DAC Student Spotlight: Akshita Jha

Akshita Jha, DAC Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science

Akshita Jha’s primary research focuses on how to prevent automated machine learning models from exacerbating existing biases.

“As an example,” Jha said, “the commercial algorithm, COMPAS, used by judges and officers across the United States to assess a defendant’s likelihood to re-offend has been shown to discriminate unfairly against African American defendants.”

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DAC Student Spotlight: Joshua Detwiler

Joshua Detwiler, DAC Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science

Joshua Detwiler, a Ph.D. student in computer science, believes that his research interest in solving automated redistricting/gerrymandering as an optimization problem is well aligned with both the applied and interdisciplinary focus at the Discovery Analytics Center and with what he is learning as a research trainee in the National Science Foundation-sponsored urban computing graduate certificate program, administered through DAC.

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DAC Student Spotlight: Yi-Chun Chang

Yi-Chun Chang, DAC master’s student in the Department of Computer Science

Graphic is from the paper, “RIDE-SECURE: Metro Security Incidents And Threat Detection Using Social Media”

Yi-Chun Chang, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business information management from National Taiwan University, was drawn to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at Virginia Tech by its reputation for quality research and the prospect of working Chang-Tien Lu, now his advisor.

“Being a student at the Discovery Analytics Center is amazing,” said Chang. “We have plenty of resources and so many great opportunities to collaborate.”

Chang’s current project with Lu is a collaboration  with a Maryland firm funded by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The team is developing an advanced spatiotemporal event detection system of several layers to deal with data preprocessing, information extraction, threat level analysis, and visualization and extract security-related information from social media contents that can help metro police improve security on trains and at metro stations.

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Discovery Analytics Center welcomes new faculty member Lifu Huang

The Discovery Analytics Center continually brings together computer scientists, engineers, and statisticians to meet the research and workforce needs of today’s data-driven society. This Fall, DAC welcomes new faculty member Lifu Huang. He has joined the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor, having earned his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Huang’s primary research interests are in the fields of natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence. He is specifically interested in building efficient models and benchmarks that can encourage machines to perform human-level intelligence.

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Chang-Tien Lu conducts research for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help detect insider threats

Chang-Tien Lu, professor in the Department of Computer Science and associate director of DAC

The challenge of detecting threats in war zones is even greater when assessing the possibility of an insider attack.

“Seemingly innocent insiders can become dangerous due to a number of circumstances including  personal relationships and geospatial environments,” said Chang-Tien Lu, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, associate director of the Discovery Analytics Center, and a faculty member in the National Science Foundation- sponsored UrbComp program 

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Chang-Tien Lu working with Maryland firm on advanced event prediction system to improve metro security

Chang-Tien Lu, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and associate director of DAC

Chang-Tien Lu, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, associate director of the Discovery Analytics Center, and a faculty member in the National Science Foundation- sponsored UrbComp program  has teamed up with Schneider Electric Buildings Critical Systems, Inc. (SEBCSI)  on a project entitled “Advanced Analytics for High-Performance Metro Security Monitoring,” funded by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

SEBCSI, located in Columbia, Maryland, provides electronic security solutions, including security access control and closed circuit television (CCTV) for commercial and government applications.

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DAC students working virtually at summer internships across the country

DAC Ph.D. student Chidubem Arachie is working remotely as an intern at Google Research.

A national pandemic that forced the closing of physical offices has not stopped graduate students at the Discovery Analytics Center from working remote internships at companies, research laboratories, and other institutions across the country. For many students, summer internships help further their own research as they gain real world experience.

Following is a list of DAC students and the work they are doing for the next few months:

Chidubem Arachiea Ph.D. student in computer science, is a research intern at Google Research in Mountain View California. He is working on generative modeling for 3D shapes. His advisor is Bert Huang.

John Aromando, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is an intern at Graf Research in Blacksburg, working on utilizing natural language processing to support the software verification process. His advisor is Edward Fox.

Hongjie Chen, a Ph.D. student in computer science, is a data science research intern at Adobe in San Jose, California. He is on the Cloud Technology Team, researching cloud resource allocation strategy. His advisor is Hoda Eldardiry.

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Students focus on COVID-19 impacts on sustainability, education, and society

Clockwise from top left: UrbComp students Nikhil Muralidhar, Joshua Detwiler, Whitney Hayes, and Shane Bookhultz

Students in the urban computing graduate certificate program gave their group presentations via Zoom at the end of semester 2020 Spring Retreat, focusing on the very thing that led to this virtual format — COVID-19.

The students were charged with taking a look at the pandemic’s impact beyond health — such as economic outcomes, urban design, and interpersonal and online relationships — by Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Discovery Analytics Center, which administers the National Science Foundation-sponsored multidisciplinary program. Click here to read more about the UrbComp Spring Retreat.


Three funded fellows earn UrbComp graduate certificate this spring

Stacey Clifton (left), Michelle Dowling (center), and Moeti Masiane (right)

Three funded UrbComp fellows, Stacey Clifton, Michelle Dowling, and Moeti Masiane, earned the graduate certificate in urban computing this spring. The certificate is offered through the National Science Foundation-sponsored multidisciplinary UrbComp Program administered by the Discovery Analytics Center.

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Congratulations to DAC’s 2020 Spring and Summer Graduates!

Among Virginia Tech graduates celebrating their achievements today include four Ph.D. and five master’s students at the Discovery Analytics Center.

Four Ph.D. students and one master’s student plan to complete degrees during the summer.

“The thoughtful and impactful research our students have engaged in while pursuing their graduate degrees has been recognized by many major academic conferences and is testament to their hard work,” said Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering and director of the center.

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