As a path-breaking model of education and research, the College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T) is at the forefront of innovative IT practices.
Artificial Intelligence Autonomous Agent Systems B2B e-Commerce and Risk Management Bioinformatics Collaboration Engineering Complex Software Development Crowdsourcing Data Mining Database Systems e-Learning Formal Methods and Advanced Programming Information Technology for Development Knowledge Engineering and Web Intelligence Mobile Computing Network Technology Challenges Open Source Research Service Learning Software Evolution & Maintenance Virtual Project Management & Virtual Teams
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a core area of computer science since the early stages of the discipline. AI deals with the principles and technologies for embodying machines with human-like intelligent capabilities including perception, learning, reasoning, planning, language understanding, etc., so the machines can assist humans in performing complex and hazardous tasks.
In AI, students examine and develop mathematical models of the mental functionalities, build software agents and multi-agent systems for the control of and reaction with sensory inputs, simulate with neural networks for adaptations to varying environments, apply heuristics and stochastic optimization techniques for critical decision making and incorporate extensive work of knowledge engineering - all with the goal of making computers and information systems smarter.
This research area focuses on the following major topics: multi-agent systems, swarmed robotics and game theory and computational economics.
Led by Dr. Raj Dasgupta, this group also runs the Collaborative Multi-Agent Networking Technologies and Intelligent Coordination Lab. The research focus for the group is in developing technologies for coordinating individual resource-constrained components to behave collectively and collaboratively as a single, large-scale distributed system. A major application is controlling a team of mobile mini-robots using multi-agent algorithms. The unique contribution of this research has been to integrate market-based techniques for multi-robot coordination with swarm-based techniques for robot control.
The research can be used to build robot teams to assist humans in hazardous and complex tasks in the following tasks:
- Paramedic Applications: Search and rescue missions following natural or man-made catastrophes,
- Engineering Applications: Automatic surveillance and inspection of engineering structures,
- Homeland Security Applications: De-mining operations, continuous and adaptive surveillance or land, water and airspace, and
- Civilian Applications: Controlling the spread of hazardous chemical substances such as chemical spills.
The College's current research activity in this area focuses on exploring and identifying the critical risk factors involved in e-commerce driven extended-enterprise systems that can potentially escalate an organization's overall enterprise risk. Critical risk factors have been identified in business-to-business (B2B) relationships using the Khazanchi and Sutton (2001) model for B2B e-commerce risk assessment as the conceptual basis for viewing specific risk components. Based on this work, IS&T researchers have validated a risk assessment instrument and are in the process of using this to empirically examine a causal model that considers risk as a key factor influencing the inter-organizational relationship between two or more B2B partners in the form of relationship satisfaction and assurance desirability.
Associated Faculty & Staff
Over the last several years, the College of Information, Science & Technology (IS&T) has developed considerable expertise in the emerging discipline of bioinformatics. IS&T faculty are actively involved in research and teaching in this area. In addition, since 1999 the College has offered both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in bioinformatics in conjunction with the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). In fall 2003, the College began offering a Ph.D. in Information Technology (IT) with a focus on bioinformatics. And, since fall 2004, the College has offered a B.S. degree in bioinformatics - one of few degrees of its kind in the country.
In addition to faculty and student resources, the College has invested heavily in the development of a robust computer infrastructure to support its programs in this area. A number of research projects conducted at UNO in bioinformatics have been externally funded, including $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). The majority of these projects are collaborative efforts between the UNO Bioinformatics Research Group and various UNMC departments.
The bioinformatics projects are supported by a state-of-the-art cluster computing facility and conducted in the Bioinformatics Computing Lab and the Text Data Mining Lab. The results of the research projects have been presented in many international conferences and have produced more than 20 publications in the last three years. Projects funded in this program have supported five Ph.D., eight MS and many undergraduate students.
Collaboration Engineering (CE) is a design approach for recurring collaboration processes that can be transferred to groups so they can be self-sustaining in these processes using collaboration techniques and technology. A Collaboration Engineer designs a collaboration process once which can then be carried out without additional support. CE focuses on designing collaboration processes that are of a recurring nature. It focuses on processes for mission-critical tasks that must be executed by teams rather than individuals, that must be executed frequently and that have a high payoff if successful. Examples of such recurring collaboration processes can be found in various sectors including financial services, defense and software development.
Collaboration Engineering research and fieldwork takes place in UNO's Center for Collaboration Science, established in 2006. The Center has a three-part mission: To develop, validate and publish theoretical foundations for collaboration-related phenomena; to help organizations in Omaha and the nation apply these standings to make a difference that matters; and to teach collaboration concepts to undergraduates, graduates, and organizational leaders.
Associated Research Labs
Today's market forces are demanding that software products be more flexible, more modular, and more adaptive. These software products are also expected to deliver more powerful and customized services due to the increasing dependence on computer systems and rise of sophisticated users. Developing systems satisfying such requirements gives rise to a design space for which existing software development methodologies are not well suited. In particular, non-functional and functional concerns are oftentimes intertwined and suitable abstractions do not exist for separating their design. This results in the creation of systems that are accidentally complex and difficult to maintain. To address these shortcomings there is a need for new methodologies, languages, and development environments. Our objective is to develop domain-specific tools, methodologies and languages that significantly improve the quality and robustness of complex software systems. Specifically, our research focuses on the integration of three separate areas of research: software product line engineering, aspect-oriented software development, and domain-specific language design.
The ubiquity of collaboration technologies allows companies, non-profits, and governmental organizational to engage large numbers of people both within and outside their organizational boundaries. This has given rise to new forms of collaboration: From small group, focused and time-boxed collaboration, to an environment in which unstructured, longitudinal mass collaboration is the norm. Specific examples include the Linux open source community, Wikipedia, or new phenomena such as Open Innovation. A particularly interesting new collaboration phenomenon is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is "…the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call." (Howe, 2006, p.1). The popularity of crowdsourcing is in the belief that a large group of volunteer amateur individuals can outperform a dedicated small team of dedicated professionals. Recent studies have shown that crowdsourcing can be a very productive approach for organizations to (1) farm out large scale information processing tasks that can be split into many discrete and independent sub-activities, (2) to solicit innovative solutions to a problem in a competition style format, and (3) to engage a large group of people in collaborative problem solving discussions. However, while the proliferation of crowdsourcing service providers illustrates the popularity of the phenomenon, there still is little understanding about approaches to purposefully design processes and systems to support such mass collaboration and stimulate ongoing engagement. This research area aims to build such knowledge to inform both crowdsourcing providers and consumers.
The data mining group consists of faculty from both the computer science and management information systems (MIS) areas of the college. The group conducts research and development projects in its data mining research laboratory. The lab was funded by the University of Nebraska Foundation to support research and teaching on data warehousing and data mining, and to allow students, faculty and industry fellows to conduct application-oriented projects for analytic customer relationship management (CRM), bioinformatics and other real-world applications.
The multidisciplinary nature of data mining has resulted in R&D projects in a range of areas that have used data mining techniques such as clustering, classification and multi-criteria linear programming, genetic algorithms. Projects completed by the group include fraud detection in the insurance sector, credit card fraud in the banking sector, intrusion detection and bioinformatics. The college also hosts the International Journal of Information Technology and Decision Making (IJITDM) under the auspices of the data mining group.
Associated Faculty & Staff
The database research group is focused on the interdisciplinary study of storage, management and analysis of scientific, geographic and text data. The group's research is motivated by topics such as bio-medical applications, sensor networks, database design and topic detection and tracking.
The database group at IS&T offers various relevant database courses such as Database Management Systems, Database Administration, Data Warehousing & Data Mining, Information Storage & Retrieval, Database Search & Pattern Discovery in Bioinformatics and special topics in Database Management Systems.
The College of IS&T has developed numerous courses that are available online. "E-learning" is a broader term for this new mode of learning because it recognizes that even students who are located on campus may choose to combine traditional classroom learning with Web-based instruction. Faculty are using a variety of leading-edge tools and technology environments to create a collaborative and engaging experience for e-Learning. Research projects include studying how students learn best in such environments within different contexts and interfaces and how to assess the learning that takes place.
The ForMAP group consists of Drs. Haifeng Guo, Mahadevan Subramaniam and Victor Winter. They have an active record of working with undergraduate and graduate students on both funded and unfunded projects. Over the past several years, funding for a variety of projects has been obtained from several grants from the NSF and Sandia National Laboratories. Individually, the members have recent and ongoing research collaborations with Los Alamos National Laboratories, Sandia National Laboratories, US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) and a number of academic institutions including the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas at El Paso and West Virginia University.
Students interested in joining the ForMAP team will find a desk in the Sandia Lab - a lab in the Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) under the stewardship of Dr. Winter that until recently was dedicated solely to research activities related to Sandia National Laboratories.
Innovations in information technology are changing lives around the world. The establishment of informal "cyber cafés" in Ecuador, Brazil and Peru are enabling people to access resources and new markets through the web. By checking the prices of crops at a centrally-located kiosk connected to the Internet, farmers in Africa have a better chance of selling their produce for a profit. Many of these adaptations of technology are being made known through the Journal of Information Technology for Development edited by Dr. Sajda Qureshi.
Research in this area provides insight into how IT can be used to provide measurable improvements in the lives of people such as through job creation, access to social services and stimulating small businesses. In addition, faculty involved with this group have offered special topics courses and service-learning courses on IT for Development.
This group concentrates on the research and development of concepts, methodologies, and software systems for the acquisition, modeling, representation, and management of knowledge critical to situational awareness and decision making. The group specially focuses on applying the Knowledge Engineering (KE) techniques to Web Intelligence (WI) tasks for efficient information retrieval, analysis, mining, and effective utilization.
The overarching goal of the Mobile Computing and Wireless Communication group is to build an innovative, comprehensive research and development program leading to solutions for high-speed wireless data network connectivity problems in rural as well as urban Nebraska. A high performance wireless network infrastructure will have a substantial impact on the state by providing digital connectivity for agriculture, bio-security, medical and transportation issues. Objectives include the development of:
- A high performance wireless network for supporting research, education and service activities in Nebraska,
- Strategic collaborations of academia and industry working in synergy to solve research and development problems in wireless (particularly in sensor) networks.
Faculty involved in this research include Drs. Hesham Ali, IS&T dean; and Jong-Hoon Youn from UNO, and Drs. Hamid Sharif and Jitender Deogun from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Since its inception in 2004, the research group has received more than $1.1 million from NSF-EPSCoR RII and Nebraska Research Initiative (NRI) for research projects. The funding has supported approximately 10 Ph.D. and M.S. Students.
The phenomenal growth in network technologies and cyberspace traffic poses intriguing challenges to provide efficient, secure and fault-tolerant services. IS&T faculty Dr. Azad Azadmanesh and Dr. Jong-Hoon Youn lead the effort in this area and conduct research that spans a wide range of topics in network communication.
The Open Source Research Initiative and the related Open Source Research Lab (OSRL) originates from the NSF-funded research project, Organizational Participation in Open Communities. With the growing use of crowd-sourcing, the interaction between self-forming communities and traditional corporations is increasing in importance. Existing research has focused on factors affecting an individual's level of participation in open sourced work and on the organization of open source efforts, but scant attention has been paid to the significant strategic organizational involvement in these endeavors (75% of Linux kernel contributions are from paid developers).
As design and development evolves within open communities, there are an increasing number of ways that organizations may seek to balance 'contributions to' and differentiation from' an open community, for reasons of cost, resource management, and time to market. Building on principles of public sharing, collaboration, and organizational learning, the OSRL focuses on why and how organizations participate with open communities. In particular, the ORSL houses research on participation with open source communities, the advancement of open source pedagogy for computer science and information systems students, and the hosting of select open source projects.
In service learning, students apply their knowledge and skills in a project that benefits the community.
Drs. Peter Wolcott and Sajda Qureshi are conducting a Service Learning course in Information Technology for Development in which students use technology to bring about positive economic, social and human development by assisting the owners of small businesses with their information technology needs, as well as develop information technology plans for their businesses. As part of the course, the students work with micro businesses who have received "Techquity" technology awards from the eBay Foundation.
Dr. Donna Dufner directs a course in which Douglas County Corrections inmates learn basic computer skills. The course debuted in the fall of 2006. Thirteen honors students teach basic computer skills to inmates at the jail one day a week. There is one class for men and another for women. The course is part of UNO's Service Learning Academy. The class is limited to low-risk inmates who use five donated computers only during the class and do not have access to the Internet. The inmates do not earn college credit for the course but do receive certificates showing that they have received training in Microsoft Windows and Office. With the help of their tutors, the inmates learn how to write letters to their families or to respond to employment advertisements in the newspaper. Some simply improve their grammar or their English skills. Ultimately, the course is hoped to provide the inmates with the basic skills necessary to overcome and not repeat their mistakes.
Software systems must continually evolve to meet changing needs. It is essential to study the evolution of software systems, especially large, long-lived systems, in order to guide developers in making further changes to the system. Our research follows two interrelated threads of investigations. We examine the software change history using temporal mining techniques in order to find patterns of changes over time. We also conduct semantic analysis to identify change impacts and provide suggestions for automated repairs. We also investigate the fusion of these two techniques.
Projects are increasingly being conducted that are not limited by the boundaries of geography, time and organizations. These distributed - or virtual - projects pose special challenges and opportunities, not the least of which is the type of support that is needed for the information and communication technologies that make virtual projects possible. The Project Management Institute funded an initial grant that resulted in a book on patterns of effectiveness in virtual projects, co-authored by Drs. Deepak Khazanchi and Ilze Zigurs.
Continuing work has focused on developing a structured method for identifying patterns of best practices and exploring new technologies for supporting virtual project management. Faculty are also investigating the use of virtual worlds, such as SecondLife.com, for creating engaging environments to support virtual projects and teams. In addition, Dr. Stacie Petter is developing new ways for knowledge to be shared from one project to the next, for example, through the use of wikis that capture best practices in project management.