MC students attend computer science conference, computing competition

MC students attend computer science conference, computing competition

Dec. 12, 2019

Three Maryville College students recently attended the Mid-Southeast Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) fall 2019 conference, and one had the opportunity to present his research.

The ACM is the oldest and most recognized professional organization in computer science, and the Mid-Southeast chapter, established in 1957, is one of the oldest chapters of the ACM. Most academic computer scientists belong to the organization, and many professional developers are also members, said Dr. Robert Lowe, assistant professor of computer science at Maryville College. Lowe is also the chair of the Mid-Southeast ACM Chapter and the chair of the conference for 2019 and 2020.

Lowe attended the conference, held Nov. 14-15 in Gatlinburg, Tenn., with Maryville College students Luke Koch ’20, a senior mathematics major from Loudon, Tenn.; Hannah Simmons ’21, a junior computer science major from Maryville, Tenn.; and Justin Tanon ’21, a junior computer science major from Knoxville, Tenn.

“The Mid-Southeast ACM conference is a very friendly conference, and it has always had a strong undergraduate presence,” Lowe said. “It gives students a chance to give a research talk, but in a friendly environment. This also happens to be one of the oldest continually running conferences in computer science. This is our 61st year.”

Koch presented during the conference’s undergraduate paper competition and won second place in the undergraduate presentation category.

“This conference is sort of a right of passage for southeastern computer scientists, at least among those interested in going into research,” Lowe said. “In fact, my first conference presentation was at this same conference. Given that the conference has run the paper competition for more than 40 years, many other professionals in the region have similar stories. For getting into graduate school, this is a very ‘big deal’ because it shows that the student is willing and able to present their work publicly.” 

Koch’s presentation, titled “Toward malware detection evasion via adversarial machine learning with functionality-preserving perturbation,” was based on an ongoing project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he completed a summer internship. After the internship concluded, he was given an opportunity to continue work on the project as a collaborator.

“In essence, we are using static binary instrumentation, an adversarial deep neural network, and a data-driven approach to detect vulnerabilities in artificial intelligence-based virus detection systems,” Koch said, adding that the research is related to his Senior Study. “My senior thesis is my component of the larger project on machine learning at Oak Ridge. More specifically, I am developing adversarial samples via static binary instrumentation as part of a data-driven evasion tactic.”

Koch said presenting at a conference like this can be intimidating, but it was a valuable experience.

“You are presenting to students from other colleges and their professors, as well as local professionals, so the stakes are definitely higher than they are in your average public speaking course,” he said. “I was worried that my inexperience with machine learning would leave me open to criticism. Fortunately, the judges were impressed. I also had some fruitful conversations with fellow students based on my presentation.

“Effectively communicating your research is an important skill for grad students,” Koch added. “The conference was a valuable opportunity to practice this skill. I learned how important it is to be able to judge the experience level of your audience on the fly when describing details of your research, as well as how difficult it is to properly frame the context of your research in a short amount of time. It was also fun to be around other programmers in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Delozier participates in high-performance computing competition

Jenna Delozier ’20, a senior mathematics major from Maryville, Tenn., participated in the 2019 Student Cluster Competition (SCC) Nov. 18-20 in Denver, Colo. The competition was part of the 2019 Supercomputing Conference (SC19), the International Conference for High Performance Computing Networking, Storage and Analysis.

The Student Cluster Competition, which draws teams of undergraduate students from around the world, is “designed to introduce the next generation of students to the high-performance computing (HPC) community,” according to the SC Conference website.

Delozier was a member of “Team Tennessee,” comprised of six undergraduate students. She got involved in the competition through a high-performance computing internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“The Student Cluster Competition is a 48-hour continuous competition where we have to run several different applications on our cluster (like a small supercomputer),” she said. “We were judged based on benchmarking, or how fast our cluster was, interviews about the applications, team posters, and most importantly, the outcomes of running our applications.”

Although her team did not win, Delozier said the team enjoyed working together before and after the competition. She described the experience as “worthwhile in a variety of ways.”

“I was able to apply the knowledge I have acquired as a mathematics major and computer science minor, from linear algebra to proofs and logic to programming,” she said. “If it had not been for my internship at ORNL and participating in the Student Cluster Competition, I never would have become interested in the world of HPC and scientific computing, which is what I am doing in my current ORNL internship. Now I am interested not only in graduate school for applied mathematics, but I am also interested in several aspects of studying HPC. My team also got to attend the SC19 conference, and we made a lot of connections and learned about several different branches within the HPC community.”


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”