STEM Seminar Fall 2022 - Class Activities

Mon Dec 12 - 2:00-4:30 Final Conference

Fri Dec 2 - Last class
Reducing Exam Anxiety, Dr. Tashakkori
Handout: Managing Test Anxiety (Written by Cecelia Downs, UIC’s Academic Center for Excellence

Fri Nov 25 - Thanksgiving Break

Fri Nov 18 - Guest Speaker
Dr. Jennifer Weller, UNCC
Title:Can Information from DNA Sequencers Be Used to Infer Structure?
Abstract: DNA sequencing is carried out on single-stranded templates, and the majority of the processing methods relay on enzymes to create a detectable signal. Our lab is trying to determine whether information captured in sequencing error rates can be used to infer structural information about the templates. While this may not reflect their structures when carrying out cellular functions, they may still inform both our understanding of how inherent biophysical properties cause folding, may enhance our understanding of the source of ambiguity in sequence data, and lead to more nuance in how we interpret high-throughput assay data. The seminar will present first some results of earlier high- throughput microarray assays and show how their interpretation informed our approaches to current high-throughput sequencing assay results.
Bio of the speaker:
Dr. Weller is currently on a Leave of Absence from her position at UNC Charlotte, in the Dept of Bioinformatics and Genomics at the National Science Foundation. She currently serves as a Program Director in the NSF/BIO Directorate, Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI). Her research is focused on the how the biophysical properties of nucleic acids affect measurements obtained in high-throughput assays, and whether those measurements reveal physical properties related to the biological function of those molecules. Among her NSF responsibilities are award oversight in the CFARI cluster (Biology Integration Institutes and Mid-scale Research Infrastructure - 1 projects), the MRI and Innovation- Instrumentation programs in DBI’s Research Resources cluster and she participates in a number of cross- Directorate and cross-NSF programs, including: REU, Research Experiences for Teachers Sites in Biological Sciences, GRFP, and similar co-funding initiatives. She earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of Montana, and worked in the Biotechnology industry for 5 years, at Applied Biosystems, prior to taking her first academic appointment.

Fri Nov 11 - S-STEM Grant
What have worked best and what new ideas are out there to consider - Dr. Tashakkori

Fri Nov 4 - Guest Speaker
Kimberly Lewis, Director, Engineering, Cisco Systems, Inc.`

How to prepare for the real-world

Fri Oct 28 - Guest Speaker
Dr. Pooyan Jamshidi, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at University of South Carolina
Title:Understanding and Explaining the Root Causes of Performance Faults with Causal AI: A Path towards Building Dependable Computer Systems

In this talk, I will present our recent progress in employing Causal AI (Causal Structure Learning and Inference, Counterfactual Reasoning, and Transfer Learning) in addressing several significant challenges in computer systems. After motivating the work, I will show how mainstream machine learning, which relies on spurious correlations, may become unreliable in certain situations. Next, I will present empirical observations that explain the underlying root causes of performance faults in several highly-configurable systems, including autonomous systems, robotics, on-device machine learning systems, and data analytics pipelines. I will then present our framework, Unicorn, and discuss how Unicorn fills the gap by employing a causal reasoning approach. In particular, I will discuss how Unicorn captures intricate interactions between configuration options across the software-hardware stack and how such interactions can impact performance variations. Finally, I will talk about our 2-years journey in a NASA-funded project called RASPBERRY-SI, developing a causal reasoning approach to enable synthesizing adaptation plans for reconfiguring autonomous systems to adapt to environmental uncertainties during operation.
For more information regarding the technical work and the people behind the work that I present, please refer to the following websites: - The Unicorn framework: - The NASA-funded RASPBERRY-SI project:
Bio of the Speaker: Pooyan Jamshidi is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UofSC. Pooyan Jamshidi's research involves designing novel artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms and investigating their theoretical guarantees. He is also interested in applying AI/ML algorithms in high-impact applications, including robotics, computer systems, and space explorations. Pooyan has extensive collaborations with Google and NASA and is always open to explore new collaborations. Pooyan has been a recipient of the UofSC breakthrough award in 2022. Before his current position, he was a postdoctoral associate at CMU (Pittsburgh, US) and Imperial College (London, UK). He received a Ph.D. (Computer Science) from DCU (Dublin, Ireland) in 2014 and received an M.S. (Industrial Engineering) and a B.S. (Math & Computer Science) from AUT (Iran) in 2003 and 2006, respectively. For more info about Pooyan's research and his group at UofSC, please refer to:

Fri Oct 21 - Guest Speaker
Dr. Adam McKay, Department of Physics and Astronomy, ASU
Title: Comets:i Tracers of Our Past
Abstract: Abstract: Comets are ice-rich solar system objects that consist of primitive material that is left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. This makes studies of cometary composition important for understanding the physics and chemistry of the early Solar System, the formation of icy and organic material, and the subsequent incorporation of this material into planetary bodies. Comets also have astrobiological significance as potential sources of Earth's water and organic material. In this talk I will discuss recent advances in cometary science, focusing on our knowledge of cometary composition, future directions, and implications for astrobiology. I will conclude with a discussion of how App State's Dark Sky Observatory can be used as an important facility for cometary science. Brief Bio of Dr. McKay: Dr. Adam McKay is an assistant professor at App State in the department of physics and astronomy, newly arrived this summer. His research focuses on the volatile composition of comets as studied at optical and IR wavelengths, but he is interested in any Solar System object that exhibits comet-like activity as well as planet formation. Dr. McKay received his bachelor's degree from Williams College in Massachusetts before pursuing his PhD in astronomy from New Mexico State University. After earning his doctorate in 2013 he became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, and then was selected as an NPP fellow at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in 2017. In 2019 he transitioned to an assistant research professor position at American University while also keeping his affiliation with NASA Goddard, a position he held until coming to App State this summer.

Fri Oct 14 - Guest Speaker
Producing Knowledge and Powering Discovery: An Overview of the UNC System Research Enterprise
Dr. Jennifer Gerz-Escandon, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and Research
Academic Affairs Division | The University of North Carolina System Office
In fiscal year 2021, the UNC System and the17 institutions comprising it were awarded more than $1.7 billion dollars to produce knowledge and power discovery that benefits the public good. Yet, numbers only tell part of the story. Who helps achieve that outcome? What processes support the success of investigators? Where does the funding come from to fuel discovery? When do we see the impact on the lives of North Carolina citizens? How do we create a pipeline that trains future researchers and leverages strategic resources? Why are programs focused on undergraduate research allocated more than $100,000 each year? This talk is designed to answer these questions by introducing undergraduate and graduate student researchers to the research administration, program sponsorship, and reporting functions of the System Office. It will also provide insight into the presenter's career path and current role.

Fri Oct 7 - Guest Speaker
Dr. Bill Cook, Department of Mathematical Sciences, ASU
An Infinite Talk
Abstract: Infinity can be dangerous. In this talk we will explore several kinds of infinity. Along the way we run into some things we are forbidden to do (and occasionally do them anyway). In particular, we will look at how infinity is used as an extended real number. This shows up in the context of geometry and limits (as in precalculus and calculus). Then, we will consider infinite sizes (aka cardinals) and ordering (aka ordinals) and some strange arithmetic.

Fri Sep 30 - Leadership Workshop
Dr. Jim Street

Fri Sep 23 - Sharing Real-World Experiences
STEM Alumni: Tim Racz, Zoe Upchurch, Mikayla Sage, Brian Hill, Ethen Little,

Fri Sep 16 - Leadership Workshop
Dr. Jim Street

Fri Sep 9 - Sharing Internship/Summer work Experience
Gabriel Paredes, Alyssa Wurtz, Sarah Davis, Joseph Howard, and Will O'Brien

Fri Sep 2 - Sharing Internship Experience
Loly Amaya, Emma Allen, Abdel Issa, Shams Ahmed, and Hannah Joyner

Fri Aug 26 - Getting the Semester started
Welcome Back!
Plan for the semester
Building the teams

Study Halls
Alex Cozie manages all the Study Halls
Dr. Tashakkori - How is your shinny rock doing?