UAB Magazine Online Features
Putting a New Spin on Computer SecurityBy Matt Windsor
Computer security researchers put themselves into the minds of cybercriminals to figure out what they might do next. Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., takes a different approach. His mission is to get inside the minds of users—quite literally, in his latest project—to figure out how to protect them from new attacks.
Saxena is the head of the SPIES (Security and Privacy in Emerging Computing and Networking Systems) research group in the UAB Department of Computer and Information Sciences. “Most traditional security research focuses on the attackers,” Saxena says. “We work on the defense side, with an emphasis on the end users.”
The SPIES lab puts the “strengths and weaknesses of the computer user” under the microscope, Saxena explains. Or under the brain scanner, to be precise. In one new project, Saxena has partnered with Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., a researcher in the UAB Department of Psychology who specializes in using brain imaging for autism research. The interdisciplinary duo has started scanning volunteers while they perform everyday security tasks. The subjects have to decide whether the sites they are looking at are real or fake—the actual Facebook home page or a knockoff, for example—or they are asked to heed a security warning while reading an article.
“We want to understand, from a neuroscience perspective, what happens when people are making these security decisions, and especially what happens when they are rushed into making decisions, as often happens online,” Saxena says. “We are still in the early stages, but this may give us clues on how to design warnings and safeguards that are more effective.”
Selling UAB in the 21st Century
By Matt Windsor
It’s just another day at one of America's largest hospitals. On the ground floor, in an emergency room the size of a football field, staff are treating everything from household accidents to severe trauma. In the floors above, patients are in the middle of life-saving surgeries and other treatments, while new lives are entering the world in the adjacent Women and Infants Center. But right now, in the second-floor atrium, a grandmother is calling out for help, while a camera crew looks on.
How do you summarize UAB in 60 seconds? For a new TV ad, filmmakers traveled from UAB Hospital to Sterne Library to the Comprehensive Cancer Center and beyond, with sequences in Washington, D.C., the Egyptian desert, and outer space. The creators of this minute-long commercial faced a unique challenge: unifying the academic and medical sides of UAB’s campus for the first time under a single branding campaign with a common tagline—“UAB: Knowledge that will change your world.”
Touring UAB’s New Faculty Art Studios
By Matt Windsor
Last fall, UAB art faculty packed up their paintbrushes, cameras, and power tools and cruised across campus to new digs—in a former car dealership on UAB’s eastern edge.
The building’s former life as a showroom brings an added wrinkle: Most of the new faculty studios feature massive glass windows facing the street. Many of the artists say they had some hesitancy about being so visible, but the abundant natural light and outdoor views quickly won them over. They also love the fact that their see-through studios help connect them with the surrounding community.
Here, members of the Department of Art and Art History explain how their new studios influence and inspire their work.
High-Tech Devices Enhance Patient Care
By Tara Hulen
Some of the most important medical treatment advances in recent years have been quiet ones—high-tech devices that transmit crucial information from patient bedsides, recording a wealth of data to improve care. Nurses spend less time entering data and more time with patients. The potential for errors is lower. Care-team members can see new records right away instead of tracking down paper charts. And patients enjoy peace of mind knowing that everyone treating them is on the same page—or accessing the same computer file.
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are becoming commonplace in physicians’ offices and hospitals around the country, in part because new federal rules require their adoption. UAB adopted electronic records technology early, beginning in 2008; since then, the medical center has rolled out sophisticated systems that can quickly enter patients’ vital signs directly into their EMRs, monitor drug delivery, and instantly notify health-care teams of important changes in patients’ conditions, among other tasks.
“The goal is to create a complete and fully integrated EMR with immediate electronic synching of all patient data, available to everyone on the health-care teams at the same time,” says Joan Hicks, UAB Health System chief information officer. The benefits from systems already in place, Hicks says, are a return on investment that is “more than compelling.”
Take a closer look at a few of the new technologies connecting patients, caregivers, and treatments: