etc. In this talk, I will talk about how we use soft-gel to quantify the spatial distribution of mechanical force transmitted by a cell, how we use light microscopy and computer vision to analyze the focal adhesions, and how these techniques are related to stiffness sensing. In particular, I will show you new data where cells can transmit different levels of traction forces in response to varying stiffness, even when the activity of the major motor protein, myosin, is inhibited. At the end of the talk, potential molecules responsible for the differential transmission will be discussed. 

    Researcher Bio

    Sangyoon Han received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) in 2012 and did postdoctoral training with Dr. Gaudenz Danuser in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for five years until 2017. Before the Ph.D., he received B.S and M.S. degree from Mechanical Engineering at Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea in 2002 and 2004.

    He joined Michigan Tech, Biomedical Engineering from fall 2017, and started Mechanobiology Laboratory. His lab’s interests are in understanding the dynamic nature of force modulation occurring across cell adhesions and cytoskeleton that regulate cells’ environmental sensing. His lab develops a minimally-perturbing experimental approach and computational techniques, including soft-gel fabrication, nano-mechanical tools, live-cell microscopy, and image data modeling, to capture the coupling between force modulation and cellular molecular dynamics.


    Accessible Computing Expert Dr. Richard Ladner to Present Keynote November 13

    The ICC’s Center for Human-Centered Computing invites Michigan Tech faculty, staff, students, and alumni to a keynote lecture by leading accessible design expert and research scientist Dr. Richard E. Ladner on Friday, November 13, 2020, at 1:00 p.m., via online meeting.

    His talk, “Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education,” is the final event of HCC’s Husky Research Celebration, a showcase of interdisciplinary HCC research through a series of virtual lab tours, virtual mini talks, and lectures presented in a 360-degree virtual space. More details here.

    Ladner is a Professor Emeritus in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, where he has been on the faculty since 1971.

    His current research is in the area of accessible computing, a subarea of human-computer interaction (HCI). Much of his current research focuses on accessible educational technology.

    Ladner is principal investigator of the NSF-funded AccessComputing Alliance, which works to increase participation of students with disabilities in computing fields. He is also a PI of the NSF-funded AccessCSforAll, which is focused on preparing teachers of blind, deaf, and learning disabled children to teach their students computer science.

    Lecture Title: Accessible K-12 Computer Science Education

    Lecture Abstract: For the past twelve years there has been rapid growth in the teaching of computer science in K-12 with a particular focus on broadening the participation of students from underrepresented groups in computing including students with disabilities. Popular tools such as Scratch, ScratchJr, and many other block-based programming environments have brought programming concepts to millions of children around the world. Code.org’s Hour of Code has hundreds of activities with almost half using block-based environments. New computer science curricula such as Exploring Computer Science and Computer Science Principles have been implemented using inaccessible tools. In the meantime the United States has about 8 million school children with recognized disabilities which is about 16% of the K-12 student population. It is generally not the case that these students are adequately served by the current K-12 computer science education or any of the block-based programming environments.

    In particular, the approximately 30,000 blind and visually impaired children are left out because only a few educational tools are screen reader accessible. In this talk we address this problem by describing two programming environments that are accessible: the Quorum Language and Blocks4All. The Quorum Language, created by Andreas Stefik, is a text-based programming language whose syntax and semantics have been created to be as usable as possible using randomized controlled trials. The language is not at all intimidating to children. For younger children, Lauren Milne created Blocks4All a block-based programming environment that can be used by anyone including children who are blind or visually impaired. Blocks4All uses a touchscreen platform similar to ScratchJr and takes advantage of the fact the blind children already know how to use touchscreen devices using their built-in screen readers. The challenge for the future of K-12 computer science is to be more inclusive to all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and disability status.

    Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences 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 creates and supports an arena in which faculty and students work collaboratively across organizational boundaries in an environment that mirrors contemporary technological innovation. The ICC’s 55 members represent more than 20 academic disciplines at Michigan Tech.

    The Center for Human-Centered Computing (HCC) focuses on the research and development of novel interfaces for human-agent interaction, assistive technologies, intelligent health, computational modeling, and examining trust and decision making in distributed systems.

    The Center is directed by Associate Professor Elizabeth Veinott, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a cognitive psychologist who focuses on two main areas of research: decision making and learning using serious video games.


    HCC Research Expo 2020

    An Immersive Exploration of Research Across Campus

    The ICC’s Human-Centered Computing group (HCC) will host its 3rd annual HCC Research Expo, November 12-13, 2020, in conjunction with World Usability Day 2020.

    VR-Huskies, an exciting virtual social platform that leverages 360-degree panorama technology, is the venue for the 48-hour event. Projects, brief research talks, and lab tours will be available on demand for attendees to browse at leisure. The immersive experience will be available from Thurs., Nov. 12, at 9:00 a.m. too Fri., Nov. 13, at midnight.


    The HCC Expo concludes with a keynote lecture from leading accessible computing and design researcher Dr. Richard E. Ladner on Friday, November 13, at 1:00 p.m., via online meeting. Read more about Dr. Ladner here.

    The aim of the annual HCC Expo is to showcase the interdisciplinary HCC research happening across campus, and to provide a a forum for Michigan Tech students to explore HCC research opportunities, tour labs, and engage in virtual discussions.

    The Human-Centered Computing research group investigates a wide range of 21st century human-centered computing challenges, engaging faculty from computer science, psychology, engineering, and other Michigan Tech departments.

    About VR-Huskies

    VR-Huskies Virtual Social Space

    VR-Huskies is an active research project led by new faculty member, Assistant Professor Ricardo Eiris, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and sponsored by the College of Engineering. It is a custom implementation of Mozilla Hubs®, an open-source platform which creates custom dynamic representations of information.

    Participants can enter the VR-Huskies site with minimal effort, interacting with up to 25 others as they explore the latest research developments in human centered computing at Michigan Tech. Registration is not required. VR Huskies is accessible on any device, including head-mounted displays, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.

    Eiris says that the goal of VR-Huskies is to deliver in-depth learning in a multitude of contexts, such as field trips, outreach events, and entrepreneurial activities, while engaging students in opportunities to apply critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

    Expected outcomes of the project include the implementation of a virtual learning environment in which Michigan Tech students can socially interact with STEM experiences and visit remote locations that are typically impossible to reach.

    Ricardo Eiris received his Ph.D. in Design, Construction, and Planning from the University of Florida in August 2020. He is an educator and a researcher exploring the dynamics and implications of human-technology interactions within construction and engineering.


    Founded in 2015, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of computing education, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems.

    The Center for Human-Centered Computing (HCC) focuses on the research and development of novel interfaces for human-agent interaction, assistive technologies, intelligent health, computational modeling, and examining trust and decision making in distributed systems.

    The Center is directed by Associate Professor Elizabeth Veinott, Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a cognitive psychologist who focuses on research in decision making and learning using serious video games.


    Junqiao Qiu to Present Lecture November 6

    Assistant Professor Junqiao Qiu, Computer Science, will present his lecture, “Speculative Parallelization for FSM-centric Computations,” this Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, at 3:00 p.m., via online meeting.

    Lecture Abstract

    As a fundamental computation model, finite-state machine (FSM) has been used in a wide range of data-intensive applications, including malware detection, bioinformatics, semi-structured data analytics, natural language processing and even machine learning. However, FSM execution is known to be “embarrassingly sequential” due to the state dependences among transitions. Current studies find that speculation is a promising solution to address the inherent dependencies in FSM computations and thus enables scalable FSM parallelization.
    This talk will firstly introduce the fundamental scalability bottleneck in the current FSM parallelization, and then an aggressive speculation, a generalized speculation model that allows a speculated state to be validated against the result from another speculation, is proposed to address the scalability limitations. Finally, this talk will discuss the possibility to enlarge the applicability of the proposed approach and go beyond the FSM-based computations.

    Juneiao Qiu is a member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems’ (ICC) Center for Scalable Architectures and Systems (SAS).


    Leo Ureel Receives 2020 CTL Instructional Award

    by Michael R. Meyer, Director, William G. Jackson CTL

    Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, is among the Deans’ Teaching Showcase members who have been selected to receive 2020 CTL instructional Awards.

    The awardees will make presentations next spring semester to share the work that led to their nomination.

    When their presentation concludes, each will be formally recognized with a certificate and $750 in additional compensation .

    Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 — Curriculum Development: Katrina Black, Senior Lecturer in Physics

    Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 — Innovative or Out of Class Teaching: Libby Meyer, Lecturer in Visual and Performing Arts and Leo Ureel, Assistant Professor in Computer Science

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021 — Large Class Teaching: Kette Thomas, Associate Professor of Diverse Literature in Humanities

    These events will take place from 3:30-4:30 on the dates listed. Detailed titles, topics, and registration links for each presentation will be circulated in anticipation of each event.

    Many thanks to the previous CTL instructional award recipients and the Provost’s office staff who were instrumental in the selection process.

    Please consider suggesting instructors whom you’ve seen make exceptional contributions in Curriculum Development, Assessment, Innovative or Out-of-Class teaching or Large Class Teaching to the appropriate chair or dean so that they can be considered for the upcoming (2021) Deans’ Teaching Showcase during spring semester.