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Special Events 2017

This page contains brief reports and photos of special events the REU Site hosted or participated in.

Welcome Meeting

Sunday, 06/18/17, 05:00pm-07:00pm

The participants met with faculty and graduate assistants for the first time over dinner.
One key point was for all research teams to get together for the first time.
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VIP meeting with Dr. Rouben Rostamian, Department Chair of Mathematics & Statistics

Thursday, 06/22/17, 01:30pm-02:00pm

On Thursday afternoon, the Department Chair of Mathematics and Statistics at UMBC, Rouben Rostamian, addressed the HPC REU 2017 participants and welcomed them to UMBC. After informing them that this REU is unusual in that it benefits from large amounts of funding, Rostamian went on to say that many of the alumni of the program are very successful and that the students should expect to walk away with valuable experience, knowledge, and memories. The chair then told the students about his background; his undergraduate and graduate career consisted of mechanical engineering, but he decided to switch to math after he recognized how that subject offered an endless supply of new concepts to learn, and he is still learning something new every day. His overall message was very inspirational, highlighting the fact that there are always things to learn when one has a thirst for knowledge, and loving one’s job should be a main priority while salary should be an added benefit. After answering questions about the changes he has witnessed since starting at UMBC over 30 years ago and those he expects the university to undertake in the near future, the students viewed the Dr. Rostamian’s website which provided them with a glimpse of the wide range of mathematical topics the chair has studied and mastered. The brief address ended with valuable advice: the students should pick a graduate program that specializes in their individual interests.

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Presentations by project clients

Thursday, 06/22/17, 02:00pm-05:00pm

  • 02:00-02:30 Presentation by Jeff Raffensperger, USGS
  • 02:30-03:00 Coffee break
  • 03:00-03:30 Presentation by Arthur Sherman, NIH
  • 03:30-04:00 Coffee break
  • 04:00-04:30 Uri Tasch, Mechanical Engineering, UMBC
  • 04:30-05:00 Coffee break

Three clients presented projects to the HPC REU participants, posing questions and problems that the participants will be working on for the remainder of the program. Dr. Jeff Raffensperger, hydrologist from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), presented on the base flow discharge to streams and rivers. He posed a challenge to Team Two to quantify the uncertainty in estimates of base flow. The succeeding client, Dr. Arthur Sherman of NIH and NIDDK, gave a presentation on diabetes and challenged team four to simulate networks of beta cells. The final client to present for the day was Dr. Uri Tasch, professor of Mechanical Engineering at UMBC, who enlisted the help of Team One in his step data analysis project. Following the fascinating presentations, the clients as well as the REU participants and staff went out to dinner continued to chat over Chinese food.


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VIP meeting with Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, University President

Thursday, 06/29/17, 01:15pm-01:45pm

The second VIP meeting for the HPC REU program featured a very honored guest indeed: the University President, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III. The participants had been promised by several UMBC faculty members a rather exciting presentation, and they were far from disappointed. After introductions, he asked the group to raise their hands if they love mathematics. This question was initially answered with uncertain looks and timid hands, but most of the participants eventually raised their hands. Dr. Freeman used this question to lead into an explanation of the joys that can be derived from knowledge and how such passion can compel us to strive for more and achieve. He encouraged the students to consider the bountiful opportunities in the sciences, particularly in the form of advanced schooling. Above all, the President’s message was to continue asking questions and seeking knowledge. Throughout life, this will continue to provide success and fulfillment. After imparting this vital piece of wisdom, he opened the room up to questions. This began with a discussion of the strategies and qualities he learned in his undergraduate studies that have benefited him in his work as University President, including perseverance through the lack of an obvious answer and the ability to work hard. Questions followed in the theme of improving interest and fluency in mathematics and related fields, such as coding, in K-12 education, a special interest of his. He believes the solution lies in the education and training of the teachers themselves and would like to see increased incentives for high-achieving mathematics students to pursue a career in teaching. At the end of the meeting, the participants were asked to stand as Dr. Freeman led them through a chant, instilling in them the following steps to success: words, action, habits, character, and destiny. Needless to say, the group was left inspired and eager to succeed and spread their love of STEM fields.

By Kayla Makela

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Presentations by project clients

Thursday, 06/29/17, 02:00pm-5:00pm

  • 02:00-02:30 Presentation by Zana Coulibaly, UC Davis
  • 02:30-03:00 Coffee break
  • 03:00-03:30 Presentation by Michelle Starz-Gaiano, Biology, UMBC
  • 03:30-04:00 Coffee break
  • 04:00-04:30 Presentation by Jerimy Polf, UMSOM
  • 04:30-05:00 Coffee break

Dr. Zana Coulibaly from the Ca(2+)rdiac Signaling Lab presented his research on “Mechano-chemo Transduction and Auto-regulation of Cardiomyocytes’ Calcium and Contradiction Dynamics.”  The main idea of this study is to understand the heart to combat heart diseases by analyzing cell contraction.  The task is to identify the parameters that determine cell contraction when the cell is under load.  Some of the ideas proposed for the team are to review the electrical system of the heart to fine-tune the response mechanism between the mechanical and calcium systems.

Biologist, Dr. Michelle Starz-Gaiano at UMBC presented “Getting Around without an iPhone: How Cells Navigate Through Their Environment.”  Dr. Starz-Gaiano investigates collective cell migration using *Drosophila melanogaster* (fruit flies).  A biophysical model on collective cell migration was developed as a two dimensional system, so the team’s task is to develop a 3-dimensional model of chemo-attractants that accounts for the geometry of the tissue and for multiple chemo-attractants.

Dr. Jerimy C. Polf from the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine presented the “Development of Fast Reconstruction Techniques for In-vivo Imaging During Proton Radiotherapy”.  Tumor therapy consists of delivering x-ray doses to malignant cells; however, the x-ray doses penetrate further into healthy tissue.  A new treatment using protons has produced significant tissue response with greater accuracy without affecting the surrounding tissue. The current reconstruction time on Maya using 1 node and 16 cores is approximately 3 minutes for 50,000 prompt gammas.  The team’s project will take on the challenge of reducing the reconstruction time under 10 seconds using 1 node and 16 cores.  This will reduce the time the patient waits for

By Gabriel Martinez-Lazaro

Michelle Presentation Zana Presentation Polf Presentation


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June 2017 Summer Horizons: Apply to Graduate School

Friday, 06/30/17, 09:00am-01:30pm

The Summer Horizons program was a very helpful 3-hour workshop that educated and provided guidance to students about the GRE, admissions, recommendation letters, fields to enter, and more pertaining to graduate school. It featured a panel of successful graduate students, multiple faculty members in the graduate department, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, the president of UMBC.  Each speaker gave an overview of the importance of graduate education, generally what to expect at different stages in the process of it, gave a general timeline over a light breakfast. Dr. Hrabowski delivered a motivating speech about his past, people that he has met, and what inspires him everyday.  Each component of the Summer Horizons program increased our motivation to attend graduate school and developed our understanding of the road ahead.

By Jason Glover

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Professional development workshop with Chrisi Giannakaris, UMBC Career Center

Thursday, 07/06/17, 04:00pm-05:00pm
Through Ms. Giannakaris’s presentation we learned about the benefits of using a career center, not just at UMBC but at any university. Career Centers exist to help students discover what they’d like to major in and also help ease them into finding a suitable career. Some of the options available to students at the UMBC career center are résumé reviews and even mock interviews. The career center also hosts many networking events where students can meet future employers and practice their elevator pitch. Overall the presentation was very helpful and informed us about the importance of using career focused campus services.

By Darius Leftwich

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VIP meeting with Dr. William LaCourse, Dean of CNMS

Friday, 07/07/17, 09:00am-09:30am

On Friday morning, the Dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (CNMS) at UMBC, Dr. William LaCourse, addressed the HPC REU 2017 participants. Here in this VIP meeting, Dr. LaCourse shared what inspired him to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at Northeastern University. In addition, he described the value and opportunity that graduate degrees offer to pursuing students and what led him down the path of becoming a Dean. He then described the responsibilities of a Dean and what it’s like to hold the position. The meeting finished with a question-answer session between Dr. LaCourse and the REU participants. 
By Chad Meyer

William LaCourse

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Field Trip: Cryptologic Museum and NSA Career Panel

Tuesday, 07/11/17, 01:00pm-03:30pm

When the participants arrived at the Cryptologic Museum, they were given a brief introduction to some of the Summer Programs and opportunities available at NSA. Following a short break, a panel of NSA employees was introduced to the students. When asked about their unique experiences while working for NSA, the panel gave examples of working with people globally and being valued in the scientific community. The panel stated that perks of working at NSA included strong networking, partnerships and work-life balance. The panel encouraged the students that job satisfaction and commitment to problem solving are important factors in considering working for NSA. The students then heard from the panel more about development programs and the interviewing process. Following the panel, the participants were thankful to have more insight about the opportunities for research at NSA.
By Christian Dixon

Trip to the Cryptological Museum

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Professional Development Workshop with Dr. Janet Rutledge, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School

Thursday, 07/13/17, 04:00pm-05:00pm

Dr. Janet Rutledge, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, gave an insightful presentation about graduate school and its application process to the HPC REU students. Dr. Rutledge began the presentation by distinguishing the purpose of each the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Each level of degree has a specific purpose that is important to be taken into account when deciding to go to graduate school. Next, she addressed different funding options for graduate school, such as institutional aid in the form of teaching assistantships or external aid (e.g. NSF fellowship, employer fellowships). Dr. Rutledge then went on to explain the application process, in which she emphasized the importance of the statement of purpose and the letters of recommendation. She proposed exercises where students write down short-term and long-term goals in order to identify personal interests and therefore a fitting graduate program. Dr. Rutledge recommended starting early on the application process, and she encouraged confident, focused, and personalized applications. After the presentation, Dr. Rutledge joined the students and faculty for dinner and answered further questions in detail.

By Hwan Park

Janet Rutledge

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Field trip to Advanced Computing Systems

Friday, 07/14/17, 09:10am-11:40am

Upon being greeted and introducing each team’s project and member, we broke off into three sections for the faculty to present to each group. I was in the third group, and we first visited the “Quiet Room” by the large computing machines. The presenter discussed the idea of ‘probabilistic computing’ and the physics of failure. Simply put, he discussed that occasionally computers would inexplicably compute the wrong numbers when doing large calculations. The presenter discussed how this has been a problem that can be solved with probabilistic computing. He also discussed how multiplication can be solved in a faster way.

The next presentations we saw were by two assistants. One assistant discussed the physics of magnetic spins, their charge, and how they can be applied to high-performance computing. The second assistance discussed large scale data, such as traffic information, can be sorted into tensors, which is another way to measure data without matrices.  We experienced another presentation discussing how different institutions and companies are reached out to by the NSA to develop computers for specific purposes. The presenter discussed an example of how certain products, created by other companies, can scale their ‘win’ by 100x, or even 1000x. He also discussed the concept of ‘code design process’, which is that when one part of a code is able to change, it potentially requires changes to other parts of the code.

The last presentation was mostly about machine learning. However, before that, we were able to look at a machine that was cooled by mineral oil, a non-conductive liquid. The machine is submerged in this liquid and provides an effective way to cool parts. Anyway, the presenter discussed mainly speech to text recognition and how neural networks and machine learning could be beneficial to it, by learning concepts like grammar.

By Johnlemuel Casilag

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Professional development workshop with Kathy Sutphin, Assistant Dean of CNMS

Thursday, 07/20/17, 04:00pm-05:00pm

On Thursday afternoon, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Kathy Lee Sutphin, gave a presentation entitled, “Preparing an Effective Scientific Poster,” as a precursor to the Summer Undergraduate Research Fest (SURF). She began her presentation by discussing the importance of scientific posters in their ability to communicate ideas. She then laid out the necessary steps to create a successful poster which include research, writing an abstract, creating and preparing the poster, and finally, practicing the presentation. After this, Assistant Dean Sutphin discussed the guidelines for writing an abstract for SURF. Then, Assistant Dean Sutphin described the design elements necessary for creating a poster. These elements include organizing the information into columns, choosing a proper font size and color, and giving concise descriptions of your work. Next, she lectured on the importance of practicing our presentations before SURF. Lastly, she gave a schedule for SURF and took questions from the students.

By Ari Goldbloom-Helzner

Kathy Sutphin

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VIP meeting with Dr. Karl Steiner, Vice President for Research

Friday, 08/04/17, 09:30am-10:30am

Today, Karl V. Steiner, the Vice President of Research, talked to the REU group. He told us about his past research in airplane structure and visualization of the human body. He explained that how he switched from mechanical engineering to biotechnology and said that his expertise was applicable to many areas, and encouraged us to think of the way our skills can be used in different fields. Each team presented on their project with their poster. Dr. Steiner asked questions on most of the presentations and seemed interested in the projects. He encouraged us to keep exploring new areas like we did this summer.


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Summer Undergraduate Research Fest (SURF)

Wednesday, 08/09/17, 09:00am-12:30pm

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fest is the highlight of the program, when all teams present their results in posters. Additionally, Team 1 represented our program as one of only five oral presentations, with William Dula and Ari Goldbloom-Helzner jointly giving the talk. SURF’s poster session featured over 100 posters and was attended also by several of our clients and participants’ family members.

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Oral Presentations Team 2
Team 3 Team 4
Team5 Team6

VIP dinner with Dr. Ken Baron, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Advising and Student Success

Thursday, 08/11/16, 05:30pm-8:00pm

We celebrated the successful end of the program with a catered dinner held at the UMBC ResLife Community Center. Very sadly, our featured speaker Dr. Ken Baron was not able to come. Since he has excellent thoughts about career choices from many years of advising experience, we are gracious that Dr. Baron allowed Dr. Gobbert to present his slides and raise some points of discussion. After dinner, many participants watched the movie Hidden Figures; we thank Elizabeth Gregorio for supplying this instructive film.

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