Faculty Focus

Yasmine Elglaly, PhD.

Accessibility is a software requirement that makes access to digital technologies equitable for people with disabilities. Accessibility skills, if covered at all, are usually covered in elective courses in computer science programs. In collaboration with Dr. Kristen Shinohara at Rochester Institute of Technology and Dr. Catherine Baker at Creighton University, we work on finding innovative ways to cover accessibility in core CS courses. We target programming topics such as data structures, computer systems, and object-oriented programming. We modify the lessons in a way that infuses accessibility knowledge while keeping the original topic covered as intended. We work with faculty on adding the accessibility component to their programming courses. We support faculty by creating any needed teaching materials, such as assignment narrative, skeleton code, solution, etc. Please reach out via GitHub if you want to participate or learn more about this project.

Student Spotlight

Caitlin Bannister

Caitlin Bannister, working towards a BS in Behavioral Neuroscience, was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for her research applying computer vision techniques to the study of Huntington’s disease. Caitlin is working with Kameron Decker Harris (Computer Science), Jeff Carroll, and Jeff Cantle (both Behavioral Neuroscience) and using deep learning to track naturally behaving mice. Huntington’s often first manifests as motor deficits that may be measured with this analysis. The Goldwater scholarship will support Caitlin’s research until graduation, after which she plans to study for a PhD in neuroscience and the treatment of nervous system dysfunction.

Department Developments

NSA CAE Designation

WWU has received recognition from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. With this designation, WWU joins about 300 schools nationally to receive this recognition. In addition to advantages for WWU students applying for scholarships and careers can include the designation on their resume. The award makes WWU eligible for Cybersecurity research programs sponsored by the NSA, DHS, and National Science Foundation.

In order to achieve recognition as a CAE-CD, Western had to go through a rigorous certification effort. The effort included demonstrating that the program covered topics in 17 areas of cyber security, that the program had an assessment system in place, and that students were given opportunities for enrichment in Cybersecurity outside of the classroom. In addition to the program itself, WWU had to demonstrate on-going research efforts in cybersecurity, outreach to the community, active involvement in the national cybersecurity education community, and that WWU itself was taking active steps to ensure its own cybersecurity.

The effort to obtain the CAE certification took an extended length of time. Initially it was delayed as the program guidelines were being revised by a committee appointed by the NSA. WWU was a participant in the committee. The process was then further delayed by the pandemic. Fortunately, those issues were eventually resolved. With the designation in place, the WWU Cybersecurity program will continue to attract new students from our partner colleges as the most technically rigorous program in the state, with a high demand for our graduates. WWU will also be seeking new opportunities for research in the area of cybersecurity and new opportunities for cooperation with the community.