Invenio 2011

Computing Future

Algorithmic Foundations

Valentin Andreev and Quoc-Nam TranComputer science and mathematics come together in a research project of Quoc-Nam Tran, professor of computer science, and Valentin Andreev, associate professor of mathematics. The $220,645 National Science Foundation grant is for a project titled “Efficient Groebner Basis Computation in Boolean Rings for Temporal Logic Reasoning and Model Checking.”

This research project is aimed at new algebraic-based computational methods, including the foundational theories and algorithms for temporal logic reasoning, model checking and related application areas. A main objective of the project is to build an efficient framework of the Groebner bases in Boolean rings and then apply this framework to applications such as bioinformatics—the application of statistics and computer science to the field of molecular biology—and automated verification of hardware and software, Tran explained. Another main objective of the project is the development of algorithms for multicore computers because a dominant trend in microprocessor architecture in recent years has been continually increasing chip-level parallelism.

“In this research study, we made an important discovery that Groebner basis computation is PSPACE in Boolean rings,” Tran said. “This discovery is a breakthrough in the complexity of Groebner basis computation in Boolean rings and opens a new door for the Groebner basis method for automated verification of hardware and software and bioinformatics. Additionally, the many useful and interesting properties of Groebner bases include the ability to efficiently convert the bases for different orders of variables making Groebner bases a promising method in automated verification.”

Overall employment of computer network, systems and database administrators is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, these occupations will add 286,600 new jobs during that period. In general, applicants with college degrees and certi_cations will have the best opportunities.

—U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics

Efficient Irrigation

Water is a natural resource necessary to grow crops and keep landscaping green, but it should not be wasted. A Lamar computer science team aims to make irrigation efficient with research on wireless sensor networks.

Efficient Irrigation - field workBo Sun and Kami Makki, associate professors, and Lawrence Osborne, professor and chair of computer science, received $198,363 for a National Science Foundation grant titled “Acquisition of Equipment to Develop an Energy-Efficient and Reliable Wireless Sensor Network for an Urban Landscape Irrigation Management System.”

According to Sun, the research focuses on building an energy-efficient and reliable Wireless Sensor Network (WSN). While these networks are promising for many potential applications, current protocols for WSNs have only been theoretically studied or evaluated in a controlled environment such as a lab, so the team is designing and implementing an energy-efficient and reliable WSN for precision agriculture and integrating the WSN into an Urban Landscape Irrigation Management System (W-ULIMS). “The reason we chose W-ULIMS is based on the observation that harsh climate conditions and long-term deployment requirements exhibited by agricultural research fields can pose significant challenges for the deployed WSN,” Sun said.

“Furthermore, real-time WSNs for urban landscapes have great potential to revolutionize traditional soil irrigation methods.” Significant engineering challenges in the areas of embedded operating systems and wireless networking need to be addressed to successfully complete this project, Sun explained. Collaborating with AgriLIFE Research Station in Beaumont, the researchers have deployed an outdoor, 10-node WSN to collect soil moisture data for agricultural research scientists. Solar panels are used to address the energy concerns. This WSN can be remotely accessed and controlled.

Some initial soil moisture data have been collected, Sun said, but work still needs to be done. More nodes will be added to this WSN to increase collection. In the meantime, various types of hardware are still being evaluated in the research lab for better performance. More protocols are being designed, implemented and evaluated. These protocols will be deployed after they have demonstrated a desirable performance. “After enough soil moisture data are collected,” Sun said, “these data will be fed into W-ULIMS to demonstrate the effectiveness of a network in revolutionizing traditional soil irrigation methods and providing cost savings through efficient usage of agricultural labor and timely notification of critical situations.”

Overall employment of computer network, systems and database administrators is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, these occupations will add 286,600 new jobs during that period. In general, the bureau’s report states, applicants with college degrees and certi_cations will have the best opportunities.

Lawrence Osborne, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, knows these statistics well. There has never been a better time to get into the field of computer science, Osborne believes, which involves every aspect of human endeavor from familiar technologies such as wireless phones and medical imaging to new breakthroughs in nanotechnology and quantum computing.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Research for UndergraduatesYears ago, graduate students had all the fun researching topics with professors. Times have changed. Educators now realize that if undergraduate students get opportunities to do hands-on research, they are more likely to be successful at their chosen careers after graduation, and also more inclined to pursue graduate degrees.

Kami Makki, associate professor of computer science, was awarded a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant for $314,997 from the National Science Foundation to establish an REU site at Lamar University. The goal is to improve and strengthen the research skills of undergraduate students in computer science and engineering and increase their awareness of the continuing opportunities for further study in these areas.

The Lamar grant so far has supported 22 undergraduate students who were selected among applicants from universities including SUNY at Binghamton, The University of Texas at Dallas, Northeastern State University, Purdue University, Eastern Michigan University, Harding University, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, Texas A&M University–College Station and Lamar University. The selected students were paid a stipend and traveling expenses and provided meals and lodging for their 10-week summer visits to Lamar in 2009 and 2010.

The undergraduate students worked individually or in a group on a variety of research projects under Makki’s supervision in his Advanced Systems and Database Lab. Faculty members from computer science and mathematics also worked as mentors with the students in different areas such as in databases, data mining, networking, computer architecture, artificial intelligence, mathematics, software engineering and embedded systems.

The results from these projects were further improved and published in a number of prestigious national and international conferences. Kathlyn Doss, an REU participant and an undergraduate student in computer science at Lamar, competed against other Texas university students and won first prize for her project titled “Automatic Induction Proof for Program Termination Analysis” at the Association for Computer Educators in Texas Conference held in October in Houston.

“I am very proud of all the participants as all of them were very professional and hard-working individuals,” Makki said. “They were able to grasp their given project in a short period of time and produce novel solutions worthy of a being published and presented to the experts in their specialized scientific community.”

Stepping into STEM Careers

Leaders in education, business and government around the country realize the importance of recruiting students into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. With the help of a National Science Foundation grant, a team at Lamar is helping to step up the pace in STEM careers.

Peggy DoerschukPeggy Doerschuk, professor of computer science, is the principal investigator for an $800,534 NSF grant for a project called STAIRSTEP—STudents Advancing through Involvement in Research Student Talent Expansion Program. STAIRSTEP is designed to increase the number of talented at-risk undergraduate students receiving bachelor’s degrees in computer science, physics, mathematics, geology, earth science and chemistry. At-risk students include women and minorities who are underrepresented in science, technology and mathematics, as well as low-income and first-generation students who are at risk of not completing degrees because of financial problems and the lack of role models. Co-principal investigators are Cristian Bahrim, associate professor of physics; Jennifer Daniel, associate professor of mathematics; Joseph Kruger, associate professor of earth and space sciences; and Christopher Martin, associate professor of chemistry. Judith Mann, associate professor of psychology, will direct the assessment of the STAIRSTEP program.

“Through its outreach activities, the STAIRSTEP team of students and faculty has shared its love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with more than 1,000 students, educators and counselors,” Doerschuk said. “Outreach activities include hands-on workshops and demonstrations at high school career days, math competitions, science fairs, science club meetings, road shows and on-campus programs for visiting local high schools.”

In a formal assessment, students reported that participation in the program had a significant positive impact on their professional development. “Our goal is to transition at least 80 percent of STAIRSTEP participants to careers or advanced study in STEM within six months of graduation,” Doerschuk said. “The success of this program is due to the active participation of our STAIRSTEP students, the strong leadership of the faculty mentors who direct the efforts of the students and the rigor 23 of our assessment plan.”