Entries tagged with “awards” from Computer Science Department News

UMass Lowell Computer Science doctoral candidates Yinjie Chen and Zhongli Liu won the best paper award at the 8th International Conference on Wireless Algorithms, Systems, and Applications (WASA 2013). 

Chen and Liu are the first author and second author respectively. They are advised by Prof. Xinwen Fu, associate professor of Computer Science at UMass Lowell.

WASA is an international conference on algorithms, systems, and applications of wireless networks. It is a forum for theoreticians, system and application designers, protocol developers and practitioners. 

Topics of interest include effective and efficient state-of-the-art algorithm design and analysis, reliable and secure system development and implementation, experimental study and testbed validation, and new application exploration in wireless networks.

In their paper, Chen and Liu used a single device moving along a route for accurate and efficient localization without the help of any positioning infrastructure or trained signal strength map. They developed a Received Signal Strength (RSS) sampling process, and derived a mathematical model to determine the RSS sampling rate given the target’s distance and its packet transmission rate.

They designed and implemented BotLoc, which is a programmable and self-coordinated robot armed with a wireless sniffer for forensic localization. A video of BotLoc is at http://youtu.be/FsWLrH8Nj50.

The research is sponsored by NSF. Fu’s group develops fundamental empirical and theoretical frameworks for forensic wireless localization via moving sniffers. 

As a separate note, Prof. Xinwen Fu is also winner of Best Paper Award at Communication and Information Systems Security Symposium, IEEE ICC 2013, a flagship conference on communications of IEEE. 

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(L-R): Prof. Xinwen Fu, Yinjie Chen and Zhongli Liu.
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UMass Lowell Computer Science professor Holly Yanco was one of twenty Massachusetts leaders honored as “Women to Watch” for 2013 at an event held at the Boston Westin Waterfront on May 9, 2013.

The award was given by the Mass High Tech Council and the Boston Business Journal in their 10th ceremony. As part of the event, $3,200 was raised for the Science Club for Girls.

In her remarks accepting the award, Yanco urged Massachusetts to adopt K–12 standards for computer science education, and make sure that all children in the state have the opportunity to learn computer science.

See more information about the event at the Boston Business Journal.


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Prof. Holly Yanco addresses the crowd of more than 300 while accepting the Mass High Tech award.


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UMass Lowell turned out a big group to support Holly in receiving the award!  From L-R: Fred Martin, Teresa Hamelin, Renae Lias Claffey, Holly Yanco, Julie Chen, Nancy Saucier, and Adam Norton.
A research paper by Computer Science Department doctoral student Harshavardhan Achrekar and co-authors Avinash Gandhe, Ross Lazarus, Ssu-Hsin Yu, and Benyuan Liu, Twitter improves Seasonal Influenza Prediction, has been selected as the Best Student Paper at the Fifth International Conference on Health Informatics (HEALTHINF 2012) held February 1 to 4, 2012 in Vilamoura, Algarve, Portugal. Fewer than 9 percent of submitted manuscripts were accepted as full papers.

The purpose of the International Conference on Health Informatics was to bring together researchers and practitioners interested in the application of information and communication technologies (ICT) to healthcare and medicine in general and to the specialized support to persons with special needs in particular. Databases, networking, graphical interfaces, intelligent decision support systems and specialized programming languages were just a few of the technologies currently used in medical informatics.

Achrekar is utilizing information posted on Online Social Networks (OSNs) such as Twitter and Facebook to help improve the prediction of influenza levels within United States population and keep track of its spread. He has designed and implemented a framework called the Social Network-Enabled Flu Trends (SNEFT), which is used to continuously monitor flu-related messages, extract relevant location and user demographic information, track and predict the flu conditions in real time.

Since 2009, Achrekar has tapped into Twitter and extracted millions of influenza-related user posts to date, providing an almost-instantaneous snapshot of current epidemic conditions. Using comprehensive mathematical models, the framework can estimate nationwide as well as regional and age based flu activity with high accuracy.

This research is supported by a $200,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health under a Small Business Innovation Research Award. Results presented in this scientific publication show that these posts on Twitter closely match the number of flu-like cases reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and can significantly enhance public health preparedness against influenza and other large-scale pandemics.

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Harsh Achrekar (left) and faculty adviser Prof. Benyuan Liu showcasing HEALTHINF 2012 best paper award.
Two Computer Science majors have each won awards for their projects completed during a 54-hour Boston Startup Weekend “hackathon” held at Boston University. The event was held from Friday evening, October 14, through Sunday night, October 16, 2011.

Undergraduate Paul Senatillaka led the development of “Tabber,” an electric guitar that was augmented with LEDs in the fretboard, which would light up to teach you how to play songs. Senatillaka was the lead hardware and firmware developer, and created an Arduino-based circuit to control the LEDs, along with software using the Microsoft .NET framework to transmit song data to the guitar. Six fret positions over five strings were equipped with LEDs to display song data.

Tabber won first place for Best Technology and second place as an Overall Winner in the event. Senatillaka’s team included students and alums from Northeastern, Boston University, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Separately, graduate student Amit Choudhary won a second place in User Design for his project, SponsorBar, which allows web site and event sponsors to easily create more engaging, active logos that would appear in the sponsorship logo strip at the top or bottom of a web site.

Choudhary’s system was developed in PHP using Yii framework. He directly implemented the Track Results Page, where live statistics of the number of visitors are managed.

In the Boston Startup Weekend event, individual participants dynamically form teams at when the event begins on Friday evening, and then work through the weekend to create working demonstrations of their ideas. The winners are selected by showing off their projects and making a business pitch on Sunday.

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Senatillaka (foreground, with hands at keyboard) works on Tabber’s code while his teammates test and assemble hardware.

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Close-up of Tabber’s fretboard, with embedded LEDs.

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Screenshot from Choudhary’s SponsorBar web service. See a live demo at http://sponsorbar.fastfedora.com/yii/sponsorbar/ .





Profs. Fred Martin (Computer Science) and Michelle Scribner-MacLean (Graduate School of Education) were guests at the Fifth Annual River Day, hosted by Congresswomen Niki Tsongas on September 15, 2011.

Martin and Scribner-MacLean joined Rep. Tsongas on the banks of the Concord River to describe their new four-year, $1.3M NSF award to create an internet-based platform, dubbed iSENSE, which will engage students in data-intensive science inquiry. Working with a number of school systems in the Merrimack Valley, Martin and Scribner-MacLean will support teachers in integrating the internet-based technology into their science instruction. Machine Science Inc., of Cambridge, MA, is a grant partner, and will involve schools in the Boston area in project work.

The grant also includes a partnership with the Tsongas Industrial History Center and the National Park Service. Martin and Scribner-MacLean will work with staff at these two institutions to develop a new version of their River As A Classroom field trip, which brings middle- and high-school students onto the Merrimack River to study water quality. Students and teachers who participate in the new river-based field trip will use the project’s “iSENSE” technology to record, visualize, and discuss river water quality measurements.

At the River Day event, Martin and Scribner-MacLean had the opportunity to present their work to the Lock Masters, a Lowell-based volunteer group who operates the centuries-old canal locks system in the city, and high school students from the Spindle City Corp, who volunteer their service for beautification projects in the city.

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(L-R) Prof. Fred Martin, U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and Prof. Michelle Scribner-MacLean on the banks of the Concord River behind the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. For more information about Martin and Scribner-MacLean’s new science education award, see this story.

Computer Science Ph.D. students Zhongli Liu and Yinjie Chen won the silver medal at the ACM Student Research Competition (SRC) at ACM MobiCom 2011 with their work titled HAWK: An Unmanned Mini Helicopter-based Aerial Wireless Kit for Search, Rescue and Surveillance. Zhongli also won the ACM’s SRC Travel Award of $500. MobiCom is a top academic conference on wireless networks.

HAWK is a small programmable unmanned helicopter (Draganflyer X6) equipped with a wireless sniffer (a Nokia n900 smartphone). It is the first mini autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as an aerial wireless kit for search, rescue and surveillance, based on a mini helicopter, instead of a mini airplane. As a “warflying” tool, HAWK is more flexible than warwalking and wardriving tools in many situations.

HAWK was developed as a generic aerial surveillance tool. The project’s central contributions can be summarized as follows:

  1. The fully-functional HAWK helicopter flies using a simple mechanical dynamics model for Draganflyer X6, with customized PI-Control laws for pitch, roll and yaw maneuvers to control its movement. Waypoint functionality allows the X6 to take a planned route.
  2. A space-filling curve based flight route is used to survey a specific area without the help of any positioning infrastructure. To ensure that all target mobile devices are detected during flight, the minimum Moore curve level that is constrained by flight velocity and target packet transmission interval is derived and used.
  3. Real-world experiments to validate the feasibility of HAWK for localization were conducted. The experimental results match the theoretical analysis very well, and the team was able to achieve a localization accuracy of 5 meters on average.
At the conference, Zhongli Liu and Yinjie Chen first competed in a poster session, which is open to more than 300 conference participants on September 20, 2011 in Las Vegas. Then the ACM SRC committee selected three finalists to compete in a presentation session, in which Zhongli presented HAWK on the same day. At the MobiCom 2011 banquet on September 21, 2011, the winners were then announced.

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(L-R) Prof. Benyuan Liu, CS Ph.D. students Xian Pan, Zhongli Liu, Yinjie Chen and Junwei Huang, and Prof. Xinwen Fu. Zhongli and Yinjie are holding their silver medal. Xian and Junwei helped them prepare the talk at the conference and manage the equipment shipped for demo. The adviser of these four students is Dr. Xinwen Fu. On far left: Prof. Benyuan Liu, a collaborator on the the project.

Prof. Jesse Heines is the leader of a multi-departmental UMass Lowell team that has been awarded $450K from the National Science Foundation for their project, Computational Thinking through Computing and Music. Profs. Gena Greher and Alex Ruthmann (both of UMass Lowell’s Music Department) are co-PIs on the award.

In “Performamatics,” an earlier NSF project led by Heines, a number of partnerships between computing and the arts were created.  As part of this work, Heines, Greher, and Ruthmann developed an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, Sound Thinking, which has been offered at UMass Lowell for each of the last three years.

Building on this work, the new award focuses on ways to engage both computing, music, and students of other disciplines in “computational thinking,” an emerging idea in computer science education.

In the new project, the faculty team will leverage the natural relationship between music and computing to teach computational thinking concepts across the undergraduate curriculum, including both introductory general education courses, and discipline-specific music and computing courses at more advanced levels.

The team will also lead workshops to share their approaches with undergraduate faculty across the United States.

For more, please see UMass Lowell's eNews article, New Curriculum Combines Computing and Music, and the project web site, performamatics.org.

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(L-R) Profs. Jesse Heines (Computer Science), Gena Greher (Music), and Alex Ruthmann (Music).
Prof. Xinwen Fu was awarded a grant entitled “Membership Inference in a Differentially Private World and Beyond” from NSF’s Trustworthy Computing program. The award is a great boost to the Department's security program, and will strengthen its national status in related fields.

The award funds a three-year research agenda among three universities—George Washington University, Towson University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The overall award totals $495K and UMass Lowell’s share is $166K.

The objective of the research project is to systematically understand, evaluate and contribute to the problem of membership inference in aggregate data publishing, which is a generic, novel, and dangerous privacy threat in a wide variety of real-world applications.

The central idea to be developed for addressing the problem of membership inference is an information-theoretic model of privacy disclosure as a noisy communication channel. Based on the channel coding theory and the recent advance in multi-input multi-output (MIMO) communication channels, the research will study novel techniques for membership inference and explores the corresponding privacy-preserving mechanisms.

The outcome of this research has broader impacts on the nation’s higher education system and high-tech industries. The prospect of sensitive membership information disclosure techniques and privacy-preserving techniques can help the providers of aggregated data publishing, including national health organizations, Internet security service providers, and others to secure their published data.

Prof. Fu is a member of the Computer Science department’s Center for Network and Information Security (CNIS). His research focuses on network security and privacy, network and computer forensics, and distributed systems.

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Prof. Xinwen Fu

Prof. Holly Yanco has been granted senior membership status in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). She was presented with a certificate at the 25th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence on August 9, 2011. Yanco was one of nine people selected for senior membership this year, which is the first year that AAAI has named senior members.  

Yanco has been involved with AAAI since exhibiting her robots, Bert and Ernie, at the 1992 conference. Since then, she has served in a number of roles. In 1997, she chaired the Robot Exhibition, and, in 2000 and 2001, she co-chaired the Robot Competition and Exhibition.  She served as the Chair of the AAAI Symposium Committee from 2002–2005. In 2006, she was elected as a member of AAAI’s Executive Council and served until her term ended in 2009. She is currently a member of AI Magazine’s Editorial Board.

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Prof. Holly Yanco becomes one of nine inaugural Senior Members of AAAI at 25th anniversary conference, August 9, 2011.

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