Team-Based Learning Collaborative offers Regional Workshop on October 11.

Regional Workshop
Washington, D.C.
October 11, 2014

All day sessions – 2 workshops
  • TBL 101
  • Creating an Effective TBL Module


Detailed Schedule

8 - 8:30 a.m. : Welcome coffee & pastries
8:30 - 11:30 a.m.: TBL 101 Workshop
11:30 - 12:30 p.m.: Lunch
12:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Creating an Effective TBL Module

Registration is $195 for the Entire Day or $125 per Session

The special TBLC Hotel Room rate is $79 per night
September 5th 2014 is the last day to make hotel reservations at the reduced rate.

Washington Dulles Airport Marriott
1 (800) 228 9290 or 703 471 9500

For more information please contact Richard L. Sabina

Faculty News

Demark-Wahnefried named chair-elect for Obesity Society section on cancer
Demark-Wahnefried named chair-elect for Obesity Society section on cancer

Demark-Wahnefried takes leadership post with Obesity Society.

wendy demark wahnefried

Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor in the University of Alabama at BirminghamDepartment of Nutrition Sciences and the associate director for cancer prevention and control in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been named the chair-elect of the Obesity and Cancer Section of the Obesity Society. Her term as chair-elect begins Nov. 6, and she will assume the chair in November of 2015.

The purpose of the Obesity and Cancer Section is to promote research, education and advocacy related to cancer, including: understanding how obesity affects etiology, prevention and management of cancer; the development of effective strategies, interventions and educational efforts that may reduce the impact of obesity on cancer risk and progression; and promote the dissemination of knowledge of the obesity-cancer relationship to the scientific community, clinicians and the public.

New research presents an improved method to let computers know you are human
New research presents an improved method to let computers know you are human

UAB researchers are investigating game-based verification that may improve computer security and reduce user frustration compared to typical “type-what-you-see” CAPTCHA tools that use static images.

shapeCAPTCHA services that require users to recognize and type in static distorted characters may be a method of the past, according to studies published by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

CAPTCHAs represent a security mechanism that is often seen as a necessary hassle by Web services providers — necessary because they seek to prevent Web resource abuse, yet a hassle because the representation of a CAPTCHA may not be easy to solve. Moreover, successful attacks have been developed against many existing CAPTCHA schemes.

Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., associate professor of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and information assurance pillar co-leader of the Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research, led a team that investigated the security and usability of the next generation of CAPTCHAs that are based on simple computer games.

The UAB researchers focused on a broad form of gamelike CAPTCHAs, called dynamic cognitive game, or DCG, CAPTCHAs, which challenge the user to perform a gamelike cognitive task interacting with a series of dynamic images. For example, in a “ship parking” DCG challenge, the user is required to identify the boat from a set of moving objects and drag-and-drop it to the available “dock” location.

captchaSample prototypes of the game-based CAPTCHAs developed by Saxena's team.The puzzle is easy for the human user to solve, but may be difficult for a computer program to figure out. Also, its gamelike nature may make the process more engaging for the user compared to conventional text-based CAPTCHAs.

Saxena’s team set out to investigate the effectiveness of DCG CAPTCHAs. They first created dynamic cognitive game prototypes to represent a common type of DCG CAPTCHA, then developed a novel, fully automated attack framework to break these DCG challenges.

"The attack is based on computer vision techniques and can automatically solve new game challenges based on knowledge present in a “dictionary” built from past challenges," said Song Gao, a UAB doctoral student and a co-author on the project.

“In traditional CAPTCHA systems, computers may have a hard time figuring out what the distorted characters are — but trained humans can do it in seconds,” Saxena said. “The trouble is that criminals have figured out that they can pay people — a penny or less per time — to sit in front of a screen and ‘solve’ CAPTCHAs to let them do what they want. This is known as a CAPTCHA relay attack.”

“Most existing varieties of CAPTCHAs are completely vulnerable to such relay attacks,” said Manar Mohamed, a UAB doctoral student and another co-author on the papers. “Our research shows that DCG CAPTCHAs appear to be one of the first CAPTCHA schemes that enable reliable detection of relay attacks.”

By the time the solver provides the location of moving objects in the given challenge frame, the objects themselves would have moved to other places, which makes the provided information inaccurate. The Web robot attempting the breach could not pass the challenge due either to time out or to generating too many incorrect drag-and-drop operations, which would be recognized by the backend server as different from normal human behavior. As a result, the DCG CAPTCHAs can provide protection against relay attack to some extent.

The usability studies of these DCG CAPTCHAs conducted by the team indicate a more user-friendly and playful design direction compared to the conventional text-based CAPTCHAs.

The research team is now working toward re-designing DCG CAPTCHAs so that automated or semi-automated attacks can be made difficult while still retaining their inherent usability advantages and tolerance to relay attacks. The team has been working with companies such as Are You a Human which have been offering the first commercial instantiation of DCG CAPTCHAs.

The research is funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation and a research award from Comcast. Several studies have been done in conjunction with this research.

The project resulted in three publications at prime security conferences. One study, in collaboration with the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in India, Carleton University and Virginia State University, was recently presented at the ACM Symposium on Information, Computer and Communications Security. Another study completed by Saxena and his research team at UAB was presented at the Usability Workshop at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium. A final study appeared at the IEEE International Conference on Multimedia and Expo. Chengcui Zhang, Ph.D., also an associate professor of Computer and Information Sciences, is a faculty co-author on the project.

Research questioning sodium intake guidelines supported in New England Journal of Medicine editorial
Research questioning sodium intake guidelines supported in New England Journal of Medicine editorial
UAB Distinguished Professor’s editorial highlights research efforts exploring low-sodium intake guidelines and implications on cardiac disease and mortality.

suzanne oparil2Recent studies suggest national dietary guidelines for sodium intake are unrealistic, and that the recommended level of sodium could be associated with a higher risk of cardiac disease and mortality.

In an invited New England Journal of Medicine editorial, “Low Sodium — Cardiovascular Health Benefit or Risk?University of Alabama at Birmingham Distinguished Professor of Medicine Suzanne Oparil, M.D., reinforces the research efforts of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study.

The PURE study provides new evidence about the association of sodium and potassium intake — estimated from morning urine specimens — with blood pressure, death and major cardiovascular events. The study included more than 100,000 adults from the general populations of 17 countries, providing a broad sample of people that varied greatly in socioeconomic, geographic and demographic makeup.

National guidelines for sodium intake recommend less than 2.3 grams daily for the general population and less than 1.5 grams for people with co-morbidities including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or diabetes. But approximately 90 percent of the participants in the PURE study had either a high (greater than 5.99 grams per day) or moderate (3 to 5.99 grams per day) level of sodium excretion; approximately 10 percent excreted less than 3 grams per day, and only 4 percent had sodium excretion in the range associated with current U.S. guidelines for sodium intake (2.3 or 1.5 grams per day).

The PURE study found that those who consumed more than 6 grams of sodium daily had higher blood pressures than those who consumed less sodium. Within this group, blood pressure was higher in those with higher sodium intakes. The effect of dietary sodium intake on blood pressure was less dramatic for those in the medium (3 to 5.99 grams) or low range of sodium intake. There was no effect of dietary sodium on blood pressure for those in the low range of sodium intake (less than 3 grams).

Although there was no effect of dietary sodium on blood pressure for those in the low range, there were more deaths and cases of cardiovascular disease outcomes.

“Importantly, the very large PURE study provides evidence that both high and low levels of sodium intake may be associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease outcomes. Further, the study also showed that consuming larger amounts of potassium in the diet counterbalances the adverse affect of high sodium excretion on blood pressure in cardiovascular disease outcomes.”

“Importantly, the very large PURE study provides evidence that both high and low levels of sodium intake may be associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” said Oparil, director of the vascular biology and hypertension program of the Division of Cardiovascular Disease in UAB’s School of Medicine. “Further, the study also showed that consuming larger amounts of potassium in the diet counterbalances the adverse affect of high sodium excretion on blood pressure in cardiovascular disease outcomes.”

Oparil also pointed out the limitation of the PURE study.

“While the PURE study is a major advance in terms of scope and the use of very careful and consistent methodology, it does not allow us to conclude that low sodium intake causes death and cardiovascular disease outcomes,” she said. “The PURE study is observational in design and does not test directly whether reducing sodium intake in a population reduces cardiovascular disease outcomes compared to a comparable population, selected at random, that consumes moderate amounts of sodium.”

To achieve this, or to establish causality, a randomized, controlled outcome trial to compare reduced sodium intake with usual diet is needed.

“In the absence of such a trial, results of the PURE study argue against reduction of dietary sodium to currently recommended levels as an isolated public health recommendation,” she said.

See Oparil’s full editorial, including her comments on a third salt intake study published today.

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