Livesay Named MTU’s Next Computing Dean

Dennis Livesay will become dean of Michigan Technological University’s College of Computing on Feb. 1, 2021.

Livesay comes to Michigan Tech from Wichita State University (WSU), where he is dean of the College of Engineering and a full professor in both the Department of Chemistry and Department of Biomedical Engineering. Livesay replaces outgoing dean Adrienne Minerick.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Livesay to the University as our next dean of the College of Computing,” said Jacqueline Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “The combination of Dr. Livesay’s prior experiences and his vision for the future of the College of Computing make him ideally suited to strengthen the College going forward.” 

“Digital transformation is impacting every industry, including engineering and manufacturing,” said Livesay. “Computing, data, connectivity, and security are already the cornerstones of the modern economy. I look forward to working with everyone in the College of Computing, and across campus, to strengthen our efforts in these areas.”

Livesay noted that, while he has been happy in his role at WSU, he saw the opportunity to lead Michigan’s only college of computing as one he could not pass up. “I really see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that — given MTU’s traditional established strength in engineering — aligns perfectly with my background,” he said. 

Livesay brings more than 20 years of experience in higher education to Michigan Tech. His career began in 2000 at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he was assistant and then associate professor of chemistry. From there, he continued on to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), where he was a founding member of the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics and developed two of UNCC’s most visible research programs: the bioinformatics and computational biology doctoral program and the Charlotte Research Scholars undergraduate research program.

In 2016, Livesay joined WSU as dean of the Graduate School and associate vice president of research and technology transfer before becoming dean of the College of Engineering in January 2019. Livesay’s research expertise is in the area of protein family sequence, structure and function relationships, with a particular focus on understanding how physical and chemical properties vary with evolutionary divergence. He has spent his career working across disciplinary boundaries and intends to prioritize interdisciplinary work in his role as College of Computing dean.

“The University was fortunate to attract a very strong pool of candidates during this search and I am confident that we have hired the person who will be best able to lead the College of Computing in the coming years,” said Huntoon. “I want to thank Dr. Adrienne Minerick for her tenacity and commitment to Michigan Tech. She provided outstanding leadership for the College from the day it came into existence. Because of her efforts, the College is well positioned to grow in the future.”

Born and raised in Columbus, Indiana, Livesay was a first-generation university student. He will be joined in Houghton by his wife, Lauren, and son, Maxwell. “My family and I are rabid hockey fans,” Livesay said, “and we will be huge supporters of Michigan Tech hockey. In fact, I already have an MTU jersey that I’ve started wearing during rec league.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.


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.

Join the Zoom meeting here.

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.

Join the Zoom meeting here.

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).


GSG to Host Grant Writing Webinar Nov. 12

As a student or a researcher, a necessary component of your work is applying for a multitude of grants to obtain funding for future projects. Peter Larson, director of research development at Michigan Tech, will conduct a seminar on Grant Writing from 4 to 5  p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 via Zoom.

Larson specializes in creating effective grant and research proposals, particularly in the non-technical proposal sections that researchers often struggle with. Please send any topics or questions you wish to see discussed to gsg-prodev@mtu.edu so we can structure the seminar to better suit your needs.

Those who participate in the seminar will get a chance to enter a raffle draw. Space is not really limited but just so we know how many students to expect, be sure to register.


GSG to Host 3MT Competition Nov. 5

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, hosted by the Graduate Student Government, will take place virtually tomorrow (Nov. 5). Come join us on an eventful day where research meets fun.

Participants are judged on their communication and presentation skills, while delivering content in just three minutes with one static PowerPoint slide.

You can watch the participants’ videos online on GSG’s 3MT website starting at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

With 28 participants and 4 different heats, 8 finalists will be chosen for the final rounds. The judging panel consists of 3 different faculty/staff from different majors. The names of the finalists will be declared by Noon.

The contestants qualifying for the next round will compete against each other from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 6) in the Rozsa Center for Performing Arts.

There will be a limit of 200 patrons who can be seated in the Rozsa center to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The seating will be on a first-come-first-served basis. The event will also be streamed live on GSG’s Facebook page.

Join us in-person or virtually to enjoy the event and choose a ‘People’s Choice’ award winner. The first and second place winners will receive cash prizes of $300 and $150 respectively. Additionally, a People’s Choice (PC) award will be given to a speaker selected by the event’s audience, with a cash prize of $100. A Facebook poll and in-person voting will happen to choose this speaker.


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.


Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success

Briana Bettin, Ph.D., Computer Science: New Degree, New Position

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

Michigan Tech 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 an affiliated assistant professor for the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

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

In August 2020, Bettin successfully defended her dissertation, “The Stained Glass of Knowledge: On Understanding Novice Mental Models of Computing,” and was awarded her Ph.D. in Computer Science.

“I’m excited to begin my faculty journey at Michigan Tech and I look forward to helping our students continue to learn skills that will allow them to create the future,” Bettin says. “Michigan Tech has always been an amazing place for me—the opportunity to continue to give back to this place that has given me so much is something I’m very grateful for.”

Bettin says that she is excited about several interesting research projects already being planned, and she looks forward to helping the College advance its educational and research visibility and standing.

Bettin is a member researcher of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems’ new Center for Computing Education, which promotes research and learning activities related to computing education.


Neopets, HTML, CSS. Here’s how Briana Bettin got everything started.

Video games caught Bettin’s interest at a young age and as she grew older, she became interested in online games like Neopets, which allows the user to develop a profile using HTML.

“So, I became excited to learn about HTML and CSS in order to express myself in those online spaces,” she says. “This also got me interested in graphic design, and both of these things combined got me hooked on the idea of creating expressive virtual spaces.”

Bettin earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, with an Application Area in User Experience and Marketing, from Michigan Tech in spring 2014. Following, while working full time as a front-end web developer at a consulting firm, in summer 2016 she completed her master’s degree online. In fall 2016, Bettin began her Ph.D. studies.

The right fit.

“I wasn’t always sure if Computer Science was ‘right’ for someone like me,” Bettin reflects. “But my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Linda Ott, would encourage me by reminding me of the vast opportunities in technology. And since I became aware of the interdisciplinary area of User Experience, my interest in programming has only grown!”

“Dr. Ott is absolutely amazing,” Bettin says of Professor Linda Ott, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “I am thankful for her, and I knew that having her as my adviser would be one of the best things I could hope for. Our working styles are very complementary, and she is a great motivator and supporter. Laura Brown and Nilufer Onder have also been great mentors, offering me wonderful advice and support whenever I talk to them.”

Bettin adds that Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Computer Science, was “wonderful in helping me develop my research vision. We often bounce ideas, and he has supported my ideas and given me many opportunities to implement research ideas in the classroom. Our talks give me so much perspective and energy.”

Early teaching success, fellowships, and awards.

Bettin was a CS 1121 lab instructor from fall 2016 until fall 2019, when she became the instructor of record, teaching her first semesters as a lecturer in fall 2019 and spring 2020. That fall, she received outstanding “Average of 7 Dimensions” student evaluation scores, one of only 74 such accolades earned by faculty that semester.

But Bettin’s excellence was recognized long before, in fall 2017, when she received the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award from Michigan Tech’s Graduate Student Government.

Bettin was awarded the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship from the State of Michigan in fall 2018. She received several doctoral consortium stipends from organizations including Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), the Frontiers in Education Doctoral Symposium (FIE), and the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W).

A Google Scholar award made it possible for her to attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, which supports women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. In fall 2019, Bettin was nominated for the prestigious MAGS Teaching Award.

Part II of this article will be published soon. In the second installment we’ll learn about Briana’s teaching and research, and the faculty and peer mentors who supported her as she completed her Ph.D.


Hongyu An: Curious About the World and Exploring the Unknown

by Karen S. Johnson, Communications Director, ICC

“A scientist should be a person who is always curious about nature and the world, and who tries to explore the unknown.” –Hongyu An, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Hongyu An, Assistant Professor, ECE

Exploring science and technology is always exciting for new Assistant Professor Hongyu An, Electrical and Computer Engineering. He says he is “very pleased to have the chance to mentor the next generation and share my knowledge and experience with undergraduate and graduate students.”

Several things drew Hongyu An to Michigan Tech, including his observation that as an institution Michigan Tech cares about its employees. “The excellent professors, smart students, and the supportive environment are the main reasons I joined Michigan Tech,” he says. “As a new faculty member, I am facing a lot of new challenges. There is great support in my department (ECE) and through the ICC.”

Hongyu is a member of two Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) research centers: Human-Centered Computing and Scalable Architectures and Systems. He also sees synergies with the Center for Cyber-Physical Systems.

“It is my great pleasure and honor to be a member of the ICC,” Hongyu says. “ I can collaborate with the experts in HCC for exploring the brain and artificial intelligence, and the professors in SAS for hardware and architecture designs. Moreover, the neuromorphic chips I am working on can potentially be applied to Cyber-Physical Systems.”

Hongyu’s primary research area is hardware design for AI and neuromorphic systems. He believes that Artificial Intelligence is probably one of the most challenging research topics in science, noting that recent work in deep learning and artificial neural networks is demonstrating great progress in approaching artificial intelligence. 

“But the traditional computers under von Neumann architecture cannot keep up with the development of neural networks and deep learning,” he cautions. “My research is addressing this challenge by using a new hardware design, from device to architecture levels.”

Hongyu’s teaching interests include VLSI, Circuits, and Electromagnetics. Desribing his teaching philosophy, he notes that making complicated things simple is more challenging than making simple things complicated, and that he strives for the former. This academic year, An is teaching EE 4271 VLSI Design and mentoring ECE master’s student, Sarvani Marthi Sarvani, whose project aims to design a silicon retina through CMOS and Memristors.

Hongyu and his research team are also investigating associative memory learning, a new learning method that aims to create a neuromorphic system that can learn from its surroundings directly. 

“Associative memory is a widespread self-learning method in biological livings, which enables the nervoussystem to remember the relationship between two concurrent events,” Hongyu explains. “Through this learning method, dogs can learn the sound of bells as a sign of food; people can remember a word representing an object.”

“The significance of rebuilding associative memory at a behavioral level not only reveals a way of designing a brain-like, self-learning neuromorphic system, it is also to explore a method of comprehending the learning mechanism of a nervous system,” he adds.

And finally, beyond his work as a professor and scientist Hongyu hopes that he is “a good husband to my wife, a good father to my sons, and a good son to my parents.”

Hongyu completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech, his M.S. in electrical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and his B.S. in electrical engineering at Shenyang University of Technology.

Recent Publications

An, Hongyu, Mohammad Shah Al-Mamun, Marius K. Orlowski, Lingjia Liu, and Yang Yi. “Robust Deep Reservoir Computing through Reliable Memristor with Improved Heat Dissipation Capability. IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems (2020).

An, Hongyu, Qiyuan An, and Yang Yi. “Realizing Behavior Level Associative Memory Learning Through Three-Dimensional Memristor-Based Neuromorphic Circuits. IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence (2019).

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.


Hatti and Team Win Startup Competition

by Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Nagesh Hatti (ECE) was the lead of a startup team that took first place in a virtual entrepreneurial startup event focusing on Education, held earlier this month. The Techstars StartUp weekend was hosted virtually from São Judas University in São Paulo, Brazil. 

Hatti and team pitched “Inter-Self” a mobile-based app that focuses on the emotional health of students, combined with their interaction with fellow students, during projects and assignments. 

Hatti said the objective of their idea is to provide a feedback mechanism so instructors are aware of the overall emotional health of students, and then use that as an input to their instruction. 

Techstars Startup Weekend, in partnership with Google for Startups, is a 54-hour event created for entrepreneurs of all kinds. “It was an intense but rewarding experience,” Hatti said. “There was a lot of support and encouragement to come up with new ideas and execute on them.” 

Hatti said that many of the mentors participating in Techstars startup weekend were successful entrepreneurs who started companies at similar events.