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Elias Bou-Harb is analyzing Internet of Things (IoT) devices to uncover their security problems.

Discovery: Research at UTSA

A roundup of research projects at UTSA leading to safer gadgets and much more

Safer gadgets

Alvarez College of Business

While people enjoy the convenience of their Ring doorbells to watch their front porches or play the latest Taylor Swift song on their Alexas, cybercriminals could be using them for other purposes.

Elias Bou-Harb, associate professor in the UTSA Carlos Alvarez College of Business is working to find a way to design and implement algorithms to fingerprint these exploited devices — also known as Internet of Things (IoT) devices — and discover their security problems.

“Most of today’s wars are not physical. They’re either economic or cyber wars,” Bou-Harb says.

With a $500,000 grant, researchers will analyze IoT devices and will report findings to their laboratories before analyzing network traffic to better understand their traits and security protocols.

The knowledge gained from the research will be applied directly in the classroom through virtual labs and workshops focused on primarily female and minority students.

An illustration of Chantal Fahmy and Alicia Swan
Chantal Fahmy and Alicia Swan

A bridge to a new life

College for Health, Community and Policy

Soon we will understand the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on people reentering the community after incarceration. The research of Chantal Fahmy and Alicia Swan, assistant professors in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy, focuses on how repeated TBIs affect behaviors among inmates and how those behaviors can lead an individual into a cycle of repeated crime and imprisonment.

“One piece that comes up a lot in the TBI injury space is that their injuries are preventing them from engaging in social or recreational activities, so they don’t feel like they’re part of a healthy community,” Swan says. “When you have those more fundamental, happy positive connections with your environment and your community, you’re less likely to engage in behaviors that are going to be maladaptive and lead you to substance abuse or negative behaviors.”

The researchers’ primary goal is to create data-driven solutions to improve rehabilitation efforts.

“By highlighting the importance and scope of the problem of TBI, we would help rectify cognitive deficits to better society as a whole,” Fahmy says.

An illustration of Wei Wang
Wei Wang

Breaking down barriers for the blind and visually impaired

College of Education and Human Development; College of Sciences

A new UTSA project will increase access to high-paying and flexible tech careers for students with blindness and visual impairments. Researchers are developing a web interface that will help students with blindness and visual impairments (BVI) learn computer science, artificial intelligence and data science.

The new technology will include a more advanced screen reader that will help students with computer programming. Current systems have limited screen readers for reading data, which means students cannot fully access what’s on the screen.

“The success of this project will improve the way we teach computer programming and data science to students with BVI,” says Wei Wang, assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Computer Science. Wang is collaborating on the project with Kathy Ewoldt, professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, and Leslie Neely, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology.

An illustration of Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez
Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez

Revealing the trans-Pacific slave trade routes

College of Liberal and Fine Arts

Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez, assistant professor in the Department of History, will join collaborators in Australia as part of an international project exploring the trans-Pacific slave trade. The project, in partnership with the University of South Wales, is key to discovering the origins of non-native populations that now live in the South Pacific as a result of forced migration.

It will showcase UTSA’s contributions to contemporary research and the need for highly specialized researchers around the world who can help individuals trace the roots of their lost family members. Additionally, it will support communities that have been impacted by the slave trade.

“I have been working for almost 10 years studying the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” Gonzalez says. “This latest project will help diversify my research at UTSA by focusing on the slave trade in the Pacific Ocean and how it relates to trade routes across the world.”

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