Biomechanics Research Symposium

Biomechanics Research Symposium

Students show how their studies could make people healthier

A University of Delaware graduate student develops pressure-detecting sensors that could help injured patients recover. Another student analyzes brain scans to understand balance in children with cerebral palsy.

These are just two examples of the many students in multiple colleges and departments at the University of Delaware who conduct research with the potential to improve human health. At the University’s 16th annual Biomechanics Research Symposium, held on April 17, 2019 at the STAR Campus, 42 of these stellar students showed off their work.

The Biomechanics Research Symposium was presented by the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research (CBER), an interdisciplinary research center that develops engineering science and clinical technology to reduce the human impact of diseases such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, degenerated discs, and cystic fibrosis.

“Attendees, including the faculty and keynote speaker, were all impressed by the high quality of the student research and presentations,” said X. Lucas Lu, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the organizing committee for the symposium. “Our students are doing interesting clinical research with a high impact on human health, and they presented their findings well.”

hall of student's research posters

Students show off their research at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

The symposium’s keynote speaker was Jennifer Stevens-Lapsley, MPT, PhD, a professor and director of the Rehabilitation Science PhD Program in the Physical Therapy Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

Stevens-Lapsley is focused on identifying, integrating and advancing innovative evidence-based medicine solutions for older adult rehabilitation through highly effective research methods and partnerships. She has almost 20 years of clinical research experience in patients with osteoarthritis planning joint arthroplasty, and more recently, medically complex patient populations. Her research ranges from understanding the mechanisms of skeletal muscle dysfunction to studies of implementation of best rehabilitation practices in post-acute care settings.

Stevens-Lapsley earned her physical therapy degree and doctoral degree in biomechanics and movement science with a focus in applied physiology at the University of Delaware. She then completed post-doctoral training at the University of Florida.

student with research poster

Ashwini Sansare, a graduate student in biomechanics and movement science, explains her research.

The following student poster presentations and podium presentations earned awards.

Top Podium Presentation Awards:

Sagar Doshi, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, for “Carbon Nanomaterial-Based Novel Functional Garments for Human Motion Analysis.”

Grace McIlvain, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, for “Brain Mechanical Properties and Balance Reactions in Children with Cerebral Palsy.”

Kaleb Burch, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, for “Novel Fabric-Based Force Sensors for Continuous Overground Gait Analysis.”

Rebecca Clements, an undergraduate student in biomedical engineering, for “Correlations Between Mechanical Properties of the Adolescent Brain and Risk-Taking Behaviors.”

Top Poster Presentation Awards:

Dana Matthews, a doctoral student in biomechanics and movement science, for “Sedentary Time Relates to Worsening Knee Cartilage Damage Over Two Years: The MOST Study.”

Hiral Master, a doctoral student in biomechanics and movement science, for “Does Walking at Higher Intensities Increase Or Decrease the Risk of Total Knee Arthroplasty?”

People’s Choice Poster Presentation Award:

Nicole Ray, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, for “Combined Effects of User-Driven Treadmill Control and Functional Electrical Stimulation for Poststroke Rehabilitation.”

student with poster

Naoaki Ito, a graduate student in biomechanics and movement science, explains his research.

Training Ethical Hackers

Training Ethical Hackers

Computer engineering students hone their skills at cybersecurity competitions and hackathons

On Fridays around 3 p.m., some people start kicking back for the weekend, but the scene is anything but chill in the University of Delaware’s Cyber Range. In this dedicated space for cybersecurity training, students gather around computer screens, eat pizza and ask expert professors for advice on cracking the code.

This growing team of computer engineering students is training for their next chance to prove they’re among the best in the country at thwarting cyber attacks. The students regularly participate in cybersecurity competitions, including capture the flag competitions, which pit teams against each other to thwart cyber threats.

UD’s undergraduate cybersecurity team placed eighth in the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s DawgCTF 2019 Capture the Flag competition on March 2, 2019, and the team now ranks among the top 10 U.S. undergraduate university teams.

These students are advised by Andy Novocin and Nektarios Tsoutsos, who are both assistant professors in theDepartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This pair of professors is creating a culture of collaboration and creative problem solving. Through these events, and the practice sessions leading up to them, students learn hardware and software skills to protect devices from security threats. They also develop soft skills, like communication and teamwork.

“These events help students get hands-on experience,” said Tsoutsos. “They get engaged into real-world scenarios, and they can transfer those skills when they go to companies.” Tsoutsos knows this firsthand. When he was a student, he won a cybersecurity competition, which helped him land an internship at a Fortune 500 company and was an important step in his path toward becoming a world-class cybersecurity researcher and professor.

two students working

Students Vineeth Gutta (left) and Dan Goodman regularly meet in the iSuite at Evans Hall to work on cybersecurity projects.

Computer engineering major Dan Goodman won a cyber attack defense competition in 2018, and preparing for these types of competitions helps him take his skills to the next level. “This is where you go from the simulations to the practical,” he said. “You’re actually doing real-world challenges that have been seen in digital forensics analysis in real hacks. It’s training you to think like a hacker, to think like a problem solver.”

This training is also beneficial to society at large, as our systems are continuously under attack from hackers all around the world, said Novocin.

“In this battle to protect our infrastructure, it’s about training an army of folks that can do subtle or out-of-the-box thinking in real time to outsmart the bad guys, who are motivated by cash, or politics of whatever else,” he said. “We’re always struggling to keep up with this battle, so this training is important on that scale.”

This project was made partially possible by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Grant No. 1757353 and the State of Delaware.

UD students are also excelling in competitions that feature a different type of hacking. These hackathons aren’t focused on security threats; instead, teams work together to create novel hardware or software solutions to solve a variety of challenging societal problems.

On Feb. 18, 2019, a team of four undergraduate students placed third at HopHacks, the bi-annual hackathon hosted at Johns Hopkins University. Their invention, the Wrist-Watcher, is designed to detect postural problems that could contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. The inspiration? “We noticed we all had bad posture and were hunched over our desks,” said team member Vinay Vazir. The team also included Bright Lu, Christian Munley and Mark Seda.

The app asks users to play a typing game and tracks the motion of their hands over the keyboard. If the user puts their hands in a bad position, they will hear a tone and see their screen turn increasingly read.

The teammates tapped into knowledge they have learned in a variety of coursework. For example, Vazir used knowledge he learned as a member of the VIP:VR team, part of UD’s Vertically Integrated Projects program advised by Mark Mirotznik, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Students interested in this kind of competition can join the Maker Club, formerly known as the Hacking Club, a registered organization that hosts technical workshops, promotes collaborative learning and organizes trips to hackathons.

Students listening to professor

“In this battle to protect our infrastructure, it’s about training an army of folks that can do subtle or out-of-the-box thinking in real time to outsmart the bad guys, who are motivated by cash, or politics of whatever else,” said Andy Novocin, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We’re always struggling to keep up with this battle, so this training is important on that scale.”

Cybersecurity in Delaware

Cybersecurity in Delaware

State officials and UD experts convene to discuss opportunities to bolster cybersecurity education

The University of Delaware’s Cybersecurity Initiative hosted a discussion with James Collins, Chief Information Officer of the State of Delaware, and Solomon Adote, Chief Security Officer of the State of Delaware, on Feb. 15, 2019.

Collins and Adote met with UD students and faculty experts in cybersecurity to share the state’s strategies for information security, discuss the ongoing threat of cybercrime and brainstorm solutions to continually protect the personal information of Delawareans. The discussion took place in UD’s iSuite — a facility in Evans Hall that houses a “live-fire” virtual environment for cyber-warfare training, thanks in part to state support.

Collins praised students for studying cybersecurity — an important part of the innovation economy and society at large.

“A lot of times when folks think of war, battle and conflicts, they think of bullets, missiles and guns, but I would suggest to you that in the future, the enemies will be virtual, and the frontlines will be digital, and those that are in the cybersecurity field will be on that frontline for our nation, our state, and for our neighbors and friends, so I’m just going to congratulate you for stepping into that role,” he said. Collins also talked about the role of high-speed connectivity, information technology centralization, and data analytics in delivering government services and resources to Delawareans digitally.

Adote noted that the information security program in the State of Delaware has been very strong for years and explained ongoing efforts to keep information secure, including education for citizens and state employees; policies, standards and compliance; disaster recovery; identification; cloud security; threat detection and response, and network security.

With strong government and industry collaborations, international research partnerships and a variety ofeducational programs in cybersecurity, the UD Cybersecurity Initiative is well equipped to partner with the State of Delaware and contribute to efforts in blockchain, smart cities and more emerging areas of importance. “At UD, we are ready to tackle both traditional and non-traditional cybersecurity issues,” said Nii O. Attoh-Okine, interim academic director of UD’s Cybersecurity Initiative, in opening remarks.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated the University of Delaware a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) in 2016. The five-year designation is based on the university meeting stringent CAE criteria and mapping curricula to a core set of cyber defense knowledge units.

Cryptocurrency is more opportunity than threat, says this First State Fintech Lab advisor

Cryptocurrency is more opportunity than threat, says this First State Fintech Lab advisor

When former CIA analyst Andrew Bustamante was asked to identify what he thought was the most formidable threat to U.S. national security, the reply was swift and sure: blockchain technology.

Indeed, the popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has focused attention on blockchain technology and the potential threats it poses to national security. That fear gained traction two years ago when a member of ISIS was reputed to have sent Bitcoin to fellow members across Indonesia to circumvent the formal financial system.

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The Safety of Smart Cities

The Safety of Smart Cities

As the number of ‘smart’ cities grow, will they also become safer?

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a larger series of Q&As that originated in the future-focused UD Magazine. To see additional questions, please visit the Envisioning the Future website.

Smart cities can be safer, but only if cybersecurity is the driving force. By nature, these cities will depend heavily on digital data collection and massive surveillance, which forms the backbone of the system to keep traffic flowing safely. This digital information has to be protected.

The challenge will be safeguarding multiple layers of data-sharing, including the organizations supplying the information, the connected devices that acquire and exchange data, and networks that circulate digital data in cyberspace. Weak cyberspace will create new problems, including false understanding of the data, unreliable predictive crime analytics, and hackers, who could disrupt the daily activities of a city. Also, one question that needs to be addressed is how blockchain and quantum computing will change the landscape of the smart cities initiatives. Could blockchain’s encryption add a defense layer to better protect citizens? Only time — and proactive, concerted efforts to make our cities safer — will tell.

Prof. Nii Attoh-Okine, the interim academic director of the University of Delaware’s Cybersecurity Initiative, is currently working on Smart Cities and cybersecurity issues related to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Under his leadership, UD is one of just a few universities in the United States partnering with Japanese universities to achieve Society 5.0, a smart society proposed by the Japanese government.