Faculty, Student, & Department Spotlights

Faculty Focus

Dr. Sharmin Honored With Arlan Norman Award.

Associate Professor Moushumi Sharmin is the recipient of the University's Arlan Norman Award for Excellence in Mentoring for Graduate Students. Congrats Moushumi!

Read more on WWU President's office page.

Past Faculty Spotlights

Dr. Tsikerdekis selected as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar

Associate Professor Michael Tsikerdekis will spend 6 months in Greece in 2025 to research implementing a version of the Public Infrastructure Security Cyber Education System (PISCES — https://pisces-intl.org/) at the University of Macedonia (https://www.uom.gr/en), Thessaloniki, Greece, working with professor Ioannis Mavridis (https://www.uom.gr/en/mavridis). PISCES is a U.S.-based non-profit corporation and program supported by various organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, state governments, and industry partners to provide free security monitoring to municipalities and boost the education of cybersecurity students.

The goal is to understand the challenges of jump-starting such a program and provide training and support. This also includes studying how students learn to perform as cybersecurity analysts when monitoring real-world traffic. Research on how to effectively prepare the new generation of cybersecurity professionals to address the cybersecurity job gap and build bridges across the two countries is a larger long-term objective of this project.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, which is the U.S. government’s flagship program of international educational and cultural exchange, sends approximately 800 American scholars and professionals each year to approximately 130 countries. In these nations, they deliver lectures and/or engage in research across a diverse range of academic and professional disciplines.

Fuqun Huang, PhD

Dr. Fuqun Huang was recognized by the IEEE Education Society and received the “New Faculty Fellow Award” at the IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education Annual Conference 2023 (FIE 2023) “for demonstrating outstanding contributions to the field of engineering and computing education and scholarship”.

Dedicated to enhancing the reliability, safety, and security of computer systems, Dr. Huang addresses the pressing issues of poor software quality and security concerns, estimated to cost the U.S. a staggering $2.41 trillion in 2022. While traditional software engineering focuses on process improvement, Dr. Huang's pioneering work introduces innovative approaches to proactively tackle bottleneck problems.

As the trailblazer behind the emerging field of “Human Errors in Software Engineering,” Dr. Huang initiated this interdisciplinary area in 2011, offering breakthroughs in various domains, including software fault early forecasting based on human errors, requirement criteria based on human errors, defect prevention strategies based on human errors, fault tolerance design based on human errors, defect debugging and detection methods based on human errors, and groundbreaking interdisciplinary experiments blending programming and psychology.

Passionate about imparting interdisciplinary knowledge, Dr. Huang is launching a groundbreaking course, “Human Errors in Software Engineering,” at Western Washington University in Spring 2024. This course, the first of its kind globally, aims to equip both undergraduate and graduate students with valuable insights into this interdisciplinary field. One specific component of the course, “Promoting Students’ Cognitive Ability to Identify Human Error-prone Scenarios in Programs,” earned recognition from IEEE Education Society at FIE 2023.

Furthermore, Dr. Huang is spearheading a series of Capstone Projects in “Human Errors in Software Engineering” at Western Washington University. She welcomes senior undergraduates and graduates interested in contributing to cutting-edge research to join her research team.

Caroline Hardin, PhD

School districts across the country need more secondary computer science teachers, especially those who share the identities, values, and lived experiences of the students they teach. However, pathways for preparing and supporting computer science teachers are only just emerging, and many are struggling to recruit promising teachers into the profession and retain them long term. This project will create a consortium of emerging pre-service programs across the Pacific Northwest to address strengthen and mature computer science teaching pathways in four ways: 1) organizing and sharing information about teaching pathways, 2) identifying and resolving key barriers to pathways that aspiring teachers face, 3) supporting computers science teacher community building in partnership with new and existing computer science teachers association chapters, and 4) supporting administrative leaders who manage and grow these pathways.

The project’s approach is to build an evidence-based networked improvement community, which deeply engages stakeholders across the region to identify opportunities for change, develop sustainable cross-institutional coordination practices, and use research as one tool of many to inform approaches to change. Research will particularly focus on answering 1) who is and isn’t informed about CS teaching pathways, and why; 2) what barriers aspiring teacher with identities marginalized in CS face in pursuing CS teaching careers; 3) how community gatherings amongst teachers with marginalized identities can support teacher retention; and 4) how solidarity amongst teacher education administrative leaders can support sustainability of pathways. These questions will be posed across urban and rural divides, helping to inform how values, communities, and state politics shape equitable access to computer science education in secondary schools across the Pacific Northwest.

This is a collaborative award between University of Washington (PI Amy Ko), Western Washington University (Co-PI Caroline Hardin),  Central Washington University, Washington State University, Whitworth University, University of Oregon, and Boise State University. WWU"s share of the award is $230,000.

 

Dr. Hearne was integral to the evolution of the department over the course of his thirty plus years at Western. The CS department had its start in Bond Hall in the 1980s, at which time only a handful of students were graduated each year. Now Computer Science graduates upward of 180 students, across multiple degrees, and even a graduate program. Dr. Hearne was there for it all, championing and often spearheading the many changes that have culminated in the thriving department that CS is today.

Dr. Hearne's contributions include service to the college and university as well. He served two terms as chair of ACC, taught, with Peter Smith, a faculty member in the library, the first university course in the world - as far we could figure out - on how to use the internet (this was before the web when tools were very unwieldy [WAIS, GOPHER, etc]. co-wrote (with George Mobus, a CS faculty member of yore) the grant that instituted the Internet Studies Center, originally articulated its mission, and served as its director twice. Dr. Hearne also served as President of the Faculty Club and, as Treasurer, kept it alive for, lo,these two decades, and in this way promoted exchange between Faculty, Classified Staff and Administrators across campus. He served as director fo the Center for East Asian Studies for four years and during that time taught an overload class (of ~80 students) in the high culture of China and Japan every quarter to keep the program solvent. It was primarily for this service that he received the Simpson Bridging Award. He taught in the Honors Program many times, such classes as Technologies of Intellect, Quantitative History, Narratology and The Chinese World View, and he supervised a CS senior project group in the Internet Studies Center that created Classfinder, which is still in use today by all Western students who register for classes.

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

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is a club focused on preparing students for jobs and internships along with building a supportive community centered around everyone’s success. The biggest ACM event of the year is called the Passion Project, for which students work on a long-term project of their choosing to develop software, a server, or otherwise make use of a technology of their choice. A group comprised of Cooper Morgan, Robert Bates, Ben Huynh, Arne Wiseman, and Konnor Koi, developed the WWU schedule Optimizer, an app that generates all possible non0conflicting schedules based on a student’s course preferences. Try it out at https://cwooper.me/schedule-optimizer/. Sam Bardsley created Control for Reddit, which is a web extension on Chrome and Firefox that blocks feeds and distractions based on user preferences. It was developed to help you take back control of your time from a site with so much potential. Links for the extensions are the following: (Chrome) Control for Reddit - (google.com) (Firefox) Control for Reddit – (mozilla.org). The final presentation was a web server created by Graham Shupe. It is an HTTP web server written entirely in C; Graham chose this as their project to learn network programming ahead of taking CSCI 367! It supports all popular web browsers, and offers functionality for the standard GET and POST requests that are standard for the HTTP protocol.

Past Student Spotlights

Cybersecurity students educate Middle Schoolers on data privacy and online security.

Nearly one hundred students from Cedar Heights Middle School in Port Orchard recently learned about online safety and how to keep their personal data secure in a lesson taught by senior cybersecurity majors Ryan Stege and Matthew Goit and computer science senior Joe Hainje as part of Data Privacy Week.

The team taught middle schoolers about their privacy and the types of information that make them personally identifiable online.

Read more on Western Today.

Vivian White

Vivian White, a senior in Computer Science, attended the Emerging Researcher's National Conference in Washington DC from March 14-16. She presented her poster on her research with Dr. Kameron Decker Harris and won the 1st place award for undergraduate computer science poster. The project is a study of more interpretable models of learning in neural networks trained for vision tasks. Vivian is also the first undergraduate International Network for Bio-Inspired Computing scholar. This grant supported her collaboration with researchers Guillaume Lajoie, Guy Wolf, and Muawiz Chaudhury (a Western grad!) at the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms. It was accepted as a paper at the 2024 International Conference on Learning Representations workshop on Representational Alignment.

WWU Computer Science Run Away with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Washington in Division 2 at the ICPC PNW Regionals

On Saturday, February 24th, 6 teams from WWU’s Competitive Programming Club made their university proud at the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Pacific Northwest regionals. Of the 6 three-student teams from Western, 3 teams swept 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 7th place in Division 2 in Washington, and got 3rd, 4th and 5th place in Division 2 in the entire Pacific Northwest region.
 
The Competitive Programming Club in the Department of Computer Science, led by Indie Cowan, fosters a community at Western that provides students with opportunities to build skills in problem solving, job interviewing, and resume building in a fun and welcoming environment. The club also prepares student competitors to represent Western in programming competitions like the ICPC.
 
The ICPC is a globally recognized annual competition that puts participants’ skills in problem solving and programming to the test. The teams from Western demonstrated their innovation, teamwork, and grit in competition alongside some of the brightest minds in the Pacific Northwest.
 
The competing teams qualified to represent Western by outperforming their peers at the local Competitive Programming Competition that the club held earlier this quarter. After qualifying, the students had two weeks to prepare for the prestigious competition that lay ahead.
 
When the weekend arrived, the 18 students and their faculty sponsor Dr. See-Mong Tan traveled to Tacoma on Friday night, where they were treated to a meal at a local restaurant and an overnight hotel stay. The following day kicked off with the teams gathering at University of Washington Tacoma for a quick orientation, followed by the competition: 5 intense hours of problem solving, code writing, and algorithm crafting in which teams put forth their best effort to solve as many of the 13 problems as possible before the clock ran out. Of the six teams, five decided to compete in Division 2, meant for schools just starting to compete in the ICPC, and one brave team decided to compete in Division 1, meant for seasoned problem solvers that had trained for years for this moment.
 
Tensions were high as the competitors gathered after the contest, where they joined over 100 teams linked remotely from across the Pacific Northwest to watch a play-by-play of the last moments of the competition. The winners were unveiled one by one, revealing a resounding victory for Western.
 
Out of over 70 teams in the Division 2 regionals, WWU's teams stood out. ‘Lab Rats’, a Western team including Theo Hytopoulos, Avery Le, and Isabel Rodriguez, got 7th place in Washington. ‘Array of Sunshine’, a WWU team consisting of first time competitors Sarah Coffland, Hidemi Mitani Shen, and Diego Llanes, clinched the bronze model locally, and 5th place in the Pacific Northwest regionals. ‘Gitpush, Gatekeep, Girlboss’, a team consisting of Indie Cowan, Autumn Davis, and Sky Duryee, were revealed to be the silver medalists locally, and 4th place in the regionals. And finally, ‘Coding Cowboys’, a team consisting of Sam Johnson, Meghan Lindhorst, and Kaitlynn Carlson, took home the gold medal locally for Western, and 3rd place in the entire Pacific Northwest.
 
The Western team that competed in Division 1, the Bit Brawlers, consisting of Owen Wright, Joey Capps, and Marvin Chan, managed to take home 41st place in the Pacific Northwest region out of 64 teams. The teams celebrated with dinner in Seattle before returning to Bellingham after a taxing but rewarding day.
 
The Competitive Programming club is eager to compete in future contests and is always looking for new members who are excited to learn and grow. The club also holds quarterly programming competitions at Western open to all students. If you are a student interested in sharpening your problem solving skills, the club would love to have you, regardless of your experience level.
 
The club is overjoyed about Western’s growing involvement and growth at the ICPC. It aims to increase Western’s presence in Division 1 over the years, providing students with an outlet to sharpen their skills and prove their excellence.
 
Congratulations to the winning teams, and thanks to Indie Cowan and the other club officers for their leadership and guidance that brought Western to victory!

Western Washington University Students Triumph in International EduHacks Hackathon

Over the winter break, a team from Western Washington University (WWU) emerged victorious in the EduHacks hackathon, held on January 5th and 6th. The team, composed of Indie Cowan, Autumn Davis, Henry Baker, Yang Zheng, and Owen Wright, demonstrated their skill and creativity in a competition that brought together bright young minds from both China and the United States.

The EduHacks hackathon was held simultaneously at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China and the University of Washington (Seattle) in the U.S. Competitors ranged from students to young professionals. This year's edition focused on applications for social good, emphasizing the use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, connected vehicles, intelligent sensing, industrial metaverse, and large language models.

Starting at 10:00 am on January 5th, the participating teams had a 26-hour window to develop and submit their projects. Following this, they presented their innovations to local judges, vying for a spot in the final round. Teams were judged on innovation and creativity, technical feasibility, application prospects, and completeness of the work.

The WWU team's entry, a Google Chrome Browser Extension named Organic Translator set them apart from the competition. The tool, powered by OpenAI's ChatGPT, translates highlighted text on web pages into English, in order to understand the meaning of the text in its cultural and textual context. Additionally, it provides insights into the grammar and cultural nuances of the phrase. This product's effectiveness and potential for impact sent the WWU team into the final round, where they faced the top teams from China.

In the final round, the WWU team presented their product in a live stream to over a million viewers worldwide. They went up against the three other finalist teams, and after a long deliberation from the judges, they were awarded a first-place prize of $1400.

The team was formed from members of WWU’s Competitive Programming Club. The club prepares students for industry by connecting them to resources, educating them on how to succeed, introducing them to their peers, and practicing programming problems. If you are a WWU student and you are interested in joining, check out the CPC’s Instagram @wwucpc.

This victory is a feather in the cap for the team members and a proud moment for Western Washington University. The team thanks Western Washington University for its support and members are excited to compete again soon in the upcoming International Collegiate Programming Contest this winter.

Senior CS Students

Students from Western's Computer Science and Cybersecurity programs, located in both Bellingham and at WWU on the Peninsulas, are participating in Senior Projects that support WWU's public aquarium, SEA Discovery Center, in Poulsbo, WA. The projects will build on senior projects from previous years and are focused on enhancing the ability of SEA Discovery Center staff to monitor the conditions of the aquarium exhibits at SEA, which hold 6,000 gallons of saltwater and hundreds of marine animals. The projects will also enhance the aquarium's 25,000+ annual visitors' experience through an interactive kiosk, and underwater camera housed in a floating classroom on Liberty Bay.

Read more on Western Today.

Competitive Programming Club

On February 25th, the Western Washington University Competitive Programming Club competed in the International Collegiate Programming Contest regionals at University of Washington Spokane. After practicing for multiple quarters, two teams of three people from WWU entered the Division II section of the competition. Those teams took first and second place in Washington, and one team took fifth place in the whole of the Pacific Northwest region.

The Competitive Programming Club has a mission of helping students gain helpful skills for job-finding while having fun. It’s a fancy name on a resume, but it also provides a stress-free environment to meet people and practice for interviews/programming competitions. Members aren’t required to compete but are informed of upcoming competitions and are surrounded by people who they could team up with. Here is how our most recent competition went down:

The morning of the competition, the team left their hotel and arrived at UW at 9 AM. Everyone was greeted with free breakfast foods and beverages as we got settled in and went over the rules. At 11 AM, the competition began. Each team was given 13 programming problems of varying levels of difficulty.  Each would have to try to solve as many problems as they could (and pass runtime limits) within the next five hours. A balloon was delivered to teams for each problem they completed, and midday the teams were treated to Subway! At 4 PM, the competition ended. Throughout the competition, a leaderboard is available, but the leaderboard is frozen an hour before the competition ends to add a bit of secrecy to who will win in the end.

After the timer ran out, we all gathered in a room as the ICPC dramatically revealed the final leaderboard by showing us how many more problems each team solved in the last hour, one by one. After lots of leaderboard excitement, it was revealed that the WWU Binary Bandits, which included Joe Ewert, Owen Wright, and Indie Cowan, got second in Washington and 17th place in the Pacific Northwest. Then it was revealed that the WWU Generative Pre-Trained Transformers, which included Ethan Temple, Joey Capps, and Sky Duryee, got first place in Washington and fifth place in the Pacific Northwest. More than 50 teams competed in Division II in the Pacific Northwest. The team celebrated with a dinner in Seattle.

The Competitive Programming Club is excited to participate in more contests throughout the year and bring home more titles. Congratulations to the competitors for bringing home medals and plaques! Thank you to Robin Preble for leading the club as President this year and to See-Mong Tan for being our faculty advisor.

The Competitive Programming Club is always open to new members and is education centered. If you want a fancy-sounding extracurricular and medals on your resume, as well as the skills to pass a technical interview, come join us in the spring! Open to all students who have completed CSCI 141 or have equivalent experience.

Jamey Albert

CS Senior, Jamey Albert, worked with CS senior Daniel V. Koronthaly, graduate student, Samatha Dobesh, and high school students, Ilaana Khan and Zafir Nasim, to create a mobile application, eXpress, under the supervision of Profs. Shameem Ahmed and Moushumi Sharmin, that aims to aid non-verbal and minimally verbal autistic children and autistic young adults to express their emotion. In Sep 2022, Jamey and Ilaana attended The ACM International joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp) where they presented their research on eXpress.

Jamey and Ilaana were the youngest researchers presenting their research in UbiComp, which is a premier interdisciplinary venue where leading researchers, designers, developers, and practitioners present innovative results in all aspects of ubiquitous and pervasive computing. Their research received much attention due to its potential impact to improve the experience of non-verbal autistic individuals and their families. Jamey Albert was the recipient of the College of Science and Engineering’s (CSE) Jarvis Memorial Summer Research Stipend 2022, which partially funded her research on eXpress. Jamey is a student researcher in the NEAT Research Lab, which focuses on creating affective technology for addressing behavioral, mental, and cognitive health problems, especially autism and other neurodivergent conditions.

Griffin Hartz

Griffin Hartz, a junior in Computer Science, was awarded the Elwha Summer Research Award.

Griffin will be working with Dr. Wesley Deneke to study methods to make the coming Metaverse more accessible and facilitate collaboration. Virtual Reality support and automated controls will be added to a 3D virtual world in the effort to enhance immersion and minimize the skill barrier.

Catilin 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.

Dept. Developments

Computer Science, Secondary Ed. - BAE

Western Washington University has announced a new Computer Science Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) major which focuses on preparing students to become computer science teachers in middle schools and high schools.

Read more on Western Today.

Past Dept. Developments

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.