UNO computer profs get three grants

Computer science researchers at the University of New Orleans have received three cybersecurity education grants totaling $468,000 from the National Security Agency.

The funding will support efforts to develop educational materials, evaluate the effectiveness of certain teaching tools and provide an intensive training experience for middle and high school teachers from around the country.

Faculty members Irfan Ahmed and Vassil Roussev will lead the efforts.

With an award of $188,000, the UNO team will work to address challenges associated with instruction in cybersecurity for supervisory control and data acquisition systems. Those systems control major portions of critical U.S. infrastructure, such as power grids, pipelines and water management.

According to UNO, protecting the integrity of these systems is of primary importance to national security. This project seeks to develop both teaching techniques and instructional materials that can improve instruction.

An award of $164,000 will allow UNO researchers to closely examine the use and effectiveness of concept maps in cybersecurity education. Concept maps are a visual tool for organizing and representing knowledge.

A third award of $116,000 will be used to conduct GenCyber, an intensive cybersecurity boot camp for middle and high school teachers, for the fourth year in a row on UNO’s campus. GenCyber allows teachers to learn about cybersecurity technology, design their own curricula and gain the expertise needed to train future cybersecurity experts.

UNO’s Greater New Orleans Center for Information Assurance is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations and in Information Assurance Research by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Tulane study doubts Facebook influence

A new Tulane University study featured in Harvard Business Review Social shows that building up followers on Facebook is not always enough to boost a brand’s sales.

That's because Facebook "likes" don’t work the way most brand managers think, according to the study. If companies want to convert social media fans into more active customers, they have to engage them with advertising, said lead author Daniel Mochon, assistant professor of marketing at Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business.

Mochon; Janet Schwartz, a Tulane assistant professor of marketing; and Dan Ariely of Duke University worked with Karen Johnson, deputy general manager of Discovery Health, to design a study using the Facebook page of the insurance company’s wellness program, Discovery Vitality. Consumers earn points for engaging in healthful behaviors, such as exercising, and redeem points into rewards.

The team invited new customers to take a survey and randomly invited them to like Vitality’s Facebook page, to see if it turned into customers earning more health points. Those who weren’t invited served as a control group.

The team monitored both groups for four months and found no difference in reward points earned. 

The full study, “What are likes worth? A Facebook page field experiment,” is online and pending publication in the Journal of Marketing Research.

LSU event to look at health disparities

Dean G. Smith, professor and dean of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health, will host a free public event focused on health disparities Wednesday.

The event, slated for noon on the third floor of the Medical Education Building at 1901 Perdido St., will feature authors Patti Rose and Annie Daniel.

The two will discuss their new book "Health Disparities, Diversity and Inclusion: Context, Controversies and Solutions," followed by a book signing.

The book explores the health status gap in the U.S. along with an exploration of diversity and inclusion. Other topics include mass incarceration, educational disparities, the school-to-prison pipeline and concerns regarding women and children.

The authors examine diversity in terms of patient satisfaction and quality outcomes. The book highlights steps that key stakeholders should consider to ensure that representatives from diverse groups are involved with the provision of health care at every level.

Rose has taught at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Springfield College, Worcester State College, Nova Southeastern University and Barry University. 

Daniel is director of veterinary instructional design and outcomes assessment at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Follow Della Hasselle on Twitter, @dellahasselle.