Science Engineering Colloquium

Spring 2018 - Schedule

Delta Computing and Engineering

Location: Delta 241
Time: 12:00 p.m. ‐  1:00 p.m. (Refreshments: 11:45 a.m. ‐ 12:00 p.m.)
Hosted by the College of Science & Computer Engineering

Date Presentation

Toward Edge Computing for IoT Security

Dr. Kewei Sha
Computing Sciences Faculty
University of Houston-Clear Lake

As a new computing paradigm, edge computing extends central cloud computing to a distributed format. It complements cloud computing to optimize the performance of systems, and supports IoT applications by providing many well-designed services. As a layer in the system architecture, edge computing brings new security challenges as well as presents a new venue to deploy IoT security solutions. This talk not only analyzes the new challenges in edge computing, but also presents two novel edge-based security solutions for IoT applications. The EdgeSec represents an example of comprehensive security solution deployed at the edge layer. The secure framework to read smart meters shows how to leverage edge devices to design light-weight security protocols.

Dr. Kewei Sha is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Associate Director of Cyber Security Institute at University of Houston - Clear Lake (UHCL). Before he moved to UHCL, he was the Department Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Software Engineering at Oklahoma City University. His research interests include Internet of Things, CyberPhysical Systems, Edge Computing, Network Security and Privacy, and Data Management and Analytics. His research has been supported by NSF and UHCL.

Dr. Sha has served as guest Editors at several prestigious technical journals, and organizing committee members of many conferences, including the TPC Chair of IEEE ICCCN 2015. He is also a reviewer for numerous top journals like many IEEE transactions. He is a Senior member of ACM and a Senior member of IEEE. Dr. Sha is a recipient of IEEE Outstanding Leadership Award and 2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.

Host: Dr. Ahmed Abukmail
Free coffee and snacks outside Delta 241 from 11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m


RFID and It’s Many Industrial Adaptability

Dr. Zafar Taqvi
Adjunct Engineering Faculty, University of Houston-Clear Lake

The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology with its simplicity has found widespread application in wide range of industries. It provides an ideal technology for tracking assets and identifying them by using a simple low cost hardware. It also provides an automatic data collection. This presentation will present the technology of RFID, its various applications and benefits.

Dr. Taqvi has worked for aerospace industry at NASA Johnson Space Center for 41 years, developing requirements and specifications, trade analysis, testing, evaluation, integration and verification of advanced communication systems for space projects (space shuttle, International Space Station) in various capacity as principal engineer, advance systems engineering specialist, project engineer, and group supervisor/manager for several engineering contractors.

He concurrently taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Houston System that included control systems, logic design, computer architecture, robotics, information and coding theory, communications and related subjects for 38 years. Dr Taqvi has held various local, national and international volunteer positions with IEEE, American Institute of Aeronautics and Aeronautics (AIAA), International Society of Automation (ISA), and Clear Lake Council of Technical Societies (CLCTS).

Host: Dr. Tom Harman
Free coffee and snacks outside Delta 241 from 11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Learning to Identify Symptoms of Cancer in Young Children Using Natural Photographs

Dr. Greg Hamerly
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Baylor University

The most common solid-tumor pediatric cancer is retinoblastoma, where tumors grow on the retina of the eye. Affecting roughly 1 in 10000 births, in resource-limited settings, about 50% of children with this condition
will lose their life due to the cancer spreading. Early detection is critical for saving the life and eye of the child.  We use machine learning on deep convolutional neural networks to learn the difference between a normal eye and one displaying leukocoria, a common symptom of retinoblastoma. We have released free apps for iOS and Android devices which allow people to scan photos of children for symptoms. This is joint work with Dr. Bryan Shaw, Ryan Henning, and several others.

Dr. Greg Hamerly is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Baylor University, where his research interests lie in the areas of supervised and unsupervised machine learning and the applications of these areas to other fields. Dr. Hamerly got his BS in computer science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and his MS and PhD at UC San Diego working with Charles Elkan.

Host: Dr. Hisham Al-Mubaid
Free coffee and snacks outside Delta 241 from 11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.


Privacy in Data Publishing & Social Networks

Dr. Lila Ghemri
Department of Computer Science, Texas Southern University

This talk will present projects that were part of two DHS funded research Centers: the DHS Center of Excellence for Dynamic Data Analysis (DyDan) and the DHS Command, Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis(CCICADA) with Rutgers University as lead.

Anonymization of Sensitive Information and Privacy Preserving Dissemination

In data publishing, a modified, anonymized version of data is usually produced to protect information about entities and individuals in the data, as well as avoid leaking private information about how and from whom the data was collected. Most techniques for privacy protection have focused on highly structured data, in the forms of database tables and contingency tables. Most privacy preserving data mining methods apply transformations to the data that result in the loss of original data and reduces the effectiveness of the underlying mining results. Our goal in this work is to define privacy preserving methods that would reduce the difference between the mining results obtained with the original data and the “anonymized” data.

A Memoryless Social Network Application for Reputation Protection

Since their introduction in the late 90’s, the popularity of social network sites has grown exponentially, encompassing millions of users. As social networks continue to grow and become more popular, users voluntarily post information without an afterthought. The potential risk that users are taking may result in them damaging their reputation and could have dire consequences on their professional and private life. We propose an online social network that uses an expiration mechanism to protect personal data being saved and transmitted to unintended users. The expiration mechanism gives users the freedom to share data without the fear of information getting into the wrong hands.

Host: Dr. Hisham Al-Mubaid
Refreshments will be served in the hallway of Delta 241 from 11:45 AM–12:00 Noon!


Space Exploration Technology Drives Innovation

Mr. Chris Culbert
Chief Technologist, NASA Johnson Space Center

Human exploration of space requires a broad range of technologies to enable exploration beyond the planet Earth. This talk will review many of the core technologies needed to enable human exploration, talks about areas of priority for the Johnson Space Center, and reviews areas of joint interest with industry. I’ll close with some discussions about how computing capability has evolved in our human spacecraft and some of the challenges we face providing a computing infrastructure in space.

Mr. Culbert has spent more than 30 years developing technologies and systems for human spaceflight at the Johnson Space Center. He is currently the Chief Technologist for Johnson Space Center, responsible for coordinating center strategies for technology development and supporting agency wide activities for the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist. During his career he has managed the development of advanced technologies in robotics, automation, avionics and software for Space Shuttle, Space Station, and advanced human missions. 

Host: Dr. Hisham Al-Mubaid
Refreshments will be served in the hallway of Delta 241 from 11:45 AM–12:00 Noon!



Dr. Luay Nakhleh
Rice University, Department of Computer Science

A phylogeny represents the evolutionary history of a set of taxa from their most recent common ancestor. It provides a powerful framework for organizing, interpreting, and analyzing biological data "in the light of evolution." The post-genomic era has provided the data to make phylogeny reconstruction more accurate. However, this accuracy does not come without modeling and computational challenges. In this seminar, I will describe our efforts in phylogeny reconstruction in two areas: cancer evolution and species evolution. In the case of cancer evolution, I will present our recent work on phylogenetic inference from single -cell genomic data. The challenge here is to carefully account for the noise in the data. In the case of inferring species evolutionary histories, the major challenge is that the evolutionary history of species (and populations and sub-populations) could be incongruent with the evolutionary histories of individual loci within the genomes of these species. I will describe our work on modeling two processes that underlie this incongruence, namely incomplete lineage sorting and gene flow.

Host: Dr. Hisham Al-Mubaid
Refreshments will be served in the hallway of Delta 241 from 11:45 AM–12:00 Noon!


Bayou Science and Mathematics

Location: Bayou 2512
Time: 12:00 Noon – 1:00 PM (Refreshments: 11:45 a.m. – 12:00 noon)
Hosted by the College of Science & Computer Engineering

Date Presentation


Monitoring and Mapping the Soil and Water Quality Dynamics of Urban Watersheds in Texas

Dr. Maruthi Sridhar B. Bhaskar
Texas Southern University, Director of Environmental Toxicology Program

The rapid land use and land cover changes due to intense urbanization has a significant effect on ecology, environment, and human health in most of the urban watersheds. The recent increase in frequency and intensity of the urban flooding events and repeated inundation of the neighborhoods along the Greens, Buffalo, Halls, and Hunting Bayous makes it important to monitor the water and soil chemical characteristics in these watersheds. The objectives of this study are to 1) Monitor the historical water quality data of the selected bayous, and 2) to collect and analyze the nutrient, heavy metal and bacterial concentrations in the water and soil samples along the bayou. Historical water quality data from the past three decades of the bayous were downloaded from the USGS database, processed and analyzed for time series analysis.

Water and soil samples, from different sampling locations along the Greens, Buffalo, Halls, and Hunting Bayous were collected and processed for chemical and bacterial analysis. The water samples were analyzed for C and N concentrations using TCN (Total Carbon Nitrogen) analyzer and for nutrient and metal concentrations using ICPMS (Inductive Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry) analyzer. Soil samples were also analyzed using the handheld XRF (X-ray Fluorescent) analyzer. Our water analysis revealed that the C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg and Zn concentrations were significantly higher in upstream compared to downstream of Greens and Halls Bayou. The soil analysis indicates that the Fe, Mn, K, S and Zn were significantly higher in upstream compared to downstream of the Bayous.

All the metal concentrations in the water were found to be below the critical limit while the N and P concentrations exceeds the critical limit. The analysis of the metal and nutrient concentrations in water and soil will enable us to identify the non-point sources of contamination, which can be better managed to preserve the health of this urban watershed often difficult, and I further show how this theoretical work can be used to infer transverse statistics using experimentally accessible longitudinal observables. Finally, I discuss how an external tension can significantly alter the free energy landscape of confined biomolecules, with implications for our understanding of histone unbinding from DNA.

Host: Dr. Yi Su
Pizza will be served starting at 11:45 a.m. in Bayou 2512


Quantifying the Statistics of Confined Biomolecules in Vitro & in Vivo

Dr. Greg Morrison University of Houston, Department of Physics

Single molecule biophysics has produced a number of theoretical and experimental advances in recent decades, with implications for understanding the physical principles that are essential for life. In particular, the confinement of stiff macromolecules to nanochannels and nanoslits has recently provided a new platform for the study and manipulation of single molecules such as DNA and F-Actin. In this talk, I will give a brief introduction to single molecule biophysics and some of the modeling choices that must be made in understanding these systems theoretically, ranging from all atom simulations to coarse grained polymer physics. Using Monte Carlo simulations and a simple polymer model, I determine the bending correlation functions for stiff chains confined to a channel and slit in the transverse and longitudinal directions. These predictions are shown to satisfy known scaling laws for confined wormlike chains and more accurately capture the quantitative details of the transverse bending correlations than the existing weakly bending rod predictions. Direct measurement of the transverse statistics is often difficult, and I further show how this theoretical work can be used to infer transverse statistics using experimentally accessible longitudinal observables. Finally, I discuss how an external tension can significantly alter the free energy landscape of confined biomolecules, with implications for our understanding of histone unbinding from DNA.

Host: Dr. Samina Masood
Pizza will be served starting at 11:45 a.m. in Bayou 2512


Understanding Tick-Borne Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses

Dr’s. Dennis Bente, Tais Salto and Sergio Rodriguez University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

The research focus in our lab is on tick-borne hemorrhagic fever viruses such as CrimeanCongo hemorrhagic fever. What makes our research most unique is that my team and I are studying this family of diseases under maximum biocontainment conditions in the BSL4 laboratories of UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory. Within the unique research facilities of the GNL, my team is breaking new ground in the worldwide fight against these diseases. We strive to innovate – not just in the lab, but in communicating the science, practices and findings. Working with some of the world’s most dangerous viruses is multifaceted and intricate, but we want to break down the complexities of our discipline and ignite an understanding that breeds excitement in all audiences. When we can help people truly understand these diseases – on their own terms – our field is stronger for it.

Host: Dr. Lory Santiago
Pizza will be served starting at 11:45 a.m. in Bayou 2512


The Challenges of a Space Janitor: From Counting Bacteria to Building the James Webb Space Telescope

Yingrui Zao Huang, Contamination Engineer
Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Inc.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA’s next generation space telescope, slated to launch in 2019. It is the largest space telescope ever built. This immense goal comes with many unique challenges for contamination control engineers (space janitors). This presentation will explore 3 main areas: integration, material science, and vacuum dynamics.

The goal of this presentation is to explain the complexities of real-world problems and emphasize the need for interdisciplinary knowledge to tackle these challenges. This presentation will detail how knowledge and lessons obtained from one area of study can be applied to other seemingly unrelated field. For example, knowledge obtained by counting bacteria helped figure out how to clean the primary optics of a space telescope, or how manufacturing meningitis vaccines aided in the design of the JSC cleanroom.

Host: Dr. Samina Masood
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


OSHA, Myth and Reality

Mark R. Briggs, CSP
Area Director, Houston South Area Office

In this presentation we will be taking a look at who OSHA is and what they are all about as well as debunking some of the more popular myths surrounding the agency.

Join Area Director Mark Briggs as he takes us behind the scenes into a critical agency of the federal government that has an impossible task but whose mission is to save your life!

Host: Dr. Magdy Akladios
Pizza will be served starting at 11:45 a.m. in Bayou 2512!


HERA: Human Exploration Research Analog Research Mission: Isolated, Confined and Controlled

Dr. Patrice O. Yarbough
Complement Scientist, ISSMP Flight Analogs KBRwyle/NASA

The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) is a high-fidelity analog research location for scientists to use in addressing risks associated with human performance during spaceflight.  HERA is a ground-based analog used by the NASA Human Research Program to study how isolation and confined habitation (associated with long-duration missions) impact individuals and the team. Studies in a research environment, that produce affects on the human body similar to those experienced in spaceflight, can be completed faster than in flight.  HERA Campaign 4 is a 45-day confinement study, with two weeks of pre-mission baseline studies and one week of post-mission study. Total commitment time is 68 days to simulate flight operations and confinement. The presentation will include the research mission design with HERA conditions and capabilities.

Host: Dr. Lory Santiago-Vasquez
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


The 3-km High Subjovian Megadome on Ganymede:  Simulation of Stability via Pratt Isostasy

Dr. Johnathan Kay
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Lunar & Planetary Institute

Overview of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede will be presented. The focus of the research is determining a way to support a large dome on an icy satellite in which tradition methods of support (crustal roots) are not available. 

Host: Dr. Gerald Pollack
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


Root Responses to Iron Deficiency: Metabolic Adaptations and the Role of Flavins

Dr. Ana Flor Lopez Millan
Research Scientist at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center

Iron is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms including plants, since it takes part in fundamental biological redox processes such as photosynthesis and respiration. Although Fe is the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, the bioavailability for plants is low, due to its poor solubility in the rhizosphere at neutral or basic pH. Therefore, Fe deficiency is a yield-limiting factor with major implications for field crop production in many agricultural areas of the world. When Fe is scarce, plants develop morphological and biochemical changes in roots leading to an increase in their Fe uptake capacity.

Biochemical changes induced by Fe-deficiency include an activation of the components involved in the root acquisition of this element which include a plasma-membrane Fe(III)-reductase, an Fe(II) transporter and an enhanced proton extrusion capacity mediated by a plasma-membrane ATPase. Research towards the elucidation of the metabolic adaptations occurring in roots in order to sustain the elevated energy requirements of this uptake system will be discussed. In addition, plants grown in Fe-deficient conditions excrete a plethora of organic compounds, including carboxylates, phenolics and flavonoids, that can affect Fe availability and whose roles are still a matter of debate. The root accumulation and excretion patterns of riboflavin and its derivatives in different Fe deficiency conditions and their possible roles in roots and in the rhizosphere will also be presented in this seminar.

Host: Dr. Brian Stephens
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


Macroscopic Quantum Tunneling in Long Josephson Junctions

Dr. Eric Van Mayes
Department of Physical & Applied Sciences
University of Houston-Clear Lake

An investigation of the macroscopic quantum tunneling of bound fractional fluxon pairs is discussed. These fluxons arise due to the time reversal symmetry breaking in a long Josephson junction (LJJ) with two-band superconductors. The spatial dependence of the critical current density can generate magnetic flux in the insulator layer, creating fractional fluxons with large and small fractions of flux quantum. The interaction between the two is repulsive at short distances, but attractive at long distances, causing the formation of what is essentially a fractional fluxon molecule. This molecule can tunnel through a barrier potential at low temperatures when placed in a metastable state formed by a microresistor in the insulator layer and a bias current to the LJJ. These fractional fluxon pairs may be observable if their separation is large enough and the tunneling rate long enough.

Host: Dr. Samina Masood 
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


Source Identification of Carbon in Size-Fractionated PM and Time-Resolved Bulk PM10 Using Radiocarbon and Molecular Source Markers

Dr. Hyun-Min Hwang
Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences
Associate Professor, Texas Southern University

In many urban areas, atmospheric particulate matter (e.g., PM10, PM2.5) has been linked to various health issues such as asthma, lung cancer, and premature death. To improve understanding of the sources of atmospheric carbonaceous particulate matter, size-resolved PM (0.056 to1.8 µm) and time-resolved bulk PM10 collected in Sacramento, California were analyzed for radiocarbon and source markers such as levoglucosan, alkanes, and elemental carbon (EC). The contributions of modern (non-fossil) carbon sources were much greater than that from fossil carbon sources in all samples.

Radiocarbon and source marker measurements confirm that the greater contribution of non-fossil carbon sources in November samples was due to residential wood combustion. The results provide additional evidence that wood combustion was likely a significant source of EC in November samples, and demonstrate that using EC as a diesel emission tracer may not be appropriate in areas where wood combustion could be a confounding source of EC. Levoglucosan to organic carbon (Levo/OC) ratios in all PM10 samples showed a strong negative correlation with fossil carbon content. Fossil originated carbonaceous PM10 could account for about 40% of the total carbonaceous PM10 in the study area when the contribution from wood combustion is zero. The results of the present study demonstrate the value of combining radiocarbon and conventional source markers for more robust and detailed source attributions for ambient PM.

Host: Dr. Arcadius Krivoshein
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!


Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Environment

Dr. Guoqing Liu
Department of Petroleum Engineering
University of Houston

Over the past decade, hydraulic fracturing in the horizontal well is the critical technology in the shale gas/oil revolution. It has significantly changed the petroleum industry in the United States and the rest of the world. However its potential impacts on the environment has been a public concern for a long time. This presentation is to illustrate the safety and the potential environmental damages of the hydraulic fracturing technology.

The key concept in this presentation is to demonstrate that hydraulic fracturing can be operated in a safe way, but some potential risks needs attention and appropriate management.

Host: Dr. Dongmin Sun
Refreshments will be served in Bayou 2512 from 11:45 AM –12:00 Noon!



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