Archive for Eileen M.
Guest Author: Geraldine Mirones
Elliot Rieflin, a graduate student this year, had the opportunity to represent CNU and NASA at the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ICAI.) The annual conference was hosted in Las Vegas this summer. He had the opportunity to be sent to the ICAI after completing the task of developing a software that extracts instrument information from scientific writing.
Elliot was able to apply what he learned in the classroom even though he had not yet taken CNU’s artificial intelligence class. Instead, he applied methodologies from his algorithms and software design classes to the information extraction process.
Over the course of his summer internship, Elliot learned both hard and soft skills. Some of the soft skills included improving his ability to describe and promote his own work. Also, he improved his ability to communicate with current experts in computer science fields. On the other hand, the hard skills included learning methodologies for natural language processing, which means understanding human speech, and experience in creating formal write-ups, and proposals.
Elliot was asked if the summer internship was useful in increasing his career skills. His response: “Yes, not only did I get published, which is great on a resume, but I learned how to formally present my creation and explain its usefulness. I am sure this will be a useful technique and skill to have since I will have to describe and explain my creations to those who aren’t experts on the subject.”
Looks like Elliot had a summer full of great experiences that will last him a lifetime, what did YOU do this summer?
David Hamblin, who is a senior this year, worked under Dr. Wang with the Atmospheric Sciences Data Center (ASDC) at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.
“Continuing the work of alumni Matthew Rutherford and Nathan Typanski, Elliot Rieflin and I worked on the project MapGen, which Matt wrote his thesis about. We used the Python programming language to implement solutions to remaining issues, utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms such as natural language processing and naive Bayes. Basically, Elliot and I worked at a desk in a building at Langley Research Center, working on our sections of the program and meeting with the ASDC group once a week. What we worked on, when all of the parts are finished, will be delivered as a final product to the group at NASA for them to use.
“My background from CNU in Java programming and what I learned in such classes as CPSC 360 and 420 allowed me to pick up on Python quickly, and analyze the algorithm I used. It’s funny, I’ll be taking the AI class offered at CNU (CPSC 471/510) this coming semester, after implementing an AI approach to my work over the summer. Overall, I’d say that the skills learned in the classroom provide for a foundation to pick up the skills in the workplace very quickly, even if you haven’t used the programming language before.
“One of the biggest parts of this position is the research involved. In order to accomplish my tasks, I need to read papers and look up proven methods in order to implement something that will work. I have learned more about the Python programming language, as well as working in a group to receive feedback on my results and apply changes. It’s a glance at life after school, which is nervous to think about. I will continue working in this position throughout the school year, so I will continue to learn new things.
“Definitely, it allows me to put actual work experience down for my resume, as well as experience in skills. I am also building relationships with people who may write references for me in the future. I believe that this job is a stepping stone to something much more in the future.”
Benjamin Kempton, also a sophomore, worked with Dr. Backens to set up the new electrical engineering lab in Luter.
“If you have ever built your own computer, it can be really fun to unbox all the shiny new parts, which is what I did the first few weeks working with Dr. Backens in the PCSE department. I got to unbox and set up all the new equipment for the electrical engineering lab in Luter 206.
“Once that was finished I worked with Dr. Backens to test everything and go through some of the new lab activities the equipment will be used for, and make sure the lab instructions made sense. I have not taken any electronics classes or labs yet, therefore much of what I was doing this summer was new to me, and I had to do a lot of learning as I went along. However everything I was exposed to over the summer will most likely be very helpful when I eventually take classes in the lab I helped set up.
“Along with setting up the lab I was able to work with software defined radios, which Dr. Backens is using for research. The radios can be used to transmit of receive over a very wide range of frequencies (70MHz to 6GHz) making them ideal for doing research on dynamic spectrum access. I worked on getting the radios working properly, and started looking at algorithms that let the radios find a common frequency to communicate on.
“Between setting up the lab, and doing some work with radios I had a very fun summer, and met many new people in the PCSE department.”
Sean Workman is a sophomore who was part of the first CNU Summer Scholars Program (CSSP), held from June 1, 2015 – July 31, 2015.
“The program was designed to provide an opportunity for participants to work collaboratively with a faculty mentor and develop enhanced research and communication skills specific to your area of study.
“In my project, I was asked to build an environment where students can contribute to humanitarian open source, outside of a class, without doing excessive research. Open Source is a way in which to write programs so anyone can see the source code and change it. We focused on humanitarian open source – programs that are written with a service mission – because of the civic engagement focus at CNU. Contributing to open source is difficult because the size of the projects is overwhelming and it is difficult to figure out where to begin. To help others overcome those hurdles, I created a “how to” document to help others make contributions.
“In order to do that, I had to learn Linux (the operating system of most open source programs), git (the place where programs are stored), several different languages (because each project can contain main different languages), and learn how the flow of contributions go, and make contributions to open source programs. I had contributions accepted to three different projects, including Mifos, the humanitarian project we will continue to focus on.”
Spring semester is drawing to a close, and that can only mean one thing for most students: it’s time to look for internships! Here are two students who just finished up an internship at SimIS, Inc. in Porstmouth, VA – Junior, Carolyn Lynch and Senior, Timothy Stelter.
1. Tell me a little bit about the work you did at your internship.
Carolyn: I worked on software for the American Heart Association which trained people in CPR. This software would monitor your movements using a X-Box Kinnect camera to make sure you were meeting the criteria to perform the procedure properly.
Tim: I worked with military/recon software to test unmanned boats. I would test the system to find breaks in the controller software. I developed test cases and simulations in order to reduce failures in the system and money loss. The main goal was to implement mission objectives and create solutions to hypothetical problems.
2. What did you enjoy most?
Carolyn: I really enjoyed the people. I worked with mostly younger people, in my generation, so the atmosphere was very relaxed. We all worked together in one big room which made collaboration really easy. I could just turn around and ask anyone for help with anything. I also enjoyed talking with the business people and getting a new perspective with the consumer side of software development, because these were the guys selling the software.
Tim: I enjoyed the fact that there were no cubicles. I could just ask anyone for help. I worked mostly with software people and I really enjoyed working with my supervisor. I had a lot of freedom as an intern to work on my project.
3. Would you go back and work with this company again?
Tim: Yes, I would probably take a job if they offered. The people were really nice, and getting the job done well was very highly stressed in the company. The job that Carolyn was working on especially stressed this because faulty medical software could lead to disaster.
Carolyn: I’m not sure. I would consider a job offer from them, but this job was mostly about getting internship experience.
4. Has your experience impacted what you want to do in the future?
Carolyn: Yes, I really liked contributing to something that served a bigger purpose. It was very different to working on assignments in a classroom. I was working with actual software and hardware and got to see how they interacted together. It made me realize I want my work to be “hands-on,” and I want that sense of camaraderie between the employees.
Tim: I received insight on the world of simulation and software engineering. It’s a constantly expanding field, and I got to direct my focus on where I can improve and narrow in on my strengths.
5. What advice do you have to your fellow students who are looking for internships?
Carolyn: Put yourself out there! We emailed a guy who was looking for a full-time employee but ended up hiring both of us as interns. Don’t just rely on job postings, be intentional with employers.
Tim: Show employers that you are genuinely interested in being there. They are looking to hire people who are enthusiastic about the work. Talking and networking are more important than you might think. Also, there is a lot of learning on the job. Even if you don’t know something, you’ll adapt while you’re there.
You may have had Dr. Kent Cueman for a Physics class. Or, you’ve probably seen him at a Pizza My Mind event. But I bet you didn’t know that Dr. Cueman just received his 26th US patent.
Getting an invention patented is a very long process. First you write up a report about your idea, which is sent to a committee within an industry – in Dr. Cueman’s case, General Electric. The committee discusses whether or not the idea is worth spending the money, because getting a patent is very expensive. Next, you meet with a lawyer, who will help write out the idea in “legal language.” The new report is mailed the government who will spend several years analyzing, debating, and challenging the idea. Finally, at the very end, the inventor gets a letter in the mail congratulating them on their new patent.
This most recent patent has been eight years in the making. His invention deals with reverse osmosis, making sea water into drinking water. Companies that make bottled water and soda all use a version of this product. Dr. Cueman’s idea involved taking a sheet of paper-like material that will allow water molecules to go through, but trap the salt. The membrane is wrapped with layers of material that have channels in it, and stuffed into a tube. At one end of the tube, high pressured salt water is inserted and on the other end, it is separated into pure water, and more concentrated salt water. Dr. Cueman invented a new way to stuff the material inside the tube to increase the amount of purified water that is produced.
Before he came to CNU, Dr. Cueman worked in many different fields, including marine science, newspaper journalism, service as an Air Force officer, and industrial research. All of his patents involve applying physics to industrial problems – how to make things, or how to inspect them. He has worked on projects range from light switches to nuclear reactors. The project he enjoyed the most was working with locomotives, creating a cleaner diesel engine.
Last week, Pizza My Mind featured a company called RedHat, which works with open source technology. According to RedHat representative Tom Calloway, “open source software gives control to the user.” The original source code of the software is made freely available to the user for modification and redistribution. Tom, and RedHat, believes that no group of humans can rely entirely on their own knowledge – it must be shared with others. And the point of open source is to bring resources together to solve problems faster. Tom gave three key words to apply to open source: “share, collaborate, and remix.” Anytime we come across something we don’t know, the Internet gives us the opportunity to reach out to people who are more knowledgeable in that field.
RedHat is the #1 open source leader. About 95% fortune companies use RedHat, which has now reached a multi-billion dollar status. They offer a range of mission-critical software and sources including middleware, Cloud, and operating systems. RedHat is the third biggest Cloud supplier, working with companies like Amazon.com, Cascio, Marriott, and eTrade.
Senior, Nathan Typanksi gave his thoughts on the RedHat presentation. “I think the biggest impact that Tom’s presentation had was that nobody came out of the presentation thinking developing open-source software is somehow the den of the unsuccessful, or that there isn’t real, serious cash available for students who have skills working with Linux and participating in open development communities. Tom made it very clear that Red Hat is playing for the Long Game, but considering what they’re up against, I think they’re quite apt at playing ball in the Short one as well.”
In February, the CNU Alumni Society hosted a presentation about what graduates have been up to since their school days. Electrical Engineering professor Dr. Jonathan Backens recently shared his experience in Africa and beyond.
Senior year of Dr. Jonathan Backens’s undergrad at CNU included an honors class called “Problems of the Modern World.” The class taught students how to apply their specific field to, you guessed it, problems in the modern world. As a computer science major, Dr. Backens wasn’t sure where to focus his research until he heard about the development challenges in Africa. He ended up writing his final paper on the creation of technology training schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. During the composition of the paper, Dr. Backens noticed that it pretty much wrote itself. He found himself wondering, “Is this something I could do?” Before he knew it, he was researching ways to get to Africa and enter into the field he’d written his paper about. A friend of a friend contacted him recommending an elementary school in Botswana that is always looking for temporary volunteers to teach English. After two emails back and forth, Dr. Backens registered for the program. He spent a year at the Tlokweng Dayspring School in Botswana teaching English to kids.
Soon afterward, he got in contact with a development group in Zambia called Macha Works, which connected rural hospitals with modern technologies such as Internet. Dr. Backens spent three and a half years in Zambia, working to create training schools for first generation computer users. Through the schools, more than one hundred native Zambians were able to gain the skills necessary to obtain better-paying jobs. Going from agricultural work, making only a few dollars a day, to working in hospitals and cities made a significant impact on the community.
Dr. Backens returned to the U.S. to go to graduate school. He reported feeling a better appreciation for education in America and the easy access we have as U.S. citizens.
Through his experiences, Dr. Backens said he learned about the impact of education, especially how it can open doors and lead to new experiences. His work in Africa was more or less brought about by a paper he had written during his undergrad.
I asked Dr. Backens about the challenges that face most undergrad students when thinking about their future career. He said that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you can accomplish real things. Undergrad classes are often focused on getting a good grade, and the students may not always take themselves seriously, which is a major obstacle to their view of what they can accomplish.
There’s a lot of pressure to go to college and get a job, Dr. Backens says, but not enough emphasis is put on making a meaningful impact on the world around you. What will make you most successful is having the courage to pursue that meaningful impact you can contribute.
Dr. Backens’s presentation received a lot of positive feedback who attended. Junior, Allison Kuntz said, “I went to the talk not expecting much. I knew who Dr. Backens was but not anything about him. By the time I left, I was in awe. The work he described and the path he used to get there was amazing. Simply headed to Africa on a dream with little plan is something I would be to afraid to do. I left with a new level of respect for this professor I had never met.”
“Dr. Backens’s talk was intensely inspiring, ” said Scott Bolar, Freshman. “His journey proved astounding at what can be accomplished with such little experience and in such a little amount of time. The anecdotes Dr. Backens told of the African bush were very interesting and even quite humorous at times. He emphasized the differences in culture and how we should seek to understand other cultures, embracing our differences, not rejecting them. The talk taught me a lot about how motivation and ambition can truly drive success, and with hard work is one of the few key paths to achievement.”
Finally, Brook Byrd, Sophomore, said, “Dr. Backens reminded me what it means to be a captain. He was the best speaker I have seen at CNU, and we didn’t even bring him in. He’s a professor here, I professor I have had. My mind was blown.”
Amanda Lee, a senior computer science major participated in the CAPWIC 2015: Capitol Area Celebration of Women in Computing conference on February 28, 2015.
The purpose of the conference was to bring women from the many disciplines of computer science to share their ideas and interests in the computing science field. Amanda Lee commented, “It was a great opportunity to discover the different experiences of other female computer scientists. The most interesting talk that I attended was given by Sydney Klein, VP of Information Security & Risk Management at Capitol One who spoke about working and succeeding in a diverse work environment. Her advice to attendees was to accept opportunities when they were offered instead of holding out for a particular position that might never be offered, and she encouraged women to be more confident when applying for jobs (according to the statistics she showed us, men will apply for a position when they only have 60% of the qualifications, while women will wait until they have 100% of the qualifications for the position).”
“Attending small, local conferences give our students a wonderful opportunity to see what other students are doing and to comprehend what is happening nearby in the field. It was a positive, energetic environment and we are lucky that we have this type of conference nearby,” said Dr. Lynn Lambert, Assistant Professor.