James Madison University

New CS Professor Changing Lives With  Mobile Technology

By: Daniel Vieth
Posted: July 7, 2014

PHOTO: Farzana recieving award

As technology continues to evolve, the field of computer science has constantly changed alongside it. For JMU’s Department of Computer Science, this means both the students and faculty must continually explore the changes in the world of computing and problem solving. To help accomplish this, it is invaluable to have professors that are both passionate and diverse in their knowledge. Embracing this wholeheartedly is Dr. Farzana Rahman, one of the computer science department’s newest professors who just completed her first year at JMU. “When I came for the interview I fell in love with JMU, and since then the connection has only grown stronger,” Rahman said. “I am passionate about my work, I feel excited to come to the office each day due to the CS department’s amazing work environment.”

Rahman grew up Bangladesh, where she had been interested in computers since high school. “I always knew that I wanted to be in a profession that involves a lot of challenges, the creation of something significant, and solving new problems” Rahman explained. “Computer Science has a flavor of all of these.” After graduating from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Rahman decided to continue her education in the United States, where she earned her doctorate in computer science from Marquette University. According to Rahman, growing up in Bangladesh gave her a unique perspective in solving problems and allowed her to become a more confident professor and researcher. “I can definitely connect to a wider range of students, [especially] students with diverse backgrounds ,” she continued. 

During her first year, Rahman taught both "Introduction to Programming" and a "Data Structure and Algorithms" course. “My favorite part about being a professor is that I get to interact with amazing students each day on modern edge technology,” Rahman explained. “We not only use the modern technologies, we also learn the details of how to create and build them.” Rahman also explained how much she appreciated the open-door policy JMU professors have in regard to helping students succeed in everything from studying for a test to getting that perfect internship. Computer science also provides a unique challenge in that it changes so rapidly. “It is always fresh and there are plenty of research problems to work on,” she explained. “As a researcher I need to update my knowledge base all the time, learn new materials and work on new challenging stuff, which is quite exciting.”

PHOTO: Farzana working with children

As a researcher, much of Rahman’s focus is on mobile based technologies and applications, particularly in developing smartphone apps for health and wellness. In this particular facet of Computer Science, Rahman gets to combine her expertise in technology with physiological data, where she works on apps aimed at improving people’s well-being and quality of life. She has already worked on health apps for cancer palliative care, cancer patient registration, newborn and mother care, the prediction of epidemics and outbreaks of disease, emergency care guidance for children with anaphylaxis, emotion learning applications for children with autism, and more. In fact, next year Rahman will be teaching  a brand new course, Mobile Computing with Android, in the department of CS at JMU,. “I am quite excited about this course since our students will acquire skills of software development on mobile computing platforms and explore this cutting edge technology,” she explained. “They will also learn what can be done with such a small but powerful device, [the smartphone].”

Looking to expand upon her interests, Rahman recently earned a grant from the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to create a lab for Mobile Computing, where she and student researchers will experiment and investigate different computing projects. “I am mostly interested in exploring various mobile based sensing systems for capturing, learning, and interpreting people’s context, activities and social networks,” Rahman explained. “I am planning to involve the students of the Mobile Computing course in these projects, which will allow them to work in the lab environment.” Dr. Rahman is a great example of the evolution of the field computer science, representing a professor with a diverse background who is pushing for research in the most current technology for the well-being of everyone.

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The Computer Science department strives to be an intellectual community that continually explores the broad field of computing, applies this knowledge to solve problems in a variety of domains, and engages with the profession and society at large. More >