At the College of Arts and Sciences Senior Honors Convocation on April 19, several CaMS students were recognized for their academic achievements. The following CaMS students are graduating with Bachelor's degrees in Mathematics, Computer Science, or both in Spring 2016 with a GPA of at least 3.5.
Here are this year's honorees:
One student in each degree program won the Senior Departmental Award. This year, Melanie Harrison won the Senior Departmental Award for Mathematics, and Jessica Tennant won it for Computer Science.
Congratulations and best wishes to these outstanding students.
Several students from the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences presented at Lewis University's 5th Annual Celebration of Scholarship. The annual event, which gives students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to share their research as a poster or presentation, was held on April 14 across the Romeoville campus.
Students from Mathematics, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering all presented projects at the event. Dr. Harsy's students in the Mathematics Senior Seminar and Dr. Szcurek's students from his Artificial Intelligence class presented the research projects they worked on this semester in those courses, and senior Melanie Harrison presented a poster on the work she started through the REU she participated in at the University of Chicago this past summer. Other students who are pursuing a math teaching career presented their work on innovative math teaching techniques.
Computer Science students Nicholas Biegel (Dyer, IN), David Lucas Campos Faial (Brazil) and Evan Wunder (Bradley) won Second Place in the Poster Competition. Their project, entitled "Emojivision", created a tool that mapped emojis to facial features. They demonstrated the technology they created at the event. Users look into a laptop or cell phone camera, and the students' artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms analyze the user's face and match it to the most similar emoji. The students believe this could be a useful and fun feature for social media and meeting platforms, and they are going to continue working on this. Dr. Pior Szczurek, the students' teacher for Artificial Intelligence, helped guide their work.
The fields of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering help push the envelope of what we know. They drive innovation. It is wonderful to have students and faculty working together to explore pressing unanswered questions and devise innovative solutions and empowering technologies.
Five teams of Lewis students from Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, and Chemistry competed in the annual ACCA Calculus Competition. The top three Lewis teams captured 5th, 12th, and 17th place out of a field of 48 teams from 12 different schools.
Students Wyatt Blatti, Joe Van Luyk, and Abigail Linhart captured Fifth Place at the competition, and Joefrey Pumaras, Jackson Waters, and Chandler Stimpert took Twelfth. David Sanfort, Sean Smyth, Samuel Baker, Brittany Hauert, Stephen Kurek, Alyssa Malzone, Pete Thongsri, Sean Lillis, and Brendan Haas also competed. Dr. Amanda Harsa, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, organized the group and helped them prepare.
The annual exam tests students' mastery of concepts and skills from Calculus I, II, and III. Students throughout the STEM fields take these courses and regularly practice them as part of their disciplinary training. Mathematics is the language of science, for it enables scientists to describe phenomena more clearly and concisely than could be done with words alone.
It was wonderful to have so many Lewis students from several departments participate this year, and it was great that they competed so successfully. Congratulations and thank you to the students and Dr. Harsy. Now it's time to prepare for next year!
With support from the National Security Agency and ComEd, the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences held a competition for high school students called "Guardians of the Grid: A Cyber Security Challenge to Keep the Lights On" on Saturday, April 23. The event was designed to introduce students to how the electric power system (i.e. "the grid"), the threat posed to the grid by hackers and cyber terrorists, and the basics of the encryption techniques used to help protect the grid against attack. Dr. Ray Klump designed and ran the event, and Computer Science student Asher Scott helped write some of the software that powered the competition.
The event began with a brief introduction to electricity and the electric power grid. People usually don't think about how electricity gets to their homes, so it was important that the participants learn how the electrical grid carries electricity from generating stations to homes and businesses. The end of the presentation focused on what a cyber attack could do to a power system by describing a scenario in which malware installed accidentally on one of the grid's computers identifies and communicates the open ports and services running on the computers in the rest of the system. Armed with this information, an attacker could pinpoint devices that are susceptible to remote control, perhaps because they have been improperly configured or their default access passwords have not been changed. Once compromised, a targeted device will malfunction, potentially opening a transmission line, causing an overload situation in the neighboring transmission lines. If the central operator can't respond in time, maybe because the hacker has also caused a denial-of-service attack against the system that impedes communication into our out of the impacted area, more lines might switch out of service, causing additional and unwanted overloads. If left unchecked, the system will experience a blackout, which will cause lots of damage, economic loss, and all sorts of dangers to citizens. Indeed, the first known successful cyber attack against a power grid happened in the Ukraine on December 23, 2015, so this is a timely and real concern.
After learning about power systems, the participants learned and practiced several encryption techniques. The techniques they experimented with are all ones that they could do by hand with a little care. They learned and applied the Caesar, Viganere, Playfair, Keyword, Substitution, and Affine ciphers. They also learned how a login page converts the password a would-be user types to access a system into a hash value, and how, because hash values are many-to-one, with many passwords all hashing to the same value, a hacker simply has to find another piece of text that hashes to the same hash value, and they'll be given access to the website or other account that password was supposed to protect. The students also learned how easy it can be to pull of an SQL injection attack, in which the attacker tricks a database-driven website into giving away far more data than it was supposed to, including user account information. You can download the notes the students used to learn and practice these techniques.
After learning how the power grid brings electricity to our homes and businesses and how users of information systems encrypt and decrypt data, the students started the competition by dividing into teams of two. The teams were charged with the task of deciphering eight encrypted messages. Each encrypted message described a step they would perform to bring a hypothetical power system closer to a blackout. The power system was modeled in a software tool called PowerWorld Simulator, an application Dr. Klump has helped develop. As the students decrypted each message, they would perform the task described in the message to bring the power system closer to a blackout. The first team to plunge the system into darkness was the winner. Scholarships were given to the first, second and third place teams, and cash "bounties" were paid to teams for each task they were able to perform.
What was most impressive about this event was how much the students enjoyed learning about both encryption and the operation of the power grid. They saw the seriousness of the threat posed to the grid by hackers and cyber terrorists, and they also gained an appreciation for encryption, one of the central tools used to protect it. This was a valuable experience that was made possible by the generosity of ours sponsors, ComEd and the NSA. We hope to do it again next year.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences at Lewis University held its first annual Datathon this year on April 8 and 9. The 24-hour event had student teams work together to answer a set of questions based on their analysis of a number of large data sets. The teams used existing tools like Excel, Weka, and Tableau, and built some of their own in programming languages like Python to identify possible trends and answers that might exist within the given data sets. They also scoured the Internet for other data sets that could help them answer the questions.
This year's questions explored the relationships between crime and housing code violations in the city of Chicago. The students were asked to determine if, based on data, any relationships could be seen between the types and frequencies of crime and the types of housing code violations in various areas of the city. Some of the data reported crime statistics by police district, and the students would then have to associate building code violations with police districts based on geographical information.
As they explored the data and identified possible trends, students had to determine how best to express those trends. They created tables and graphs to show their conclusions clearly and concisely. Each team created and gave a presentation that used these assets to express their answers to the given questions. A panel of judges evaluated each presentation, grading the appropriateness of the teams' responses, the soundness of their approaches, whether any of their findings were surprising, and how well they were able to present their results. The top three teams were awarded cash prizes, paid for by the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences through the generosity of its donors.
Five teams competed this year.
The judges were Dr. Piotr Szczurek, Dr. Amanda Harsy, Dr. Fatih Koksal, and Dr. Ray Klump. Dr. Szczurek, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Master of Science in Data Science program, created and organized the event. Dr. Szczurek also created the innovative DataSAIL program, which aims to bring together faculty and students to analyze big data sources to answer problems like the ones the students explored during Datathon.
Big Data is a big deal. Data Science gives us the tools to collect, analyze, visualize, and interpret large volumes of data to answer questions that couldn't be addressed well by looking at isolated data sets. The Datathon event, which will be held next year, too, helps introduce students to this very exciting and in-demand field.
Five Computer Science students won Fourth Place at the Networking and System Infrastructure Competition (NSIC) at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, on April 16 and 17, 2016. The team consisted of Joe Casalino of Shorewood, Steven Day of Minooka, Bryon Nush of Frankfort, Randle Ross of Country Club Hills, and Brandon White of Lemont. The students created and maintained a heterogeneous computer network, including servers of various kinds, a wifi hot spot, and Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) services, over a two-day period, accommodating various requests for new services and counteracting attacks and problems over that time. They were the only school from the State of Illinois to compete in this national competition.
The students, most of whom are pursing the Cyber Security Operations concentration for their undergraduate degree in Computer Science, distributed the tasks according to their respective skills. Bryon focused on configuring and monitoring the Linux-based servers, including a web server and a wiki server. Brandon set up and maintained the various Cisco gear, including a Cisco access point. Joe did a great job keeping the various Windows servers up and running. Randle, Steven, and Brandon worked on the VOIP system and oversaw the overall integration of the various systems, which was made possible through network-level services such as Active Directory, DNS, and DHCP. They collaborated to set up and maintain the VMWare ESXI server that provided various of these essential services. Randle and Steven also helped lead an extra-credit challenge that required them to build a particular kind of ethernet cable, something they had learned how to do in our Advanced Communications and Networking class. They won first place on that particular challenge. It was a true team effort.
The team has trained extensively this year as part of the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) Cyber Defense Group, an extracurricular activity that gives them additional opportunity to practice what they have learned in the numerous networking and security classes offered in Computer Science. The Cyber Defense Group homepage provides numerous tutorials and resources the students have compiled and used to expand their expertise and help share their knowledge with other students. The students have also assembled a practice lab stocked mostly with donations from Computer Science alumni. The students have taken what they have learned in the classroom and expanded it through lots of practice.
The organizers of the NSIC commented, "We just wanted to extend a special thank you to your team for taking the time to come to RIT to compete in NSIC. We know it was a long drive, but we hope we made it worth it! You guys did great as you were one of the few teams to get to scenario 7 and it was a very close race in points between you and the other teams until the very end. It was a pleasure to meet you all and you represented your school well!"
This is the second cyber competition these students have participated in this year. They also did quite well at the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) in February. The numerous security and networking courses in Computer Science are challenging, hands-on opportunities to solve practical problems professionals encounter every day. The courses and the opportunities the students have to learn and apply their knowledge as a team are paying dividends. This Fourth Place finish after a 1000-mile drive attests to these students' expertise and determination. Congratulations to Joe, Steven, Bryon, Randle, and Brandon.
Computer Science majors Krystal (Thao) Le of Oswego and Jenna Rolowicz of Darien attended the 2016 Women in Cyber Security (WiCYS) Conference, which was held March 31 - April 2 in Dallas, TX. The annual event brings together women from across the country who are interested in cyber security to share their research and explore opportunities for advanced study. Participants come from academia, government, and industry and represent the many diverse fields within cyber security. You can read more about the conference here.
Krystal (Thao) Le presented her project, entitled "Securing DNS Servers Against Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks", at the poster session. This is the second year Thao has presented at the conference. This year, she performed her project under the guidance of Dr. Jason Perry, Assistant Professor of Computer Science. Denial-of-service (DOS) attacks against DNS servers are particular pernicious, because DNS, which maps domain names such as google.com to ip addresses and vice-versa, must be available for users to access online resources. Thao's work explored the nature of the DOS threat to DNS availability and how to reduce it.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is proud of Krystal and Jenna for attending WiCYS 2016. The Department encourages its students to attend conferences like these. Thanks to the generous contributions of its Advisory Board and alumni, the Department has been able to send students to several conferences over the past year. These sorts of activities deepen students' interest in their field and expose them to the inspiring culture of innovation that typifies Computer Science.
On March 30, 2016, the Math Club held an event called The 7 Deadly Sins of Interviewing - Why GREAT Candidates DON'T Get Hired". Michael Melendrez, Chief Recruiter at Red Circle, discussed resumes do's and don'ts, how to prepare for and dress for an interview, and a variety of other topics related to finding a job.
Regarding interviews, Mr. Melendrez explained that the average time an employer gives each interview is just six seconds. So, you need to make sure your resume, which serves chiefly as a way for you to market yourself and your value to the company, makes a noticeable impression right from the start. One way to do that is to write an objective statement that summarizes your skills as they relate to the company's mission. You should definitely tailor your resume to the specific identity and needs of the company offering the position. However, you also have to make sure that your resume reflects who you are, because there is no point in marketing a fake version of yourself.
In case you missed the awesome discussion, here is a recap of the tips that were shared:
Here are the 7 deadly sins of interviewing; things you can do if you don't want the job:
This was another great, helpful event for students the Math Club has sponsored this year. Leanna Pitsoulakis, Student President of the Math Club, and Dr. Amanda Harsy, Faculty Mentor, as well as the very active student members are to be commended for the great success they have had this year.
Six students from the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences were awarded the prestigious Fifty for the Future Award by the Illinois Technology Foundation (ITF) on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The annual award celebrates the potential of fifty students in the computing disciplines to improve people's lives through technology.
The six students are Steven Day of Minooka, Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park, Curt Lebensorger of Lemont, Fabian Raygoza of Chicago, Brandon White of Lemont, and Laura Zukoski of Glen Ellyn. They were nominated by faculty members Dr. Ray Klump and Dr. Piotr Szczurek. The students had to complete application for the award that demonstrated their interest in computing, the potential for leadership, and their commitment to using technology to serve others. Members of the ITF board then reviewed the applications, which came from students from 16 different institutions around the state, and made their selections from this competitive talent pool. Lewis' six students were among the awardees.
It is interesting to note that the students who were chosen represent several of the various focus areas of our department. There are aspiring cyber security professionals (Steven, Fabian, and Brandon), a web and mobile application designer and developer (Laura), a data scientist (Curt), and a mathematician who writes software to analyze complex systems (Melanie). Aside from representing over 10% of this year's awardees, it's perhaps more gratifying to see how our students excel in all the various areas of computing we teach here at Lewis.
We are very proud of these six students, who succeed not only in the classroom, but also in internships and, more importantly, as high-quality, unselfish people who help others. Congratulations to them all.
The Math Club sponsored a great Pi Day Celebration on March 14. The main event was a pie sale where people could buy a slice of pay and vote for a candidate to get a pie in the face. $312 worth of pie slices and pie-in-the-face chances were sold. Computer Science senior Randle Ross of Country Club Hills was chosen as the pie-in-the-face victim ... err ... winner. He was definitely a good sport about it.
Half of the proceeds of the event will go the Math Club, and half the proceeds will go to a charity of Randle's choice.
Christine Morrow and Dr. Amanda Harsy played key roles in helping the Math Club plan and carry out the event.
Leanna Pitsoulakis, a junior Math major from Orland Park, is the President of the Math Club. She and the other members of the club have done a number of great things this year. Last semester, they invited an actuary to campus to talk with Math and CompSci students about careers in actuarial science. In December, they sponsored a canned food drive and were able to donate 125 cans to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. They have been an extremely active club this year. Dr. Harsy has done a stellar job as their faculty moderator.
The next Math Club event will be held on March 30 at 4pm. Michael Melendrez, President of Red Circle Technology, will present "The Seven Deadly Sins of Interviewing - Why GREAT Candidates DON'T Get Hired." He will also talk about where to find STEM jobs, the real purpose of a resume, and other helpful tips. This should be a great learning opportunity for all.
Video game developer NetherRealm Studios, makers of the Mortal Kombat series, Injustice, and other popular video game titles, visited Lewis Computer Science students on Thursday, March 10. Tom Sakkos and Mirza Baig of NetherRealm described their work, the culture at NetherRealm, and how they got into the industry.
Tom and Mirza are the "Engine Guys". They work on developing the tools that power the games' graphics, I/O systems, networking, and threading. Their tools are used by NetherRealm's 30 developers, who work with the company's 90 artists to create some of today's most popular games. It is complicated work, as a modern video game contains a hundred times more code than the Mars Lander did. Even making a single character for a game like Mortal Kombat can take nine months, as the developers and artists have to work together in a process that involves developing concept art, building a skeleton and model and color scheme for the character, motion-capturing the character's moves, and writing the code to insert the character into the game.
Tom and Mirza encouraged students to pursue game design as a passion, something they want to do and will invest time to become better at doing. If this truly is what they would like to do, then they should channel their energy into building games simply for fun, and they should make sure they share these games with others both as a way to improve those games and to uncover opportunities to make more games.
Lewis' program in Computer Science has a unique concentration in Video Game and Simulation programming. Students take a minimum of four electives from a list that includes Video Game Programming I and II, Computer Graphics, Android Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and others. Several students have also worked internships at Dr. Dominiak's game company, Webfoot Technologies, where they have helped port Webfoot's titles to the Raspberry Pi.
It was wonderful having Tom and Mirza talk with Computer Science students. They were very down-to-earth, encouraging, and fun, and a lot of students left rather pumped up about how they could apply their considerable software development skills to creating video games.
Lola Beckman-Stevens, ITSM Engineer at General Growth Properties, will give the Computer Science Spring Keynote on March 15 at 6:30pm. She will discuss the Agile Software Methodology and how it can be used to create enterprise-class software on-time and on-budget. You can learn more about the event in this flyer. Please RSVP to attend what will be an excellent talk.
Four CaMS students are perform a vulnerability assessment for the Will County Health Department (WCHD). Gabe Berki of Coal City, Steven Day of Minooka, Alejandro Rodriguez of Seneca, and Brandon White of Lemont are assisting WCHD examine its systems for cyber security vulnerabilities. At the end of the project, the team will report to WCHD any vulnerabilities it finds and recommend steps to mitigate them. This is a great way for them to practice what they have learned in their Computer Science courses.
Melanie Harrison, a senior double-major in Mathematics and Computer Science from Tinley Park, presented a poster at the Spie Medical Medical Imaging 2016 Conference in San Diego. Her work, entitled "A Computer-Aided Diagnosis System to Detect Pathologies in Temporal Subtraction Images of Chest Radiographs", stemmed from her work at an REU at the University of Chicago this past summer that focused on data science.
Computer Science students from the Department of Computer and Mathematical Science (CaMS) won First Place in the 2016 ACCA Programming Competition on February 20, 2016. The team, which consisted of Michael Korzon of Downers Grove, Steven Suggett of New Lenox, and Pete Thongsri of Tinley Park, finished more problems more quickly than the other thirteen teams in the four-hour competition. Another three-person team, consisting of Nicholas Biegel of Dyer, Indiana, Andrew Camphouse of Mokena, and Robert Dudasik of Darien, also did quite well, answering multiple problems during the allotted time. The team was coached by Dr. Cindy Howard and Dr. Paul Kaiser.
ACCA is the Associated Colleges of the Chicagoland Area. It is a group of 16 private universities in the Chicago area, and it features several disciplinary subgroups, including a Computer Science (CS) division. The programming competition is one of the events the CS division holds each year. It challenges students to write code in Java or C++ to solve eight problems in four hours. The problems tend to be rather mathematical in nature. This tests the students' ability not only to write code, but to dissect a complex problem into smaller pieces so that they can devise a suitable algorithm to solve it.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is very proud of all six students. We are looking forward to participating again next year.
Lewis University students in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) participated in the 2016 Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) on February 20, 2016. The annual event is the qualifying contest for regional and national Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions. It challenges students to keep an information technology infrastructure functioning while new demands are placed on it and while several hackers try to bring the system down. The teams need to install and protect a variety of operating systems and support web, database, application, and email servers, while ensuring the network is configured to provide access only to those people who should have access. The CCDC is an exciting and challenging red-team-versus-blue-team competition, where students do their best to fulfill their responsibilities as the blue team and thus fill the role of an office of technology.
This the first time Lewis University has fielded a team. Our team of Computer Science students this year included graduate students Steven Day of Minooka and Alejandro Rodriguez of Seneca, and undergraduate students Joe Casalino of Shorewood, Cody Cosentino of Tinley Park, John Kegaly III of Clarendon Hills, Bryon Nush of Frankfort, Randle Ross of Country Club Hills, and Brandon White of Lemont. Brandon and Steven served as team captains this year. Dr. Jason Perry, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, was the faculty mentor.
The group practiced for several months for the event. Starting with the extracurricular CaMS Cyber Defense Club, a student-driven cyber defense group led by Brandon and Steven that gave students an opportunity to learn and practice the science and tools of penetration testing, the students reinforced what they learn in the numerous cyber security courses in the Computer Science curriculum to gain a deeper understanding of how hackers compromise networks and systems. Then, starting in January, the group assembled a network consisting of Linux and Windows servers supporting web, email and database services from spare and donated computers, firewalls, and switches. The students created an environment in which they could explore how to set up, take down, configure, and harden all the various platforms included in the CCDC. Several other students made use of this practice network during this training time, and it will remain a permanent fixture of the CaMS department so that students can continue to practice their network and security skills even outside of the focus of a particular course.
The team did very well and learned a lot from this experience. CaMS plans to send a team every year from now on so that future students can have a similar opportunity to practice and apply their system administration and security skills while competing against other area schools.
Nick Kadochnikov, Principal Data Scientist at IBM, presented "Social Media and Text Visualization" to CaMS students and faculty on Feb. 3, 2016. In his talk, Nick described how social media data is mined to measure its level of buzz and its sentiment, and then how those metrics are visually depicted to help inform business and marketing decisions. About 30 students and faculty attended his talk.
Shelby Curry, a junior Computer Science student from Plainfield, gave a presentation to the Lewis Math Club on the Society of American Military Engineers, or SAME. Shelby discussed the benefits from being a part of this organization, which include earning scholarships, expanding one's professional work experience, going to conferences, and building connections with future employers.
Another Girls Create with Technology (GCT) session was held on Saturday, January 23, 2016. Dr. Cindy Howard taught iOS development to 15 middle-school girls. The girls developed their very own apps that could run on iPads and iPhones. The next GCT event will have the girls build robots with Lego Mindstorms.
Two CaMS students attended and presented at the 2016 Joint Mathematics Meeting in Seattle, Washington, during the first week of January. Students Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park and Betsy Langland of Downers Grove presented a poster entitled "Modeling Newton's Method Through Fractals". And Assistant Professor Amanda Harsy presented her work on mastery-based testing to improve student performance in Calculus courses. Melanie and Betsy's attendance was made possible by the support of the Student Academic Conference Support Program and the generous donations of our Computer Science Advisory Board. Congratulations to all!
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences' Girls Create with Technology series continued on December 12th with a session on building Arduino circuits. The participants built and programmed a variety of gadgets that made sounds, displayed messages and moved 3-D printed parts.
Arduino is an open-source hardware platform that consists of logic gates, integrated circuits, and microcontrollers. "Open-source" means that the electrical schematics that describe how the hardware was designed and how it functions is freely available for people to download and study. This makes it possible for others to make new versions of the hardware by changing or extending the design to match the needs of their particular projects. Of course, having the designs freely available also makes Arduino a great platform for teaching electronics to people.
For this class, the girls worked with kits of Arduino parts sold by Sparkfun Electronics. The kits come with sixteen different projects, including ones that light LEDs, play sound, spin motors, and show messages on an LCD. The kits come with sensors that detect signals, such as the proximity of an object, the press of a button, the bending of a flexible material, or the playing of a sound. By writing programs in a C-like language, the girls were able to create devices that responded to these events in specific ways. These programs, which Arduino calls sketches, helped the girls see how software and hardware tie together to help perform useful functions.
Alejandro Rodriguez, a cyber security graduate student in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences from Marseilles, designed and ran the session with help from Computer Science major Thao Le and undergraduate Special Education major Kaelin Rose. Dr. Cindy Howard, who created and leads Girls Create with Technology, and Dr. Ray Klump also helped with the event.
The purpose of Girls Create with Technology program is to give young women an opportunity to learn about the cool and creative things they can do in Computer Science. Now in our third year, we've worked with over 100 students to show them how software and hardware come together to power the technologies we use every day. It is quite likely that some of these girls will choose to pursue a career in Computer Science and start making tomorrow's cutting-edge, life-saving, and life-enhancing technologies.
Senior Jessica Tennant excels on the basketball court and in the classroom. She is an outstanding double major in Computer Science and Computer Graphic Design and will earn her Bachelor Degree in both in May. And now she has been awarded the prestigious distinction as the Illinois Student Laureate from Lewis University.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner recently presented the honor of Illinois Student Laureate to Jessica. The Lincoln Academy’s Student Laureate Awards recognize excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities by a senior from each four-year college and university in Illinois. Winners receive a Student Laureate Medallion as well as a $1,000 educational grant and a certificate of achievement.
Jessica plays on the Lewis University Women's Basketball team. She has also been a Writing Center Tutor, a Club Ultimate Frisbee member, and an active participant Peer Ministry. In 2015, she played a leadership role in the Source of Light local community service project.
The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences is extremely proud of Jessica's accomplishments and is thrilled to be part of her success. You can read more about her award here.
Lewis University enjoys a distinction as one of the few "Tree Campus USA" institutions in the country. The beautiful Lewis campus features hundreds of trees of numerous varieties. Now, thanks to the work of an interdisciplinary team of students in Environmental Science and Computer Science, visitors to Lewis' Romeoville campus can learn about the trees that add to its character and charm.
Environmental Science students Patrick Dodge of Bolingbrook and Kirsten Rothenbucher of Romeoville and Computer Science students Francisco Cano of Midlothian and Thao Le of Oswego worked together to build an Android app called Understory. The app lists the various kinds of trees Lewis has, presents information about each including a picture of one specimen on campus, and shows the location of that tree on a Google map. Using Understory with a phone's GPS, a visitor could find his or her way to the tree. The app also includes a story about each tree to help add to the visitor's understanding of its value and symbolism.
Patrick and Kirsten worked on photographing and geo-locating the trees on campus and writing the content and stories about them, while Thao and Francisco developed the database to hold the information and pictures and wrote and tested the mobile app. The mobile app features two modes. The Tree Mode shows a list of tree varieties from which a user could choose one to learn about and locate. The Map Mode shows where all the trees in the list are located on a map of the Lewis campus. The app currently works on Android phones and tablets. A version that works with iPhones and iPads is currently in the works.
The work of these four students reminds us that our academic disciplines aren't silos. Some tremendous solutions come about because experts in different disciplines contribute their expertise in complementary ways. One of the wonderful things about Computer Science is that its tools and concepts benefit virtually every other discipline. As Computer Scientists, we likewise benefit, because we get an opportunity to work with and learn from people in lots of different fields. That opportunity keeps our work fresh and valuable.
Girls Create with Technology (GCT), Lewis' popular program for teaching young women about computer science and technology, offered a session on 3D design and printing on Saturday, November 14. The session, which was designed and led by Dr. Amanda Harsy, Assistant Professor of Mathematics. Dr. Harsy taught 20 middle-school girls how to design parts and then build them using a 3D printer. Mathematics and Computer Science majors Francisco Cano, Brandon Joutras, Alyssa Malzone, Bryon Nush, and Leanna Pitsoulakis, Physics major Heather Ray, and CaMS secretary Christine Morrow also helped run the event.
Dr. Harsy taught the girls how to design components using software called Tinkercad. The girls created their design in Tinkercad, saved them to a flash drive, and then brought them to one of the 3D printers to print them. These activities taught the participants the basics of 3D design and digital manufacturing.
CAD and 3D printing are two key technologies driving the so-called "Maker Movement". The Maker Movement is changing the way products are designed and tested, as access to inexpensive modeling and manufacturing tools has made it easier than ever to create prototypes and refine designs. CaMS recently created a Maker Lab for Lewis students to use to create their own designs, and many students have made use of it over the past couple of months, including Physics students who have used the lab's machines to create components for their research experiments. Today's GCT event was the first time the public was invited to use the Maker Lab. There will be many such events in the future.
CaMS is very committed to increasing the number of women who pursue education and careers in Computer Science. Under the leadership of Dr. Cindy Howard, Associate Professor of Computer Science, and with funding from AT&T, Caterpillar, and Ingredion, GCT has given nearly 100 young women an opportunity to learn various aspects of Computer Science, from programming to mobile application design to electronic circuits and robotics. Thanks to Dr. Harsy's efforts today, with considerable help from secretary Christine Morrow and the student helpers, we were able to introduce girls to 3D design and manufacturing, technologies they can use to envision, create, and innovate.
Google hosted an online career event for majors in Lewis' Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences on Tuesday, November 10. More than 60 CaMS majors attended the event. These students included undergraduate Computer Science and Computer Engineering majors, as well as graduate students in the Master of Science in Data Science and the Master of Science in Information Security programs.
A Google engineer hosted the event. He explained the skills that are most in demand at Google, how students should acquire them, how students can distinguish themselves through their side projects and extracurricular activities, how they should write their resumes, and what they can expect during an interview with Google. The engineer also described the various kinds of jobs and internships at Google, as well as scholarships students can pursue.
The presenter explained that most of the people they hire are Computer Scientists with strong software development skills in Python, Java, and C++ and an in-depth knowledge of data structures and algorithms. Google also hires data scientists who can help develop tools for analyzing the vast amounts of data Google collects, Computer Engineers who can help build the custom servers that power Google's tools, and cyber security specialists who help protect customer data. Most of the people Google hires, however, are people who have strong programming skills and have demonstrated a knack for creating innovative and effective software solutions to problems.
Google offers tremendous opportunities to Computer Scientists. They have created many of the technologies that have transformed they way we inform, educate, create, and entertain over the past 15 years. It is great that our students have a chance to explore opportunities to become a part of it. It also affirms that the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences provides students the tools they need to contribute to companies like Google.
We collect more data today than ever before. But collecting it is the easy part. Once you have all that data, how do you best use it? How can you draw conclusions from it when you don't even know what to ask? How do you discern the content of a data set so that you can start to apply it to solving problems? And how can you use the tools of data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to pick up problem solving where sophisticated mathematical models alone leave off?
These are increasingly important questions. If we can answer them, then we can solve a whole range of problems for which, so far, we've had to be satisfied with a "it's good enough for now" kind of solution. Thanks to Data Science and the tools of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are now starting to be able to capture hard-to-model features of problems in terms of data about their past behaviors. This is opening up new doors in fields as diverse as biology, urban planning, economics, engineering, and political science.
Dr. Piotr Szczurek, Director of the very popular Master of Science in Data Science program, has created a new research initiative called DataSAIL. DataSAIL stands for "Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory". The purpose of DataSAIL is to bring together students and faculty from diverse fields to solve today's interesting problems using the tools of Data Science. The program held its launch event on Thursday, November 5, 2015, and many students and faculty attended.
Faculty from Biology, Mathematics, and Computer Science presented their own research work that could benefit from a Data Science-based approach. Dr. Sarah Powers explained how data science can help identify unknown protein sequences. Dr. Daniel Ayala explained how data science could help solve issues related to parking in crowded urban areas. Dr. Amanda Harsy and Dr. Szczurek both presented projects that use student data to improve academic services. Dr. Cindy Howard presented her work on smartphone usage and how the data gathered from smart phones could suggest improvements in user interface design. Dr. Jason Perry described how sophisticated data analysis could help break password protection mechanisms and pointed to the need to find remediations for this. And Dr. Klump described how all the data gathered by intrusion detection devices could help characterize threats in terms of their ability to spread, and how informative visualizations could then be created to depict the current health of a distributed information- dependent network like an electric power grid. Students were encouraged to consider which projects they'd like to work on and to apply to participate in DataSAIL.
Attendees left the event impressed by the significant work being done at Lewis to use data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to solve diverse problems, and it is clear that there is a lot of promise here. The DataSAIL initiative brings all this work under one roof.
If you or your organization has a problem you would like DataSAIL to investigate, or if you are a student who wants to get involved. please visit the DataSAIL website. You'll also find the slides from the launch event there. And certainly feel free to contact any of the faculty listed above.
Barry McKeown, who worked as an actuary and consultant for Towers Watson for over 30 years and now speaks on behalf of the educational organization "Be An Actuary" , came to Lewis on Wednesday, November 4. He talked with students about what an actuary does, how a math major prepares to be an actuary, why actuarial jobs are consistently ranked among the best careers to have, and the growing importance of interpersonal skills to complement their mathematical strengths. You can listen to a recording of Barry's presentation here.
Actuaries help companies manage risk by quantifying it. They combine calculus, probability, statistics, knowledge of business processes, and models of human behavior to quantify the estimated cost and likelihood of incidents. Based on their models and calculations, insurance companies, government agencies, investment firms, and any organization engaged in strategic planning can make more informed decisions. Because they can work in any industry, actuaries are in high demand, and the jobs are very stable.
Barry explained that a math degree provides excellent preparation to begin a career as an actuary. He recommended that math majors pass at least the first exam, which deals with probability and statistics, before graduating, and perhaps try to pass the second, too. He also recommended to them that they develop their interpersonal communication skills, because much of an actuary's work these days involve working collaboratively in teams to solve problems.
This excellent talk was sponsored by the Lewis Math Club, and it was organized by Dr. Amanda Harsy. The Math Club has helped sponsor a number of great events this semester, including Math Bash, which also aimed to show math majors the many career and graduate school options they have.
We hope to have Mr. McKeown back on campus soon to talk with additional students about this great career path for math majors.
Michael Korzon, a senior Computer Science major from Downers Grove, gave a presentation for the CaMS Seminar Series entitled "Web Development with Flask: A Python Microframework". You can download the slides here.
Flask is a programming framework that enables Python developers to build web applications. Like PHP, it helps power database-driven websites. Unlike PHP, Flask encourages the use of good programming patterns, such as model-view controller, and it provides greater opportunity for customizations and protections because it implements functionality using multiple layers of interlocking code.
Michael learned Flask for his internship at Argonne National Laboratory. He chose Flask because he likes programming in Python, and he considers Flask to be an easier-to-learn alternative to the other popular web application framework for Python, Django. So much development these days focuses on delivering content and functionality through a web connection in the browser. So, Michael's talk was a highly relevant topic for the CaMS Seminar Series.
It was exciting to have a student give the presentation for this months CaMS Seminar Series installment. Michael presented the material extremely well. His slides were well-organized, targeted, and practical, and the pace of his delivery was very helpful to the audience. Learning a web framework is challenging, but Michael broke the topic up into more manageable pieces. Several students and faculty left the talk eager to learn more.
You can learn more about Flask by reading Michael's slides and by visiting this excellent tutorial.
Two Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) students attended the annual OurCS Conference at Carnegie-Mellon University from October 23 - October 25. "OurCS" stands for "Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Computer Science". Melanie Harrison, a senior dual-major in Computer Science and Mathematics from Tinley Park, and Betsy Langland, a Mathematics major from Downers Grove, participated in the conference, which aims to give young women a chance to explore research topics in Computer Science in a very hands-on kind of way. Eighty-three students from around the world participated this year, and they worked together on small-group projects that had them explore an application or theory of Computer Science and then present their work.
Melanie's group worked on a project called "Does this Post Make Me Look Good?" This project applied machine learning techniques to help predict whether a Facebook post would be positively or negatively received by a person's Facebook friends. Interestingly, Melanie's research for the REU she participated in this summer also focused on machine learning, but for a different application - the processing of images. Melanie enjoys the topic of machine learning because it combines her two academic interests - mathematics and computer science - in a very applied way.
For her project, entitled "The Golden Years", Betsy and her group created a prototype of a computer system that could be very helpful to people with COPD. COPD is a respiratory disease that affects many Americans, particularly the elderly. Betsy and her group developed a prototype for a wearable device that would help a person afflicted with COPD identify when he or she started having difficulty breathing. By keeping track of where wearers of the device started experiencing breathing problems and then sharing this information with others, the device would be able to warn COPD sufferers when they were about to enter an area where other people with COPD experienced problems. Their product demonstrated how technology could improve the lives of elderly people by using data sharing to present useful - and potentially life-saving - information.
Melanie and Betsy also presented original research of their own at the conference. Melanie's project was based on her summer REU experience. Her poster, "Image Processing in Python using the Otsu Method", explored the use of machine learning to process images. Betsy presented her work, "Determining the Success of a Mathematics Major", which is an application of data mining and clustering techniques to identify the likelihood that a mathematics major will successfully complete their course of study and to suggest potential reinforcements for helping them succeed. Betsy started this project under the guidance of Dr. Amandy Harsy as part of Lewis' Summer Undergraduate Research Experience this past summer.
This was the 15th year of CMU's OurCS conference. It featured panels and guest speakers who inspired young women to continue pursuing careers in Computer Science. The Department is very happy that Melanie and Betsy took advantage of this outstanding opportunity to network with other women in the field, to work on new projects with students from around the world, and to present their own work.
On Thursday, October 29, The Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences hosted an event called Real-IT-y: What You Need To Know About the Future IT Job Market. The event was organized and moderated by Sanjog Aul, Founder and Show Host of CIO Talk Radio and CEO of AVVAL, and it featured a panel of distinguished IT professionals
The purpose of the two-hour session was to get students thinking about the roles they are preparing to fill. What is the purpose of information technology? As professionals with the skills to make information technology work for people, how should they carry themselves, and what should they prioritize? What skills do they need to develop to complement their impressive technical abilities that will help them conduct their work more effectively? These are important questions for students to ponder, especially because it is too easy to get caught up in the idea that information technology is simply about technology, that computer science is simply about computers. Such simplifications give a very limited view about what a career in the field really aims to do. Computer scientists apply their deep understanding of how computer hardware and software work in order to help people do what they want or need to do. As with every other career field, it's all about serving people with what you know, and that's what young computer professionals need to remember.
This event had a memorable and positive impact on the students who attended. Students didn't just sit there soaking it in. They participated in role-playing exercises with the panelists. They pretended to be "on the hot seat" because an IT outage occurred, and they were responsible for fixing it. They pretended to meet a CIO at a function and had to make small talk to establish a connection with that person. They pretended to cold-call an IT executive in the hopes of tapping into that person's expertise and guidance. The scenarios the students and the panel of executives played gave clear lessons and uncovered some very helpful pieces of advice for the students:
This was a tremendously practical and helpful event. It helped students - tomorrow's information technology professionals - understand how best to fill the roles they'll soon play. They need to be themselves. They need to be confident in comfortable with themselves. They need to be accountable. And they need to be sincerely interested in helping people.
Dr. Amanda Harsy, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, and several Lewis University math majors attended the MAA Indiana Section Meeting on Saturday, October 17, at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana. The MAA, or Mathematics Association of America, is the largest professional society for mathematics that is open to undergraduate students. It has several chapters throughout the country, and the Indiana section is one of them. The students from Lewis who attended were Dylan Groskreutz of Kankakee, Melanie Harrison of Tinley Park, Betsy Langland of Downers Grove, Leanna Pitsoulakis of Orland Park, Rachel Seiberlich of Warrenville, Ryan Toika of Villa Park, and Taylor Weil of Chicago. In fact, Lewis had the largest contingent of students in attendance.
Three Lewis University Computer Science majors attended the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This year, the conference, which is the world's largest gathering of women technologists, was held in Houston, Texas. The three students who attended were Grecia Equihua, a junior in Computer Science from Summit; Thao Le, a junior in Computer Science from Oswego; and Victoria Vodicka, a senior in Computer Science from Romeoville. Thao and Grecia were awarded Anita Borg Institute scholarships, and Victoria's travel was funded thanks to the generosity of the Computer Science Advisory Board. Unfortunately, the percentage of female computer science majors nationally is only around 18%. It didn't used to be that way, as close to 40% of computer science majors in the 1980s were women. Something happened along the way, and this article offers some interesting causes. But steps must be taken to reverse this trend, because computer science plays such a key role in shaping modern society, and so it needs as many talented and creative problem solvers as it can attract.
3D printing and other do-it-yourself manufacturing technologies have really taken off over the past couple of years. A large number of consumer-grade computer-numeric-controlled (CNC) manufacturing devices have hit the market, and more and more hobbyists have started using them to realize their creations. This semester, the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) has started the CaMS Maker Space as an on-campus venue for students and faculty to design and build gadgets, gizmos, and works of art. The lab, which was set up by senior Computer Science major Joe Block as part of his Independent Study course this semester, features five 3D printers, a 3D scanner that creates mathematical models of objects, and two design workstations. Before the semester concludes, the lab will add a desktop laser cutter and a CNC mill. So far, the equipment has been used to create objects for the department display cases (including a full chess set), physical models of surfaces studied in Calculus III, and even a small component for a physics research experiment. Soon, the CaMS Maker Space will host a variety of community outreach activities, including events for the popular Girls Create with Technology Series.
The cyber security challenge has changed and intensified significantly over the past several years, and our ways of dealing with it have had to change accordingly. That was one of the important messages conveyed by Mike Skwarek, Chief Information Security Officer and Deputy Chief Information Officer at Argonne National Laboratory.
Late Friday afternoon might seem like an unpopular time to have an event about math. But 40 students showed up to MathBash, a fun and very informative event about the many opportunities open to those who study mathematics. Dr. Amanda Harsy created MathBash through a Discover Mini-Grant, a University-wide effort to help students find their purpose and vocation through the undergraduate curriculum. Dr. Harsy talked with the students about the different specialities within mathematics, the various job opportunities they could pursue as a mathematician, the makeup of the Lewis program in Mathematics, and the importance of undergraduate research and internships in helping prepare students for employment and graduate coursework in mathematics.