Math / Computer Science Major Participates in REU
Melanie Harrison, a senior double-major in Mathematics and Computer Science, participated in a ten-week program this summer sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program, one of a number of prestigious REUs (or Research Experiences for Undergraduates) around the country, was called Medix and was held at DePaul University and the University of Chicago. It focused on engaging undergraduates in mathematical research related to the life sciences.
Melanie worked with students from around the country on mathematical research related to biomedical issues. The participants attended classes and research symposia at DePaul and at the University of Chicago, and they got a chance to live downtown for the summer. They also visited researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and attended workshops on graduate school opportunities.
Melanie worked with a fellow participant on a project about computer-aided diagnosis of temporal subtraction images, a problem in applied mathematics related to biomedical imaging of tissues. Their project was divided into two parts. First, they used 10 different thresholding methods to separate light and dark regions of each image. Then they used various machine learning algorithms to classify the identified regions using thresholding over a whopping 396 total classifiers.
They ended the summer by submitting two extended abstracts to the SPIE Medical Imaging conference on computer-aided diagnosis. Their papers were "Adaptive Thresholding of Chest Temporal Subtraction Images in Computer-Aided Diagnosis of Pathologic Change" and "A CAD System to Detect Pathologies in Temporal Subtraction Images of Chest Radiographs". One of the projects was more theoretical in nature, and the other was more applied and computer-focused. Interestingly, this dual focus aligns very well with Melanie's dual-major in Mathematics and Computer Science.
"I could go on forever about what I did this summer and would recommend an REU to anyone interested in grad school," Melanie said of the experience. Indeed, we hope many students will attend REUs in mathematics and computer science in the future. Melanie is now very focused on attending graduate school and pursing a Ph.D. in mathematics with a focus on abstract algebra and number theory. Participating in this REU played a large part in shaping her future goals. The Department is very proud of Melanie and her accomplishments.
CaMS Majors Present at SURE Symposium
Two students in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) at Lewis University participated in the University's Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) this summer. Betsy Langland and Michael Korzon, both of Downers Grove, presented their projects at the annual SURE Symposium on Wednesday, August 5, to a packed room.
Betsy, a senior Mathematics major, presented a project entitled "Determining the Success of a Mathematics Major". With the guidance of Dr. Amanda Harsy-Ramsay, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Betsy explored how data from the student records system could be used to help predict the likelihood of success for a student to complete the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics degree. She investigated correlations between grades in the Calculus sequence and students' cumulative GPAs. Her analysis also explored other possible correlations in an initial attempt to identify which data might help predict success or failure in the major. By exploring the data further, Betsy and Dr. Harsy hope to identify ways to boost student performance. For example, they plan to identify the relationships not just between final course grades and cumulative GPA in the major, but also whether success or failure in certain units of a course might correlate with overall performance in the degree program. Their techniques, which apply the tools of Data Science to problems in academic support, could benefit every degree program on campus.
Michael, a senior Computer Science major who also works at Argonne National Lab, addressed the problem of data overload in cyber security operations. Intrusion detection systems, networking appliances, and operating systems monitor network and computer traffic constantly, and they collect an immense amount of data in the process. This data has to be stored somewhere, but it is difficult to do so because it takes up so much space. Yet, for digital forensics purposes and legal reasons, the data has to be stored without loss, preferably for a period of time long enough to enable investigation of an incident several weeks or even months after it occurred. Michael worked with Dr. Ray Klump, Professor and Chair of CaMS, and Elie Shmayel, a Computer Science alumnus and currently a student in Lewis' Master of Science in Information Security program. The team explored ways to compress data from packet capture systems and log files that took advantage of the special data formats of these systems to compress cyber security data better than what standard compression algorithms can accomplish. Their efforts yielded custom compression strategies that were able to achieve, in some cases, significantly higher compression ratios on cyber security data than what standard algorithms give.
Involving undergraduates in scientific research is a top priority for all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs at Lewis. The STEM departments - Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, and Physics - take a learn-by-doing approach, and they emphasize empiricism in their courses. Students are encouraged and challenged to experiment, to uncover their own insights into the material, to master concepts by seeing them in action. In CaMS, students will learn a mathematical concept, such as differentiation, by studying rates of change in a computer simulation, or by estimating it from real data. They will learn computer science often by trying out an example such as those presented on CS Unplugged before trying to code it themselves, so that they understand thoroughly how a particular technique works, which helps them understand its strengths and limitations. Of course, anyone studying cyber security through Computer Science knows that hackers are just tinkerers, and that trial-and-error is simply the best way to learn.
CaMS is very proud of the work Betsy and Michael did this summer. We are even more pleased to play a big role in bringing outstanding research-based learning opportunities to our students. Undergraduate research is an essential component of modern science education, and it is a big part of what we're doing in the STEM fields at Lewis.
Computer Science Summer Camps Make a Difference
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences held two Computer Science camps during the week of July 13. The Girls Create with Technology camp gave middle-school girls an opportunity to learn Python programming and apply it immediately to customizing Minecraft and controlling their own robots. The Computer Programming and Security camp gave students in grades 7 through 12 a crash-course in developing computer applications in Python. Both camps took place in the Department's computer labs.
The Girls Create with Technology camp was the culminating event of a year-long program designed to get girls interested in computer technology. The program is part of a significant effort the Department has pursued to increase the number of women in the field. Currently, only 12% of computer scientists are female. There is no good reason for this gender imbalance, and the Department is trying to demonstrate to young women that this is a fun, creative, opportunity-packed field that has much to offer them. The program was funded through a generous donation from Caterpillar and was led by Dr. Cindy Howard, Associate Professor of Computer Science. During the camp, the students wrote Python programs on a Raspberry Pi to create Minecraft mods. They built circuits using LittleBits music and motion sets. They learned how motors and LEDs work and how they can be controlled using computers, and then they saw that technology at work as they flew drones around the Science Building. Their final project was to build a robot out of craft materials. Using a Raspberry Pi, the Python programming language, and Hummingbird Robotics Kits, the girls were able to create animated robots that responded to sound, touch, light, and changes in distance. The girls also listened to an inspiring presentation about tech entrepreneurship by Dr. Dana Dominiak, who encouraged them to pursue their ideas tenaciously and with meaningful goals in mind. Dr. Howard was assisted by Dr. Ray Klump and students Francisco Cano, Jordan Elmer, and Grecia Equihua. You can see videos of the campers' work at the Girls Create with Technology website.
Dr. Ray Klump led the Computer Programming and Security Camp. Twenty-eight students in grades 7 through 12 participated in a boot camp in Python programming. Most of the students had not programmed before. They learned that writing a program amounts to expressing sets of instructions that involve sequence, selection, and repetition. They practiced with these three patterns using the graphical Scratch programming language to create a number of applications, including one in which two characters raced across the screen. Of course, professional programmers don't use Scratch; they use languages that require typing in the instructions. Python is a particularly popular, powerful, and yet relative easy-to-learn professional computing language. The students used Python to recreate the programs they had written in Scratch. They also learned more advanced concepts, such as how to manipulate lists and strings. Learning these advanced topics prepared them to write their own programs for encrypting data using the Caesar and substitution ciphers. Along the way, the campers discussed current topics in cyber security, including how websites are compromised, how viruses work, the differences between hashes and encryption, how bitcoin is mined, and why online privacy and national security often conflict with each other. You can download a very rough copy of the notes that includes source code to many of the programs we wrote during the camp.
Efforts like these play a critical role in introducing children to one of today's most important and influential areas of study. The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at Lewis is committed to helping young people take advantage of the outstanding and significant opportunities in the field.
Dr. Ray Klump, Chair of the Computer and Mathematical Sciences Department, and Michael Korzon, a Junior in Computer Science from Downers Grove, gave a presentation to cyber security personnel at Argonne National Laboratory entitled "Secure, Practical, and Efficient Data Handling for Cyber Operations". The presentation shared research done within the Computer and Mathematical Sciences department by faculty and students to address the challenges of managing, interpreting, and securing the tremendous amount of data collected by information security teams daily.
Klump and Korzon, who were joined in this research by senior Computer Science student Steven Day of Minooka and Computer Science alumnus and graduate student Eli Shmayel of Downers Grove, presented three topics. The first dealt with the compression of data logs and packat capture data. As part of a project funded through Lewis' Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), the team has developed techniques for optimizing off-the-shelf data compression tools by pre-processing system logs and packet capture data to increase how well they can be compressed. A place like Argonne collects over 200 TB of intrusion detection data in just three weeks. A more efficient way to store the data by compressing it could help them store much more, which would then help them investigate and respond to recent events more quickly. Klump, Korzon, and Shmayel have gotten good results so far. They have been able to compress such data to a greater degree than is possible using a generic approach.
How to interpret the vast quantity of cyber security data is another challenge. Klump presented work he and Steven Day did to help draw attention to areas of concern in geographically distributed computer networks, such as what would be found supporting a critical infrastructure like the power grid. Using a color contour map similar to what you see on a television weather forecast, the visualization tool they have developed is able to show the movement of a cyber security threat throughout a system, providing an effective visual indication of where the areas of concern lie. Guided by this depiction, cyber security staff can pinpoint problems and focus their attention accordingly.
Finally, Klump presented work he is doing with a company called IONU on file-based encryption. Data theft is an everyday occurrence, and it is due both to the porousness of computer protections and the persistent failure to encrypt the data where it rests. The second problem should be easier to fix than the first, but, in practice, it isn't, because encryption is hard. It is inconvenient for people to encrypt data. Klump is currently conducting a technical assessment of technology created by IONU to make the encryption process far more transparent. Rather than having the users think about where and how to encrypt the data, the system applies the needed protections automatically and invisibly without the users having to think about them. Ubiquitous, convenient, trustworthy encryption could solve a lot of cyber security woes, so this research could have a big impact.
The threats to cyber security evolve constantly. Mitigating the threat requires an expert's understanding of how computer systems function. That's the kind of in-depth understanding a Computer Science education gives students, which is why so many students today are wisely choosing to pursue the degree. At Lewis, undergraduate Computer Science students work with professors to learn cyber security not only in the classroom, but on cutting-edge research projects like these. Students Michael Korzon, Eli Shmayel, and Steven Day are great examples. They have done timely, rigorous work helping address the practical challenges facing today's cyber operations teams.
Computer Science Student Develops an Aviation Safety Device
Computer Science major Brandon White has designed and built a system for helping prevent a type of aviation incident called runway incursion. Runway incursion occurs when an airplane wants to take off but another airplane is in the process of landing. This is a big problem, particularly at small regional airports where radar systems and control towers are not available. The device that Brandon has developed could provide an affordable and reliable means for small airports to reduce the number of runway incursions. Approximately one runway incursion occurs each day in North America.
The project was initiated by Dr. Stanley Harriman and Dr. Randy DeMik, professors in Lewis' Department of Aviation, and Mark Wolfrum, a graduate student in Aviation. Dr. Klump, Chair of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, also served as an investigator on the project, which was funded by Lewis' Doherty Center. Mark and Brandon did the bulk of the work, with Mark serving as project manager and providing aviation industry experience and Brandon providing the bulk of the technical expertise.
Initial test runs, which were conducted on June 30, provided encouraging results. The device needs to be tested and adjusted further to account for a variety of environmental conditions and landing approaches. So far, the project suggests that Brandon's design might help address the critical problem of runway incursion. He and Mark deserve a lot of credit for advancing this important interdisciplinary project.
Girls 4 Science Camp Explores Computer Science
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences teamed up with Girls 4 Science to present a four-day camp on Computer Science for girls in middle school. The camp was funded by Ingredion.
The purpose of the camp was to introduce girls to the exciting and fast-changing field of Computer Science in a memorable way that would inspire them to want to learn more. To that end, Dr. Cindy Howard designed the camp with the goal of teaching the students the fundamentals of computer programming by having them use the code they wrote to animate robots they created. Dr. Howard first taught the girls how to write programs in Scratch, a graphical programming language. Scratch is the basis of another programming language, Snap, which is used with Hummingbird Kits to get robots to move. Each kit comes with a microcontroller, motors, and sensors to enable a robot to respond to sound, touch, and light by moving in whatever way the builder wants.
Of course, it wasn't all programming for these girls. Armed with their new knowledge of programming and their boundless creativity, the girls formed teams and created their own robots out of cardboard, construction paper, felt, feathers, styrofoam, and various other arts-and-crafts supplies. They were helped by Dr. Howard, Dr. Klump, and several student helpers from Computer and Mathematical Sciences, including Francisco Cano, Alison Cross, Grecia Equihua, and Anthony Kurt. The results were truly impressive, as you can see from the videos posted here.
It was a great week for the camp participants as well as for the faculty and student helpers. It was wonderful to have a chance to share our love for this most exciting field with some really enthusiastic, creative, inquisitive, and intelligent girls. Hopefully they'll remember this for a long time to come and realize that there are a lot of great opportunities for them in Computer Science.
Dr. Berger Wins Seiler Award
Dr. Steve Berger, who has been teaching Math and Computer Science at Lewis since 1980, won the University's most prestigious award, the Br. Louis Seiler Ministry of Teaching Award, for 2015. The award, which is given every three years, recognizes a faculty member who has exhibited an unparalleled commitment to students' learning and well-being. For over thirty years, Dr. Berger has helped prepare both mathematicians and computer scientists for fulfilling careers. He is a man of tremendous patience who genuine loves to work with students and help them understand and enjoy difficult material. Dr. Berger has an engaging and entertaining sense of humor that helps students stay engaged in each class. Dr. Berger also maintains the labs for the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, and his commitment to excellence in that role helps the department's classes carry on without a hitch. The Department is extremely proud of Dr. Steve Berger and is blessed to have him serve its students.
Students Inducted Into Math Honors Society
Kappa Mu Epsilon, or KME, is a mathematics honors society. Lewis University inducted 13 people into its chapter of KME. The thirteen inductees are Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park; Dr. Amanda Harsy-Ramsay; Lisa Janes of Mokena; Meghan Nichol of Carol Stream; Sarah Parker of New Lenox; Chris Pelech of New Lenox; Jeremy Rech of St. John, Indiana; Brandon Schabell of Hoffman Estates; Michael D. Smith of Joliet; Michael R. Smith of Crest Hill; Penelope Strid of Lemont; Zachary Widel of Chicago; and Nicole Yuede of St. Charles, Missouri. Congratulations to our newest KME members.
Computer Science and Christian Brothers Services Team Up
Computer Science education works best when it provides students real-world opportunities to learn skills and acquire knowledge in the field. This semester, we were particularly fortunate to have Christian Brothers Services sponsor two projects for our students. One of the projects gave students the opportunity to begin a rather sophisticated piece of software, and the other had students plan a virtual desktop installation for a local school. Having these two projects sponsored by a local company helped us expose a variety of Computer Science students to the kind of work they will encounter once they graduate. Computer Science is a broad field, with some focusing on writing software, others creating network and cyber security solutions for organizations, and others doing a little bit of both to help implement novel solutions to today's problems. Lewis Computer Science students get a chance to do it all.
For the software development project, students in Dr. Howard's Software Engineering class created a web-based application and accompanying database to meet requirements that staff at Christian Brothers Services defined. The students divided into three groups, and each group created their own solution for meeting the requirements. Splitting into groups added somewhat of a competitive element to the effort, and it also ensured that the final presentations would inform Christian Brothers staff of the wide variety of options they had. Before splitting into groups to implement the software, the entire class worked to identify the kinds of features other similar software offered and to document the requirements in a clear and complete way so that they and the client (Christian Brothers Services) could agree what was to be produced. Surveying existing solutions and documenting requirements are common and important tasks for software engineers.
The other project, for which students calculated and priced the requirements for supporting a virtual desktop installation at a school, was led by Dr. Ray Klump and a group of students who were particularly interested in enterprise network design. The group consulted with Christian Brothers IT staff to determine how many users the new installation would serve and how much data traffic and storage needs could be expected. They then calculated and priced the number of new blade servers and bandwidth that would have to be installed, and they compared this do-it-yourself approach with the cost of leveraging a cloud service to provide the computing power and storage space. This was an excellent project for those interested in IT infrastructure issues.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is constantly seeking opportunities to work with outside firms to give students an opportunity to provide software and hardware solutions. Hands-on, project-based learning is an important component of what we do.
Stars on the Court and in the Classroom
Three members of Lewis' University Men's Volleyball team, which is ranked #1 in the country by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, are majors in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences. The three students, Andy Orf (Mathematics), James Hofmann (Math / Physics / Philosophy) and Geoff Powell (Computer Science & Graduate Information Security), received the Br. David Delahanty Award for excellence in academics and athletics. The Department is very proud of these outstanding young men.
Math Career Panel Highlights Promising Futures
The Math Club held its first annual Math Career Panel on Monday, April 20. The event had four professionals who majored in Mathematics talk about how their math backgrounds opened opportunities to them in their careers. The four panelists were Dr. Amanda Harsy, Assistant Professor of Mathematics; Dr. Erica Kwiatkowski-Egezio, Assistant Professor in the College of Education; Trina McNamara, who graduated with degrees in both Mathematics and Computer Science from Lewis and now coordinates corporate IT services at Claire's Boutique; and Adrienne Harrell, Consulting Actuary at Oliver Wyman. A recurring theme of the panelists' presentations and comments was that a mathematics background prepares you to be an exceptional problem solver, and that every organization needs those kinds of people. The panelists urged students to seek out opportunities to hone those skills and to be ready to present evidence of their problem solving acumen to would-be employers. This was a great event, and it will become an annual offering because of the great advice it gives.
Students Attend Women in Cybersecurity Conference
Thao Le of Oswego and Saradha Kanaan of Naperville attended the 2015 National Women in Cybersecurity Conference (WiCyS) in Atlanta, Georgia, March 27 and 28. The The purpose of the annual conference is to expose women to current research and applications in information security and to give female cyber security researchers an opportunity to present their work. The number of women pursuing a college degree in Computer Science is only 12%, and this shortage is certainly felt in the subfield of cyber security. Conferences like this one aim to improve these statistics.
Thao is a sophomore Computer Science major, and Saradha is pursuing her Master of Science in Information Security. Saradha presented a poster on the unique security issues facing the health care industry and how area health care providers could improve their security by sharing cyber intrusion data in real time. Both students attended a number of interesting talks and had the opportunity to survey current research in the field.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is doing a number of things to increase the participation of women in Computer Science. The Department is proud of Thao and Saradha for attending and participating in WiCyS this year and is hoping this will encourage more women to become interested in entering the field of Computer Science and its subfield of Cyber Security.
Students Attend Illinois Mathematical Association of America Meeting
Dr. Amanda Harsy-Ramsay and six Math majors attended the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Illinois chapter of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The purpose of the MAA meeting is to give students and faculty an opportunity to share their current research in mathematics. Dr. Harsy gave a presentation entitled "Oral and Mastery Based Testing in a Real Analysis Class", which explores the impact of giving frequent focused assessments on students' understanding of advanced calculus. The conference also featured a math competition, in which the Lewis students participated.
The six students who attended the MAA Conference were Michael Smith of Joliet, Shane Senyard of New Lenox, Pete Thongsri of Tinley Park, Betsy Langland of Downers Grove, Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park, and Nicole Ware of Peotone. They attended the research talks and were exposed to a number of topics they could pursue in graduate school and in their careers. Thanks to Dr. Harsy's efforts, the Mathematics program at Lewis is giving students more and more opportunity to do scholarly work, and conferences like this one help students see how exciting math research can be. Our students will be attending more research conferences in the future.
Dr. Howard Teaches Girls to Create Android Apps
Create with Technology program how to create apps for Android phones and tablets. The girls, who are currently in middle school, designed two apps: one that showed a picture of a cat that they could draw on, and another called Mole Mash, a game in which they clicked on a mole that would move at random across the screen. The girls used App Inventor, a program that enables people to write software for Android devices without having to know the Java programming language that is typically used to write Android apps.
Writing a mobile app requires an understanding of what is called event-driven programming. With event-driven programming, the developer's responsibility is to identify the kind of events to which the program has to respond, such as the user touching a button on the screen or swiping a finger across the surface of a drawing area, and then to specify what the program's response to each such event should be. Professional developers write these responses in Java for Android devices and in either Objective-C or Swift for Apple devices. However, programs like AppInventor enable new developers to specify the same kinds of behaviors without having to know a language. So, the new developer can focus on the bigger picture of how the user will interact with the app and what they will see as a result, rather than on the minutia of the language. Taking this approach proved particularly helpful for girls involved in the Girls Create with Technology program, who were able to create two really cool Android apps in the three-hour session.
The purpose of the Girls Create with Technology program is to introduce middle-school girls to the exciting field of Computer Science. Computer Science is one of the most influential and important fields in today's data-driven world, but the number of women in the field is unacceptably low. Through Girls Create with Technology, Lewis' Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is trying to change that. This year, the twenty-two participants have learned how to write Python programs, develop attractive websites in HTML and CSS, build robots, and, now, create Android apps. The program will conclude with a week-long camp this summer where these various lessons will come together in a final project. Hopefully these experiences will encourage many of the participants to become Computer Scientists when they get to college.
Four Lewis Students Win Fifty for the Future
Four Lewis students won the prestigious Fifty for the Future Award for 2015. The Fifty for the Future Award is awarded annually to fifty students in the state of Illinois who exhibit great potential for becoming leaders in the computer industry. Computer Science majors Thao Le of Oswego and Victoria Vodicka of Romeoville were joined by Michelle Campana of Shorewood and Saradha Kannan of Naperville, who are pursuing the Technical Concentration of the Master of Science in Information Security degree, as Lewis' winners of this great award.
The Fifty for the Future Award is sponsored by the Illinois Technology Foundation (ITF). The Illinois Technology Foundation is a volunteer group of IT industry professionals who devote their talents and experience to mentoring young computer scientists as they try to prepare themselves for work in industry. Lewis' Department of Mathematics and Computer Science hosted two events for the ITF last year, during which students had opportunities to learn about life and work in the IT sector and how to distinguish themselves as professionals who can bring value to an organization.
Victoria, Thao, Saradha, and Michelle are among Lewis' best and brightest women in Computer Science. One of the Department's major initiatives is to increase the number of women in Computer Science, a field in which only 12% of its new workers our female. This is regrettable statistic, and Lewis is taking steps to reverse it. For example, the Computer Science program has led a program called Girls Create with Technology for the past two years. Victoria has volunteered a lot of her time to help lead this initiative, which teaches girls in grades six through eight how to program, how to set up networks, and how to secure data. The hope is that efforts like these will help bring more outstanding women like Lewis' four Fifty for the Future awardees to this most important of fields.
The Department is Thao, Victoria, Saradha, and Michelle, winners of the 2015 Illinois Technology Foundation Fifty for the Future Award.
Three Students Attend the Infinite Possibilities Conference
Three Lewis Math and Computer Science students presented a poster at the Infinite Possibilities Conference in Portland during the week of March 2, 2015. The students - Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park, Betsy Langland of Downers Grove, and Nicole Ware of Peotone - presented their work entitled "Linear Regression and the Sum of Squares in Matlab" at the conference, which focused on innovative work done by women and minorities in the mathematical sciences. The students' attendance was funded by a scholarship they won because of their academic accomplishments.
Melanie, Betsy, and Nicole are among the Department's best and brightest. Melanie is double-majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science, Betsy in majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Computer Science, and Nicole in majoring in Mathematics. The fact that Lewis' mathematics and computer science programs are offered through the same department gives students a lot of flexibility in what they study when it comes to the two complementary fields. Some choose to take a more theoretical approach to mathematics, while others prefer to explore mathematics in terms of its application to interdisciplinary problems, which often calls for combining mathematical theory with code and algorithms created by computer scientists. Others choose to study cyber security, which depends quite directly on encryption and authentication algorithms created by algebraists. Melanie, Betsy, and Nicole have benefited from this natural mingling of the two fields at Lewis. The work they presented at the Infinite Possibilities Conferences demonstrated how the theory of linear regression could be applied to evaluate the sum of squares using the computer programming language Matlab. This is precisely the kind fo applied mathematical study mathematicians and computer scientists at Lewis can do.
Melanie, Betsy, and Nicole represented Lewis well at this important conference. The Department hopes to send more students to the conference in the years to come.
Lewis Students Do Well at ACCA Programming Competition
Congratulations and thanks to the students who represented our department at the Annual ACCA Programming Competition today. We took home 4th Place out of 12 teams in the Advanced Competition, and 3rd Place out of 13 teams in the Novice Competition.
The students wrote computer programs to solve eight problems in three hours. Many of the problems were like mathematical puzzles, so having both strong math and programming skills was a must. Our students did extremely well.
Representing Lewis in the Advanced Competition were two teams: actuallyEngishMajors, featuring Chris Pelech of Joliet, Eric Raber or Aurora, and Corey Wageman of Plainfield; and Team Turing, which included Thao Le of Oswego, Betsy Langland of Downers Grove, Michael Smith of Channahon, and Brandon White of Lemont. Representing Lewis in the Novice Competition were two additional teams: Goon Squad, featuring Pete Thongsri of Tinley Park, Steven Suggett of New Lenox, and Kyle Adams of Mokena; and New Bees, consisting of Bryon Nush of Frankfort, Michael Korzon of Downers Grove, and Jordan Elmer of Butler, Pennsylvania.
The Department is very proud of these students and their accomplishments.
Math-CompSci Hosts Girls4Science Engineering Event
Over 100 girls in grades 6 through 12 attended a Girls4Science Engineering Day on Saturday, January 24th, 2015. The event, which was planned and hosted by University Advancement and the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, gave the attendees a chance to learn about various aspects of robotics, including electric motors, electric power sources, programming, 3D printing, construction techniques, wiring, and design. The girls were divided into four groups of about 25 students. The groups rotated among four different activities, including a campus tour. Dr. Cindy Howard led an activity in which the girls learned how the basics of computer programming using Finches and a graphical programming language called Snap. Dr. Ray Klump led an activity in which the participants made their own electric motor using a battery, a wood screw, a rare earth magnet, and a strand of wire. He then showed them how they could create a light show with an LED, and how they could power the motor and LED with a solar cell. Dr. Dana Dominiak explained how 3D printers work and how they are revolutionizing the way we build things. The event concluded with a demonstration of a 3D-printed robotic hand Lewis Computer Science students made last year. Several students helped with the day, as well, including Marissa Gonzales, who served as photographer. It was a great opportunity to introduce girls to the wonderful fields of Computer Science and Engineering, and it is part of our ongoing effort to bring more women to today's most influential fields.
Math Majors Present at Nebraska Conference
Mathematics majors Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park and Elizabeth (Betsy) Langland of Downers Grove attended and presented a poster at the 2015 Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM) January 23 - 25, 2015. Their poster, entitled "Permutations in Abstract Algebra", presented their research on the union of two areas in mathematics that interest them most: probability and abstract algebra. They investigated the properties of various number groups and how to quantify the ways in which their members could be rearranged.
Melanie and Betsy found the conference very valuable, because it opened their eyes to exciting research and study opportunities in mathematics. One of the buzz words at this year's conference was Data Science, which is where mathematics and computer science meet. Lewis has a new Master of Science in Data Science that is offered both on-campus and online, which prepares professionals who can algorithmically investigate large data sources for actionable meaning. Melanie and Betsy came back from the conference excited to explore this huge growth area in Mathematics and Computer Science.
The Department is very proud of Melanie and Betsy for presenting at NCUWM. Women play an essential role in Mathematics and Computer Science, and it is wonderful that Melanie and Betsy are discovering exciting opportunities.
MS Information Security (MSIS) Students Present Capstone Projects
Computer Science Club Spreads High-Tech Holiday Cheer
The Computer Science Club sponsored a donation drive during December to raise money to purchase Kindle Fires for needy are schoolchildren. Members of the club came up with the idea, developed a website and flyer to publicize the effort, selected and ordered the Kindles, and worked with the United Way of Will County to distribute them to area non-profit agencies that serve kids. The club raised over $800 and purchased seven Kindle devices and cushioned cases. They also compiled a list of free books and educational apps for the children to use with their new devices. This is an example of the department's mission to prepare "innovative problem solvers committed to service.
Video Game Seminar Series Concludes with Visit from NetherRealm
Tom Sakkos, Software Engineer at NetherRealm Studios in Chicago, gave a presentation to faculty and students on Wednesday, November 19. Tom's presentation was the final talk of a 9-week series entitled "The Video Game Industry" that Lewis hosted on behalf of the Computer Science division of the Associated Colleges of the Chicagoland Area (ACCA). A number of video game industry professionals, including Lewis' very own Dr. Dana Dominiak, presented talks on various aspects of working in the video game industry. Students learned about the creative process, how games are programmed and engineered, tricks of the trade when it comes to getting the best performance out of the system, the infrastructure pieces that are needed to support the making of video games, how games are published and marketed, and how there is room for both huge game developers and smaller development shops in this diverse game marketplace. One of the most important talks this semester was given by Philosophy professor Dr. Tracey Nicholls, who discussed the dark misogynistic tendency of some parts of game culture and what gamers' responsibilities are to combat it. Other guest speakers included Mark Flitman, who has been a producer on a number of high-profile game projects over a 30-year career, and Pat Simmons, an accomplished and veteran game developer at Webfoot Technologies.
In concluding the series, Mr. Sakkos surely whet the appetite of the students to continue building their video game development chops. He described the excellent work environment he enjoys at NetherRealm. He described his experiences developing the engine behind games like Mortal Kombat and Injustice. He also brought some cool swag for the students to take home. It was a great way to end an outstanding seminar series.
Lewis University offers a highly regarded and well-connected Computer Science program that includes a concentration in Video Game and Simulation Development. With courses like Video Game Programming I & II, Artificial Intelligence, and Computer Graphics, and with internship opportunities available at area gaming companies, Lewis is a great place to study video game and simulation development. Having a faculty member in Dr. Dominiak who runs her own game studio - Webfoot - doesn't hurt either!
Student Wins Award for Cyber Security Research
Steven Day, a junior in Computer Science pursuing the Cyber Security Operations concentration, was awarded Second Place recently for his poster presentation at the Consortium for Computing Sciences in College Midwest 2014 Conference. The title of Steven's research is "SISERTA: System for Information Security Education and Real-Time Awareness". Its goal is to provide intuitive visual cues to cyber security operations professionals about which areas of their IT infrastructure are currently vulnerable to cyber attack. By displaying threat levels using color contour plots, Steven is able to show cyber operations staff the areas of the network that pose the highest threat to the security of the entire enterprise. Steven's approach might be particularly valuable to large, geographically expansive networks, such as that of the power grid or a water distribution system. Critical infrastructures like utility systems are particularly important to secure, so having clear indicators of impending threats to such systems is very important. Steven started this work as part of Lewis's STEM Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, for which he worked with Dr. Ray Klump. You can read more about Steven's work here. Congratulations to Steven Day for his great research.
Math Club Has Halloween Party
The Math Club held its Halloween party on Monday, October 27. Students and their faculty mentor, Dr. Amanda Harsy, dressed up in costume and ate candy and popcorn as they watched the classic horror thriller The Shining. They also had a competition for best individual and group costumes. The Math Club has been very active under Dr. Harsy, who is a first-year faculty member in the Department. For example, last month, the group learned about the mathematics of poker and other games of chance. Attendance at math club meetings has been outstanding this year, with twenty to thirty students attending each meeting. The group celebrates the richness and fun of mathematics, the field that helps all the other sciences express their ideas.
Math/CS Welcomes New Students
The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science welcomed its new majors to campus on Friday, August 22, at Lewis University's Major Mixer Event. Greeting the new Math, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering students were representatives from the Department's faculty as well as distiguished alumni from Argonne National Laboratory. Jay Johnson, Matt Kwiatkowski, and Mike Skwarek, all of whom hold executive positions in cyber security at Argonne, explained to the students the importance of what they would be studying, how our country depends on the kinds of skills and knowledge they are going to acquire, and how they have to seek out opportunities to learn as much as they can and to apply it while they are in school. The Department welcomed 62 new majors this year, which is a record. That included 44 new Computer Science Students, 11 new Math majors, and 7 students in our new Computer Engineering program. The Department is very happy that these students have chosen to study some of today's most important fields at Lewis.