Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Lewis students can choose their emotional reaction to the COVID-19 crisis

By Nadia Beidas

     We are under a difficult situation with the COVID-19 virus. Every day we see the death toll rise in alarming numbers, and the death toll once this situation has passed is estimated between 100,000 to 240,000.

     This is extremely frightening. This is the most terrifying situation most of us ever remember facing. The news coverage of the rising death toll, anguished hospital workers and government officials and families who have suffered devastating losses are heartbreaking.

     However, it is vital to keep as positive of an attitude as possible and look to the future. There will be a day we can return to normal. The question remains what the new normal will be.

     In life as a whole, there are situations and circumstances we can control, and those we cannot. This situation happens to be one we cannot control. But we are in control of our reaction.

     Some people might choose to be angry or bitter. Others might look for ways to assign blame. Some might fall into despair and anguish, and this is extremely understandable, especially for those who have suffered a personal loss.

     Once the danger of this virus passes, we will not return to the same world as we knew it. Experience changes us all. We can choose how we will deal with the changes.

     Perhaps this experience will teach us the importance of social interaction. We live in a time where most of us are attached to our phones and other devices. When we return to a new normal, perhaps we will be more social.

     I miss talking to family and friends in person. I miss talking to instructors and fellow students in person. I even miss small talk while running errands.

     I hope we all appreciate the importance of kindness and compassion. So many people are suffering right now. I hope we can help each other as best we can now while observing social distancing.

     I also hope we will all continue to assist each other as we rebuild our lives after this crisis is over.

     I believe people are also more appreciative of the lives and advantages they had prior to this pandemic. I hope people will return to prosperity soon. The economic impact of this virus is also frightening.

     With elections coming in November, people may think more seriously about the candidates they choose. Instead of worrying about smaller issues, people will likely think about healthcare and the economy. Voters will likely choose candidates who have plans to address these concerns.

     We can also choose to think of the future, and choose to be productive and plan for jobs and other opportunities. This is the time to edit the resume and look at the Handshake site for internships and jobs. This is also the time to decide on pursuing graduate studies.

     In addition, we can anticipate aspects of our daily lives that we are missing now. We can look forward to the days where we can interact with loved ones again. Remember, we can all still communicate while observing social distancing.

     From a personal standpoint, I have enjoyed several long conversations with family and friends. Sometimes, we have not had the time to talk to each other at length. We send each other pictures and videos constantly.

     My uncle sent my mother some pictures of them growing up. I had actually never seen these. One particular picture that I loved was of my mother at her high school graduation with my grandmother, who sadly passed away in 2013.

    We have all been sending pictures to each other of past trips and other gatherings we have enjoyed in the past. We do not always have time to go through old pictures, and this has been an opportunity to remember pleasant times.

     My aunts and I also send each other pictures of flowers, coffee, cakes and chocolate to make each other smile. These extras that we might not always have time for ordinarily certainly brighten my day. These little gestures essentially have the same meaning; we all love each other, stay safe and stay well.

     I pass the heart of this message on to all of you. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Lewis students should make the most out of the stay-at-home order

By Nadia Beidas

     We are all immersed in a frightening and unusual situation with the COVID-19 virus. Every day there are higher numbers of people becoming ill and dying from the virus. Even young people are coming down with the virus in high numbers.

     In order to stop the spread of the virus, we are under a stay-at-home order in Illinois until April 30, though the order might be extended. We all must follow this order. It may be difficult to change our daily lives, or miss out on the rest of the semester and other events.

     However, nothing is more important than stopping the spread of this virus. Please stay safe, everyone.

     Technology offers us a multitude of methods of communication, and some of us might develop new communication technology in the future. Please do not forget to stay in touch with your loved ones. We may have to keep a distance, but we can still talk.

     I have been communicating more than usual with family and friends. Many of us are sending cheerful videos back and forth, or pictures of flowers, cake, chocolate and coffee. It is our way of saying we all love each other, stay safe and we hope we are together again soon in person.

     Although we are all at home, we must not fall into despair or get stuck in a rut of boredom. We should make the best of this situation, even though these are sad and difficult times.

Drs. Elvis Francois and William Robinson gave an inspirational performance of “Imagine.” This performance was featured on several new sites, including ABC World News Tonight with David Muir. Their performance shows hope during these difficult times. For more performances, please visit the YouTube channel Doctor Elvis Francois.

      Prior to spring break, as well as in previous semesters, many of us were constantly on the go and always rushing to get something done. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day to finish all the tasks we would like to accomplish. Plus, there were the demands of work, school, home and family, as well as the pressure of rushing from place to place or sitting in traffic.

     Now, at least, we can make the best of a difficult situation and take the time to pause. We cannot leave our homes except to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. But we can use the time we have now wisely and for our benefit.

     First and foremost, we should keep up with our studies. But many of us are often saying we wish we had time to learn something new, or spend time on other activities. This is an excellent time to do these tasks.

     For example, in CaMS [Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences], many of us wish we had time to learn a new programming language. Now we can study the programming language of our choice, and write new programs.

     Additionally, most of us have been frazzled with hectic schedules, and have wished for time to relax, or to spend on a hobby.

     I remember one afternoon nearly two years ago in the Maker lab, a discussion about the painter Bob Ross somehow started at the end of the day. One student remarked at the time that he wished he had time to paint, but could not due to the demands of his schedule.

      At the time, I thought it was unfortunate the student did not have the time to do something he enjoyed or was interested in. I fully understand and sympathize with the student. I have a lot of hobbies and interests that I never have enough time for, including drawing, singing and creative writing.

     I still have my clarinet that I played in school growing up. The last time I had time to play the instrument was four years ago at Christmas. My brother brought his French horn, and we played holiday songs for our mom. 

     I could only play the clarinet for 10 minutes due to a complete lack of practice, but I loved it. I still remember the notes and how to play the instrument. I was reminded of all the joy I had playing over the years, and any opportunity to spend time with my brother is precious now that we are busy adults.

     After the 10-minute concert I could give on the clarinet, I began singing instead and my brother accompanied me on the French horn. He joked our instrument playing ability was at a 6th grade level, and I actually think he was generous in my part of his assessment. I hope to practice the clarinet again soon.

     We can all pick up different hobbies or interests. Now is the time to learn or practice a foreign language, reminisce on past pictures, cook something new, exercise, or even watch a movie or program we have been meaning to see. The possibilities are endless.

     Time is a precious gift. Once time is gone, there is no way to get it back. We always and often wish we could have done something differently if we had a chance to do something over.

     This is not the way any of us would choose to have extra time. But we are in this situation. We should make the most of it.

      This crisis will pass. We do not know when, but one day we will be back to normal. And when we are, it will be wonderful to share the new skills and hobbies we developed with each other in person. 

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Lewis students should look for hope despite COVID-19

By Nadia Beidas

     Lewis students will not return to in-person instruction this semester, or the summer semester. We will finish this semester very abruptly and without closure.

     This is a sad situation for all of us, especially for us graduating seniors. Many of us had so many plans over the next few weeks. All upcoming events are canceled and graduation is postponed.

      And unfortunately, some of us students will not see each other again.

     From a personal standpoint, I wanted a few more weeks to talk to classmates and faculty that have been a big part of my life for the last few years. I also wanted to thank all my instructors personally for their support and encouragement since my journey began, and I had all my goodbyes mentally planned. Additionally, I had several topics I wanted to write about for the department, but none of that feels appropriate right now.

     But all of this should not be our biggest concern or hardship at the moment, even if it is an unfortunate turn of events. We are dealing with a frightening global crisis with COVID-19. Our entire way of life has changed, and we are living in fear of an invisible enemy.

     Young people are also coming down with the virus in higher numbers. Some young adults are not following advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and are still meeting in large groups. This is not the time to ignore warnings as no one is invincible.

     Please be careful and safe everyone.

     I find the spread of COVID-19 terrifying. I keep thinking of my family, as I have several close relatives over 60 and others with preexisting conditions. I also keep checking on everyone.

     Although it is extremely difficult, it is very important not to fall into despair and bleakness. We must be hopeful. This crisis will pass.

     And we should show kindness and compassion to everyone. People everywhere are facing difficult times.

     As I mentioned last week, we need to keep up with our studies. Our knowledge will be needed during this crisis and after the crisis passes for a variety of situations, such as preventing or stopping cyber attacks, medical technology, education and communication.

     Please also show kindness and understanding to your instructors. They are also finding themselves on new ground, and they are working hard to make sure we can still receive the best education possible in this unusual and uncertain situation.

     We must look to the future. And we must be vigilant in taking care of ourselves and those around us, as well as check on loved ones while observing social distancing. Thankfully we have technology to enable us to communicate with each other.

     I would like to give a big thank you to all of our healthcare professionals who are fighting this virus daily, at the risk of their own health, to keep us all safe. We can all never thank you enough.

      Although we are constantly bombarded with coverage about this frightening virus, yet we need to look for positive contributions people are making, however big or small the contribution is.

     Mr. Rogers, host of the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, said famously, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

     The series inspired generations of children, myself included, about the importance of kindness, compassion and being a good neighbor. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had a long run from 1968 to 2001, and we can certainly use the words of wisdom and the lessons he taught us over generations.

     Currently, we see different moments of hope globally. During these difficult times, people in Italy stand on their balconies and sing together. In Spain, people go to their windows and applaud healthcare workers.

      Celebrities are also contributing to helping people stay positive. Josh Gad, whose famous roles include voicing Olaf from Frozen and playing LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, is reading children’s books online. Singers Keith Urban, John Legend, Coldplay and Pink live streamed concerts from home. 

      And CNN posted a video of a family standing outside the home of their relative, a 95-year-old woman whose birthday celebration was canceled, singing happy birthday to her.

     These are only a few of the stories of hope and kindness. It is important and essential to look for positive messages and uplifting stories amid the chaos. And we need to cling to hope.

      Be safe, be well and I wish you all the best. I hope to see as many of you as possible when it is safe for all of us to see each other again.

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Students face uncertain times with COVID-19

By Nadia Beidas

     We are living in a very unusual time. Over the past week, our school has stopped classroom instruction and is in the process of shifting to online instruction.

     We have also seen a number of unsteady changes all around us including the spread of the virus worldwide, political officials and celebrities catching the virus, schools closing all over the country and grocery stores are out of soap, toilet paper, antibacterial soap and other essentials. Even entertainment that usually brings us joy is affected, such as television shows taping without an audience and the closing of Broadway and Disney parks. In addition, we are all isolating to stop the spread of the virus.

     Despite all this uncertainty, it is important to remember not to panic, to stay calm and face challenges as they come. In CaMS [department of computer and mathematical sciences], we students learn the newest developments in technology, and problem solving is a large part of our curriculum. As we begin our careers, we never know what challenges we will face.

     Our education includes programming, building apps, cyber security and networking. These skills are applicable to a number of fields, including the medical field. In the near future, people will be looking to us to for solutions, and we should be prepared to be lead and find the right solutions.      

     We are very fortunate to receive an education in computer science and computer engineering that will enable us to contribute to society at large. In addition, the pursuit of knowledge and facts, and the sharing of the knowledge and facts is keeping up with the university mission.

     Currently, there is a lot of misinformation out there on the Internet about the Coronoavirus. As future leaders in technology, we should endeavor to examine the sources and follow facts. We have a moral responsibility not to spread panic on our social media, but to share articles and posts that are factual.

     A safe place to start is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at  We can also look at updates from our university at

     We also should take care of family, friends and ourselves. Please reach out and check on those you care about. You might not be able to see each other in person, but at least keep up with the communication.

     Please also do not forget your studies. This time period might seem like an extension of spring break, but it is not. We still need to study, those of us who are graduating still need to graduate and we should finish the hard work we started on a positive note.

      We probably need to work harder to understand the material and complete our assignments. We should still start our assignments early and ask our instructors any questions we have as soon as possible.

      This consideration will help make this unusual time run more smoothly for both our instructors and us students. Our instructors are good about answering emails, and they are also working hard to transition their lectures to online classes.

     We are all capable of performing our best despite this disruption to the semester. I truly believe all of you are bright and talented and have promising futures. We can all succeed together.

     This uncertainty will not hold us back. Rather, it will make us stronger and society will need our knowledge to assist in the changing field of technology. 

     We are adjusting to uncertain circumstances, but please take heart. This crisis will pass. It might take time to find our balance again, but we will. Remember, we are the problem solvers. 

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Girls Create with Technology brings girls together in computer science and STEM

By Nadia Beidas

     On March 21, there will be a Maker Session for girls from 6th through 10th grades entitled Smart Home as a part of Girls Create with Technology. They will have the opportunity to utilize programming and the Gravity IoT [Internet of Things] Starter Kit in order to create smart home devices. The Gravity IoT [Internet of Things] Starter Kit contains seven Internet of Things modules that are capable of interacting from a smart device as well as wireless monitoring.

     There will also be an afternoon session on the same day for Girl Scouts to earn their robotics badge, according to Dr. Cindy Howard, co-chair and associate professor of the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

     Another upcoming Maker Session is called Fun with Finches where girls have their finch robots move, light up and other features via the Python programming language. For more information about the Maker Sessions, visit

     On June 22 through June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a summer camp for Girls Create with Technology, Howard said. The girls will learn Raspberry Pi and build a robot.

Girls learn how to build robots of their own creation during the summer camp session of Girls Create with Technology.

     “My favorite thing is what we do in camp, build robots,” Howard said. She added the girls use craft materials to build the robots. Howard said the materials, such as cardboard boxes and bottles, are gathered year round by Christine Morrow, Administrative Assistant for the College of Aviation, Science and Technology.

     The girls also write code for the robots to move or have light or sound, Howard said. The girls use either the programming languages Python or Snap! Snap! is a visual programming language allowing the programmer to drag and drop blocks of code. About a day and a half of the camp is spent on building the robots, Howard said.

Girls also write code for their robots to light up.

     “Technology and computer science is a creative field,” Howard said, adding this is an important aspect for girls to see and experience in Girls Create with Technology. “Put it on their radar. This is something they can do,” Howard said. She said the age group of 6th to 10th grades are a good time for the girls to have exposure to these fields, especially at a time in their lives when they are thinking of their futures.

     Howard also emphasized the importance of encouraging girls and women to be a part of STEM fields. “Having different people with different perspectives is so important,” Howard said. “A more diverse group comes up with better ideas,” she added.

The summer camp session of Girls Create with technology offers girls an opportunity to learn several skills, including coding, security and encryption, taking computers apart and putting them back together, Raspberry Pi and 3D printing.

     Girls and women also face challenges in pursuing STEM fields. “I think right now the biggest challenge is feeling comfortable when there aren’t a lot of women,” Howard said.

     She added it can be hard for girls to have few or no other female classmates in a classroom setting, but the girls should reach out and find other women in the field. Women can join ACM-W [The Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing], and attend the Grace Hopper Celebration conference, Howard said.

     Students and faculty can get involved in Girls Create with Technology, and should contact Dr. Howard at for further information. Every Girls Create with Technology session has three or four student mentors. Students are eligible to receive a stipend for their assistance.

     Girls Create with Technology began in 2013 supported by a contribution from AT&T, Howard said. Currently, Girls Create with Technology is supported via contributions from Driskill Foundation, Ecolab, Caterpillar Foundation, PPG Foundation, Romeoville Walmart and ARCO Murray Construction.

     Through Girls Create with Technology, the girls learn several important skills, including security and encryption, coding, taking apart and building computers, 3D printing and Raspberry Pi, Howard said.

     “I would hope they would find it interesting that they can build and create things with technology,” Howard said. She added that she finds it rewarding to see the girls get excited about their projects.

Dr. Cindy Howard, co-chair and associate professor of the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, leads the summer camp of Girls Create with Technology with assistance from Lewis students.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Esports Club available for student connections and future career possibilities

By Nadia Beidas

     On March 3, from 3-5 pm, esports will host a grand opening for students to come and learn more about the esports club. This event will be hosted in the esports club lounge, located on the first floor of Fitzpatrick Hall.

     Prior to the esports club lounge, esports had space in St. Charles Borromeo and had to cart equipment between buildings for tournaments, according to Jill Siegfried, Director of Student Recreation, Fitness and Wellness. With the new space, the equipment stays in one place, Siegfried said. The lounge features include 24 computers and two separate rooms. The rooms are for practice or for competitive gaming between schools in order for them to compete without distraction.

     Siegfried added she is curious to see the kind of growth the esports team will get with the new facility, and the growth of esports as whole has been phenomenal. “It’s nice we’ve positioned ourselves to be a part of the enthusiasm that’s blooming in esports,” Siegfried said. 

The esports lounge is located in Fitzpatrick Hall. It is open for students to play games for leisure or for competitive gaming.

     Dr. Dana Dominiak, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences and faculty advisor of esports, said the students put in a lot of effort into building the esports club. She said the students held fundraisers, created posters, held bake sales and hauled around their own equipment. She added that she helped the team get the necessary equipment and set it up.

     Yesenia Gonzalez, who is pursuing her master’s degree in computer science with a double concentration in cyber security and digital forensics, was one of the seven founders of the esports club. Gonzalez said she handled the club’s infrastructure including organizing meetings, events and she planned the club charter.

     Gonzalez also attended esports meetings and tournaments at Joliet Junior College and Northern Illinois University to see how the other esports clubs handled meetings and tournaments. These experiences assisted Gonzalez to develop background knowledge to plan Lewis esports events, she said.

     “I love seeing how far the club has come and I look forward to seeing where is will be in the next couple of years,” Gonzalez said.

Students gather together and work on their gaming skills.

     Computer Science major Tyler Starkus is the president of the esports club. Starkus said students can come to the lounge and play games or they can participate in competitive gaming. The esports club is open to all students and all majors and meets on Fridays at 3 p.m. in the esports lounge, Starkus said.

     He added the club can put together teams, based on student interest, and participate in tournaments. The games for tournaments include League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Typically, tournaments are held on Saturdays, Starkus said.

     This semester, there are three teams within the esports club preparing for tournaments in the games League of Legends, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Hearthstone, Starkus said and added there is always the potential to add more teams for tournaments. The League of Legends tournament will be held April 18.    

Tyler Starkus is the president of the esports club. The other club officers are Michael Bojarski, Brendan Cagampang, Ryan Corrigan and Leonard Luchek.

     Last semester, the team won a trophy in a League of Legends tournament, Starkus said. In the other tournaments they participated in last semester, the team was one loss away from qualifying for the next stage of the tournaments in League of Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and Rocket League.

     The College League of Legends, led by Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, is composed of League of Legends players from colleges in the U.S. and Canada, Starkus said. Currently, the Lewis esports team is placed 24 out of 102 teams in their division, Starkus said.

     In order to prepare for tournaments, the team practices playing games together and separately, Starkus said. Dominiak also said she will provide any support she can to help the team win more tournaments.

The League of Legends trophy is on display in the hallway in the CaMS [Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences] department.

     Starkus was interested in joining the esports club due to playing video games. “I’ve been playing video games my whole life,” Starkus said. He said his older brother was a part of the esports club and Starkus later joined the club as well.

     Starkus was a big part of setting up the esports lounge, and would like more students to know about esports. “I want people on campus to know we [esports] actually exist,” Starkus said. He encourages students to join regardless of their skill level in gaming.

     When asked how the esports team at Lewis compares with other university esports teams, Starkus said, “We are not a full program yet, so we don’t have recruitment. Our players come from the luck of the draw.” He mentioned it was fortunate that a team of good players came together to win the League of Legends tournament.

     He added other universities have opportunities in the recruitment of students as well as full-ride scholarships for esports, similar to football team scholarships. He said even a $500 scholarship could make a difference in bringing more students to Lewis interested in esports. Starkus hopes these advantages will be available to Lewis students in the future.

     Gonzalez also said she would like to see scholarships offered for esports, and the scholarships could bring in more students from around the country and abroad. She added she also hopes there will be an esports arena in the future.

There is a second room in the esports lounge. This room can be used for practice or for competitive gaming between schools.

     Dominiak said esports is an opportunity for the future as there are careers in competitive video games. She added that there are talks about the possibility of a degree in esports in the future.

     Dominiak said, “College esports is predicted to grow faster than college football.” Dominiak also said she expects the esports club at Lewis to grow by leaps and bounds.

     Siegfried said the team could expand to having a varsity team and a junior varsity team. There is also the possibility of having two spaces for esports in the future, Siegfried said.

     Dominiak added the esports lounge also gives students a safe place to hang out on campus, which is a comfort to parents.

     “Club sports in general are a great way for students to connect, make friends and form lifelong relationships and really feel a part of the university,” Siegfried said, “I see this as an opportunity for those who do esports to do the same thing.”

Students can play different games on the computers in the esports lounge.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Innovation Hub offers opportunities for students and faculty to connect to the community

By Nadia Beidas

     The Lewis University Innovation Hub is currently reviewing the applications of those interested in utilizing the hub to build their business plan.

Ryan Butt, Dean of the College of Business and Director of the Innovation Hub, said the hub is a regional business incubator, a result of a joint partnership with Lewis University and the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise, composed of the Village of Romeoville, Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale and Will County.

     The hub is “an opportunity to be a catalyst for the community,” Butt said. “It is an intersection between Lewis students and faculty expertise connected with the larger communities to create new products with services to benefit not only our community, but beyond.”

A lounge is available for students to meet with clients.

     The Innovation Hub is open to different types of clients, Butt said, such as clients who have an idea, but do not have the resources to fully develop the idea. These clients can be assisted by faculty and students, he said. Another client could be someone with a homemade invention or product, but is unsure how to make the idea successful.  For example, if someone has a product, such as homemade salsa, and is unsure how to scale the business and make the product available in places such as Jewel Osco, then the person could speak with experts and utilize the resources at the Innovation Hub.

In addition to the Innovation Hub work space, a client potentially could also want to utilize other Lewis resources, including the Maker Lab, which has 3D printing capabilities, Butt said. Clients would also have access to coaching by business experts, Lewis faculty.

     “We take people and give them skills they need to be successful in business,” Butt said. He added, “We have the opportunity for people who don’t have resources to go to 1871 [business incubator] in Chicago. We can partner with them and give them our expertise.” He added that potential clients do not have to have a background in business to utilize the innovation hub.

The innovation hub offers work space for clients.

     Lewis University was presented with the $75,000 grant back in November. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker attended and spoke at the ceremony. Butt said Pritzker was highly interested and excited about the Innovation Hub. Pritzker is also the founder of 1871 business incubator in Chicago.

     The pricing for these services is still being determined, but there will be three tiers of pricing. The lower tier will be for the association part, to have access to consulting and lab space, Butt said. The middle and higher tiers will have permanent space and additional resources.

     Students would also have the opportunity to work with clients, Butt said. An innovation lounge is available for students and clients to meet each other, and formulate a plan to work together.

     One of the ways students can prepare is to take part in the Business Plan Competition, Butt said. There are cash prizes up to $25,000 total to be distributed. The top winner also receives free space in the innovation hub for one year. For more information visit

     The innovation hub is also involved with campus events, Butt said. One is a lecture with Carol Lavin Bernick, who is the CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management, which is a company in charge of diversified investments as well as owned operating companies in professional sports and retail. The lecture will be held at the Convocation Hall in St. Charles Borromeo from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on March 17.

The innovation hub also has a conference room for meetings.

     The innovation hub is also sponsoring the Hackathon/Makeathon event for CaMS department [Computer and Mathematical Sciences] on April 18 as well as a Datathon later in the semester.

     For more on events, please visit Additionally, the Romeoville Chamber of Commerce also hosts events posted there.

     Butt said the innovation hub is following the legacy of St. John Baptiste de La Salle, who was an innovator, taught the poor and user vernacular language in his teachings for the poor to become educated.

     Butt said the overall experience of the innovation hub has been very positive. He “sees the energy and the excitement surrounding the students, the faculty who are interested in being a part of it, and the local community.”

     Dr. Ray Klump, Associate Dean of the College of Aviation, Science and Technology and Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “In Computer Science and Computer Engineering, there is so much room to innovate. I think the Innovation Hub could be a great space for our students to make their ideas a reality.”

The Innovation Hub is a regional business incubator. The hub is a result of a joint partnership with Lewis University and the Des Plaines River Valley Enterprise, composed of the Village of Romeoville, Joliet, Lockport, Rockdale and Will County.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Florence Hudson delivers an inspirational speech to Lewis students

By Nadia Beidas

     On February 4, ACM [Association for Computing Machinery] and IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] hosted renowned guest speaker, Florence Hudson, who has quite an impressive career and list of credentials.

     Hudson worked at IBM for over 33 years. Her roles there included Director of Corporate Strategy and Internet of Things Business Development, VP Marketing & Strategy for System z Mainframes and VP Strategic Planning on Loan to the Society of Women Engineers.

     She was also an aerospace engineer at Grumman and NASA. She gave a TEDx Talk about Sustainability on a Smarter Planet. Hudson consults and also speaks globally about a plethora of topics, including machine learning, block chain, healthcare, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, diversity and inclusion.

     Currently, Hudson is the CEO and founder of FDHint, a firm for advanced technology, innovation as well as diversity and inclusion. For more information about FDHint, please visit

After the lecture, Hudson answered questions and took photos with faculty and students.

Hudson is a special advisor for the NSF[National Science Foundation] Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at Indiana University as well as the Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University.

     She is part of the standards committee for IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology. Hudson also leads a global IEEE working group on standards for Clinical IoT [Internet of Things] data and device interoperability. “We work together to develop standards to make the world a better place.”

     Hudson serves as editor-in-chief with Springer Publishing Company for the book “Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS[Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety, Security] for IoT [Internet of Things].” Hudson and 16 other global women leaders are published and discuss the importance of increasing awareness of privacy and security challenges in the Internet of Things, as well as the actions people can take in the face of these challenges.

     Her education includes a BSE from Princeton University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and executive education at both Harvard Business School and Columbia University.

     During the lecture, Hudson talked about her life journey. She showed photos of family, mentors and several notable people who helped influence her life and helped her clarify her values. For example, her brother used to wake her in the early morning to see the Apollo missions launch, which led to Hudson wondering how it was accomplished when she was around three years old. She said that was the day she became an aerospace engineer. 

     She served on a Title IX panel of experts with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Hudson said Title IX regards equality in sports for boys and girls. For example, if a school invests in a soccer team for boys, then the school has to invest in a soccer team for girls, Hudson said.

     Hudson added that there is a STEM clause in Title IX for gender equity in educational programs with federal funding.

Hudson mentioned several people she met on her life journey such as family, mentors and notable people, including 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

     She also mentioned interacting with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was a former student of one of Hudson’s friends. Like Hudson, Sotomayor is also a graduate of Princeton. Sotomayor was also the first in her family to go to college.

     On her personal journey, she also had pictures with Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut, and Mae Jemison, the first US African American female astronaut.

     During her talk, Hudson went over important factors to achieve success in one’s employment, leadership roles as well as quality of life.

      Hudson offered this advice, “Look around the planet, see what needs to be fixed, and go do it.”

     Hudson stressed the importance of planning one’s life for a purpose. She advised students to identify their goals for work and life and then GROW to achieve these goals. She further explained GROW as: “set goals, assess reality, determine options and work it.”

Hudson discussed how students can identify goals and then GROW to their future.

     She showed a map she created of her life plan and encouraged students to make their own life plan.

     She also showed a pie chart where one can visualize how they balance one’s time by identifying how much of the slice is spent on school and work, sports and activities, community, friends and oneself.

Hudson talked about balancing one’s pie chart of school, work and life for success.

     Hudson also said it is important for everyone to believe in themselves, even when others do not. She advised everyone to be on their own side when speedbumps occur. As far as dealing with the speedbumps in life, she said, “Keep rolling over them until you get where you’re going.”

     She also mentioned the importance of building a support network of mentors and “personal cheerleaders” to encourage one on their journey to success. She said these are the people who would remind one how great one is.

     Hudson also advised everyone to stick to one’s instincts and values. She said there would always be situations where one could choose not to speak up when something is not right, but she encourages everyone to stand for ethics.

     She stressed the importance of building different types of skills, such as collaboration, leadership, business and financial, communication and technical skills.

     Hudson emphasized the importance of building a good team and teamwork as a part of collaboration skills.

     In order to build leadership skills, Hudson said one should serve on a board of directors, such as 4-H. She said this is good experience to learn how boards make decisions.

     She also advised everyone to continually build on their technical skills and “become an expert in your field.”

      For women who face challenges working in the field of technology, Hudson advises them to “just keep going and find people you can talk to.” She emphasized the important of women surrounding themselves with the people who matter and seeking inspiration and support from those people. She also said for women to look at role models for aspiration, people who have done what they are wishing to do.

     Hudson touched on her definition of the meaning of life in 60 seconds. “Your job while you’re here on this planet, is to determine the unique gifts God gave you and use them for good every day.”

Hudson touched on several important factors to lead students to achieve success in their life and work goals.
Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

DataSAIL offers students opportunities with industry experience

By Nadia Beidas

     DataSAIL [Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory] is an organization that involves faculty and students collaborating on projects related to data science and artificial intelligence. DataSAIL was founded in 2015 by Dr. Piotr Szczurek, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences and Director of the Data Science program. This semester, DataSAIL offers an opportunity for students to work on a project with the Yorkville-Bristol Sanitary District.

     Dr. Sam Abuomar, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said students will be designing a system for Yorkville-Bristol Sanitary District to classify images based on the condition of waste, such as solid or liquid.

     “There is also a project on oceanography and geoscience data analytics modeling where Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) meter was used to collect several datasets by measuring water current velocities over a depth range using the Doppler effect of sound waves scattered back from particles within the water column,” Abuomar said.

     DataSAIL members are currently working on a building recognition project, Szczurek said. The project involves gathering images of different buildings on campus from different angles, different times of the day and different seasons in order to identify the correct building, Szczurek said. The data will be used to come up with a predictive model.

One DataSAIL project involves gathering pictures of campus buildings in order to build a model to identify the building.

     DataSAIL prepares students for the future job market by giving students experience in designing solutions to real life problems, Abuomar said. “When they are ready to graduate, they can pursue any project in data science,” he added.

     Dr. Mahmood Al-khassaweneh, Associate Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “We give them experience developing up to date algorithms.”

     Abuomar said DataSAIL is open to all students, regardless of major. DataSAIL meets on Fridays at 3 p.m. in AS-106A.

     DataSAIL has a set mission statement, “to help foster the collaboration of faculty and students working on data science program to help the community, society and the university,” Szczurek said. The idea behind DataSAIL was “primarily to get more people to know what data science is and give the faculty the opportunity to be matched up with students to work on different research projects,” Szczurek said.

     During the meetings, members present their work, or they discuss problems in the industry and how to solve them. “The meetings are an opportunity to share ideas, skills and experiences, Al-khassaweneh said.

The DataSAIL team includes faculty members Dr. Sam Abuomar, Dr. Mahmood Al-khassaweneh, Dr. Michael Lewis, Dr. Jason Perry and Dr. Piotr Szczurek (founder of DataSAIL). Student team members are Sebastian Bigos, Joel Feddes, Sheila Lesiak, Frank Martinez, Andrew Milligan and Will Pulkownik.

     There are also two data science research opportunities in development pending approval, Abuomar said.

     One opportunity involves collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, which in under review by the National Science Foundation, Abuomar said. The purpose of this research is to apply data analytics to ALD [atomic layer deposition].

     “Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a thin-film growth technique that offers the unique capability to coat complex, three-dimensional objects with precise, conformal layers. In addition, ALD allows atomic-level control over the thickness and composition of the deposit,” according to Argonne National Laboratory.

     The second research opportunity is in collaboration with Mississippi State University’s biomedical engineering department about a project examining the reasons for traumatic brain injury, Abuomar said. The project is a joint proposal to the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health.

     There is also an additional research opportunity, Al-khassaweneh said, via a grant, Caterpillar Scholar Award from Caterpillar Inc., for the project entitled “Video Auto Tracking System.” This is a video and audio tracking system for drivers and human safety.

     For example, on a two lane road, a car in one lane might stop at a stop sign for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Al-khassaweneh said. The car in the second lane might not see the pedestrian is crossing, and continue on their way without seeing the pedestrian. An application will be developed to warn the driver that a pedestrian is present, and even send a picture from one car to the other that a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

     Additionally, another application will warn drivers about lane changes, Al-khassaweneh said. This warning is applicable to situations such as if a driver is distracted and parts from a lane, or if the user’s car is coming too close to the car in front of the user.

DataSAIL team members discuss projects related to data science and artificial intelligence.

     There are further research opportunities available, Szczurek said. One is the SURE [STEM Undergraduate Research Experience] program, which provides students the opportunity to work with faculty over the summer and receive a stipend, Szczurek said.

     Another opportunity is PUMA [Promotion of Underrepresented Minorities in Academic STEM] Alliance, which is funded by the NSF [National Science Foundation] LSAMP [Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation] program, Szczurek said. This provides opportunities for underrepresented minority students to work on research projects, Szczurek said.  

     Currently, Lewis degree programs include a Bachelor of Science in Data Science, a major in Computer Science with a concentration in data science, a Master of Science in Data Science as well as a 4 + 1 program for students to finish their undergraduate and master’s degrees in data science in five years, Szczurek said. Additionally, students from other majors not relating to STEM can add a Bachelor of Arts in Data Science or a minor in Data Science, Szczurek said.

     The degree programs provide all the skills students need to go in the industry and work as a data scientist, Szczurek said. He added data science and artificial intelligence will take over a lot of industries and encourages students to develop the necessary skills now. 

     “The beauty of data science is it can be applied in different majors and fields,” Al-khassaweneh said. For example, a student of Al-Khassaweneh’s developed an algorithm to differentiate if a skin growth or sore is cancerous or not, based on a data set of over 10,000 images. The algorithm can also detect the type of skin cancer the patient has. Currently, the student’s research paper will be edited and sent to an IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] conference.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment growth for computer and information research scientists should increase by 16 percent from two years ago, 2018, to 2028.

     The enrollment of the data science program is increasing, Abuomar said. Students who major in data science or have a concentration of data science with their computer science degree have many possibilities of future careers including as a data scientist or as a systems engineer.

     Dr. Ray Klump, Associate Dean of the College of Aviation, Science and Technology and Professor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, said, “DataSAIL is another example of how the department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences provides hands-on extracurricular opportunities for students. Students get a chance to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world problems. This helps prepare them for their upcoming careers.”

    “A number of students became much more interested in data science as a result of DataSAIL and went on to work in the data science field,” Szczurek said. He added other students went on to pursue their doctorate in research pertaining to data science or artificial intelligence. 

     In 2017 and 2018, DataSAIL participated in Kaggle competitions, Szczurek said. Kaggle is a platform for analytics competitions where students receive data and compete to create the best predictive model. Last year, students participated in a Datathon, which was a Kaggle competition set up at Lewis. Students prepare for these competitions through online tutorial sessions as well as in meetings, Szczurek said. 

     Szczurek hopes to repeat the Datathon at the end of the current semester. In the fall semester, there are plans to compete with other schools in the ACCA competition. 

DataSAIL meets Fridays at 3 p.m. in AS-106A.

Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Lewis Cyber Defense Club places third in the Cyber 9/12 competition

By Nadia Beidas

    The Lewis University Cyber Defense Club took part in the Cyber 9/12 competition in Austin, Texas on January 16 and 17. Overall the team placed third out of 19 university teams. The team placed ahead of Harvard University, but lost the final round to West Point.

     The students attending were Jocelyn Murray, a freshman majoring in computer science with a concentration in cyber security, Andrew Milligan, a sophomore double majoring in business administration and information security management, David Mendez, a senior majoring in computer science and Puneet Singh, who is studying for his master’s in Information Security.

     The mentor of the Cyber Defense Club 9/12 group is Matthew Kwiatkowski, adjunct professor.

Matthew Kwiatkowski mentored students David Mendez, Jocelyn Murray, Andrew Milligan and Puneet Singh for the Cyber 9/12 competition.

     “Cyber 9/12 is a cyber-security and policy based competition,” Murray said, “The competition deals with large scale cyber events with geopolitical issues.” Murray added the competition focuses on how countries should have an immediate response as well as take long term actions to deter future interference. An example of this would be the situation of large scale attacks on the financial industry, Murray said.

     The competition is run by the Atlantic Council, which is a political think tank.

     Kwiatkowski said this competition is unique. “There’s a cyber-technological component, but it’s a backdrop to international and domestic policies,” he said. “This challenge is built upon preparing collegiate level students to be policy makers and ambassadors to the U.S.”

Students Andrew Milligan, Puneet Singh, Jocelyn Murray and David Mendez look over materials in preparation for the competition.

     Murray said the team is given a scenario brief with news reports, government reports, and social media reports. Their task is to construct the situation and write a brief. Then they must write the decision and deliver an oral brief. In the oral brief they deal with policy options and deal with domestic and international political issues dealing with these large scale hacks.

     The team also looks at private business and government communication regulating vulnerability and how to mitigate the damage, Murray said.

     Every round of competition requires a 10-minute oral brief. In the first round of competition, the team receives material and is given a month to prepare a decision document and an oral brief, Murray said. During the second round of the competition, the team has one night to prepare a decision document and an oral brief. In the last round, the team has 15 minutes to prepare an oral brief and cannot use technology to look up information or ask their mentor for assistance.

The Lewis team qualifies for the final round.

     Kwiatkowski said that one of the sample scenarios is for the teams to play the role of the National Security Council [NSC] and be given an issue of national security concern to brief the U.S. president about. The team reports on options for the solutions to the president outlining the potential outcomes and risks, Kwiatkowski said.

The team members were very excited about their placement as semi-finalists.

     Milligan mentioned there were several keynote speakers. One was Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), who stressed the importance of taking steps in securing electoral process as well as the threat ransomware poses as a national emergency, Milligan said. Additionally, another guest speaker was James Smith, assistant special agent in charge for the San Antonio FBI, who spoke about the role the FBI takes in cooperating with the private sector to mitigate the damage of the attacks, Milligan said.

     Singh said there was a workshop about social engineering given by Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security. Tobac went over the dangers of the cyber world and the importance of not releasing personal information, Singh said. The Lewis team were given a task to find out the details of a company, similar to capture the flag, and took first prize.

The Lewis Cyber 9/12 team with Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security.

     One of the challenges the team faced was a lack of expertise in the international relations policy sector, Murray said. In order to prepare for this challenge, the team sought advice from professors in the political science department, including Dr. Laurette Liesen, Dr. Steven Nawara and Dr. Justin Delacour.

     Murray said the cyber defense team is the reason she came to study at Lewis University.     

     Ryan Meeker, cyber security graduate assistant for CaMS [Computer and Mathematical Science department], said the cyber defense team as a whole is open to all students. Meeker added the team goes to several competitions each year, including Argonne. “We like to have a rounded experience,” Meeker said.

     Meetings are held weekly on Thursdays from 3-5 room AS-101-S, Meeker said. Additionally, there are open lab hours in the Sentinel lab, AS-101-A, for those who cannot attend meetings, or would like to work on projects, Meeker said.

     Murray added that at weekly meetings the team comes up with plans and delegates the preparatory work for the competitions. Meeker added at the meetings, the group processes draw on everyone’s collective experience and knowledge and consistently work on solutions to existing issues.

     “We as a club, we’re open to anyone no matter the major, experiences, or prior knowledge,” Meeker said. He advises students not to be afraid of not understanding something that would be unknown to them before, as the field of computer science always involves learning something new.  

The team poses in front of the first round room assignments.

     Meeker and Murray said one of the classes that prepared them for competitions was Intro to Unix. Meeker added that the class Programming for Penetration Testing also helped him. Murray added the class Cyber Security and Forensics Tools also prepared her for competitions.

     The Cyber 9/12 competition differs from other cyber security competitions, Meeker said. The Cyber 9/12 focuses more on the theoretical aspect of cyber security, while other competitions focus on cyber security as a whole, Meeker said.

     In the general competitions, the team is given a network of machines, and the team will have to discover the existing issues, such as vulnerability, Meeker said.

     One of the upcoming competitions is the Midwest CCDC at Moraine Valley Community College in March. Murray said the team also hopes to go to Cyber 9/12 in Washington D.C. this March.

The team places third at the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge Austin Regionals.