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All students and faculty are welcome to attend the final defense of EECS graduate students completing their M.S. or Ph.D. degrees. Defense notices for M.S./Ph.D. presentations for this year and several previous years are listed below in reverse chronological order.

Students who are nearing the completion of their M.S./Ph.D. research should schedule their final defenses through the EECS graduate office at least THREE WEEKS PRIOR to their presentation date so that there is time to complete the degree requirements check, and post the presentation announcement online.


Usman Sajid - Effective uni-modal to multi-modal crowd estimation
PhD Comprehensive Defense(CS)

When & Where:

January 29, 2021 - 10:30 AM
Zoom Meeting, please contact jgrisafe@ku.edu for link

Committee Members:

Taejoon Kim, Chair
Bo Luo
Fengjun Li
Cuncong Zhong
Guanghui Wang


Crowd estimation is an integral part of crowd analysis. It plays an important role in event management of huge gatherings like Hajj, sporting, and musical events or political rallies. Automated crowd count can lead to better and effective management of such events and prevent any unwanted incident. Crowd estimation is an active research problem due to different challenges pertaining to large perspective, huge variance in scale and image resolution, severe occlusions and dense crowd-like cluttered background regions. Current approaches cannot handle huge crowd diversity well and thus perform poorly in cases ranging from extreme low to high crowd-density, thus, leading to crowd underestimation or overestimation. Also, manual crowd counting subjects to very slow and inaccurate results due to the complex issues as mentioned above. To address the major issues and challenges in the crowd counting domain, we separately investigate two different types of input data: uni-modal (Image) and multi-modal (Image and Audio).


In the uni-modal setting, we propose and analyze four novel end-to-end crowd counting networks, ranging from multi-scale fusion-based models to uniscale one-pass and two-pass multi-task models. The multi-scale networks also employ the attention mechanism to enhance the model efficacy. On the other hand, the uni-scale models are equipped with novel and simple-yet-effective patch re-scaling module (PRM) that functions identical but lightweight in comparison to the multi-scale approaches. Experimental evaluation demonstrates that the proposed networks outperform the state-of-the-art methods in majority cases on four different benchmark datasets with up to 12.6% improvement in terms of the RMSE evaluation metric. Better cross-dataset performance also validates the better generalization ability of our schemes. For the multimodal input, the effective feature-extraction (FE) and strong information fusion between two modalities remain a big challenge. Thus, the aim in the multimodal environment is to investigate different fusion techniques with improved FE mechanism for better crowd estimation. The multi-scale uni-modal attention networks are also proven to be more effective in other deep leaning domains, as applied successfully on seven different scene-text recognition datasets with better performance.



Sana Awan - Privacy-preserving Federated Learning
PhD Comprehensive Defense(EE)

When & Where:

January 29, 2021 - 2:00 AM
Zoom Meeting, please contact jgrisafe@ku.edu for link

Committee Members:

Fengjun Li, Chair
Alex Bardas
Bo Luo
Cuncong Zhong
Mei Liu


Machine learning (ML) is transforming a wide range of applications, promising to bring immense economic and social benefits. However, it also raises substantial security and privacy challenges.  In this dissertation we describe a framework for efficient, collaborative and secure ML training using a federation of client devices that jointly train a ML model using their private datasets in a process called Federated Learning (FL). First, we present the design of a blockchain-enabled Privacy-preserving Federated Transfer Learning (PPFTL) framework for resource-constrained IoT applications. PPFTL addresses the privacy challenges of FL and improves efficiency and effectiveness through model personalization. The framework overcomes the computational limitation of on-device training and the communication cost of transmitting high-dimensional data or feature vectors to a server for training. Instead, the resource-constrained devices jointly learn a global model by sharing their local model updates. To prevent information leakage about the privately-held data from the shared model parameters, the individual client updates are homomorphically encrypted and aggregated in a privacy-preserving manner so that the server only learns the aggregated update to refine the global model. The blockchain provides provenance of the model updates during the training process, makes contribution-based incentive mechanisms deployable, and supports traceability, accountability and verification of the transactions so that malformed or malicious updates can be identified and traced to the offending source. The framework implements model personalization approaches (e.g. fine-tuning) to adapt the global model more closely to the individual client's data distribution.

In the second part of the dissertation, we turn our attention to the limitations of existing FL algorithms in the presence of adversarial clients who may carry out poisoning attacks against the FL model. We propose a privacy-preserving defense, named CONTRA, to mitigate data poisoning attacks and provide a guaranteed level of accuracy under attack.  The defense strategy identifies malicious participants based on the cosine similarity of their encrypted gradient contributions and removes them from FL training. We report the effectiveness of the proposed scheme for IID and non-IID data distributions. To protect data privacy, the clients' updates are combined using secure multi-party computation (MPC)-based aggregation so that the server only learns the aggregated model update without violating the privacy of users' contributions.




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