Department of Computer Science

  • The College Honors 2018 Alumni Award Recipients at Annual Reception

    The College of Arts and Sciences recognized three notable alumni at the annual Scholarship and Awards Luncheon on March 21, 2019. Our 2018 honorees were recognized for their diverse talents, professional accomplishments, and community service.

    The College of Arts and Sciences recognized three notable alumni at the annual Scholarship and Awards Luncheon on March 21, 2019. Our 2018 honorees were recognized for their diverse talents, professional accomplishments, and community service. Congratulations to our three deserving winners!

    Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

    David Brasfield, B.S. in Computer Science, 1984

    This is the College’s highest honor, and is awarded to prominent alumni who have achieved distinction through exceptional contribution to their professions. This award highlights the diverse talents, notable accomplishments and extraordinary service of our alumni and is reserved for those with a history of excellence in their careers.

    David Brasfield is the current founder and CEO of NXTsoft.com. Over the last 30 years, he has demonstrated a track record of success in creating and developing several technology companies from inception through to successful exit.

    David has successfully developed and implemented strategies for sales, marketing and software product development. He is the founder and former CEO of Tri-Novus Capital, LLC, SBS Corporation, SBS Data Services, Inc., Brasfield Technology, LLC and Brasfield Data Services, LLC, all of which were providers of automation technology solutions for community financial institutions. He has been a director of a community bank and is currently a member of other boards in the Birmingham area, including our Department of Computer Science Advisory Board.

    Distinguished Young Alumni Award

    Ashley M. Jones, B.A. in English, 2012, UAB; M.F.A. in poetry, Florida International University

    This award honors alumni age 40 or younger for significant accomplishments in industry and/or their career field or for service in the College.

    Ashley M. Jones is a poet, organizer, and educator from Birmingham, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from UAB and an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University. She is the author of Magic City Gospel and dark / / thing. Her poetry has earned local and national awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award.

    Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at UAB and at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival here in Birmingham.

    Alumni Service Award

    Isabel Rubio, B.A. in History, 1987, Southern Mississippi University; B.S. in Social Work, 1993, UAB

    This award honors alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary service to the local, national, or global community.

    Isabel Rubio was born in Mississippi and is a second-generation Mexican-American. After graduating from UAB, she went to work in the social work field in the greater Birmingham area. After eight years, she founded the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) in 1999, where she has served as Executive Director since 2001.

    ¡HICA! is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers Alabama’s Hispanic community through its educational, leadership, community development, and advocacy work. ¡HICA! has engaged thousands of Hispanics across Alabama to increase opportunities and, as the only Latino-serving organization in Alabama, is a bridge builder with many local, regional and national organizations.

    Isabel is deeply involved in her community and serves on numerous local, statewide, and national boards, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Alabama Business Charitable Trust, and the Regions Financial Corporation Diversity Council.

    As a result of her many years of experience, Isabel is now a nationally recognized speaker on the issue of immigrants in the South.

    Read more...
  • Department of Computer Science will host annual high school programming contest

    High school programming contest for Alabama students to be held April 6 at UAB.

    Read more...
  • Are human brains vulnerable to voice morphing attacks?

    UAB researchers examine how the human brain deciphers the difference between legitimate speakers versus synthesized speakers.

    Read more...
  • Faculty save students $1.1 million on course materials

    By creating online assets in Canvas, using rental textbooks or older editions and seeking out free online resources, 17 UAB faculty, powered by AIM grants, have saved students more than $1.1 million on instructional materials.

    Read more...
  • Student Demo Day features new student startup companies

    Student entrepreneurs pitch their business ventures to the Birmingham business community following a 10-week training program.

    Read more...
  • NASA awards undergraduate and graduate students with grant to support space research

    Six students further space research through grants provided by NASA.

    Read more...
  • Does having autism make you more vulnerable to cyber phishing attacks?

    UAB study suggests individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may not be more prone to cyber phishing attacks compared to those without the disorder.

    Read more...
  • Alumni honored at the 2018 UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 event

    We are proud to announce that eight College of Arts and Sciences alumni were honored as members of the 2018 class of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25.

    We are proud to announce that eight College of Arts and Sciences alumni were honored as members of the 2018 class of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 on Friday, June 21, at the UAB National Alumni Society House.

    These deserving graduates were among 25 UAB alumni recognized for their success at a company they founded, owned, or managed. The UAB National Alumni Society, with the help of Birmingham-based accounting firm Warren Averett, has ranked and verified the nominated companies based on the annual growth rate for the three most recent reporting periods.

    Companies being considered for an Excellence in Business Award must meet the following criteria:

    1. The company must be owned, managed or founded by a UAB graduate (or group of graduates) who meets one of the following:
      • Owned 50 percent or more of the company during the most recent eligible period.
      • Served on the most senior/division leadership team (chairman, CEO, president, partner, vice president, broker, etc.) during the eligible period.
    2. The company has been in operation for a minimum of three years prior to December 31, 2017.
    3. The company has verifiable revenues of at least $150,000 for its most recent 12-month reporting period.

    Congratulations to our deserving graduates!

    ADAM ALDRICH

    Aldrich is the President and Co-Founder of Airship, a software development firm in Birmingham. Airship deploys a wide array of technologies to service clients in 11 states and across a range of industries, including healthcare, construction, retail, insurance, real estate, non-profit, and fitness. Aldrich graduated with a bachelor's in computer and information sciences in 2008.

    DR. CHARLES D. BISHOP

    Dr. Bishop is the owner of Metroplex Endodontics & Microsurgery in Dallas, Texas, where he is in practice with his wife. He graduated in 1991 with an M.S. in biology and in 1998 with a Ph.D. in biology, before receiving his D.M.D. from the Baylor College of Dentistry.


    JOHN BURDETT

    Burdett is the CEO of Fast Slow Motion, a Birmingham-based firm that provides support for companies and organizations using Salesforce, a cloud computing firm specializing in customer relationship management. Burdett graduated with a bachelor's in computer and information sciences in 2000.

    CINDY IRWIN

    Irwin is the Human Resources Director for Kelley & Mullis Wealth Management, based in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. The independent investment firm was founded more than 25 years ago; as HR director, Irwin directs human resources as well as support services and public relations/marketing. She graduated in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.


    DR. MARY DICKERSON LEE

    Franklin Primary Health Center, Inc. is a Mobile-based community health clinic founded in 1975 with a goal to provide quality healthcare to underserved communities. Dr. Lee is the Chief Dental Director at the clinic and graduated with a B.A. in natural science in 1989 and a D.M.D. from the UAB School of Dentistry in 1992.

    JOE MALUFF

    Maluff and his brother David bought the original Full Moon Bar-B-Que restaurant in 1997 and have been growing the business steadily ever since. Full Moon now has 14 locations across the state with ideas on expansion to other states in the future. Maluff graduated in 1996 with a B.S. in psychology.


    BLAKE PRIME AND LANCE RHODES

    Prime, who graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2006 with a B.S. in biology and in 2011 with an M.B.A. from the Collat School of Business, is the director of adult fitness at Godspeed Elite Sports Academy in Hoover. Rhodes, a 2008 graduate with a B.A. in history, is the owner of Godspeed and the director of athletic performance.

     



    In addition to our eight honorees, two alumni won top honors in Fastest Growing Companies with annual revenues under $10 Million: Adam Aldrich, CEO of Airship, 75 percent growth; and John Burdett, CEO of Fast Slow Motion, 71 percent growth.

    And in the Fastest Growing Companies with annual revenues over $10 million, the top winner was alumnus Joe Maluff of Full Moon Bar-B-Que with 35 percent growth over the previous year.

    Read more...
  • Computer science meets the biological sciences in the new bioinformatics program

    New degrees in the College prepare students for emerging fields of personalized medicine, advanced manufacturing, and more.

    New degrees in the College prepare students for emerging fields of personalized medicine, advanced manufacturing, and more.

    By Cary Estes


    It is an image that goes along with almost any story about the history of the computer. One or two people are in front of this clunky-looking machine that is as big as a suitcase (or a refrigerator, depending upon the decade). As the processing gears slowly dribble out the data, the person dutifully records the information using the ultimate low-tech device: pen and paper.

    This, in essence, was data gathering at the dawn of the computer age. All you needed was a notebook, and maybe a calculator when things got complex. The information superhighway was still merely a footpath, and everything moved at a moderate pace.

    Obviously, that no longer is the case. We don’t have a river of data these days. We have Niagara Falls, constantly drenching us with bits and bytes and more knowledge than we’ve ever had. And in many ways, more than we can handle.

    Yuliang Zheng, chair, Department of Computer Science.Computer Science Meets the Biological Sciences

    “Everything is centered around data now,” says Yuliang Zheng. Ph.D., chair of the Department of Computer Science. “What is the best way to collect data? How do you organize it? How do you analyze it? How do you make sense of it? Then, how do you turn that data into something useful, whether that means making money or saving lives? There are skills that are required to go through all these different steps.”

    The College of Arts and Sciences is helping students learn these steps with the introduction of a new undergraduate degree in bioinformatics, which focuses on complex biological data such as genetic codes. The new program is a result of a collaboration between the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Biology and the UAB School of Medicine, and is the first of its kind in the state of Alabama. In addition, the Department of Computer Science has also introduced a new master’s in data science, which is designed to prepare students with skills they can apply to careers in big data, including machine learning; modeling, analysis, and management of data sets; and efficient, algorithmic-based problem solving.

    For undergraduates, the focus is on the intersection of computer science and the biological sciences. “The idea is that all the new genomics and proteomics—basically the new form of medicine that is going to take over in the next 20 years—is going to be hugely data-intensive,” says Steven Austad, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biology. “Everybody is going to have their genome on file. It’s going to be a massive data organization and analysis.

    “This degree is designed to get people trained in biology to be able to recognize the data, trained in computer science to be able to write software to evaluate the data, and then trained in bioinformatics to organize the data. So this is going to train people in a lot of things that are going to be incredibly useful.”

    It is a rigorous curriculum, with multiple class requirements involving mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, genetics, and engineering. The end result will be graduates who are well-positioned for careers in the emerging data-based workforce in medicine and other fields.

    John Johnstone, co-director of the bioinformatics program.“Science in general is becoming team-oriented and interdisciplinary. This is a great example of that, with so many different disciplines involved,” says John Johnstone, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and co-director of the bioinformatics program. “It’s an elite program for an elite student. It’s challenging, but there are a lot of opportunities for a person who can do it right. There is a lot of demand for this, and not enough people who understand it.”

    Data collection and analysis already is widely used in everyday life, from genetic testing companies such as 23andMe, to the cameras and other electronic devices in new cars, to the responses generated by virtual assistants Siri and Alexa. Much of the interest at UAB likely will involve the medical field, including the use of data in creating disease treatment options specifically tailored for individual patients.

    “Bioinformatics is the same as working with any huge data set, except now the data set is the human genome,” Johnstone says. “You are gleaning information computationally from that data, and you can tune your medical treatment based on this analysis. It’s a very exciting, cutting-edge direction.”

    The Future of Healthcare

    The university took an initial step in that direction in 2017 with the hiring of computer scientist Matt Might, Ph.D., as the inaugural director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute. Simply put, the goal is to create personalized medical diagnosis and treatments based on the genomic data derived from each individual patient, which is analyzed by data scientists.

    Steven Austad, chair, Department of Biology.“Right now, we sort of treat everybody the same. You get a certain diagnosis, and a certain treatment for that diagnosis,” Austad says. “That is about to change, and the reason is there’s this data that’s going to be available. That’s what this is all ultimately about, understanding what makes you an individual and how medical diagnosis and treatment will work on you as opposed to somebody else.

    “This can be done because your doctor is going to have access to your entire genome. The problem is, your doctor is probably not going to understand what it means. So they are going to need people who do understand it and can produce it in some sort of interpretable fashion. That’s where bioinformatics comes in. It’s not enough just to know all the computer stuff. You also need to know all the underlying biology.”

    That is exactly what the College's new bioinformatics degree will provide. Computer science students have been learning how to use computation-thinking techniques to gather data for years, and medical students obviously have long had an understanding of human biology. The bioinformatics program will combine those two skill sets.

    “Having that cross-disciplinary training is going to create people who can straddle the fence and have one foot in the biology and the medical aspects of the problem being addressed, and the other foot in the analytic techniques that can be applied to that,” says James Cimino, M.D., director of the Informatics Institute in the School of Medicine.

    “We have a lot of medical researchers who have data, and they’re at a loss as to what to do with it. They know the biology, and suddenly they have a new way to collect biological data, but they have not been trained on how to interpret this data. So there’s a big demand for people to work in either a support role or a collaborative role to do that. There’s not nearly enough trained people right now to meet the demand.”

    Elliot Leftkovitz, co-director of the bioinformatics program.Graduates of the UAB bioinformatics program will have the skills needed for a variety of academic research positions, as well as government jobs involving epidemiology (through the Centers for Disease Control) and drug development (through the Food and Drug Administration). Pharmaceutical companies also need employees who are capable of analyzing data to identify genetic targets that can help in drug development.

    “For example, say you find that a particular genetic variant keeps popping up in one individual gene in patients' associated with a specific disease. Now you have a gene that might be targeted by a therapeutic drug based upon the discovery,” says Elliot Lefkowitz, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Microbiology and co-director of the bioinformatics program. “That discovery is derived from the massive amounts of data that clinical studies have provided, and companies need bioinformaticians to help them sort through that data.”

    College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Palazzo, Ph.D., who is also a cell biologist, elaborates. “Imagine that an analysis of a simple blood sample indicates that a specific profile of tumor enzymes not normally found in the blood stream are elevated,“ he says. “After a series of tests and biopsies, scientists can sequence the gene—highlighting a new, never-before-seen protein mutation that is leading to the tumor growth. Since the patient is the first with such a mutation, no information is available on potential drug treatments. Bioinformatics helps to identify a specific target site on the protein for the generation of novel drugs to create a totally new approach. All of this, and much more, is possible through the application of bioinformatics' computational and analytical technologies.“

    Attracting Students

    Austad says he received a “tremendous amount of interest” in the program when he talked with prospective students this past summer. He noted that since today’s college-bound medical students grew up with computers as part of their daily life, the concept of bioinformatics does not seem as daunting to many of them.

    “Students who might be interested in medical school but are also interested in computers, suddenly they realize that their two passions can be combined into a single major,” Austad says. “We think this is going to be a great recruiting tool to bring some really top students to UAB. This major is going to be so sellable because of the huge demand in the industry. Our graduates will walk out of here and into some really high-paying jobs.”

    Jobs that will not necessarily be in the medical field. Because as Zheng points out, “Things are changing so fast, there will soon be opportunities in jobs that haven’t even been created yet. The future will be driven by data in every field. It’s all about the data.”


    Read More: UAB launches new master’s in data science program

    Read more...
  • Master's students win Best Graduate Paper at 2018 ACM Mid-Southeast conference

    The paper predicts the probability of basketball players achieving the prestigious honor of being granted access to the Hall of Fame. 

    Two Department of Computer Science master's students, Trupesh Patel (M.S. in Computer Science) and Andrew Schatz (M.S. in Data Science), won the first place for the best graduate paper at the ACM Mid-Southeast 2018 conference. The paper, "Classifying Basketball Players by Hall of Fame Merit," predicts the probability of basketball players achieving the prestigious honor of being granted access to the Hall of Fame. This project was done using various machine learning strategies and data mining skills, under the guidance of Professor Chengcui Zhang.

    Patel and Schatz's project was an obvious choice for best graduate paper at the conference, as it demonstrated a solid analysis and evaluation framework and pursued a unique goal. It was also one of the only projects at the conference that was not funded by any third-party organization, meaning that it out-performed many well-funded research projects.

    Participating in the ACM Mid-Southeast conferences is one of the most rewarding experiences for computer science students at UAB, and the department encourages current and future students to submit their projects to upcoming conferences. It is not only for graduate students — undergraduate students have their own category and this year greatly outnumbered graduate students. The conference encourages creativity in student projects, as seen by this submission and the undergraduate champion for best project, which was a 2D-style video game created by five students from Middle Tennessee State University.

    In addition to the rewarding experience, the conference location of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is beautiful place and offers entertaining activities to conference attendees. So make sure to submit your projects to ACM Mid-Southeast 2019 conference, where hopefully you will have as much fun as Trupesh and Andrew!

    Read more...
  • Best practices on avoiding credit card identity theft this holiday season

    Security tips on protecting your identity during online and in-store holiday shopping sprees.

    Read more...
  • Student startup successful at 2018 Spark Match competition

    A company founded by two UAB students continues to find success through entrepreneur competition.

    Read more...
  • Multiple-platform measurement looks at evolution of hateful, racist memes

    Racist and hateful memes are being spread by fringe web communities, with 4chan’s /pol/ and The_Donald playing major roles in influencing mainstream communities.

    Read more...
  • UAB study aims to build a better model for brain tumors

    UAB investigators are on the track of new technologies to better guide brain tumor therapy decisions.

    Read more...
  • Pedestrian injuries, deaths could be alleviated by new Bluetooth beacon technology

    A new type of “guardian angel” technology is being developed to warn distracted pedestrians as they cross the street.

    Read more...
  • Online communities see large growth in anti-Semitic comments, memes

    Large-scale quantitative analysis details the rise of anti-Semitism and how anti-Semitic content flows across mainstream and fringe web communities.

    Read more...
  • Online communities see large growth in anti-Semitic comments, memes

    Large-scale quantitative analysis details the rise of anti-Semitism and how anti-Semitic content flows across mainstream and fringe web communities.

    Read more...
  • Researchers propose new method for secure, speech-based two-factor authentication

    Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have developed a new method for two-factor authentication via wearables using speech signals.

    Read more...
  • Researchers propose new method for secure, speech-based two-factor authentication

    “Listening-Watch” a program utilizing wearable devices and speech for two-factor authentication, thwarts potential mobile device attacks while requiring minimal effort from the user.

    Read more...
  • New bioinformatics program is the first of its kind in the state

    UAB will launch a new Bachelor of Science degree program in bioinformatics this fall.

    Read more...