Sibiu, Romania – A team of eight Howard University students will spend two months in Romania and Chile doing comparative cybersecurity research as participants in the National Science Foundation-funded Global Education, Awareness and Research Undergraduate Program (GEAR-UP).
The teams in Romania and Chile are part of a group of 32 science and engineering students from Howard who will conduct research abroad this summer. The program, now in its fourth year, aims to increase global engagement of graduates in engineering and science through study and research abroad. It is spearheaded by the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences (CEACS) and supported through a $5 million, multi-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded in 2010. This year, students will conduct research in Romania, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Ethiopia, Thailand, South Africa and Tanzania.
The cybersecurity research program, offered in partnership with Romania's Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu and a private IT firm
Ropardo, aims to develop enhanced security infrastructure for patient information. The data gathered by mobile health devices, including wearable sensors, are designed to improve quality of life for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, as well as the elderly and individuals with physical disabilities in the European Union.
“I participated in GEAR UP Thailand last year and this year I am conducting research in Sibiu, Romania,” said senior computer engineering major Cherith-Eden Clements. “GEAR UP allows me to enhance my theoretical foundation, technical skillset and global competence.”
The MY HEALTH application will allow physicians and clinical partners to monitor indicators such as blood pressure; interpret data; maintain data history for statistical analysis and support elderly patients in critical situations such as a fall.
The Howard GEAR UP Romania student research team is working alongside Constantin-Bala Zamfirescu, professor of engineering at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu and consultant at Ropardo, to determine: the cost and techniques necessary for the real-time encryption of the entire database; selection of sensitive database fields for real-time encryption and decryption and examination of query strategies to determine the potential for inadvertent release of privacy information. The students will conduct similar research at the Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile, to assess the role of distance in the execution of encryption and related security techniques over vast stretches of the Internet. Sibiu, Romania, is 8,031 miles away from Santiago, Chile.
“National statistics suggest that very few African Americans have the opportunity to travel abroad to study or do research,” said Lorraine Fleming, Ph.D., the GEAR-UP director and a professor of civil engineering. “Our mission at Howard is to produce leaders for America and the global community. GEAR-UP is doing just that by allowing students a first-hand opportunity to practice as engineers and scientists in a global setting.”
GEAR-UP students will also study earthquake engineering in Mexico. Other research projects for Howard students in Mexico will focus on saltwater and wastewater contamination of aquifers and earthquake engineering. In Ethiopia, researchers will investigate ways to use kitchen waste to produce biogas and the engineering properties of soils. In Thailand, they will study potential gene-based treatments to counter human hair loss.
The participating international universities are: Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Sibiu, Romania; Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey; Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico; Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile; Bahir Dar University, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia; the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa; and Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.