Volgenau School of Engineering Annual Report 2020

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VOLGENAU SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING ANNUAL REPORT 2020

PANDEMIC PIVOT CHARTING A NEW PATH


Mason Engineering’s Commitment to Improving Society through Research Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded more than 800 Rapid Response Research grants designed to get researchers into the field and lab quicker than the traditional grant process. Volgenau School faculty have received four such grants. “Mason’s faculty have quickly pivoted to use their incredible expertise to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Aurali Dade, interim vice president for research, innovation, and economic impact at Mason. The four

Sai Dinakarrao, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is working with other researchers to develop a software tool he hopes will help confine the COVID-19 pandemic and future epidemics. Collaborating with researchers from the University of California, Davis, and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Dinakarrao is looking at factors such as population density, demographics, climate, and transportation statistics, which could help determine strategies that would prevent surges in the virus without taking a huge toll on the economy. Dinakarrao believes it is imperative to understand how to minimize the spread of the epidemic while also minimizing deleterious effects and maximizing the availability of critical health resources. His ultimate goal is to create solutions that will help communities navigate even worse scenarios than what society has seen during this pandemic. Dinakarrao received $40,000 for this work.

150,000

Developing Pandemic and Healing Models to Assist in Policy Making

$

$

40,000

Mason Engineering grants demonstrate the school’s commitment to improving society through research.


Bill and Eleanor Hazel Chair in Infrastructure Engineering Elise Miller-Hooks and her team are collaborating with Mersedeh Tariverdi, a senior data scientist in the Health, Nutrition, and Population Group at the World Bank, to launch a web portal that will support models that aid hospital responses to the pandemic. For details, see the article on page 42.

Networked Compartmental Modeling and Analysis for the Spread of COVID-19 Cameron Nowzari, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his collaborators are developing numerical methods and mathematical models to provide complementary support to the epidemiologists worldwide who are working to understand how COVID-19 spreads. The models developed will expand beyond the simple Susceptible-Infected-Removed (SIR) models to capture a number of different properties specific to COVID-19 by adding more compartments. These models will provide a more rigorous analysis of the network effects of the ongoing pandemic, which may prove especially useful as different parts of the country, or even the world, are imposing or lifting various levels of mobility restrictions at different times.

24,266

Miller-Hooks and her colleagues received $200,000 for this work. Read the full story on page 42.

$

200,000 $

A Portal to Support Models for Assessing Strategies for Hospitals during COVID-19 and Other Pandemics

Examining the Use of Big Data Analytics to Enhance Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Hemant Purohit, an assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, and his research team are sifting through millions of tweets to gain insight into people’s response to COVID-19 in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. They are using a tool called CitizenHelper to help sort through tweets to identify behaviors that could assist emergency agencies and give them an understanding of the population’s attitudes. It uses artificial intelligence techniques to filter the posts and then determines the relevance and information level of each tweet. The tool was developed as part of a larger research project Purohit is working on, which was also funded by NSF. Purohit received $24,266 for this work.

Nowzari received $150,000 for this work.

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FROM THE DEAN EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED When last year began, the Volgenau School of Engineering was on a trajectory of unprecedented growth. Student enrollment hit an all-time high, research expenditures soared into hundreds of millions of dollars, and our faculty and staff rosters were expanding to keep pace with growth in teaching and research. COVID-19 interrupted that trajectory— temporarily, I hope—as we galvanized our efforts to pivot and persevere. During the one-week extension of spring break, we moved all courses to a distancelearning model so we could keep our students’ education on track while they remained socially distant. With support from the university and our colleagues, we learned how to leverage the power of video conferencing software effectively for teaching, meetings, senior design presentations, and more. When the campus closed in March, our researchers reassessed their needs and reorganized their priorities. They looked for ways to sustain this work and succeeded. As the pandemic continued through the summer months, some of them returned safely to their labs, and many more have returned this fall. We saw our students support each other and their communities while off campus. They tutored classmates, made 3D-printed personal protective equipment, and developed new tools to help people in need. They continued to study and collaborate. Our seniors celebrated graduation virtually, and we congratulated them via Webex and Zoom. ABOUT THE COVER Top right: Qi Wei, an asso­ ciate professor in the Department of Bioengineering, fine-tunes a computer model that will help with the diagnosis and treatment of crossed eyes.

Our precipitous pandemic pivot taught us important lessons. We learned that flexibility and collaboration, paired with generosity and kindness, go a long way when dealing with challenging times. We learned that life is uncertain, and things change rapidly. This experience prepared us for an uncertain future. The crisis challenged our resilience, energy, and problem-solving skills, but these are qualities that engineers, computer scientists, and IT professionals possess. We put those skills to work.

Lower left: Mechanical engineering student Mike Belay prepares to install the primary drinking water intake screen for the San Pablo de Amali, Ecuador, community.

This annual report provides a deeper look into the efforts and successes of our Volgenau

Back cover: Remi Veneziano, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and his research team are laying the foundation for developing vaccines that could fight viruses such as the coronavirus.

Ken Ball, PhD, PE

community during the last year. I hope you enjoy reading about our endeavors, and I look forward to seeing you on campus when we can all be together again. Until then, visit us at engineering.gmu.edu or via our social media accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Dean, Volgenau School of Engineering

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CONTENTS VOLGENAU SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING 2020 ANNUAL REPORT Designed and produced by Mason Creative Services

TEACHING AND LEARNING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Secrets to Success in Virtual Classes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Paving the Way for Virtual Instruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Peer Mentors Mend Gaps in Virtual Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Student Design Teams Reorganize and Redirect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Martha Bushong Editor

Harnessing the Sun’s Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Priyanka Champaneri, Corey Jenkins Schaut Copy Editors

Computer Science Professor Named Faculty Member of the Year . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Ron Aira, Evan Cantwell, Lathan Goumas, Ian Shiff Photographers

RESEARCH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Joan Dall’Acqua Designer

Center Seeks to Help Communities Rebuild . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Claire Brandt, Marcia Staimer Illustrators

Building an Educational Foundation for Civil Engineers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Delving into Data to Solve Public Works and Manufacturing Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Adapting to Remote Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Exploring the Cascading Effects of Arctic Ice Melt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Advancing Human-Machine Partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Professor’s Eyes Are on the Prize . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Smartwatch App Aids Young Adults with Disabilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Professor Uses Tech to Tackle Social Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Analyzing the Written Works of Davy Crockett . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

SERVICE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Alumnus Switches Gears to Help Hand Sanitizer Shortage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Supporting Hospital Response to COVID-19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Keeping the Food Pipeline Going: COVID-19 on Farms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Student Organizations Step Up for Their Members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Striving to Help Others during the Coronavirus Crisis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in the Name of Charity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Cyber Security Engineering Alumnus Leads Student to Cyber Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Obum Egolum Shares His Mason Journey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

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FACULTY BY YEAR 300

250

200

150

100

50

0

Fall ’14 Tenured

Fall ’15

Fall ’16

Tenure Track

Fall ’17 Instructional

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Fall ’18

Fall ’19

Research

Fall ’20


TEACHING and LEARNING During the one-week extension of spring break, we moved all courses to a virtual-learning model so we could keep our students’ education on track while they remained socially distant.

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After the university closed, Mason students took their computers and continued their studies from a variety of remote locations. Photo by Ian Shiff

Secrets to Success in Virtual Classes Mason Engineering professors helped students crack the code to successful virtual instruction this year. From March 23 until the end of the spring semester, the university offered distance education instead of on-campus classes because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The classes were taught by the same professors with the same content as in-person classes, says Daniel Garrison, director of Mason Engineering Online for the Volgenau School of Engineering. Some classes involved synchronous delivery, in which there are specific meeting times for virtual classrooms, or asynchronous delivery, in which there is no specific meeting time and flexible learning with deadlines the instructor provides, he says. “We had comprehensive plans in place to ensure students continued to have the best quality of education,” says Kamaljeet Sanghera, associate professor of the Department of Information Sciences and Technology. She and Garrison were VSE’s representatives for Mason’s Instruc­ tional Continuity Working Group, convened by the Provost’s Office. Students had continued access to Mason’s excellent services and support including online peer mentoring, the virtual writing center, and e-library resources, she says. Adapting to an online environment was a learning experience for everyone, says Michael Buschmann, chair of the Department of Bioengineering. Successful students challenged themselves to keep a high level of engagement with the professor and the material and looked beyond the virtual instruction for additional discussions with the professor and teaching assistant, he says.

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WE HAD COMPREHENSIVE PLANS IN PLACE TO ENSURE STUDENTS CONTINUED TO HAVE THE BEST QUALITY OF EDUCATION. HUZEFA RANGWALA, a professor of computer science, says students who were successful with virtual education practiced the skills they were learning.

—Kamaljeet Sanghera, associate professor, Department of Information Sciences and Technology

Students who were successful did the following: Spent the same amount of time on their virtual classes as they would if they had in-person lectures, says Laura Kosoglu, associate chair of the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. “They held themselves accountable and budgeted their time accordingly,” she says. Didn’t multitask during the virtual class, says Dave Lattanzi, an associate professor of civil engineering. “When you are by yourself, it’s easy to think you can listen to a lecture while you do something else, but in my experience, students who try to do that struggle with online learning.” Practiced the skills they were learning, says Huzefa Rangwala, professor and Lawrence Cranberg Faculty Fellow in the Department of Computer Science. They took advantage of all the activities, such as readings, problems, prerecorded lectures, and quizzes, he says.

KAMALJEET SANGHERA, Kammy Sanghera, associate professor in information sciences and technology and interim executive director of the Institute for Digital Innovation, says that successful students took advantage of instructors’ virtual office hours.

Made the most of virtual study groups, Sanghera says. They worked together online with other students to learn the material and prepare for exams. Attended virtual office hours, Sanghera says. Part of the key to distance learning was taking advantage of the virtual office hours offered by teaching assistants and instructors. Contacted their academic advisers if they needed assistance, she says. Kept up with their homework and avoided waiting until the last minute to complete assignments. The latter is cramming, not learning, says Lance Sherry, an associate professor in the Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research.

MICHAEL BUSCHMANN, chair of the Department of Bioengineering, says that adapting to an online environment was a learning experience for everyone.

Took stock of what they didn’t know and filled the knowledge gap by actively seeking information, he says. —Nanci Hellmich PHOTOS BY RON AIRA ENGINEERING.GMU.EDU  5


Paving the Way for Virtual Instruction Mason Engineering’s Mark Pullen was a pioneer in distance education in the ’90s, never dreaming that Mason’s faculty would end up using virtual instruction this spring during the coronavirus pandemic. “I was an early advocate of teaching online,” says Pullen, who—in addition to teaching online himself—developed supporting software and recruited enough colleagues to offer Mason’s first online degree in 2005, a master’s degree in computer science. “My vision for online teaching was that it was inevitable that the day would come that it would be the norm, not the exception,” he says. “I thought that it would be a decade or two in the future, not that it would come about because of a medical disaster,” says Pullen, who recently retired as a professor in the Department of Computer Science and as director of Mason’s Center of Excellence in Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence, and Cyber (C4I & Cyber). He saw the advantages of distance education: Students wouldn’t have to commute and could finish their degrees from anywhere in the world. Pullen taught his last course in fall 2019, and even though it was an in-person class, he offered online video lectures as an option for students.

MY VISION FOR ONLINE TEACHING WAS THAT IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT THE DAY WOULD COME THAT IT WOULD BE THE NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION. I THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE A DECADE OR TWO IN THE FUTURE, NOT THAT IT WOULD COME ABOUT BECAUSE OF A MEDICAL DISASTER. —Mark Pullen, professor of computer science ––Mark Pullen, retired computer science professor

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He came to Mason in 1992 after serving 21 years as a U.S. Army officer supporting military needs for advanced information technology. His last seven years with the military were at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he was instrumental in transitioning the internet from a federal research project to the commercial system used today. He also led major advances in networked military training. He’s known today for his broad expertise in information technology with a special focus on interoperability and networked multimedia systems for education and mili­ tary training. Pullen’s goal at Mason was to teach computer networking while continuing his research in military information technology. “My vision was that networks could improve human life—both in distance education and for the international military community,” he says. When Pullen and his colleagues began working on virtual instruction in the early ’90s, there wasn’t much out there except correspondence videos, he says. He combined teaching in computer science with technology development in the C4I & Cyber Center to work toward changing this. “There was little software of any kind for distance education. We took components from various places, integrated and customized them, creating a predecessor of today’s conferencing tools like Zoom and Webex,” he says. “We developed a usable prototype, where the commercial world followed.” Sanjeev Setia, associate dean for computing programs and initiatives, says Pullen led a project that enabled audio and video to be delivered synchronously over the internet. “This was used to support the Computer Science Department’s efforts in online education, way before the rest of the university got involved in online education.” Robert Simon, a professor of computer science, says it’s difficult to overstate Pullen’s “commitment to getting online education going at Mason. He was way ahead of his time.” —Nanci Hellmich


Computer science professor Mark Pullen was an early advocate of teaching online. He created supporting software, taught online, and recruited enough colleagues to offer Mason’s first online degree in 2005, a master’s degree in computer science. Photo by Ron Aira

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ILLUSTRATION BY MARCIA STAIMER

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Peer Mentors Mend Gaps in Virtual Learning While students and faculty adjusted to virtual instruction, Mason Engineering’s peer mentors stepped up to the plate to help students during the last part of the spring semester. Mason Engineering’s peer mentor center is a resource that allows undergraduates to learn from fellow students, and with the move to virtual instruction, the mentors didn’t lose sight of that goal. Some students struggled with the change, says peer mentor and information technology major Andreas Giannopoulos. “Students experienced a lot of stress all at once. We were there to not only help with the class questions but with the transition itself,” he says. Giannopoulos and systems engineering major Megan Taylor worked with Associate Dean Sharon Caraballo over the extended spring break to set up the Cisco Webex platform and make the shift to virtual mentoring smoother for peer mentors and mentees. “We wanted to troubleshoot issues and scenarios on how to best mentor with different topics using Webex,” says Giannopoulos. With practice and the knowledge in hand, Taylor and Giannopoulos created a manual for students and fellow peer mentors. “The biggest way to make this effective is the peer mentors experimenting with it and letting people know that there will be hiccups,” says Giannopoulos. “Communication is important.” Peer mentors often must think on their feet to help with various types of engineering courses, which require different types of instruction and technology to do it virtually. “We had to make sure everyone could get the same mentoring with different resources at home,” says Giannopoulos. “During this time, students ran into things they needed help with, and we wanted to be there to support those students,” says Taylor. “Our peer mentors really rose to the challenge,” says Caraballo. “We’re able to provide the communications platform, Webex, but each peer mentor needed to determine the best technology solution from what they had available to them.” Keeping this service going benefits the peer mentors themselves, too. “The COVID-19 crisis has obviously had repercussions for all kinds of workers,” says Caraballo. “I’m very glad we’re able to keep these students employed.” —Ryley McGinnis

Andreas Giannopoulos (above) and Megan Taylor (below) went above and beyond to help fellow peer mentors succeed with the transition to virtual learning. Photos provided

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Student Design Teams Reorganize and Redirect Two mechanical engineering senior design teams’ mission to bring Tesla-like efficiency to the water took a dive when classes went virtual. Gas-powered boat engines cause many problems for the environment. The noise of a gaspowered engine can disrupt marine ecosystems, and because the engines use fossil fuels, they directly contribute to man-made climate change. The two teams, led by Alex Stickel and Joseph Canlas, started their more environmentally friendly designs in the fall semester as part of a yearlong senior design project. Their mission was to build the hull of a ship and an electric propulsion system to create a fuel-efficient design that could compete in the American Society of Naval Engineers’ (ASNE) annual competition, Promoting Electrical Propulsion for Small Craft Initiative. Their project was also sponsored by ASNE. After the fall semester ended, the hull and propulsion teams decided on their final designs. “On the hull side, we ended up choosing a skinny trimaran main hull with two branches shooting off of it,” says Stickel. “Ultimately, for the propulsion system, we decided to convert a gas outboard power unit to an electrically run system,” says Canlas.

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A view from East Potomac Park of the Washington Monument, bridge, marina, and commercial buildings with reflections of Washington, D.C. Stock photo

The Washington Marina had donated an outboard system to the propulsion team to convert, and the hull team had finished setting up their 3D printer so they could start bringing their designs to life.

Associate Professor Leigh McCue (center) with the team as they were setting up to 3D-print a mold for their hull at the MIX before campus closed. Photo provided

Both teams were at pivotal points in their projects before spring break when classes went virtual. The hull team was one day from starting 3D printing, while the propulsion team was almost finished manufacturing and ready to move on to testing their propulsion system on a canoe. “The 3D printing was going to take the longest and was the part we were most excited about, to see our virtual designs materialize,” says Stickel. “It was pretty disheartening. Our assembled 3D printer and our parts are all just sitting, waiting to be used.” Undeterred by their disappointment, the team adjusted to their new normal and was eager to show how hard they worked all year on this project. “Organization has been a huge part of how we deal with things. Reorganizing and taking time to figure out what the next steps were and having active communication was key to this transition,” says Canlas. “Situations don’t stay steady; they are always dynamic and changing. This is a lesson in leadership,” says Nathan Kathir, associate professor and head of the senior design capstone class for mechanical engineering. “This was the best outcome I can think of,” says Stickel. “This is a very serious virus, and while it’s sad that we won’t be able to deliver the product to our sponsor, this is the responsible choice.” —Ryley McGinnis

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Associate Professor Liling Huang and Professor Duminda Wijesekera map out project plans with students. Photo provided

Harnessing the Sun’s Power Imagine a day when canopies of solar panels across campus generate enough electricity to meet all of Mason’s power needs. That’s the dream of seven senior engineering students and faculty advisor Liling Huang, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The group created the foundation for this vision with their senior design project. “We designed a microgrid for the Fairfax Campus, which is a localized power system that works alongside the main power grid,” says electrical engineering senior Annam Khan, the pro­ject manager. A microgrid is a defined, contained power system, consisting of its own electric loads and sources, she says. “If it is built, one day it would allow Mason to produce the energy it consumes.” The proposed microgrid would include renewable energy sources, such as solar canopies built over parking lots and parking decks, as well as battery-energy storage systems and electric-vehicle charging stations. Natural gas-fired generators are also a possibility, Khan says. This plan would allow the university to decrease its carbon footprint, become greener, and decrease its electricity bill, Khan says. “Our project takes a big step in tackling the idea of the future power grid at George Mason.”

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WE DESIGNED A SOLAR MICROGRID FOR THE FAIRFAX CAMPUS, WHICH IS A LOCALIZED POWER SYSTEM THAT WORKS ALONGSIDE THE MAIN POWER GRID. ––Annam Khan, senior design project manager

IN CASE OF A BLACKOUT, THE MASON MICROGRID COULD AUTOMATICALLY DISCONNECT FROM THE MACROGRID AND CONTINUE TO PROVIDE RELIABLE POWER TO THE FAIRFAX CAMPUS. ––Liling Huang, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

In case of a blackout, the Mason microgrid could automatically disconnect from the macro­ grid and continue to provide reliable power to the Fairfax Campus, Huang says. The electrical and computer engineering seniors worked on the feasibility and cost of the microgrid. They wanted to make sure the high up-front capital building investment required would pay off later in energy bill savings. Huang says she was impressed with the senior team, especially given the move to distance learning due to COVID-19. “The effort they put into the designs was beyond my expectations. They were self-motivated. I pointed them in one direction, and they ran a couple of miles ahead.” She plans to have future senior design teams work on this project by taking this year’s plans and “advancing them to build the microgrid one day.” Other members of the senior design team include Andrew Christiansen, Bradley Culebro, Cameron Evans, Sarah Fakhry, William Ferrando, and Tin Vo. The team received support from Dominion Energy, Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC), and Mason Facilities. —Nanci Hellmich

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Building an Educational Foundation for Civil Engineers Civil engineering associate professor Laura Kosoglu lays the groundwork for students’ academic success in the classroom, and then she builds on it with hands-on experiences in the field and lab. “One of my goals is to create a strong foundation for students. Then they need to solidify that knowledge with practical experiences,” says Kosoglu, associate chair of the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering (CEIE) and director of CEIE’s graduate program. “Good teaching looks easy, but it’s not. The more effort I put into the course, the more students become engaged and learn,” she says. Her dedication to education earned her Mason’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2016, and she was selected for the 2019–20 Leadership Legacy Program, designed for Mason full-time faculty and staff who are committed to furthering their leadership development.

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Students tour an active construction site in the center of the Fairfax Campus to see building foundations being poured and learn about the construction process as part of their Foundation Design class taught by Laura Kosoglu. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Kosoglu has taught about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the past nine years, sharing her expertise in geotechnical engineering. The field includes the mechanics of soil, foundation design, earth-retaining structures, and seepage and slope stability. Students learn how to consider the subsurface of structures—the soil, geology, groundwater flow, water supply, soil strength, and settlement potential. “Water and soil are mud, so I tell my students they are learning about mud.” Classes have a real-world feel. For instance, in her Founda­ tion Design class, students don hard hats and go to a construction site. And in her Sustainable Land Development class, students learn about solar panels, geothermal energy, green roofs, insulation, recycled materials, and rain gardens. “The class is unlike anything they’ve taken before,” she says. One project focuses on designing a low-impact, mixed-use development from scratch. The students consider sustainability, cost, safety, and aesthetics.

Kosoglu is careful to pace her instruction. “Students need to learn the course material, but they cannot be loaded up without support. Just as civil engineers calculate the stress induced by a structure, one of my jobs is understanding the stress I’m putting on my students and at what point they are overloaded,” she says. The best part of teaching is interacting with students, she says—watching them get excited about the subject matter and answering their questions in class or during office hours. Even more rewarding is when students tell her they decided to focus on geotechnical engineering as their concentration after taking one of her classes. “I’m humbled by that,” Kosoglu says. —Nanci Hellmich

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Computer Science Professor Named Faculty Member of the Year Early in his career, computer science professor Jeff Offutt learned some valuable lessons about teaching that he still uses today.

Balancing extra jobs, families falling apart, and sickness isn’t meant to be the hard part, and we have to be understanding about personal issues,” he says.

One of those is respect. “I started at Mason in 1992, and at the time I was mainly teaching graduate students,” says Offutt. “A colleague of mine told me to remember that they are adults, many of them have jobs, and we should treat them with respect. While undergraduates are different in many ways, I believe it is important to treat them with respect, too.”

Other characteristics Offutt stresses are adapting to changing technology and helping students build resilience. “Not only has technology changed, but the way we build software has changed too,” he says. With that in mind, he redesigns his classes about every year or two.

It’s insights like this that explain why he received two awards for teaching excellence in 2020. George Mason University’s Alumni Association named Offutt the 2020 Faculty Member of the Year, and he received the 2020 John Toups Medal for Excellence in Teaching, one of the 2020 Presidential Awards for Faculty Excellence. These awards recognize faculty members who exemplify a commitment to teaching and scholarship, and Offutt has shown both in his time as a professor in the Department of Computer Science. In 2013, he received one of Mason’s Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning University Teaching Excellence Awards, and in 2019 he was one of two Mason faculty members who received Outstanding Faculty Awards from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Even with all the recognition, he is still learning, he says. Along with other important teaching ideals and meth­ ods, Offutt practices compassion and understanding with students. “College is supposed to be hard; learning to program and absorbing complicated ideas is meant to be the difficult part.

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With coding and software building, staying resilient is important, says Offutt. He organizes his classes so that students actively practice skills and tasks rather than listening to him, and they have time to ask questions. “Just with the nature of the work, when you write a computer program, it usually takes five, 10, or even 20 tries to get the software to compile, and then another five, 10, or 20 tries to get it to do what you want,” he says. “It can be pretty disheartening, and we have to try to help students build the resilience it takes to view those as learning lessons, not failures.” One way he does this is by not telling the students that what they’re learning is easy. “I’ve been doing this for a while, so I know it, but that doesn’t mean it was easy for me back when I was learning it. Telling them it is easy can be very frustrating, and they wonder what they’re doing wrong when in reality, it is just the nature of the work.” Offutt says students should stay persistent. “It’s hard, but when you get it right, it is rewarding.” —Ryley McGinnis


Jeff Offutt, computer science professor. Photo by Ron Aira

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Delving into Data to Solve Public Works and Manufacturing Problems From the time of the Roman aqueducts to the age of superhighways, engineers have solved problems and devised solutions to improve people’s lives. Today’s engineers use algorithms and coding to find high-tech solutions to solve contemporary public works and manufacturing problems. Two capstone project teams of data analytics engineering master’s students demonstrated this premise by applying their knowledge to find engineering solutions to problems in manufacturing metals and managing potholes. Both teams hand-coded their solutions using the You Only Look Once (YOLO) algorithm. “These students understood the business problem, wrangled complex data, wrote detailed code that used a powerful algorithm, and deployed an anomaly detection model with exceptional visualization,” says the team’s project advisor Thomas Ferleman, an adjunct professor and artificial intelligence/machine learning business development manager at Amazon. One team examined metals like steel to detect flaws that may occur during the manufacturing process. “If there is a defect while manufacturing steel, you can have hundreds of sheets with these defects. But if you can identify a defect while manufacturing, you can save a lot of time and money,” says team lead Shouryasimha Addepalli. Faulty metals can lead to architectural issues in bridges, planes, cars, and more. The second team adapted the algorithm to find and locate potholes, which can cause accidents and damage cars. “Our industry sponsor went back to his home country, and he noticed potholes in the roads that go unnoticed by the authorities,” says team lead Jiyad Ur Rehman. “So, we wanted to make a program that can automate this process of finding potholes and marking them while driving down the road.” The road to finding their solutions wasn’t always easy, and the students encountered a few potholes of their own. Both teams had to adapt to changes in the computer system they were using to find their solutions. After they worked with one type of model, a single-shot detection (SSD) model, their sponsor from Accure AI Inc., requested a change to the YOLO algorithm, and the teams had to start over. However, whether the team had to change their scope or solve technical problems, they always rolled with the punches and joined forces with their sponsor and instructor. “When we were testing, our model wasn’t running, and we later discovered it was because of one comma in the code,” says Addepalli. “This taught us that minute details play a crucial role in the success of a project.” The teams say that these projects and the guidance they’ve received has helped them push themselves. “Professor Ferleman has been there to guide us and provide support. He pushes us to draw up new ideas, reach new goals, and get better solutions,” says Addepalli. “My role is to ensure each student succeeds. If they fail, it’s because I failed them,” says Ferleman. —Ryley McGinnis

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Thomas Ferleman, an adjunct professor and artificial intelligence/machine-learning business development manager at Amazon, teaches in the school’s data analytics engineering master’s program. Photo by Evan Cantwell, illustration by Marcia Staimer

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RESEARCH EXPENDITURES AND AWARDS (In millions of dollars) $80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

FY ’14 Expenditures

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FY ’19

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RESEARCH When the campus closed in March, Mason Engineering researchers looked for ways to sustain their work—and succeeded. As the pandemic continued, some returned safely to their labs, and many more have returned this fall.

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Adapting to Remote Research George Mason University suspended almost all research activities conducted in its labs and facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Mason Engineering researchers found ways to continue their work remotely. Many did computer-based work, conducted portions of studies at home, and wrote papers about results.

USING ULTRASOUND TECHNOLOGY TO OPERATE PROSTHESES

Bioengineering professor Siddhartha Sikdar is using tech­nology to help individuals with limb loss better control their prostheses. His team is investigating a new way to operate prostheses using ultrasound waves to sense muscle activity. The research group was recently awarded a Bio­engineering Research Partnership grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop this technology for commercial use and perform clinical trials in subjects. The project was just ramping up when the lab had to close. However, the team developed plans to continue making progress remotely.

Bioengineering professor Siddhartha Sikdar continued his research on controlling prostheses using ultra­­sound waves. Photo by Evan Cantwell

“Our NIH grant has a strict schedule of milestones, but we were able to reprioritize some of the tasks that were more focused on software development, which could be done remotely,” Sikdar says. The group also continued some portions of testing and evaluation tasks remotely. His graduate students built temporary workstations at home with equipment from the lab to continue testing prototypes. The students and trainees also worked on analyzing data that had been collected and continued working on journal papers.

LAYING THE FOUNDATION TO DEVELOP VACCINES

Remi Veneziano, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, is using DNA nanotechnology to lay the foundation for developing vaccines that could fight viruses such as the coronavirus. While his lab was closed, some graduate students used software that allows 3D designs and renderings to explore new DNA nanoparticle architectures. These can be used for vaccine platform development and other biomedical applications, Veneziano says. “It’s a safe and elegant way to design vaccines,” he says. “If successful, our strategy could be adapted for emerging viruses and applied to several other pathogens, including the coronavirus.”

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Remi Veneziano, an assistant professor in the Department of Bio­ engineering, and his research team are laying the foundation for developing vaccines that could fight viruses such as the coronavirus. Photo by Ron Aira.


DEFENDING AGAINST CYBER ATTACKS

Massimiliano (Max) Albanese, a Mason Engineering cybersecurity researcher, has spent years studying the minds and methods of cyber criminals to develop better ways to defend computer systems. He did advance legwork to continue his research. “I systematically stored every file or dataset I needed in a cloudbased repository, so I was able to transition to remote work without having to move any data from my office computer,” says Albanese, an associate professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology. Max Albanese, an associate professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, continued to do cybersecurity research when the labs closed. Photo by Creative Services

As associate director of the Center for Secure Information Systems, he’s working with researchers at other institutions to develop adaptive defenses against cyberattacks as part of a six-year, $6.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. “As cybersecurity researchers, we are fortunate because the resources we need for our research and to run experiments can be accessed remotely. [That] is critical to efficiently and effectively move operations online in a situation like the one we are experiencing today,” he says.

GAINING INSIGHTS FROM ONLINE LEARNING

Jill Nelson, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, continued her research in two diverse areas. She’s studying algorithms for making intelligent decisions about how to allocate resources in active sonar surveillance systems, as well as how communities of instructors, graduate teaching assistants, and undergraduate learning assistants can promote activelearning practices in entry-level college STEM courses, including calculus and physics. For the latter study, Mason’s recent switch to virtual learning could provide Nelson’s group with new data. “We’ll now be able to examine some interesting questions about those courses now that they’re online,” she says. —Nanci Hellmich

Jill Nelson, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will use data from Mason’s recent switch to virtual learning for one of her research projects. Photo provided

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Exploring the Cascading Effects of Arctic Ice Melt

I REALIZE NOW THAT WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. WHAT HAPPENS IN NUUK, GREENLAND, OR BARROW, ALASKA, AFFECTS US ALL. —Elise Miller-Hooks, Bill and Eleanor Hazel Chair of Infrastructure Engineering at the Volgenau School

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The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the planet, but for a team of researchers at George Mason University, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the changes to come. The team members, led by faculty from Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, are diving into how melting ice in the Arctic will affect the people, habitats, and social fabric of this remote region. A National Science Foundation grant—An Expanding Global Maritime Network, Its Arctic Impacts, and Reverberations—provides the support to better understand this global challenge and to help mitigate its effects on the Arctic. “We are considering the effects of the sea ice melting in the Arctic and the potential for this change to affect world trade flows and a myriad of things that connect to these flows,” says Elise Miller-Hooks, the principal investigator and Bill and Eleanor Hazel Chair of Infrastructure Engineering at the Volgenau School.

Professor Elise Miller-Hooks

As previously icebound passageways open, shorter trade routes will save time and money in the transportation of goods and services. “The opening up of this northwest route will affect trade in many ways,” says Miller-Hooks. As more traffic passes through the Arctic, there will be changes in supply chains, increased pollution of the shipping lanes, and changes to the fragile Arctic ecosystem. On the other hand, there will be jobs and the potential for economic growth, but these opportunities could disrupt the lives and threaten the cultures of indigenous people. Sara Cobb, the grant’s co-principal investigator and director of the Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution, brings her expertise in conflict and narrative studies as the team seeks to understand the impact of the coming changes and develop early warning systems for Arctic communities. The study’s unique pairing of mathematical analysis with narrative studies aims to help develop tools that could lead to early responses to help mitigate the effects of the many changes in the Arctic. Celso Ferreira, associate professor in the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering and a co-principal investigator on the grant, adds his knowledge of flood hazards to the team. “As the Arctic ice diminishes, the coastlines are more vulnerable to storms and erosion,” says Ferreira. The team hopes to work with the people who live in the Arctic as they develop sustainable solutions to the challenges of the ice melt. “The Arctic ice melt is a big problem. Big problems demand big answers and big teams,” says Miller-Hooks. “We are leading a team of experts from many different areas, including civil engineering, applied mathematics, anthropology, ice physics, coastal dynamics, and narrative approaches to conflict analysis and resolution.” Ultimately, the research team wants to develop a toolbox that will support research around the globe with Mason researchers at the center of the work. Miller-Hooks says the team’s work has opened her eyes to the interconnectedness of our world. “I realize now that we are all in this together. What happens in Nuuk, Greenland, or Barrow, Alaska, affects us all.” —Martha Bushong

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Center Seeks to Help Communities Rebuild When disaster, natural or man-made, hits a community, volunteers and community members often rush to rebuild what was lost. They search for family mementos in the rubble and try to regain a sense of peace and security.

“We want to do common good for the commonwealth,” says Tonya Neaves, director for the Centers on the Public Service in the Schar School and one of the faculty on the C-RASC Leadership Council. “Emergency management takes more than one viewpoint.”

Systems engineering and operations re­ search professor Kathryn Laskey is director of the new transdisciplinary Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities (C-RASC), which aims to help communities with this rebuilding process and with the preparations that can reduce the impact of disasters.

The C-RASC model follows a feedback loop of developing local solutions, producing the local capacity to build and maintain a resilient community, and then learning from those solutions, adjusting if needed, and carrying the lessons learned from one community to the next.

“Pressures from migration and climate change are accelerating, and it creates really difficult social situations that are going to cause difficult social challenges and political unrest,” says Laskey.

“The idea is to support resilience so that when something happens you can withstand the disruption, and not just bounce back, but bounce forward better,” says Laskey.

In collaboration with faculty from the Schar School of Policy and Government, College of Science, School of Business, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, and the College of Health and Human Services, the new center aims to research the best practices to target and support locally led community groups that can help build resiliency in the community before, during, and after a crisis.

Director of the new Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities Kathryn Laskey says the trans­disciplinary team aims to help global communities rebuild on their own. Photo by Jim Kirby

Laskey says their focus on locally led groups helps ensure that the solutions they are building will work for the people in that location. “It doesn’t work to go into these communities in a paternalistic sort of way and tell people how to run their society.” And with a transdisciplinary approach, Laskey and the rest of the faculty involved hope that they can really make a difference in communities in Virginia, the United States, and the world.

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Since the center began in fall 2019, they have started on numerous local and global projects. One project collaborates with Arba Minch University in Ethiopia and the company Global MapAid to outline maps for a sustainable irrigation system for farms throughout the country. “If the rain falls at the wrong time of the year, which it has been doing, then farmers go hungry,” says Laskey. “This system really helps with food security.” The center has also hired a new assistant director, Hannah Torres, and continues to reach out across the university for new partners across disciplines. “We continue to reach out and look for opportunities to do transdisciplinary research with a resilience focus,” says Laskey. “Mason’s vision is research of consequence, and if this center is successful, then this will make a difference in people’s lives,” says Laskey. —Ryley McGinnis


THE IDEA IS TO SUPPORT RESILIENCE SO THAT WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS YOU CAN WITHSTAND THE DISRUPTION, AND NOT JUST BOUNCE BACK, BUT BOUNCE FORWARD BETTER. —Kathryn Laskey, director of the Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities

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Mason researchers Dave Lattanzi, Brenda Bannan, and Amarda Shehu are leading the new Center for Advancing Human-Machine Partnership. Photo by Ron Aira

Advancing HumanMachine Partnerships Your smartphone reminds you to go to a meeting. Pop-up ads recommend items you might want to purchase. Chatbots converse with you about shopping. Technology is woven into the fabric of our lives, and in the future, machines will be smarter and play an even bigger role in the workplace, education, and everyday tasks, says Mason Engineering’s Amarda Shehu, a professor of computer science. There will be an increasing interconnectedness between computing systems and the people who use them, agrees Dave Lattanzi, an associate professor of civil engineering. This interconnectedness will need to be transparent and interactive so people trust the systems they are working with, adds Brenda Bannan, an associate professor in the Division

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of Learning Technologies in the College of Education and Human Development. To explore the best ways to navigate this new frontier, Shehu, Lattanzi, and Bannan are leading Mason’s new Center for Advancing Human-Machine Partnership (CAHMP). The interdisciplinary team includes faculty members from six schools and colleges at Mason, including the Volgenau School of Engineering. The purpose of CAHMP is to rethink human-machine partnerships and to design technology in a way that puts people in control, Shehu says. Mason researchers will conduct convergent research with experts from several disciplines uniting to look at problems in different ways. Computer scientists, psychologists, social scientists, human factors researchers, philosophers, policy experts, engineers, and education researchers will tackle fundamental questions about how machines can operate in a contextual setting, adapting to the people who guide them while engendering trust, Shehu says. According to Lattanzi, many people have social anxiety about relying on machines for decisions because they don’t understand and trust the systems that are being built. “In my field, we have wonderful robots and artificial intelligence systems to help in civil infrastructure, but people don’t use them because they don’t trust them,” he says. “I get the response, ‘This is great, but I don’t trust it to do as well as a human does.’ In reality, it’s better than humans are. We over-trust humans but under-trust machines.”

WE ARE PREPARING FOR A TIME WHEN HUMANS AND MACHINES WORK TOGETHER SIDE BY SIDE, AND WE WANT TO LEAD IN THIS SPACE. ––Amarda Shehu, professor of computer science

Lattanzi says that people will need to be able to trust and communicate with machines in the future for many purposes. For instance, autonomous vehicles need to know where passengers want to go and understand their needs, so passengers must be able to communicate back, he says. Shehu notes that machines are going to get more intelligent. “Right now, they aren’t very smart and are designed for specific tasks,” she says. “A movie recommendation system can only recommend movies. One direction where we want to go is general, integrated intelligence, such as a personal assistant that helps you with your day-to-day decisions, your health, and more.” She hopes CAHMP, which has funding for five years, will be recognized as a leader in human-machine partnerships. “We are preparing for a time when humans and machines work together side by side, and we want to lead in this space,” she says. —Nanci Hellmich

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Professor’s Eyes Are on the Prize When Mason Engineering’s Qi Wei sees people with vision troubles, she knows there is more to the problem than meets the eye.

WE HOPE THE NEUROBIOMEDICAL MODEL WE ARE DEVELOPING WILL HELP DOCTORS BETTER DETERMINE HOW BEST TO TREAT STRABISMUS. ––Qi Wei, associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering

She researches strabismus, which is misaligned crossed eyes. “When people have strabismus, their eyes don’t line up to look at the same place at the same time,” says Wei, an associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering and a winner of Mason’s Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning’s 2020 Teaching Excellence Award. One or both eyes may turn in, out, up, or down. A prevalent problem, especially with children, strabismus affects 18 million people in the United States. “Strabismus can be debilitating because people with the condition develop double vision, blurred vision, eyestrain, or other symptoms impairing daily activities.” Wei and three other principal investigators from different universities are creating a data-driven computer model of the eye for diagnosing and treating strabismus with almost $1.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

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With a quick adjustment plan in place, the project was not slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic. “We hope the neuro-biomedical model we are developing will help doctors better determine how best to treat strabismus,” she says. Each eye has six extraocular muscles that control eye position and movement. Strabismus occurs when these muscles don’t function properly due to complex neurological, anatomical, or perceptual abnormalities. Some people are born with the condition, while others develop it later due to medical conditions or other reasons, Wei says. It’s complicated and hard to diagnose and treat effectively, she says. Typically, the condition is treated with surgery that manipulates one or more extraocular muscles. Generally, surgeons rely on experience and intuition to decide the best surgical treatment, she says. Although a few computer models for the treatment of the condition exist, Wei and colleagues are fine-tuning their

model, which will overcome others’ critical limitations. Using clinical data from 50 strabismic patients who’ve been operated on, the team will test hypotheses that they hope will advance the knowledge on treating two common types of strabismus. The model will include clinical information from patients’ MRIs, the surgical procedures used to correct the condition, and surgical outcomes. Co-investigator Joseph Demer, an ophthalmologist and biomedical engineer with the Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, operates on patients with strabismus. He provides the data and assists with clinical interpretations of the model. Wei, a computer scientist by training, says the biomedical field “lets you work on a real problem and make it better.” “Strabismus is complicated, and computer models might be flawed, but someone has to come up with a breakthrough,” she says. —Nanci Hellmich

Qi Wei, an associate professor in the Depart­ ment of Bioengineering, is fine-tuning a computer model that will help with the diagnosis and treatment of crossed eyes. Photos by Evan Cantwell

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Smartwatch App Aids Young Adults with Disabilities Vivian Motti, an assistant professor of information sciences and technology, is pushing smartwatch capabilities beyond fitness tracking and phone calls to help neuro-diverse individuals live more independent lives. Motti and Anna Evmenova, an associate professor of special education and disability research in the College of Education and Human Development, received a grant of more than $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a smartwatch application that will help young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their daily lives. Young adults with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or autism who are enrolled in the Mason LIFE Program (Learning into Future Environments) are usually guided through their days by assistants who help with daily tasks and who intervene when the student gets stressed or overwhelmed. Motti and Evmenova’s app will make those interventions less intrusive for the wearers and the assistants. “The idea is to use the watch to help students with self-regulation,” says Motti. “One of the biggest challenges for assistants is to help the person cope with situations that might be stressful.”

suggestions, such as to take a deep breath, take a walk, or drink water. Typically, these interventions have to be given out loud to figure out what is wrong in any given situation and how to fix it. “In a classroom setting these interventions, while effective, can be stigmatizing because the student has a person beside them that touches them and tells them what to do,” says Motti. “With the watch, the interventions are much less intrusive.” Motti and Evmenova have already created a proof of concept for the watch application. The new grant will allow them to move on to characterizing the scenarios where interventions are necessary and then evaluating those interventions to make sure they are intuitive and easy to use on the watch. Motti is already looking to further possibilities for this project. “In the future, we could automate this process or learn more about how to improve self-regulation, which will be great so that neuro-diverse individuals can become even more independent and included in society.”

The assistant, through a mobile app that is connected to the watch, can ask the student questions about how they are feeling and, based on their response, the assistant can give

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—Ryley McGinnis


Vivian Motti’s interdisciplinary project aims to help young adults with disabilities become more independent in their daily lives. Photo by Evan Cantwell

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Professor Uses Tech to    Tackle Social Problems A Mason Engineering professor is using the power of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle social problems on the web by analyzing social media messages. Hemant Purohit, assistant professor of information sciences and technology, has been working with Bonnie Stabile from the Schar School of Policy and Government for the last two years on their multidisciplinary research project to use AI techniques to look at the connection between social media and its impact on policy and law and the way people perceive misleading or misguided information on the web. “We address this problem of how policies to support women’s empowerment are undermined due to the way women are negatively socially constructed in online social spaces by people with potentially malicious intent,” says Purohit. “Like the Stanford swimmer sexual assault case, where some people took a stand for the accused and they were maliciously creating uncertainty about the survivor.” Purohit and his PhD student Rahul Pandey, in collaboration with Stabile and her PhD student Aubrey Grant, created a computational framework to collect, process, and analyze social media messages discussing rape or sexual assault topics using natural-language

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ILLUSTRATION BY CLAIRE BRANDT

Assistant Professor Hemant Purohit uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze social media posts for different social causes. Photo by Ron Aira

understanding methods of AI. Purohit says the group then categorized their data set of tweets into four categories based on intent: accusational, validational, sensational, and other. “We found that nearly half of 100,000 tweets referencing key terms associated with ‘rape’ and ‘deception’ were accusational, meaning that they blamed, disparaged, and disbelieved women reporting rape or sexual assault,” says Stabile. In comparison, only 12 percent of these tweets validated the victim, making accusational and negative tweets almost three times as prevalent. Stabile and Purohit believe this reflects an unfortunate reality of how social construction in online public conversations could influence the implementation and actual impact of policy and laws, given that there are several strong policies and laws in place to curb gender violence and sexual assault. “We believe that this both reflects damaging portrayals of those who experience sexual assault and can serve to perpetuate such portrayals,” says Stabile. “Such evidence is critical in bringing attention to how women, the predominant victims of sexual assault and harassment, can be mischaracterized in ways that can disadvantage them when policy is made.” Purohit and Stabile have worked on numerous papers and intend to pursue further research that connects AI and policy. “We will continue to explore other application areas of policy and laws where we could take our multidisciplinary research approach to study the social media and web spaces with theoretically inspired computational methods,” says Purohit. “We are currently exploring hate speech on social media platforms and how to detect and mitigate that, again given the fact that there are already many policies and laws to prevent this phenomenon.” —Ryley McGinnis

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Analyzing the Written Works of Davy Crockett Statistics researchers used their literary detective skills to investigate the writing of American frontiersman Davy Crockett. David Holmes, an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics, and Ferris Samara, BS Economics ’19, applied stylometry, the statistical analysis of literary style, to explore whether Crockett wrote three books that bear his name, including his autobiography and a diary written during the fighting at the Alamo. Crockett’s lack of any formal education and his selfconfessed inability to write coherently and grammatically have long cast doubt as to whether he was the true author, Holmes says. “Historians have said for years that Crockett would have been unable to write the diary during his time at the Alamo, and we found that he didn’t author the books attributed to him and that they were, in fact, written by different ghostwriters,” he says. The paper detailing their findings is published in the April issue of CHANCE, a magazine from the American Statis­ti­cal Association. To do the Crockett research, Holmes recruited Samara, who had taken several of his upper-level statistics classes, to join him. Samara was awarded an OSCAR scholarship to undertake the project, and together they applied multi­variate

ILLUSTRATION BY CLAIRE BRANDT

HISTORIANS HAVE SAID FOR YEARS THAT CROCKETT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO WRITE THE DIARY DURING HIS TIME AT THE ALAMO, AND WE FOUND THAT HE DIDN’T AUTHOR THE BOOKS ATTRIBUTED TO HIM AND THAT THEY WERE, IN FACT, WRITTEN BY DIFFERENT GHOSTWRITERS. —David Holmes, assistant professor in the Department of Statistics

David Holmes, assistant professor in the Department of Statistics, applied a statistical analysis of literary style to determine the author of Davy Crockett’s diaries. Photo provided

methods and machine-learning analyses not only to Crockett’s purported works but to those of several ghostwriters who historians have suggested were his publicists and collaborators. This study is the first to employ modern stylometric methods on Crockett’s purported works, Holmes says. The books the researchers analyzed were The Life and Adventures of Colonel David Crockett of West Tennessee (1833) The Life of Martin Van Buren (1835) Colonel Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas (1836) “In this case, we added support to the doubts historians have harbored concerning these books and, more importantly, confirmed the actual ghostwriters,” Holmes says. —Nanci Hellmich

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SERVICE

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We saw Mason students, faculty, and alumni support each other and their communities while off campus. Our seniors celebrated graduation virtually, and we congratulated them via Webex and Zoom.

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Mason Engineering alumnus Bill Karlson, cofounder and CEO of KO Distilling, is making Bare Knuckle hand sanitizer during the coronavirus crisis. He’s pictured here at his craft distillery during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Bill Karlson

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Alumnus Switches Gears to Help Hand Sanitizer Shortage Bill Karlson, MS Software Systems Engineering ’94, is distilling a new solution to fight the coronavirus. In late March, when he heard that other craft distilleries across the country had begun making much-needed hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic, Karlson and his team decided to join the sanitizing army with their business, KO Distilling in Manassas, Virginia. “Hand sanitizer requires 80 percent ethanol, of which we can produce a lot,” says Karlson, the company’s cofounder and CEO. “Last year, we produced about 65,000 proof gallons of distilled spirits using approximately 350 tons of Virginia grains. So, we gladly and quickly made the pivot.” Karlson initially plans to donate Bare Knuckle hand sanitizer to Manassas-area first responders, hospitals, charitable organizations, and nursing homes. Additional quantities are being sold through government channels or to essential businesses to help cover production costs and support the continued employment of the distillery’s 15 employees. To manufacture hand sanitizer, KO Distilling incorporated some changes to their facility. “Thankfully, we didn’t have to completely retool the distillery,” Karlson says. “We modified our mashing, fermenting, and distilling processes to be able to produce 170-proof ethanol, which we had never done before. That proof is needed because compounding with other sanitizer ingredients dilutes the ethanol down to 160 proof.” The company bought a few thousand pounds of hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and a denaturant, which makes the alcohol undrinkable. They also needed to stock up on thousands of five-gallon pails, lids, and many other supplies, he says. Karlson and his team set up a 4,000-square-foot area, which is about the size of a basketball court, in the distillery for employees to safely and efficiently compound, label, fill, seal, palletize, and ship hand sanitizer pails. They switched to a 10-hour, seven-day production schedule to make about 1,600 gallons of hand sanitizer a week.

BY PRODUCING HAND SANITIZER, IT IS GRATIFYING TO KNOW THAT WE ARE DOING SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY MIGHT HELP KEEP ANOTHER HUMAN BEING FROM GETTING INFECTED BY THE VIRUS. —Mason alumnus Bill Karlson, cofounder and CEO, KO Distilling in Manassas, Virginia

KO Distilling is still making and selling its other products, which include Bare Knuckle whiskeys and Battle Standard 142 gins. Karlson, who is retired from a career as an executive with a government contracting company, says his education at Mason helped in the business world. “What I learned at Mason was how to apply the knowledge you learn in a classroom to solving real-world problems.” He’s not sure how long they’ll be making Bare Knuckle hand sanitizer. “Like everyone else, we are hoping the pandemic subsides quickly, but we are prepared to make hand sanitizer not only during the remainder of the pandemic but for weeks and even months after the pandemic is over because sanitizer product supply chains will take a while to rebound.” In the meantime, he’s thankful that he and his team can help. “When you make and sell spirits, you get satisfaction from knowing you are making a quality product that people will like,” Karlson says. “By producing hand sanitizer, it is gratifying to know that we are doing something that actually might help keep another human being from getting infected by the virus.” —Nanci Hellmich

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Supporting Hospital Response to COVID-19 George Mason University professor Elise Miller-Hooks and her team have been studying and modeling the flow of patients through American hospitals in times of crisis since 2014. Now, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are collaborating with Mersedeh Tariverdi, a senior data scientist in the Health, Nutrition, and Population Group at the World Bank, to launch a web portal—the MASH-Pandemics portal— that will support models that aid hospital responses to the pandemic. The team’s work supports evidence-based decision making, informed by the models, to rethink and facilitate hospital operations in utilizing limited critical resources as demand surges. While working as a PhD student under Miller-Hooks’s supervision, Tariverdi developed key models that now serve as the backbone for the portal. Only hours after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, graduate students working with Miller-Hooks began incorporating personal protective equipment, ventilators, and COVID-19 patients with their care paths into the models. “We’re working as fast as we can because the need is so urgent and the crisis is enormous. This effort is about health

WE’RE WORKING AS FAST AS WE CAN BECAUSE THE NEED IS SO URGENT AND THE CRISIS IS ENORMOUS. THIS EFFORT IS ABOUT HEALTH CARE WORKER SAFETY AND HELPING THE HOSPITALS COPE WITH THE PANDEMIC. IT’S ABOUT SAVING LIVES, AS WELL AS THE EFFICIENT AND EQUITABLE ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES. —Elise Miller-Hooks, Bill and Eleanor Hazel Chair in Infrastructure Engineering

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care worker safety and helping the hospitals cope with the pandemic,” says Miller-Hooks. “It’s about saving lives, as well as the efficient and equitable allocation of resources.” The work can help hospitals to best cope with surge demand in spite of limited resources. It can aid decision makers in regional response and hospital collaboration planning with health care facilities that offer various levels of care (e.g., primary health care). It can also inform decisions on the mobilization of critical supplies, supplemental space, and the dispatch of frontline health care workers and other first responders to where they are needed the most. Hospital administrators and others working in an official capacity can request runs of the MASH-Pandemics models through the portal to help them with decision making tailored for their hospitals or a group of hospitals working in collaboration. This effort builds on previously developed sophisticated discrete-event simulation models to replicate operations in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. MASH-Pandemics was developed on a patient-based, resource-constrained, multiunit hospital model originally designed for assessing hospital preparedness to serve emergency patients in surge, pandemic, mass-casualty incident, and disaster events. Miller-Hooks says their models are unique for several reasons. “If you look at most other hospital models…they generally focus on single key units and are designed for routine operations,” she says. “Our model tracks patients along their entire care path, along with physical resources and staff through 10 essential units. The models are very detailed…to capture the complexities of their operations. We do not know of other models that have considered mass casualty incidents at this level.” The effort is supported by the National Science Foun­ dation. For more information about the project go to mash-pandemics.vse.gmu.edu. —Martha Bushong


Professor Elise Miller-Hooks in front of the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C. MIller-Hooks has led the effort to launch a web portal that will help hospitals plan their pandemic responses. Photo by Ron Aira

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Migrant workers in fields face increased health risks during the pandemic. Stock photo

Keeping the Food Pipeline Going: COVID-19 on Farms Mason Engineering’s Leigh McCue developed a virtual tool to help farm owners across the United States learn how COVID-19 spreads among the migrant worker community. The food pipeline in this country depends on temporary agricultural workers on H-2A visas, and farm owners must provide board for these workers, which usually results in people living in close quarters. This poses a problem for mitigating the spread of the coronavirus should anyone in the camps get sick, and McCue, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, wanted to develop a user-friendly tool that would show how the virus could potentially spread and how certain actions can help. “You really don’t want farm workers getting sick for multiple reasons,” says McCue. “We worry about their health and being able to maintain the worker population that is needed to run the farms and keep the food pipeline going. There are a lot of implications.” When McCue was looking at modeling how a sick person traveling through an airport could affect the spread of the coronavirus, she reached out to contacts at the Northeast

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WE WORRY ABOUT [FARM WORKERS’] HEALTH AND BEING ABLE TO MAINTAIN THE WORKER POPULATION THAT IS NEEDED TO RUN THE FARMS AND KEEP THE FOOD PIPELINE GOING. —Leigh McCue, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Center for Occupational Health and Safety and found out they needed a similar model for migrant workers on farms. “We use proximity detection and are using a model similar to the ones people use when they explain flattening the curve. We look at how the virus spreads with different factors—when people sleep close to each other, if they don’t, or if they are handwashing and using face coverings, and how that will improve the likelihood of positive outcomes,” McCue says. She says this tool is for preventative measures and could be applied to other situations. “This model could be adapted so people could plug in some basic factors, whether it’s in an airplane, in a hospital, or on a farm. There are all sorts of these confined environments where being able to understand how interactions affect the spread of the virus could be really useful.” McCue hopes to explore these different situations to do what she can to help in this crisis. “In these stressful times, I just want to do what I can.” —Ryley McGinnis

Mechanical engineering associate professor Leigh McCue veered from her regular research area of ship dynamics and hydrodynamics to create an online simulation tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID19 among migrant worker communities. Photo by Evan Cantwell

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Student Organizations Step Up for Their Members Mason Engineering’s student organizations give members a sense of community, and in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they continued that mission. Multiple organizations’ executive boards worked hard to stay connected with their members during the period of isolation while staying true to their individual membership.

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is among these organizations. Mason’s student chapter president Ximena Perez and vice president Elias Aleman, both computer science majors, were disappointed when they had to cancel the rest of their semester events, but they made the most of the virtual situation. “The most important thing is that we’re not going to stop doing things for our members. We want to make this as engaging as possible,” says Aleman.

WE’VE ALWAYS STAYED CONNECTED WITH OUR MEMBERS. WE REALLY WANT TO CONTINUE THAT SENSE OF SUPPORT. —Ximena Perez, student chapter president, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

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SHPE usually hosts a series of professional and social events throughout the semester. During the transition, they did virtual study sessions, Netflix party events, and virtual elections for next year’s officers. They stress the importance of sticking together even though they can’t be physically together. “We’ve always stayed connected with our members. We really want to continue that sense of support,” says Perez.


The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) took a similar approach. “We [reached out] to our members individually and through social media,” says student chapter president and information technology major Maya Chatterjee. “We did virtual events with our members, other organizations, and as a board.” SWE normally hosts professional, social, and outreach events throughout the year. “We want to see a lot of women in engineering and motivate them. We want to help people in their education and career,” says vice president and computer science major Shruti Gupta. The board says they are excited to get back to Mason and their members when possible. “I feel like I took it for granted. I want to be back with my friends and give them my full attention,” says Gupta.

WE [REACHED OUT] TO OUR MEMBERS INDIVIDUALLY AND THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA. —Maya Chatterjee, student chapter president the Society of Women Engineers

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), like others, stayed in contact with their members. “We used GroupMe a lot to give members information we receive, like updates from the university, Virginia, and the rest of the country,” says Mason’s chapter president and civil engineering major Jamal Taylor, a senior.

WHILE THEY UNDERSTAND WHY, SOME MEMBERS ARE UPSET ABOUT COMMENCEMENT BEING POSTPONED, SO WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WE CARE. —Jamal Taylor, student chapter president, the National Society of Black Engineers

Normally, the group has study sessions every Tuesday and Thursday and a general body meeting every month, in addition to their professional development events. Taylor says he wanted to find a way to honor his fellow seniors in the group since Commencement was so uncertain. “While they understand why, some members are upset about Commencement being postponed, so we want to make sure they know we care.” And it’s not only seniors, he adds: “This is hard for everyone, and our organization wants to be there to help.” —Ryley McGinnis

PHOTOS PROVIDED

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Statistics major Brody Receveur (right) and his parents invited computer science sophomore Nawaf Alshathri to live with them in Hampton, Virginia, for the rest of the semester because Alshathri couldn't make it back to his home in Saudi Arabia. Photo provided

Striving to Help Others during the Coronavirus Crisis Mason Engineering students used their innovative skills to solve more than engineering problems. They came up with creative ways to perform random acts of kindness, both big and small, during the coronavirus outbreak. Statistics major Brody Receveur and his family invited computer science sophomore Nawaf Alshathri to stay with them for the second half of the semester. The students are friends who lived in the same residence hall at Mason. When classes went virtual after spring break, Receveur was at home with his parents in Hampton, Virginia, while Alshathri was on campus because he couldn’t get back to his home in Saudi Arabia. Receveur asked his parents if Alshathri could come live with them for a while, and they agreed. Receveur returned to the Fairfax Campus to pick up Alshathri. When they weren’t taking their classes online or studying, the two worked out together, walked on the beach, and played board games with the family. “I taught him how to make Yankee cornbread and steaks,” says Receveur. “He’s gardening with my mom (April), and my dad (Tim) talked to him about the history of our area.” Alshathri says he enjoyed his time with the Receveur family. “Tough times make the best qualities of people shine,” he says. “The Receveurs have been caring and kind. They took me in during this period of uncertainty, and they taught me valuable life skills.”

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Mechanical engineering junior Dhawal Bhanderi made protective face shields for hospital personnel with his 3D printer. Photo provided

CREATING FACE SHIELDS FOR HOSPITAL PERSONNEL

Mechanical engineering junior Dhawal Bhanderi used his entrepreneurial spirit to help protect some of society’s heroes during the coronavirus crisis. He made protective face shields with his 3D printer from his family’s home in Virginia Beach while he finished his classes remotely in the spring. “I donated the face shields to two local hospitals where workers are on the front lines fighting the pandemic,” Bhanderi says.

Arash Touhidi, a senior in electrical engineering, gave his recent paycheck to a Mason alumna who is struggling financially. Photo provided

By running his 3D printer all day, he says, “I can produce 20 quality shields a week, and while it may not sound like a great deal, the medical staff appreciated having this kind of personal protective equipment.” Each face shield cost him between 75 cents and $1.50 to make. He bought the supplies for the shields from the money he makes from his hobby of buying used electronics online, then fixing and reselling them. Bhanderi has learned that “however small, anyone can find ways to make a world of difference for some­ one else.”

PAYING IT FORWARD

When Arash Touhidi, a senior in electrical engineering, heard about a Mason alumna and friend who was struggling financially in part due to the coronavirus outbreak, he knew he wanted to help. “Although it wasn’t much, I gave her the money from my recent paycheck from my work at the Bioinspired Robotics and Intelligent Control Lab so that she can get by,” he says. “I live with my mom so I don’t have many bills, except for a car payment and insurance.” “I’m still texting with my friend, and we’re offering each other moral support,” Touhidi says. —Nanci Hellmich

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REACHING OUT VIRTUALLY AND IN PERSON

Angelica Watson, a mechanical engineering senior, called her grandmother every day to remind her to stay home and be safe. Watson also went to the grocery store to get supplies for her family. “One day when I went looking for some cleaning supplies, there was an older lady in the store who couldn’t reach the bleach on a higher shelf, so I passed her two bottles of it,” she says. “I also saw a lady looking for toilet paper, and I gave her a pack of wipes that I had picked up.... It’s the little things that warm people’s hearts.”

Angelica Watson, a senior in mechanical engineering, has been performing random acts of kindness daily, including calling to check on her grandmother. Photo provided

SENDING A WORD OF THANKS

Vineet Nair, a senior in mechanical engineering, sent emails to several faculty members and staff thanking them for going the extra mile to make online learning work. “I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to prepare to do this in a week or so,” he says. “They tried to give us our money’s worth and give us the tools we need when we graduate.” Mechanical engineering major Vineet Nair sent emails to faculty thanking them for preparing over spring break to teach classes online. Photo provided

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SHARING SAFETY INSIGHTS

Jason Nembhard, a senior in systems engineering, says a friend of his became alarmed when someone in his building in Arlington was diagnosed with COVID-19. “I reached out to him to talk about what he’s going through and suggested ways he can keep himself safe,” Nembhard says. “I was able to pass along the personal safety information I had learned from my mom, who is a nurse at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He went to work cleaning and disinfecting his apartment.”

Jason Nembhard has been passing on personal safety information he learned from his mother, a nurse. Photo provided

KEEPING FAMILY CONNECTED

Ivory Sarceno, a senior in mechanical engineering, has been doing her best to stay in touch with her family in Guatemala and the United States while practicing social distancing. Everyone is stressed out, and during this time, laughter is still the best medicine, she says. “I’ve started a family group chat with 11 members through WhatsApp where my family can share memes and uplifting stories, and most importantly, our love and support for each other.”

Ivory Sarceno, a mechanical engineering major, is sending funny stories to her family in the United States and Guatemala. Photo provided

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Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in the Name of Charity There are many websites tracking the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but one Mason Engineering student decided to do more than mark the negative impact—he decided to make a positive impact in his community. Awad Shahadat, a junior and a computer science major, is helping by collecting donations for local food banks through a virus-tracking website he created. “I thought building a tool that people would find useful would encourage them to donate,” he says. “My goal is to raise money for food banks in our area because of the economic fallout from this pandemic. I hope people use this site to stay up-todate on accurate and credible information.” With the help of his brother, Zobair, BS Information Technology ’15, Shahadat created wheresthecorona.com. The site uses the most accurate and updated information available from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Shahadat says his goal is to collect at least 5,000 nonperishable food items to donate. Everything he collects is being donated in Virginia to ACTS in Prince William County and SERVE in Woodbridge and Stafford—all emergency assistance organizations. “We’ve collected about 1,400 items so far,” he says, adding that about 60 percent of his donations came from his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers. Awad Shahadat, a junior and a computer science major, collects donations for local food banks through a virus-tracking website he created. Photo provided

Shahadat says he hopes that members of the Mason community will remember to take care of each other and the people most in need during this crisis. “We’re going through difficult times,” he says. “But stay strong.” —Hannah Harmison

MY GOAL IS TO RAISE MONEY FOR FOOD BANKS IN OUR AREA BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT FROM THIS PANDEMIC. I HOPE PEOPLE USE THIS SITE TO STAY UP-TO-DATE ON ACCURATE AND CREDIBLE INFORMATION. —Awad Shahadat, junior and computer science major

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Cyber Security Engineering Alumnus Leads Student to Cyber Solutions We all work to protect our personal information, but with today’s technology, our medical devices, such as insulin pumps, are more vulnerable than ever to cyberattacks. Inova Health System information security analyst Matthew Wilkes, BS Cyber Security Engineering ’18, guided two cybersecurity senior design teams in finding solutions to these new problems while preparing them for careers in the field. “These projects were created to challenge engineering students,” says Wilkes. The teams looked at different devices. One examined insulin pumps, which are wirelessly connected to our phones, while the other looked at an infusion pump, which can be wirelessly adjusted. This pump controls the delivery of fluids, such as nutrients and medications, into patients’ bodies. Both teams were tasked with finding vulnerabilities in these devices, pinpointing ways that cyberattackers get into the devices, and coming up with different solutions to protect or monitor cyberattacks. “One big flaw that we predict is that insulin pumps now connect with your cell phones, and that can be extremely exploitive. These products are designed for functionality, not security,” says Evan Simon, a member of one of the teams.

Throughout the year, the students worked with Wilkes to complete their projects. During the spring semester, when classes turned virtual due to the coronavirus, the teams had to quickly adjust how they would reach their goals. “As our second semester started, our team’s main goal was to finish building our prototype and work on testing and improving the product,” says team member Elizabeth McPherson. “After spring break, our team, like many others, faced some challenges in changing to purely virtual communication.” But they harnessed each members’ strengths, adjusted to working virtually, and got the project done. “We didn’t view this as a setback. Regardless of COVID-19, this project has taught us a lot about teamwork, communication, and how to prepare for working challenges that we will face after graduation,” says McPherson. “We’re only human so we will make mistakes, but how do you learn from those mistakes? Have a backup plan if something goes wrong,” says Wilkes. —Ryley McGinnis

Wilkes was part of the first class of cybersecurity graduates from Mason Engineering, and he says it has been a fulfilling experience working with undergraduates at his alma mater. “The students are extremely intelligent, very interactive, and have shown a desire to succeed in the cybersecurity field. They’ve asked intriguing questions and have shown a desire to prove themselves.” Both teams pointed to Wilkes as a crucial guide to navigate their first real-world cybersecurity project. “He tries to push us in the right direction, but he wants us to come up with our own solutions to the problem,” says team member David Nguyen. Since this is new territory in the field, Wilkes wanted to challenge the students to find the best solution so that they are prepared for careers in cybersecurity. “I want to ensure that they’re encouraged to be successful in both their project and beyond. I won’t make it easy for them because if it was easy, every student could do it,” says Wilkes. “Any student who graduates from Mason with a degree in cyber security engineering has very high expectations.” ENGINEERING.GMU.EDU  53


Obum Egolum Shares His Mason Journey Obum Egolum, BS Information Technology ’20, believes journeys that take years are not defined by their final three months. Egolum’s journey began the day his parents decided to leave Nigeria for the United States. They wanted a chance at a better life for themselves and their four small children. They found it in this country. Like many college freshmen, he came to George Mason University with a specific plan in mind, but circumstances in college, as in life, often change our plans. Beginning in spring 2016, Egolum changed his major from computer science to information technology and began embracing his new path. His excitement for IT has helped him grow in ways he never imagined, both in the classroom and beyond. “I had to put my ego aside and figure out what was best for me,” he says. Egolum found opportunities here. “Through my involvement in student government, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and as a two-term president of my fraternity, I have grown as a leader,” he says. “Involvement is what made my experience at Mason worthwhile.”

Obum Egolum poses with the George Mason statue. Photos by Daniel Osei

Christopher Carr, chief diversity officer for the Volgenau School of Engineering, first met Egolum in 2018. He says, “Obum’s story is one of resilience, and it demonstrates resilience in full 3D perspective. Egolum honors his country of origin with service to the African student association. He pursues career goals—working in the industry, serving the student government, and working with his community by helping elementary school STEM pipeline programs.” Next up for Egolum is a job in McLean, Virginia, as a cybersecurity engineer for Capital One beginning in August. He’s ready for that challenge, too. He will continue to serve in the NSBE as the parliamentarian and historian. “I don’t look at my story as one of triumph,” he says. “I look at it as one of resilience. After we shifted to virtual learning, one of my professors posed this question. He said: ‘A resilient system is one that can return to a previously known good state. Are we resilient humans?’” Egolum answers with an emphatic “yes.” He believes his graduating class will push forward to achieve great things because they are resilient human beings determined to make a positive impact on the world. His journey is far from over. —Martha Bushong

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I DON’T LOOK AT MY STORY AS ONE OF TRIUMPH. I LOOK AT IT AS ONE OF RESILIENCE. —Obum Egolum, BS Information Technology ’20


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