SIGBITS September 2017

A WPI Computer Science Department summary of short notes on happenings involving faculty and students.

Phone: 508-831-5357
Fax: 508-831-5776

Neil Heffernan

Heffernan and ASSISTments Featured

Neil Heffernan and ASSISTments are featured in US News and World Report article "3 Lessons Learned from Education Technology Research". Read more about Education Technology Research...

He is pleased to announce that Doug Selent passed his PhD Defense on June 6! Doug has built a system to use machine learning to learn what student explanations are best to give to help other students.

Dmitry Korkin

Recent Korkin Publications

Dmitry Korkin and a postdoctoral researcher in his lab, Pavel Terentiev, presented his work on visualization of biological networks using mixed reality at the Cold Spring Harbor Conference on Systems Biology. Three other works were accepted at the international conferences and will be presented this July:

  • "Evidence of the ancient extreme conservation of genomic regions in animal genomes", Andi Dhroso, Nathan Johnson, Saptaparni Bandyopadhyay, and Dmitry Korkin, Moscow Conference on Computational Molecular Biology (MCCMB 2017)
  • "HoloNet: Knowledge-Driven Holographic Visualization of Complex Biological Networks in Mixed Reality", Pavel Terentiev and Dmitry Korkin, joint Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology/European Conference on Computational Biology ISMB/ECCB 2017
  • "Determining Rewiring Functional Effects of Alternative Splicing Variants on Protein-Protein Interactions", Nathan Johnson, Alexander Narykov, and Dmitry Korkin, joint Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology/European Conference on Computational Biology ISMB/ECCB 2017

The following paper was accepted: "Controlled modification of biomolecules by ultrashort laser pulses in polar liquids", Gruzdev V, Korkin D, Mooney BP, Havelund JF, Moller IM, and Thelen JJ, Nature Scientific Reports, 2017.

David Brown

Brown and Smith on Computational Creativity Panel

David Brown and Gillian Smith served on a panel during a session on "Design & Computational Creativity" at the Eighth International Conference on Computational Creativity, ICCC 2017, in Atlanta, in June.

Jozsef Patvarczki

Patvarczki Develops App to Better Control Calls

Jozsef Patvarczki, who earned his PhD in CS in 2012 under Prof. Neil Heffernan has developed an app called Caret that allows one to better control calls on a smart phone, which could, for example, reduce distracted driving. This app has now been featured as the cover story on Forbes in Hungary. Learn more about this app...

Learn more about Caret app...

Lane Harrison

Harrison REU Team Places

Lane Harrison advised an REU Team that Placed at Council on UG Research's REU Symposium Poster Title: Transforming Interactive Visualizations into Design Assets through Web-Based Instrumentation. Learn more about Transforming Interactive Visualizations...

Gary Pollice

Pollice Presents Software Engineering Talk in Ecuador

Gary Pollice is presenting a talk at the Congreso I D Ingenieria at the Universidad de Cuenca on October 5. The title is Trayendo proyectos del mundo real al aula de ingenieria (del software), which he sure hope translates to Bringing real-world projects to the (software) engineering classroom. It is mainly about how to teach collaboration to engineers, why it's so important, and why we don't usually do it. Gary will be resurrecting Marty, Russell, and Gonzo from this course; the three personae he used to use. Gary is scheduled to give this as the opening talk for the computer science sessions. Even more fun is that he is going to try and deliver this in Spanish. So, if you read something about a bald old gringo who was put in jail for calling the president a potato head or something like that, you know it didn't go as planned.

Rodica Neamtu

Neamtu Presents VLDB Paper

Rodica Neamtu presented at the VLDB2017 conference in Munich Germany a research paper "Interactive Exploration of Time Series Similarity Powered by the Marriage of Similarity Distances" (Rodica Neamtu, Ramoza Ahsan, Elke Rundensteiner, Gabor Sarkozy)


Emmanuel Agu

Recent Publications and Activities from Agu

Emmanuel Agu has had a number of publication and activities.

  • Sherry Pagoto, Jessica Oleski, Molly E Waring, Emmanuel Agu and Bengisu Tulu, Habit App: Feasibility of a Weight Loss Problem Solving App, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2017
  • Hamza Abujrida, Emmanuel Agu and Kaveh Pahlavan, Smartphone-Based Gait Assessment to Infer Parkinson's Disease Severity using Crowdsourced Data, in Proceedings of the IEEE-NIH Special Topics Conference on Healthcare Innovations and Point-of-Care Technologies (HI-POCT .17), Washington DC, 2017
  • Akshay Thejaswi, Aditya Nivarthi, Daniel Beckwith, Clifford Lindsay and Emmanuel Agu, Detruncation of Attenuation Maps using Neural Networks, IEEE nuclear science symposium and medical imaging Conference (NSS/MIC) 2017, (accepted for oral presentation, to appear).
  • Andrew McAfee, Jacob Watson, Ben Bianchi, Christina Aiello, Emmanuel Agu, AlcoWear: Detecting Blood Alcohol Levels from Wearables, submitted to IEEE Conference on Ubiquitous Intelligence and Computing (UIC) 2017
  • Paper presenter for Andrew McAfee, Jacob Watson, Ben Bianchi, Christina Aiello, Emmanuel Agu, AlcoWear: Detecting Blood Alcohol Levels from Wearables, submitted to IEEE Conference on Ubiquitous Intelligence and Computing (UIC) 2017, San Francisco, CA

He was awarded 1R21AA025193-01 Machine Learning Approach for Inferring Alcohol Intoxication Levels from Gait Data, Michael Stein (PI), Emmanuel Agu (PI), Ana Abrantes (co-I), NIH R21 National Institute on Alcoholism. PA-14-188. Awarded amount $408,578, WPI sub-contract amount ($115,469). Award Dates 7/1/17- 6/30/19

He received NSF Award #1723555 Collaborative Research: Broadening Secure Mobile Software Development (SMSD) Through Curriculum and Faculty Development, Fan Wu (PI), Cassandra Thomas (co-PI), Kai Qian (co-PI), Hossain Shahriar (co-PI), Emmanuel Agu (co-PI). Awarded amount ($498,970), WPI Share $149,487. Awarded Dates 09/01/17-08/30/20

He is Associate Editor, International Journal of Wireless Information Networks, Springer

Named Faculty Director, Health Delivery Institute, WPI, from July 1, 2017. Date (HDI is an interdisciplinary WPI institute focused on Healthcare research with over 30 faculty and over $14 million in funding since 2009)

Suzanne Mello-Stark

Mello-Stark and Cybersecurity Activities

Suzanne Mello-Stark attended the NSA GenCyber Meeting in Orlando and presented the WPI GenCyber camp on the "Utilizing experienced K-12 as instructors in your Camp" panel.

She, along with Craig Shue and Robert Walls, announced that 10 new Scholars (2 grad students and 8 BS/MS students) have been accepted to the Scholarship for Service program for Fall 2017.

Her Op-Ed "It's now clear US voting is hackable. Here are 6 things we must do." was published in

She is working with the RI Board of Elections to design and test potential audit plans. after the state of Rhode Island has passed a bill to make election audits mandatory.

She was funded by the National Security Agency to ran the GenCyber Frontiers summer camp for the third year in a row.


Gillian Smith

Smith Publications and Award

Gillian Smith organized a workshop at the International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC) on "Computational Creativity and Social Justice", in Atlanta in June.

She won one of two Best Paper awards at the Foundations of Digital Games conference: Isabella Carlsson, Jeanie Choi, Celia Pearce, Gillian Smith. "Designing eBee: A Reflection on Quilt-Based Game Design", Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games. Hyannis, MA, August 14-17, 2017.

She Earned an honorable mention at the Foundations of Digital Games conference: Britton Horn, Amy K. Hoover, Yetunde Folajimi, Jackie Barnes, Casper Harteveld, Gillian Smith. "AI-Assisted Analysis of Player Strategy across Level Progressions in a Puzzle Game", Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games. Hyannis, MA, August 14-17, 2017.

She spoke on a panel at the Foundations of Digital Games conference on "What's 'Critical' About Critical Game Design?"

She joined the Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games board of directors

She was awarded the grant "Empowering Learners to Conduct Experiments", Casper Harteveld (Northeastern Univ., PI), Gillian Smith (Co-PI), Camilia Matuk (NYU, Co-PI), Steven Sutherland (UH-CL, Co-PI). NSF Award #1736185, Cyberlearning & Future Learning Technology. Total award amount $367,662, award dates: 9/1/2017 - 8/31/2019.

Carolina Ruiz

Major Award and Publications for Ruiz

Carolina Ruiz, along with Elizabeth Ryder (PI), Robert Gegear and Shari Weaver (Co-PIs) received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Research on Learning. Their grant, entitled "Building Educational Bridges between Computer Science and Biology through Transdisciplinary Teamwork and Modular Curriculum Design," is part of the STEM + Computing initiative of the NSF. Award dates: 9/1/2017-8/30/2020.

Her collaborative research with Rob Gegear and Liz Ryder, BBT and BCB, on developing computational methods to study biodiversity was featured in numerous articles in the U.S. News & World Report, Washington Times, Miami Herald, Telegram & Gazette and 25 other media outlets around the country in June 2017.

She and Liz Ryder organized the Second Annual Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB) Summer Research Experience for High School Students (BCB-SRE) Program, June 26 - July 28, 2017. This 5-week program brings selected rising juniors and seniors to our BCB research labs to work with WPI faculty, graduate and undergraduate students on research projects that use Computer Science and Mathematics to solve problems in Biology and Medicine. The program was a big success again this year, with the participation of 17 high school students and 7 BCB faculty from 3 departments: Lane Harrison, Dmitry Korkin and Carolina Ruiz from CS; Rob Gegear, Liz Ryder, Scarlet Shell from BBT; and Brigitte Servatius from MA. See more information about this program at

As part of a grant from the Luce Foundation (PI: Karen Oates), she served as research advisor and mentor for CS/MA undergraduate student MaryAnn VanValkenburg working on medical data mining during the summer. Also served as as mentor for RBE undergraduate student Sierra Palmer (Carlo Pinciroli, research advisor).

As part of the Data Science REU Project Site (PI: Elke Rundersteiner), she advised a group of undergraduate students on a research project on machine learning on mobile health. As a result, a peer-reviewed research paper has been accepted for publication, with an REU student from Amherst College (Kate Finnerty) and a WPI CS undergraduate student (Qiaoyu Liao) as co-authors.

Katherine Finnerty, Carolina Ruiz, Bengisu Tulu, Qiaoyu Liao, Jessica Oleski, and Sherry Pagoto. "Comparing Qualitative Evaluation Methods for Improving User Engagement with Mobile Health Applications". Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare (WISH), in conjunction with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2017 Annual Symposium, Nov. 4-8, Washington DC.

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