University at Albany

New Trends in Informatics Research NTIR 2015

The Informatics Faculty of The University at Albany is pleased to announce its Tenth Annual Spring Research Conference: New Trends in Informatics Research, 2015.

The conference will feature talks by student and faculty researchers discussing their current work, and poster displays by CCI students presenting the progress that they have made in their own research.

The topics of the research presentations will represent a variety of current streams of research relevant to Informatics. Master and PhD Student posters and presentations will highlight doctoral research at various stages, from proposals to completed research. The NTIR conference will present research from the various specializations in the CCI PhD programs, including Informatics and Computer Science.

Important Dates and News

Date: April 29, 2015

Deadline for submissions extended! Please submit papers and poster proposals no later than April 06, 2015 through the website at our Call for Proposals page.

Call for papers! Please submit papers no later than March 15, 2014 through the website at our Call for Proposals page.

Join the NTIR community on Facebook to get more involved!




Maps and Directions


Past NTIR Conferences


TimeSession 1Session 2

8:30am-9:00amCheck In

9:00am-9:30amSmita SharmaValentino DeMarco

9:30am-10:00amCarson TaoWeija Ran

10:00am-10:30amCatherine Dumas

10:30am-11:00amCatherine S PetersDima Kassab

11:00am-2:15amPoster Session

2:20pm-3:15pmCCI Keynote

3:30pm-4:00pmLoni HagenMark Hughes

4:00pm-4:30pmChris KotfillaFelippe Cronemberger

4:30pm-5:00pmGrace BeganyBabak Bahaddin

Abstract and Bios

Babak Bahaddin


Using Simulation-Based Learning Environments to Build Capacity for Managing Complexity

Simulation-based learning environments have the potential to provide a shortcut to System Dynamics Group Model Building (SDGMB) benefits. In an SBLE, a computer simulation model serves as an interactive platform for exploring domain concepts. SBLEs support discovery, or inquiry learning. Users learn through exploration, experimentation, and reflection, a process that mimics scientific inquiry. By emphasizing experience over explanation, SBLEs allow learners to accept a greater responsibility for their learning as they actively construct their own knowledge. Experimenting with system variables and observing the effects facilitates a more active understanding about the system. Knowledge gained in this way is thought to be more elaborate and robust, and thus, not only more useful, but also more transferable to other domains. Simulations can help support better near-term decisions about future sustainability, helping people imagine future events by moving them closer in time and space. To be most effective, however, they need to be carefully designed to align with learning objectives, and set in a larger learning framework. There must be a balance between allowing learners the freedom to be active in the process of sense making and providing appropriate guidance to ensure that the knowledge is usefully constructed, without providing so much support that it does not allow any learner discovery.This research highlights the importance of deliberate design in three main areas: the simulation model itself, learner interaction with the simulation, and guiding learner interpretation of the experience to build domain knowledge or achieve other learning outcomes.


My name is Babak Bahaddin. I got my bachelor degree from Civil Engineering department in Sharif University of Technology. During my undergraduate studies, I took some courses from the university's business school, especially courses about System Dynamics. Since then, I am working in this area mostly as a student, but sometimes as an instructor, as a consultant, or as a researcher. Currently, I am a first-year PhD student in the Informatics department of University at Albany, SUNY. My specialization is Decision and Policy Systems. Beside my coursework, I attend the SD Research Group meetings under supervision of Professor D. Andersen, Professor E.Rich and Professor L. Luna-Reyes. Our focuses is in this group are mostly on Simulation-Based Learning Environments (SBLE), Group Model Building (GMB), and System Dynamics (SD).

Carson Tao


Re-Identification on Protected Health Information

HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Based on HIPAA requirements on the confidentiality and security of healthcare information, this project provides a feasible solution to synthesize replacements for protected health information (PHI) in narrative texts with the implementation of natural language processing (NLP). Specifically, it investigates co-reference resolution and surrogates generation for private healthcare named-entities.​


Carson Tao is a second-year PhD student in Information Science. His research interests include natural language processing, machine learning, and information in organizational environment. Before attending this program, he received Master of HR Management from Rutgers University featuring HR information systems.

Catherine Dumas


E-petitioning as Collective Political Action in We the People

In this study, we aim to reveal patterns of e-petition co-signing behavior that are indicative of political mobilization of online “communities” in the case of We the People (WtP), the first web-enabled petitioning system developed by the US federal government. This Internet-based tool enables users to petition the Obama Administration and solicit support for policy suggestions. Using WtP petition data, we focused on 33 petitions that were initiated the week after the Sandy Hook shooting (December 14-21, 2012) involving gun control and collectively received a response from President Obama. We apply Baumgartner and Jones’s (1993) work on agenda setting and punctuated equilibrium, which suggests that policy issues may lie dormant until a “focusing event” triggers the attention from political figures, interest groups, and the media. Using some techniques from market basket analysis and social network analysis we found evidence of the mobilization of online communities for and against gun control laws and alternative policy proposals to address the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Catherine Stollar Peters


Personal Digital Archiving in Public Libraries: A Dissertation Proposal

My research considers how individuals engage in personal digital archiving using public access computers in public libraries. I intend to answer the following questions: how do public library structures alter personal digital archiving practices for public access library computer users? How does using the personal computer as a public access computer in a public library alter the form and function of the personal computer? And how do these structures, agents, and objects relate to each other in the public library setting?


Catherine Stollar Peters is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Informatics Department at the University at Albany. She also teaches courses in digital libraries and electronic records management for the Information Studies Department. She is the Head of Circulation and Technical Services at Bethlehem Public Library. She earned her M.S.I.S and B.A. in English at the University of Texas at Austin.

Christopher Kotfila


A systematic comparison of feature space effects on disease classifier performance for phenotype identification of five diseases.

Automated phenotype identification plays a critical role in cohort selection and bioinformatics data mining. Natural Language Processing (NLP)-informed classification techniques can robustly identify phenotypes in unstructured medical notes. In this paper, we systematically assess the effect of naive, lexically normalized, and semantic feature spaces on classifier performance for obesity, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CAD), hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes. We train support vector machines (SVMs) using individual feature spaces as well as combinations of these feature spaces on two small training corpora (730 and 790 documents) and a combined (1520 documents) training corpus. We assess the importance of feature spaces and training data size on SVM model performance. We show that inclusion of semantically-informed features does not statistically improve performance for these models. The addition of training data has weak effects of mixed statistical significance across disease classes suggesting larger corpora are not necessary to achieve relatively high performance with these models.


Christopher Kotfila is a second year Ph.D Student in the Informatics program at the University at Albany. His research interests are in natural language processing, machine learning, knowledge organization and geographic information science. He is a native of Troy N.Y., an avid open source enthusiast, and a hopeless Emacs user.

Dima Kassab


Digital Games and Learning: An Overview of Theory and Research

This presentation gives an overview, based on the literature on games and learning, of how players learn during game play and the affinity spaces associated with games, with an emphasis on Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. It highlights the lack of generalized game based learning theory, and introduces the various learning theories that have been used to study learning in games or to guide the design of educational games. Research suggested that game environments are rich for learning and should be closely studied as potential contexts for teaching inside and outside the classroom. This presentation summarize the main developments in educational gaming research.


Dima Kassab is a PhD candidate in Informatics in the College of Computing and Information at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She currently holds a position as the “Future Faculty Fellow” at the Institute for Teaching Learning and Academic Leadership (ITLAL), where she works with graduate students on advancing their academic and professional development, conducts workshops and provides one-to-one consultations. Before joining ITLAL, she taught several courses on different technical topics including web design and databases at the Informatics Department. Her main research interest is in learning as it occurs in complex virtual environments such as games. She explores how games can be used to teach critical 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving.

Felippe Cronemberger


Discourse Variations and Learning Effectiveness during Science Classes Experiences

The quality of science education is a concern for developing and developed economies across the globe. Demand for alternative methods of assessment is increasing and technology can offer a large number alternatives to support students and educators. This research is focused on discourse in science classroom settings and will take a closer look at academic word selection for pedagogical purposes, exploring how variations in language usage shape science students’ learning experiences. Through the deployment of theoretical concepts from linguistics such as deixis and semantic gravity, this project will investigate to what extent educators’ vocabulary, style and speech delivery are consonant with existing instructional goals and standards of student comprehension. In parallel, the study is expected to open doors to computational forms of assessment of quality of the education given the idiosyncrasies and complexities of science learning in the classroom. The project can ultimately contribute to the improvement of existing assessment techniques based on computational models.


Felippe Cronemberger is a 1st PhD student in the Department of Informatics at the University at Albany. He has worked in primary, secondary and high school education, as well as in corporate education and human resources for a total of 10 years. He holds a Bachelors in Communications and Marketing from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), an M.B.A from the University at Albany (SUNY) and has received certificates from professional development programs in E-learning, Leadership and Sales. He is interested in the use of data analytics for assessment and organizational development, systemic thinking and engagement in science education.

Grace Begany


Investigating Health Information Behavior: A Mobile Diary Study​

People seeking health information increasingly use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to do so. The use of ICTs (e.g., computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and cellphones) to connect to critical health information resources is an important and growing activity. With eight out of ten Internet users, or 59% of all U.S. adults, looking for health information online, this activity ranks as the third most popular online pursuit, next to email and using a search engine. Within this population, a small percentage of health information seekers go online to find others who share the same health concerns, so-called “peer-to-peer healthcare,” which typically occurs via social media. Additionally, the use of mobile devices on the part of health information seekers has grown tremendously in the past two years, nearly doubling between 2010 and 2012. The proposed research study seeks to further understand the use of ICTs, such as the Internet, social media, and mobile devices, for health information seeking and use. To do so, the researchers will investigate the health information behaviors of ICT users in the University at Albany community via a mobile diary study. Diary studies are a common methodological approach in human-computer interaction (HCI) research and allow participants to report their behaviors and experiences in situ, or in natural everyday situations. The proposed study will employ a unique, custom-developed, mobile web-based diary as the primary participant tool of data collection. The study’s key research question asks: What is the ICT-related health information behavior of University at Albany community members? In particular, researchers are interested in (1) whether participants use the Internet, mobile devices and/or social media to seek health information for themselves, (2) whether they use the Internet, mobile devices and/or social media to seek health information for someone else, and (3) whether they have privacy concerns regarding use of ICTs to seek health information, among other health information behaviors and variables as enabled via the available data. The proposed study would provide valuable feedback and insights regarding the use of ICTs for health information seeking and use which could be used to improve health information resources and their user experiences.


Grace Begany is a third-year student in the University at Albany's Information Science PhD Program. Her research interests include consumer health informatics, human information behavior, human-computer interaction, mobile information and communication technologies, information policy, and knowledge organization and management. Additionally, Grace is an instructor in the Informatics Department for the Senior Seminar in Informatics and Digital Project Management courses. She holds a Master’s degree in Journalism, with a specialty in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting, from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology-Biology from Mount Holyoke College.

Loni Hagen


Introducing Semantic Tools for Policy Analysis: A Case Study of E-petitions

In this presentation, we extracted three types of novel variables (informativeness, named entities, and 21 topics) from WtP petition documents using semantic tools. In the analysis, we tested whether the signature counts of e-petitions can be predicted using these novel variables. The results suggest that the semantic units of informativeness, named location, and several topics are significantly correlated with the log of the signature counts. Specifically, the result indicates that topics that are successful in acquiring signatures are closely correlated to topics that draw attention in the larger social environment. Specifically, our informativenessmeasure suggests that the analysis of wording of text data can contribute to our understanding of e-petition mobilization. These exploratory but promising results indicate that NLP variables can complement traditional statistical methods by providing novel predictors of e-petition mobilization.


Loni Hagen is a PhD Candidate in Informatics with a primary specialization in government and democratic society. She is interested in information policy and information management in government. Her current research is about automatically finding and describing structural patterns from e-petition texts to provide new semantic tools for policy analysis. She currently uses natural language processing and machine learning methods of automatic topic extraction and concept identification.

Mark Hughes


NLP in the Classroom: Exposing Accounting Students to Text-Based Data Analytics

In the accounting and audit domains, NLP has been employed to identify potential financial-statement fraud through the analysis of “textual documents intended to communicate... corporate financial performance” since the mid-1980s (Fisher, Garnsey, & Hughes, 2015). Now, researchers and practitioners are using enhanced applications of NLP, combining text analysis with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches to analyze massize document collections. Accounting and audit students must be exposed to these increasingly important data analyses techniques. However, before students progress to advanced applications, it is imperative that they understand the basics of NLP. This discussion demonstrates the introduction of basic NLP concepts, including analyses of readability, sentiment, and other linguistic features, as applied in fraud detection applications. Through basic NLP-enabled linguistic analyses, students can be exposed to the power and potential associated with NLP, whetting their appetite for more advanced training, incorporating AI and ML algorithms.


Mark Hughes is a 3rd -year student in the Informatics Ph.D. program. In 2010, he began teaching in the University at Albany School of Business. He currently teaches courses in accounting, auditing, financial statement fraud, and strategic management. Mark has authored various academic and business research papers, including: “Natural Language Processing in Accounting, Auditing and Finance: A Synthesis of the Literature with a Roadmap for Future Research” (Working Paper: Fisher, Garnsey, & Hughes, 2015), “Tracking Corporate Culture: Using Text Analysis to Track Non-Financial Disclosures in Corporate Filings” (2014), Optimizing the Information Space for Micro-Business Owners’ Financial Decision-Making” (2013), “Financial Accounting Proprietorship Case Simulation: An Experiential Approach to Financial Accounting Instruction” (2010). His current research interests include small-business entrepreneurship, humanistic management, use of NLP (natural language processing) in accounting and audit research, and social/business implications of U.S. accounting and tax policies.

Smita Sharma


Exploring the Contribution of Transit to Livability in Rural America

Transit is one of many factors that influence livability (i.e. the quality of life—including the built and natural environments, economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, access to healthcare, and cultural, entertainment and recreation possibilities) of rural areas in the United States. Some rural communities do not have public transit services of any kind, while others operate a wide variety of services. The demographic, social, and economic fabrics of rural communities also vary widely. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) is presently conducting a study sponsored by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program to investigate the nexus of transit and livability at the community level. The bulk of the TTI study effort consists of conducting surveys and interviews at one rural community as the pilot case. This presentation outlines the framework adopted for the first case and the results obtained in surveys and interviews. The findings from the first case will be used to prepare modified framework to survey additional rural communities in a variety of rural areas with the help of partnering institutions.


Smita is a second year PhD student in informatics (specializing in GIS and Transportation Planning). She will be completing her MA in Geography (specializing in GIS) in May 2015. Before joining UAlbany, she completed her MS in Transportation Engineering from Arizona State University and she works as a TA in Informatics department and a research intern with Texas A & M Transportation Institute.

Valentino DeMarco


Realtors still intermediate approximately 90% of the transactions made in the 2.5-trillion-dollar residential real-estate economy even though approximately 90% of buyers and sellers of residential real estate start their search for information online without intermediaries,. The goal of this research is to learn how, in such a context, some people still manage to sell their homes on their own, without a real-estate agent. “Do it yourself” (DIY) sellers, also called “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sellers, are often considered non-traditional, along with discount brokers, as they are opposed to “traditional” realtor-mediated transactions in the real estate (RE) marketplace. This research is designed to learn: 1) How the DIY or FSBO seller navigates within this marketplace using the Internet, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and policies, procedures, contracts and laws, generally designed for a traditional selling process; 2) Why they decide to sell on their own when considering alternatives, and 3) how they unbundle, value, select and engage the services typically offered by traditional realtors. The insight gained from this practice-focused ethnographic research will serve to extend current models of information-seeking and decision-making in RE literature.


Valentino “Tino” DeMarco is a Ph.D. Candidate in Informatics at the University at Albany. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Siena College and an M.B.A. in Marketing from the University at Albany. He has taught courses at the university in Marketing and Consumer Behavior. Prior to this he was a banker and also served as a public affairs officer in the New York Army National Guard. His interest in information and communication technologies (ICTs) and their impact on intermediation and consumer decision-making, stems from his own entrepreneurial experience in real estate.

Weijia Ran


Diffusion of enabling technologies in support of sustainable development

Our study explores market mechanisms that can accumulate a critical mass and lead to successful diffusion of technologies that facilitate more informed consumer decision-making. This category of technologies allows smart disclosure and enables public ends by diminishing negative externalities in consumer markets with imperfect information. Important dynamics of a sustainable coffee market has been captured in a simulation environment based on multiple cases of startups in the open data movement and the literature on the coffee market, diffusion, and smart disclosure. A theory of diffusion of technologies that enable smart disclosure and public ends has been developed by analyzing and understanding simulation behaviors.


Weijia Ran is a PhD candidate in Informatics at the University at Albany. Her research interests include sociotechnical systems, data management, analytic-based decision making, modeling and simulation, research methodologies, and sustainability.


You may use the resources and suggestions provided below to help you prepare for your presentation.

The typical poster size at NTIR is 36" x 48", please arrive by 8AM to set up your poster.


  • You may email slides to, bring them on a flash drive, or email them to yourself.
  • Sessions are 25 minutes. We suggest 20 minutes to speak and 5 minutes for Q&A.
  • One or more organizers will be assigned to your session.

Maps and Directions

The conference will be held at the University at Albany's Uptown Campus.

Presentations will take place in Campus Center.

Directions to University at Albany

Address: State University of New York, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222

University at Albany Map

Contact Information

College of Computing and Information
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
Phone: 518-442-3171 Fax: 518-442-5638

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