Department of Computer Science

  • UAB-developed app keeps pedestrians safe and is cost-effective, study shows

    New study indicates that StreetBit has the potential to save millions of dollars annually and reduce pedestrian injuries by implementing such programs on a larger scale.

  • New grad says “nothing more gratifying” than hunting cyberthreats

    Curiosity led Jenna Taer to the Computer Forensics Research Lab — and on to a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Then a major industry scholarship let her network with CEOs in a field she loves.

  • UAB sophomore awarded prestigious government scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    The Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship provides sophomore students with hands-on, practical experience in NOAA-related science, research, technology, policy, management and education activities.

  • One for the Books: 22 College of Arts and Sciences faculty members published or edited books in 2022

    In 2022, 22 faculty members published or edited 20 books across the Arts and Humanities, Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

    In 2022, 22 faculty members published or edited 20 books across the Arts and Humanities, Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. With scholarship ranging from aging to communication in political campaigns to poetry, faculty authors contributed valuable research, insights, and creative activities to their respective disciplines.

    On April 10, 2023, the College hosted an event at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts to celebrate the faculty authors and also acknowledge the winners of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 2023 Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas.

    Congratulations to the following faculty members for publishing or editing a book in 2022.

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  • Seven students receive 2023 Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Students

    Every academic year, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    Every academic year, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    After carefully reviewing the 2023 nominations, Dean Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., and her committee have selected three undergraduate students and four graduate students for the awards. At the upcoming 2023 commencement ceremonies, the College will acknowledge and celebrate the recipients.

    Congratulations to the following students for receiving this award:

    2023 Undergraduate Dean’s Awards

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    2023 Graduate Dean’s Awards

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  • UAB’s master’s in cybersecurity named best in the country by Fortune

    UAB’s cybersecurity program prepares graduates for careers in the high-demand field.

  • UAB cancer site tops 1 million visits by cancer experts seeking precision medicine treatments

    The UALCAN data-mining portal at UAB has been used by cancer clinicians and researchers from more than 100 countries in their search for the molecular basis of cancer.

  • First intentional virtual study abroad program designed for UAB students; gives them Ireland experience at home

    UAB partners with the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland to create an intentional virtual study abroad experience for students in Alabama.

  • 2022 in review: In case you missed these stories

    From innovative teaching approaches to research accomplishments, opportunities for artistic expression and more, there’s no shortage of stories to tell about what’s happening at UAB. Review some of the year’s best below, and visit and to read hundreds more.

  • Yan receives NSF grant to advance multi-GPU supercomputer abilities

    The grant will accelerate graph processing in supercomputers, providing software support for the fast deployment of GPU supercomputers nationwide.

  • Physics graduate finds passion for space, studying coronal mass ejections thanks to UAB mentorship

    For one UAB student, a passion for physics can help keep the Earth safe from space weather events.

  • Emma Terry wins 2023 Miss UAB Scholarship Competition

    Terry also won the Social Change, Talent and Spirit awards, earning a total of $3,300 in scholarships.

  • 12 honored for excellence in teaching

    Twelve faculty have been selected to receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. The 2022 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School.

  • Harbert Institute honors Innovation Award winners, inducts first UAB class of National Academy of Inventors members

    At their annual Innovation Awards, UAB’s Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship celebrated innovators from all corners of campus for their accomplishments, inventions and ingenuity.

  • Brasfields invest in the future of the Department of Computer Science

    For David and Phyllis Brasfield, Birmingham represents opportunity and growth. And, according to both Brasfields, UAB is at the heart of it all.

    Photo by Shannon RobinsonFor David and Phyllis Brasfield, Birmingham represents opportunity and growth. And, according to both Brasfields, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is at the heart of it all.

    “I think UAB is a hidden gem,” said Phyllis. “I just think it’s a wonderful university.”

    “For me, and for our companies, having access to all the talent that comes out of UAB has been one of the biggest benefits for me, personally,” added David, founder and CEO of NXTsoft, a secure data solutions software platform.

    The Brasfields’ relationship with UAB—and each other—began in the early 1980s. After graduating from high school, Phyllis was interested in a college that was both affordable and close to her hometown of Birmingham. David, on the other hand, wanted access to a first-class medical school. They explored their options and, eventually, both selected UAB.

    After arriving on campus, David pivoted from pre-med to computer science, and Phyllis pursued occupational therapy. Eventually, they crossed paths for the first time in a biology lab. The rest, as they say, is history.

    “We met and two years later we got married,” said David. “We lived on campus in Denman Hall.”

    The Brasfields finished their degrees and began building a life together in Birmingham. They raised four children—three of whom attended UAB—and David founded NXTsoft, which he still runs today.

    Although they graduated from UAB nearly 40 years ago, both Brasfields have stayed connected to the campus. Specifically, David has served on the Department of Computer Science Industrial Advisory Board, and, through that work, he has seen the department’s extraordinary growth in recent years.

    “Computer science, in general, is a great area to be in,” said David. “We have record enrollment.”

    Given their collective passion for both Birmingham and UAB, David and Phyllis were determined to find a way to support both faculty and students at the institution. In Spring 2022, they identified a clear area of need in the Department of Computer Science and, soon after, established the Phyllis and David Brasfield Endowed Faculty Scholar in Computer Science.

    “It was good to pour back into the school that’s been good to us and three of our kids,” said Phyllis.

    The generous gift will support the research efforts of a faculty member in the department. By doing so, the Brasfields hope to support recruitment and retainment efforts and, over time, attract innovative faculty members to UAB.

    “To help bring more kids to the university, we’ve got to have professors that want to teach here,” said David. “We want [the department] to have the ability to hire more professors, continue to grow, and handle the enrollment levels they’ve got. Also, the more students that come out of that program, the more opportunities there are for technology companies in Birmingham.”

    The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Computer Science are grateful to the Brasfields for their gift and commitment to UAB.

  • Computer science achieves record enrollment growth

    Dr. Yuliang Zheng shares impressive updates about the Department of Computer Science.

    The UAB Department of Computer Science has grown significantly in the past few years—both in the breadth of our academic program offerings and in our enrollment numbers. Currently, we offer four undergraduate programs, three master's programs, and a Ph.D. program. The combined number of majors at the undergraduate and graduate levels reached 920 in Spring 2022, representing a 318 percent increase from six years back. According to UAB’s most recent survey on first destinations of employment, 97 percent of our graduates found their first jobs within six months of graduating. Our graduates are highly sought-after by both industries and government agencies as cyber security specialists, software engineers, data scientists, IT system administrators, and application developers.

    Also, many of our students have turned into successful entrepreneurs, often starting their own companies in cutting-edge technology sectors. Our faculty are proud to be able to prepare the future workforce and support economic development priorities in Alabama and beyond. The success of the department can be attributed to multiple factors, the most important of which being the dedication of our faculty and staff to their jobs. The people within our department have exercised both bravery and adaptiveness in the rapidly evolving computing discipline and its associated industries, and I am proud of them for doing so. The second contributing factor is our ability to identify and establish degrees collaboratively in high-demand fields, including cyber security, bioinformatics, and data science. The third factor is our commitment to continuously improving curricula to respond to the fast-changing computing profession, often by taking advice from industry advisors of the department. Further, the department has invested heavily in keeping computing labs up to date with the latest hardware and software required by the curricula.

    The Department of Computer Science has also enjoyed fruitful collaborations with INTO UAB, an initiative that aims to increase the global diversity of the university’s student body. The department and INTO UAB have worked together to attract international students into our graduate programs. The collaboration has been a primary contributor to the phenomenal growth in enrollment numbers of the programs from 45 to 352 students in the past six years. To maintain our competitive edge, the department has focused our scholarly research in cyber security, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), biomedical applications, and high-performance computing. Our faculty conduct world class research in those areas, successively winning competitive research grants from federal, state, and industry funding programs. With the support and encouragement of stakeholders—including the newly established Phyllis and David Brasfield Endowed Faculty Scholar in Computer Science—the department plans to aggressively recruit multiple new faculty members of the highest caliber to support our growing academic programs and scholarly endeavors.

    Going forward, we are excited to work with the Department of Mathematics in proposing a new B.S. in Data Science degree with the goal of producing graduates with in-demand skills in AI and data analytics. We are also working on new courses to be included in the Blazer Core Curriculum to ensure future students from all disciplines develop critical data analytical skills and build the knowledge necessary to practice safe and effective digital lives.

    Read More: Computer science enrollment soars, powered by hot job market

  • Fan finds new research opportunities, mentorship in computer science Ph.D. program

    Before applying for Ph.D. programs, prospective students often weigh several factors and priorities.

    Ke FanWhen Ke Fan was evaluating computer science doctoral programs, she prioritized opportunities to work alongside faculty who were conducting research she found interesting. So, before submitting her application to UAB, she sat down and reviewed the CVs of every faculty member in the Department of Computer Science—no small task. Eventually, she discovered assistant professor Sidharth Kumar, Ph.D.

    “His research was fascinating and primarily focused on high-performance computing (HPC) and data visualization,” said Fan. “I emailed Dr. Kumar and received a response, fortunately. He then interviewed me to check if my knowledge matched his requirements and gave me a detailed overview of his research, which further piqued my interest in it."

    It was significant for Fan to consider a university in Birmingham, Alabama, because she was living and working in Shanghai, China, at the time. She grew up in China and earned her bachelor’s degree in communication engineering at the University of Hankou in Wuhan in 2014. She subsequently obtained an M.S. in software engineering from the University of Tongji in Shanghai, China. During that time, she joined a double exchange degree program that enabled her to earn a second M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Pavia in Pavia, Italy. After that, she accepted a role as a software engineer in 2017, but, within a few years on the job, she made a significant discovery.

    "After two years of work experience, I realized that even though my industry job was promising, my knowledge was insufficient," said Fan. "I desired a deeper understanding of computer science and a better chance to engage in work that benefits science and humanity."

    That desire to continue learning prompted her to start exploring Ph.D. programs. She was aware of UAB because her partner was enrolled at the university—so, given the existing connection, she decided to consider its computer science doctoral program. Specifically, she was curious if any faculty members in the Department of Computer Science were researching high performance computing (HPC). That is when Kumar, and his impressive CV, came into the picture.

    "Think of a supercomputer as a giant computing machine made of hundreds of thousands of commodity computers connected by fast networks, all working together to solve computationally demanding problems from a myriad of fields, including climate, energy, reasoning, AI/ML, and medicine. As you can expect, executing large-scale applications on these supercomputers necessitates a significant amount of data transfer and complicated communication over networks," said Fan. "These machines are large, heterogenous, and complex. Dr. Kumar's long-term aim is to develop infrastructure that makes it easier for users to run applications on supercomputers by optimizing data movement and communication patterns.”

    After speaking with Kumar, Fan decided UAB was a good fit, so she enrolled in 2019. Now, Kumar serves as her advisor, and she has worked on myriad research projects, including parallel I/O, optimizing collective communication, and performance visualization. These research results have been published in HiPC, HPDC, and SC, all of which are top-tier HPC venues.

    Fan was able to delve deeper into research through a grant that Kumar received from the National Science Foundation in 2022. The grant provided Fan the opportunity to serve as a summer intern at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. Her 2022 summer culminated in a training program with 73 other researchers. The training program—which is titled the Argonne Training Program on Extreme-Scale Computing (ATPESC)— "provides intensive, two weeks of training on the key skills, approaches, and tools to design, implement, and execute computational science and engineering applications on current high-end computing systems and the leadership-class computing systems of the future.” Overall, Fan thoroughly enjoyed both the internship and the training program.

    “The three months at the Argonne National Laboratory were extremely productive. Not only did it facilitate direct collaboration with HPC experts, but it also gave me a sense of belonging to a large, supportive HPC community,” said Fan. “In addition, seeing the large supercomputers in the lab was a treat I never grew tired of. I anticipate returning to the lab and continuing to collaborate with it.”

    In addition, Fan got the chance to network with other researchers from across the country, hear from influential speakers, and deliver a presentation highlighting her research on HPCs.

    Fan is now back at UAB and working through her fourth year in the computer science doctoral program, alongside Kumar. As she looks to the future, she hopes to graduate in Spring 2024, then seek a postdoctoral fellowship with a national lab.

    “I hope to pursue an academic position after graduating from UAB," said Fan. "I would like to continue my current research directions while exploring new areas in HPC, targeting challenges pertaining to increasing heterogeneity and scale of modern supercomputers. I would also like to find new application domains that could potentially benefit from HPC.”

    Based on her work to date, she appears to be well-poised to achieve that goal.

  • Researchers hack adaptive cruise control, then show how to make it safer

    Driver assistance tech that comes standard on new vehicles can be tricked into causing accidents — but there is a way to alert humans in time. A UAB grad student and his mentor will share their findings this month at a global conference.

  • Do I need a VPN? Stay secure in the online world

    The growing dependence on technology, coupled with the increasing threat of intrusion and cyberattacks, requires greater security in the online world.

  • Staying cyber-aware: New social media scams to watch out for

    As cybercriminals take to new tactics on social media, one UAB expert wants the public to be informed and stay aware of the newest scams.