News for the Week of March 25, 2013

List of Announcements (details below):

US News & WR: SEOR ranked 28 in Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering

US News & World Report ranked the Volgenau School of Engineering as number 28 in the category of Industrial/Manufacturing/Systems Engineering for 2013, tied with the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona.  This is the first year that US News & World Report included Systems Engineering as part of a graduate engineering specialty. In earlier years, the specialty was Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering.

Full information about the rankings can be found at [subscription required]

New M.S. in Biostatistics

Last week, SCHEV gave its final approval to our new M.S. in Biostatistics.  The program will be available beginning Fall 2013.

The M.S. in Biostatistics will allow students to specialize in the design and analysis of health-related and biological studies, while maintaining the rigor and technical training of the Statistical Science master’s program.


New Undergraduate Minors: Mechanical Engineering, Aviation Flight Training

Starting in Fall 2013, the Volgenau School of Engineering will offer undergraduate minors in two new topics:


Mechanical Engineering:  The discipline of mechanical engineering involves anything that moves or uses energy. There are two major stems in mechanical engineering: mechanical systems and thermal fluid systems. Mechanical engineers design, build, and analyze complex devices, systems, and processes that involve the conversion of energy from one form to another, the production of work, and the transport of energy and mass from one location to another. Since its origin, mechanical engineering has evolved tremendously and plays a vital role in multidisciplinary fields where mechanical and thermophysical properties of materials and movement or transport are relevant. Examples include materials science and nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, aerospace engineering, nuclear engineering, and many others. Application areas of mechanical engineering include energy systems, transportation, medicine, machines, electronics, robotics, materials, and many other areas.

Aviation Flight Training and Management: This minor provides students with a unique opportunity to earn a pilot’s license and gain expertise in various aspects of aviation management. The combination of pilot’s license and aviation management places the candidate seeking employment with airlines, airports, air traffic control at a competitive advantage. Students completing this minor have completed one step in preparation towards jobs as Commercial Pilots, Military Pilots, Corporate Pilots, Certified Flight Instructors, Unmanned Aerial Systems Operators, Airline Dispatchers, Airport Managers, Air Traffic Controllers, Aviation Flight Test Engineers, Aviation System Engineers.

C4I Seminar: Friday, Mar 29, 1:30 pm, room 4705

Speakers: Dr. Wei Sun and Walter Powell, George Mason University

Combinatorial Prediction Markets by Graphical Model: Algorithms and Auto-Traders


Prediction markets are defined as speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions. The current market prices can be interpreted as estimates of the probability of the event, or the expected value of the parameter. Public prediction markets such as the Iowa Electronic Market or the Foresight Exchange have been in place for over two decades.  More recently, Intrade, Inkling, and Betfair have been in the news. 

All of these prediction markets ignore the relationships between questions, but combinatorial prediction markets explicitly consider and exploit dependencies among base events. This allow us to collect more information and promises better accuracy.  A combinatorial market can integrate partial information from many people, and update a joint probability distribution that is far larger than any one person can fully edit or consider.  However, we must tame the combinatorial explosion before the problem is beyond computers as well.

In this talk, we show how to use Bayesian networks to represent and update combinatorial markets -- including user assets.  We also present results of a recent murder-mystery experiment where participants used either a regular prediction market or a combinatorial market to solve the mystery.  Finally, in order to further improve the market's accuracy, we designed an auto-trader based on user's input and/or belief expressed as a Bayesian network fragment.  We show results that simple auto-traders can encourage participation, and new work on a "Kelly Rule" auto-trader that finds optimal trades given a user's joint beliefs.

Speaker information:

A Research Assistant Professor in the Center of Excellence in C4I at George Mason University, since August 2009, Dr. Wei Sun is currently involved as a core researcher in a government funded research project called DAGGRE, which has awarded the GMU research team with more than $5 million dollars in research funding.  An expert in Bayesian inference, Dr. Sun obtained his Ph.D. in Information Technology in 2007 and has developed several efficient inference algorithms for hybrid Bayesian networks. He has a rich experience in predictive modeling, probabilistic reasoning, nonlinear filtering, sampling methods and simulation. Applications of his research include sensor fusion, tracking, classification, forecasting, performance modeling, and recently prediction markets. Dr. Sun has published 20 technical papers in referred journals and prestigious conferences, and two book chapters.

Walter Powell is a Ph.D. candidate and Research Instructor in George Mason University’s C4I center.  A retired naval officer, his is completing his doctoral research in the evaluation of the quality of decisions.  As part of his research he has developed numerous experiments and evaluations that assessed the usefulness of various decisions support systems.  As a Senior Research Engineer with RTSync, Inc., he consults on modeling and simulation projects for various governmental and industry entities.

For further information contact Deb Schenaker, 993-3682, email: [log in to unmask], or visit our website

Harry Wechsler and Venkatesh Ramanathan are Issued a Patent

Harry Wechsler of the Computer Science Department and recent Ph.D. graduate Venkatesh Ramanthan were issued the following patent by the US PTO.

Title: Robust Human Authentication Using Holistic Anthropometric and Appearance-Based Features and Boosting
Inventors: Harry Wechsler and Venkatesh Ramanathan
Number: 8,379,940 B2
Issue date: February 19, 2013.

NY Times: California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study


“Legislation will be introduced in the California Senate on Wednesday that could reshape higher education by requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus.

“If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university.”

NY Times: Colleges Assess Cost of Free Online-Only Courses

“Elite universities are joining in, but the massive online open courses, known as MOOCs, threaten to poach paying students from other institutions.”


Stephen G. Nash
Senior Associate Dean
Volgenau School of Engineering
George Mason University
Nguyen Engineering Building, Room 2500
Mailstop 5C8
Fairfax, VA 22030

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Phone: (703) 993-1505
Fax: (703) 993-1633