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Special Events 2016

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

Welcome Meeting

Sunday, 06/19/2016, 05:00pm-07:00pm

The faculty and assistants welcomed the participants, all of whom introduced themselves to the whole group. The main point of the evening was for the research teams to meet and get to know each other. Dr. Gobbert clarified various schedule-related items as well as procedural issues. He explained also the philosophy of learning to work in a team, which we implement throughout all aspects of the program.


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VIP meeting with Dr. Rouben Rostamian, Department Chair of Mathematics & Statistics

Tuesday, 06/21/16, 09:00am-09:30am

Dr. Rouben Rostamian visited the HPC REU students. He answered questions and provided anecdotes about his undergraduate career. Many of the students mentioned that they were of varying majors, and some double majoring in mathematics and miscellaneous fields, Dr. Rostamian mentioned “It’s good to hear that there are people of varying majors here. Mathematics many years ago was more than enough if you wanted to do very important work like Euler or Newton. Euler was able to solve problems that, during Newton’s time, weren’t feasible to calculate.  Now,  you need more than just mathematics if you’re going to do research”. He departed by leaving the students with words of wisdom, “Opportunities like this [REUs], give you a chance to see if this is what you want to do with your life”.

– Carlos Barajas


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

Thursday, 06/23/16, 01:30pm-02:00pm

We were fortunate enough to meet with Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, UMBC President.  He talked to us about his childhood and young adult life and and we all came to realize he is not the ordinary university president. His life experiences and words of wisdom are such an inspiration especially for young researchers who may feel like there are impossible obstacles to achieve. He shared a wonderful quote with us at the end of his talk, that really puts into perspective how a step off point in a person’s career can manifest. “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

– Uchenna Osia


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Presentations by project clients

Thursday, 06/23/15, 2:00-05:00pm

  • 02:00-02:30 Patrick Fletcher and Arthur Sherman, NIH
  • 02:30-03:00 Samuel Khuvis, ParaTools, Inc.
  • 03:00-04:00 Coffee break
  • 04:00-04:30 Amita Mehta, JCET and GES, UMBC
  • 04:30-05:00 Sai Kumar Popuri, Math & Stat, UMBC
  • 06:00-08:00 Joint Dinner – Hunan Manor

On Thursday afternoon, the HPC REU students listened to a series of presentations from the clients who are providing the summer research projects. First, Arthur Sherman of the National Institutes of Health presented on insulin and the role it plays in the body. He then described that the REU students will be working on a project that uses high-performance computing to simulate how insulin secretion from individual beta cells in the pancreas is synchronized. Next, Samuel Khuvis of ParaTools, Inc. presented on how Intel Phi cores can be used in parallel programming. He showed his results from performance studies on an elliptic test problem and a model for Calcium Induced Calcium Release in a heart cell, comparing different methods of solving the problem using CPUs, Intel Phis, and combinations of the two (along with different methods of using the Phis). He also compared the first generation Xeon Phi (KNC) to the second generation Intel Xeon Phi (KNL). Finally, he described how the REU team will explore methods of improving performance of application codes on the Phi, and continue the work of exploring the new KNL.

After a coffee break during which students were able to meet with the presenters, Dr. Amita Mehta presented a project that uses climate data from the Missouri River Basin, including precipitation and maximum and minimum temperatures. She spoke about how statistical downscaling can be used on the data to refine the land area that is covered by each data point. She also described how a GUI can be used to visualize the data. Past HPC REU teams have already worked on this project, and teams this year will work to improve the GUI and downscaling techniques. Following Dr. Mehta’s presentation, Sai Kumar Popuri of UMBC gave a demonstration of the current GUI, and showed how a new package in R (Shiny) could be used to improve the GUI. In the evening following the afternoon of presentations, the REU students, UMBC faculty and graduate students, and some presenters enjoyed dinner together at Hunan Manor.

– Lois Miller


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VIP meeting with Dr. William LaCourse, Dean of CNMS

Tuesday, 06/28/16, 09:00am-09:30am

Dr. William LaCourse introduced himself and his career, as Dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical Science (CNMS) at UMBC by discussing his role within the university, serving as a mediator between the faculty and the administration. He commended the students for their determination to learn more in their fields of interest, as Dr. LaCourse wished he had done. During his high school years, he worked as a janitor and did not see college as a viable option for himself. In the years following, he moved between various colleges and jobs in the efforts towards getting his undergraduate education in Chemistry. Despite a indirect path to finding his interests and pursuing them, he shared a lot of common goals with the REU participants, as he continued on the pursue a PhD, became a professor and now, serving as Dean of CNMS here at UMBC. He serves as a reminder that life will not always follow a direct path towards our goals, but if we are persistent, we will always reach it.

– Danielle Sykes


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PhD Defense of Teresa Lebair

Tuesday, 06/28/16, 01:30pm-02:00pm

The REU students had a very special opportunity to hear a PhD Defense by a former HPC REU participant. Dr. Teresa Lebair defended her thesis entitled Constrained Estimation and Approximation Using Control, Optimization, and Spline Theory. Dr. Lebair’s thesis presented an interdisciplinary research project across several fields, including control/optimization, nonparametric statistics, and spline approximation theory. This was a great opportunity for all REU students to experience the culmination of an extensive research project, and how this REU was just the beginning of a student’s academic career. Dr. Lebair joined the REU teams for dinner, were she answered questions about applying for graduate school, her graduate school experience, and as well as her plans for post-doctoral work. Dr. Lebair is now at Johns Hopkins University, in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics as an Assistant Research Professor. The REU teams wish Dr. Lebair continued success!

– Alexander D. Middleton


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

Thursday, 06/30/16, 01:30pm-02:00pm

Dr. Karl Steiner provided the students with a glimpse into the world of research, expressing his excitement about this REU program. After teams introduced themselves to him, he shared his personal background in research, talking about his work with nondestructive evaluation of composite structures, biomedical imaging, and virtual surgery simulation. He advised the participants to use this math research opportunity, taking everything in, to decide whether each individual student personally feels research is right for him or her. He then continued by sharing the history of UMBC and its accomplishments, especially in the realm of research with key themes ranging from Computer Science to the Humanities. He also mentioned UMBC’s research partnerships, like ones with NIST, NASA, and IBM. Students were able to ask him questions, and he gave a key piece of advice: the importance of finding daily fulfillment in one’s work, being able to see the positive impact, captured in the phrase “innovation that matters.”

– William Wang


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Presentations by project clients

Thursday, 06/30/16, 02:00pm-5:00pm

  • 02:00-02:30 Tai-Ching Tuan and Tyler Simon, LPS
  • 02:30-03:00 Kofi Adragni, Math & Stat, UMBC
  • 03:00-04:00 Coffee break
  • 04:00-04:30 Zana Coulibaly, UC Davis
  • 06:00-08:00 Joint Dinner – Paradise Indian Cuisine

The HPC REU students listened to a series of presentations from the clients who provided the opportunity for these summer projects. First, Tai-Ching Tuan from LPS presented in which he spoke about multi-linear algebra and the idea tensors. For this team’s project they will investigate tensor decomposition methods for a variety of interesting data sets with possibly sparse tensors. The second talk was done by Kofi Adragni (UMBC) who’s team will be using the same rainfall data as the other statistics teams but using Minimum Average Deviance Estimation to obtain a sufficient dimension reduction and predict future rainfall in the Missouri River Basin. The final talk was from Zana Coulibaly from UC Davis. The project will be to implement a pseudo-mechanical system to model calcium release in heart cells and investigate feedback loops for calcium signaling, mechanical contraction and electrical coupling in heart cells.

Following the presentations there was a joint dinner at Paradise Indian Cuisine where the students were able to hear from all of the faculty mentors for the HPC REU program about their path to their career, as well as from Teresa Lebair who just completed her dissertation and was heading to a postdoc the next day.

– Kristen Hansen


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Professional development workshop with Kacie Lawrence, Assistant Director, Internships and Employment, Career Center

Thursday, 07/14/16, 04:00pm-05:00pm

The career center workshop highlighted resumes and the use of our own university career centers. Kacie Lawrence, the speaker of this workshop, began with our soft skills conversation. In groups of two REU members share their examples of soft skills, such as work ethics, creativity, initiative, leadership, and so on. Kacie went on to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of writing good resumes. Resumes are so vital because these jobs have applications, and every application will include our resumes. Any employer that hires people wants to see the background of their accomplishments, including their work and volunteering experience, and education. Before we got ourselves qualified for the REU program, we already wrote our resume drafts. Our current resumes are in our Blackboard websites. At the end of this workshop. Kacie encouraged us to look back to our resumes. Some of the resumes’ content are missing or some of them need some format work.  On some levels, many resumes are always up-to-date. A new job can add some of the including materials and some do not.  She highlighted important guidelines to our resume such as well-structured, correctness, targeted, and detailed. In a detail about adding bullets, stronger action verbs are important to describe the action of the job description.The university career center, the information that Kacie had mentioned, can strongly to help someone find a better resume. The career center can guide students to review their resumes, cover letters, and mock interviews. Thus, Kacie gave us the idea on which the career center is a place where undergraduate students ask questions about their job search.  The LinkedIn website was Kacie’s stronger recommendation! She mentioned the LinkedIn photo, where people use that for their job hunting. I believe on Katie’s opinion that LinkedIn is important to sign up because it is easier to get the job we want. If we set up a profile and connect with people we know, the employers on LinkedIn will be able to send job posts and invitations. The employers will look at every profile before they send an e-mail/request to a qualified candidate.  Never hesitate to ask job questions!!! The people of the Career Center are very helpful, just like Kacie!

– Benjamin Smith


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July 2016 Summer Horizons: Apply to Graduate School

Friday, 07/15/16, 09:00am-01:00pm

HPC REU students attended the Summer Horizons workshop, which provided insight into the admissions process for graduate school. We were able to hear from current graduate students, including the UMBC Graduate Student Association president and a panel of graduate students who answered questions from the audience.

K. Jill Barr, J.D. (Senior Assistant Dean of Graduate Enrollment at UMBC) discussed the whys and why nots of attending graduate school, how to assess yourself and graduate school programs, application timelines, and professionalism. She emphasized the importance of making connections. Dr. Renetta Tull (Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Student Development & Postdoctoral Affairs at UMBC) explained different funding opportunities for graduate school, including teaching assistant positions, research assistant positions, and fellowships. She also discussed the GRE, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Dr. Bil Clemons, a Caltech biochemistry professor, provided perspective on both his experience with research and what faculty members look for in graduate school applications. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his graduate research on ribosomal subunits. UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski was the keynote speaker. He shared his life experiences, answered questions from students, and encouraged us to make a difference in our community.

– Alyssa Hu


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VIP meeting with Dr. Philip Rous, University Provost

Tuesday, 07/19/16, 09:00am-09:30am

As Provost, Dr. Philip Rous is Chief Academic Officer of UMBC and oversees the entire academic area.
This includes all academic departments and the academic support units rangning from the Registrar’s Office to the Library. Dr. Rous also shared his own career path, from joining UMBC as Assistant Professor of Physics to serving in various roles until being appointed Provost. In response to questions, he explained that everything the administration does is student-centered in its thinking, even if contact to students is rare; that is why he particularly appreciates the chance to visit programs such as this research experience.


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Field Trip: Cryptologic Museum and NSA Career Panel

Tuesday, 07/19/16, 01:00pm-03:30pm

We met a number of representatives of the National Security Agency (NSA) at the National Cryptologic Museum, although we had little time to explore. First a small group of mathematicians and researchers, including the Director of Research, introduced themselves and related their diverse career paths and interests. They also spoke about the opportunities the NSA offers to young mathematicians: a variety of highly competitive summer programs for both undergraduate and graduate students, assistance with graduate education, and comprehensive training rotations for new hires who wish to work full-time. We then attended a representative panel of five mathematicians working in a variety of positions within the NSA, who answered questions ranging from “What’s something difficult about your job?” (sample answers: the gravity of knowing one’s work will affect human lives; not having a cell phone) to “Why the NSA and not academia?” (freedom to work across a wide range of topics; guaranteed interest in one’s results; desire to protect the nation).
– Kallista Angeloff


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Professional development workshop with Kathy Sutphin, Assistant Dean of CNMS

Thursday, 07/21/16, 04:00pm-05:00pm

On the 5th thursday of the program, the HPC REU students received a visit from Kathryn Sutphin. Though she started as a journalist, she eventually arrived at UMBC and has endowed the university with her abilities to write successful grants for undergraduate and STEM research. Ms. Sutphin prepared a presentation to orient the students on the upcoming Summer Undergraduate Research Fest, in which she provided advice on how to create and present a poster at the event. A significant amount of emphasis was placed on being careful to consider the audience. Particularly, she mentioned the importance of a concise abstract, attractive title, use of many figures, and the benefits of using a column layout for the arrangement of the contents. The demeanor that the students should have during the event was also underlined, where she summarized that one should be professional, but at the same time calm and affable. The welcoming audience sat back attentively, and some students even shared their experiences in past poster presentations!
– Sergio Garcia Tapia


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Team 4 Visit to NIH

Wednesday, 07/27/16, 09:00am-05:00pm

On Team 4’s visit to National Institutes of Health, Mary Aronne, Samantha Clapp, and Soohwan Jung presented the research that Team 4 completed thus far to Dr. Arthur Sherman and several of his colleagues. After the presentation was a discussion on how to further the research in the next few weeks. Then Team 4 took a tour of the metabolic lab at the NIH hospital, where they do clinical obesity and diabetes research. The trip to NIH was completed with presentations by Patrick Fletcher on pituitary cells and Joon Ha on diabetes. Team 4 found presenting to be a rewarding and worthwhile experience, to see how their research could potentially be used by the NIH.

– Abigail Kramer


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

Thursday, 07/28/16, 04:00pm-05:00pm

Dr. Janet Rutledge, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, presented HPC REU students with insight into the world of graduate school and graduate school applications. Starting off her presentation titled “Creating Effective Graduate School and Fellowship Applications,” Dr. Rutledge covered various reasons for pursuing higher education as well as real-world employment options for those with a BS, MS, or PhD. In discussing funding options for graduate school, Dr. Rutledge compared teaching assistantships and research fellowships as sources of school-provided funding along with external funding sources such as the National Science Foundation. Focusing in on the graduate school application, Dr. Rutledge broke down the different components of a typical application emphasizing the statement of purpose and recommendation letters. The statement of purpose should highlight the applicant’s background and research goals, tailoring each statement to the faculty and research at the individual institution. As for letters of recommendation, students should choose faculty who are able to speak to their ability to succeed in graduate school. Dr. Rutledge was well-received, continuing her question-and-answer portion of the presentation with students and faculty over dinner.

– Sydney Kahmann


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VIP meeting with Animikh Biswas, Graduate Program Director, Applied Mathematics

Friday, 07/29/16, 09:00am-09:30am

Dr. Biswas is the graduate program director in applied mathematics. In this meeting, he presented to us about the purpose of graduate school, the application to graduate school, and the programs to UMBC in mathematics and statistics. Every step of the graduate school application is important to complete and turn in as much as possible before deadline. He went briefly about it, describing on what the future student needs to do ahead of time. The letters of recommendation, in his opinion, was a vital piece in the application.

Finding our favorite professors are best, and contacting them with their e-mail is the best way to reach out and explain the situation. It is easier to pick any previous professors we like. Any professor will know who we are, as well as the level enthusiasm in one course or other strengths and achievements that we, as individuals, made in the past. The online application is available to any institution, including UMBC. He went through the details about the graduate program at UMBC. Applied mathematics and statistics are the only two UMBC programs. Both of them offer Master’s degrees and Doctoral degrees. This was nice to get, and the faculty and staff at UMBC are helping students to answer any questions about graduate school.

One of the questions we ask him at the end of our meeting is our strengths and weaknesses. When some grades are ok, Biswas’s approach is to see any academic progress. Strengths are what he aims for, but not weaknesses. Strengths, in addition, are also encouraged the team to show the individuals’ levels of success and motivation. If we love Statistics, we care about types of distributions; we care about better results and conclusions to the given problem; and so forth. Dr. Biswas would love to hear our strengths (or favorite stories in math/statistics/ computer science). When we have strengths, we have opportunities to move the graduate program forward. This is a good idea to think about our strengths so that our graduate school journey is a good start to get in. Dr. Biswas was very deep in graduate school and we wanted to thank him for coming!

– Benjamin Smith


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Statistics faculty panel on graduate research

Tuesday, 08/02/16, 09:30am-10:30am

Dr. Nagaraj Neerchal, this time in his role as Graduate Program Director of the Statistics program, introduced three of his colleagues, Dr. Thomas Matthew, Dr. Do-Hwan Park, and Dr. Yaakov Malinovsky Dr. Matthew gave an example of a typical statistical problem in the context of clinical drug tests in the pharameceutical industry, and Dr. Park and Dr. Malinovsky explained their research areas.

NeerchalMathewD.-H. ParkMalinovsky

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Industry Visit: BAE Systems

Tuesday, 08/09/16, 09:30am-10:30am

On Tuesday morning, the college and diversity recruitment program manager for the Intelligence and Security Sector as well as two employees at BAE Systems visited the HPC REU students. First the students watched a video on BAE Systems that showed the projects they work on in different sectors. BAE Systems has a wide range of capabilities and a variety of work, including work in high performance computing. They answered questions on employment, internship opportunities, and what skill sets to have. They emphasized the value of teamwork as a skill. They also discussed opportunities to further education and leadership programs at the company. This was an insightful experience for the students to learn about work done in industry that is related to their interests.

– Mary Aronne


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Summer Undergraduate Research Fest (SURF)

Wednesday, 08/10/16, 09:00am-12:30pm

The posters from our seven teams were part of the 80+ posters presented by over 100 participants in SURF this summer. Among the only six oral presentations were two from our program: Abigail Kramer and William Wang presented Team 4’s work on the modeling of pancreatic beta-cells in cooperation with Dr. Arthur Sherman from NIH, and all members of Team 2, Ethan Crasto, Sydney Kahmann, Paula Rodriguez, and Benjamin Smith, demonstrated their GUI for predicting rain fall in the Missouri River Basin in collaboration with Dr. Amita Mehta from JCET.






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VIP meeting with Emily Huang, UMBC Review editor

Thursday, 08/11/16, 09:00am-9:30am

The UMBC Review: Journal of Undergraduate Research publishes about 10 articles per year on work done by UMBC students at UMBC. What is nearly unique in the country is that also the editors
are undergraduate students. Emily Huang is the STEM editor (there is a separate Humanities editor). She outlined in a time line the process of submitting in September, then review and decision by December, editing for contents, and finally editing the graphical layout in March, before publication in April. Realizing that only UMBC students can submit, Ms. Huang searched the home institutions of some of our participants for undergraduate journals, which is a great job! She collected her results in a slide, see second photo below
(click to blow up photo)!


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

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

On the final evening of the program, we had a catered dinner in the large meeting room of the Res Life Community Center. In a pre-dinner talk, Dr. Ken Baron from the UMBC Advising Center shared his thoughts on a successful design of a career. His key approach to bring up the questions that come up, such as whether to go to graduate school immediately or to wait, and similar. He also discussed funding choices on the example of his own education in England, which was funded by a scholarship from a national organization in the U.S.


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