Ryan Renfro, Alumnus and Staff Member, Remembered for Kind Heart 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Anthony Renfro, 34, a staff member of the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, died Saturday, July 18, 2020, at Fayetteville.
Ryan Renfro

He was born May 21, 1986, in Pine Bluff, the son of Ronald and Donna Telliard Renfro. Ryan grew up in Pine Bluff, graduating from St. Joseph Catholic High School. He earned his bachelor's degree in communications from the U of A.

After graduation from college, Renfro began working for the university as an administrative specialist for the CSCE Department.  

Terry Bennett, his supervisor and friend, said, "Ryan was such a kind-hearted and great guy who was always smiling, and he would give the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it. Everyone in CSCE is just heartbroken, and he will be deeply missed."

"Ryan was the kindest, most thoughtful and caring man I've ever had the privilege of working with, and there are no words to describe how much I will miss seeing his warm, welcoming smile every morning! He was just one of those people who you never forgot, because he made every person he met feel special, said co-worker Brandy Meridith. "We are devastated by this tragedy and will remember Ryan in our hearts forever."

"He was the most kind and loyal person that has helped the CSCE department through several difficult times in the last few years," said Dale Thompson, interim department head. "I was heartbroken when I realized that when I entered the CSCE department I would not see his smiling face or be able to say good morning to him like I have done for the last two years."

"All of us in the College of Engineering are heartbroken to lose Ryan," said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. "He was a key, energetic part of the Computer Science and Computer Engineering family, and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with him, his family and his friends at this difficult time."

Renfro was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fayetteville. He loved all domestic and wildlife animals and enjoyed ornithology and entomology. He had many followers with his Bird of the Day newsletter. His family members wrote that he was "a kind soul to all he met, those fortunate to know Ryan benefitted greatly."

Renfro's passions also included gardening, Turner Classic Movies, music from all genres, and getting to know people. Always curious and a constant learner, Renfro had a fondness for adventure. He had goals of traveling the globe someday. His communication skills far surpassed any classroom curriculum, and in 2019, he received the honor of employee of the quarter from the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering.

Renfro was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather, Thomas P. Telliard and paternal step-grandfather, Brien R. Winkley.

Survivors include his parents, Ronald E. Renfro and Donna Telliard Renfro of Pine Bluff; brother, Robert Thomas "Robbie" Renfro and his wife, Maura, and their daughter, Dottie of Fayetteville; paternal grandmother, Mary Winkley of Pine Bluff; maternal grandmother, Mildred Ann Telliard of Riverside, California; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be given at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 28, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pine Bluff with Father Joe Marconi officiating. The Mass will be livestreamed on www.RalphRobinsonandSon.com.

A vigil service will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 27, at Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors in Pine Bluff with Deacon Noel F. "Bud" Bryant officiating. A visitation following the vigil will continue until 7:30 pm at Robinson's. The ceremonies will follow all state health guidelines.

Memorials may be made to Humane Society of the Ozarks, 1733 N. Crossover Road, Fayetteville, AR 72701; St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1722 N. Starr Drive, Fayetteville, AR 72701; or St. Joseph Catholic Church, 412 W. Sixth Ave., Pine Bluff, AR 71601.                                                            

NSF CyberCorps Scholarship Applications Now Being Accepted for Fall 2020

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and managed by the Arkansas Security Research and Education (ASCENT) Institute, the UofA Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is now accepting applications from eligible undergraduate and graduate students in CSCE, INEG, and ELEG at UofA with the goal as developing a superior cybersecurity workforce. This program provides generous scholarships ($25,000 per year for undergraduate students and $34,000 per year for graduate students, plus the full amount of tuition and other educational allowance per year). Each scholarship recipient will need to agree to work at a government agency post-graduation for a period equal to the duration of the scholarship. For more information and application submission, please visit https://ascent.uark.edu/sfs/. Applications submitted before September 21st will receive full consideration. 


What is Computer Science?

Computer scientists specialize in the software side of computing, focusing on writing new programs that allow computer applications to run faster and more efficiently. You might work for a security company, creating technology that reduces the risks of viruses and hackers, or develop flight simulation exercises that allow airline pilots to practice managing flight problems.

What is Computer Engineering?

Computer engineers deal with both software and hardware. As a computer engineer, you could design entire computer systems and networks, making sure that the hardware, or physical equipment, is capable of running the appropriate software. You might build devices such as retinal scanners that identify people by checking their eyes, or you could design computers that are incorporated into prosthetic devices to aide people with disabilities.

Those who continue onward to obtain a graduate degree in either computer science or computer engineering learn to advance the frontiers of science. With an MS or PhD, you will invent the new technologies that enable the next generation of software and computing devices.

To learn more about Computer Science check out the links below from ComputerScience.org:

Women in Computer Science

Computer Science Programs in Arkansas

Scholarships & Financial Aid

Student News

Computer Science Doctoral Student Wins Best Paper at Cybersecurity Conference

Dr. Brajendra Panda and doctoral student Mohammed Alshehri

From left to right: Brajendra Panda, professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, and doctoral student Mohammed Alshehri.

A computer science doctoral student earned a "Best Paper" award at an international cybersecurity conference earlier this year.

Mohammed Alshehri Sr. took home the top honors from the 12th International Conference on Security, Privacy and Anonymity in Computation, Communication and Storage in Atlanta.

His advisor is Brajendra Panda, profesor of computer science and computer engineering.

Alshehri was honored for his research into fog node protection.  Fog computing is the name for multiple cloud systems linked together to reduce the response time for users to retrieve data from the cloud. 

"What I like about fog computing is it will make the communication between end users and the cloud faster," Alshehri said.  "It's in the middle between the cloud and the end users."

The danger with linking multiple cloud storage devices together is if one is infected by malicious software, it could spread to others, potentially compromising huge amounts of data.  Alshehri's research explores a solution to isolate a rogue fog node when it is identified.

The idea is to group the different nodes into smaller groups, which Alshehri calls "fog federations."  Pieces of data with similar attributes would be grouped into the same federation, for example, it could group data based on the city it comes from and the type of institution that created it.

Those federations would still increase the speed for end users, because the computer wouldn't have to search through as many places to retrieve data, but it minimizes the threat of a virus infiltrating an entire network.

The implications of Alshehri's work are far-reaching.

"This research is general," he said.  "you can apply it to hospitals, universities, to a corporation - any organization with sensitive information to protect."

Earning the "Best Paper" award was a gratifying moment for Alshehri.

"Sometimes in Ph.D. life, it can be a lot of ups and downs," he said.  "After working for two years on my research, I'm proving I'm on the right track."

Top Stories

Researchers Receive NSF Funding to Build a Smarter Insect Trap

Professors Koah Luu and Ashley Dowling

Professors Koah Luu and Ashley Dowling

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” goes the adage.

Ashley Dowling, a professor in the entomology and plant pathology department, and Khoa Luu, an assistant professor in the computer science and computer engineering department, aren’t trying to build a better mouse trap, but they are trying to build a better insect trap. For their efforts, they were recently awarded almost $75,000 as part of a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

Read more here.

Researchers Receive DARPA Funding to Improve Chip Security

Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering
Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A U of A researcher has received a $600,000 grant to pursue technology that makes digital chips more resilient to security attacks.

Cybersecurity is often associated with protecting data, but hackers are increasingly targeting physical devices, said Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering. Di, who holds the 21st Century Research Leadership Chair, is the principal investigator on the project.

The project focuses on protecting integrated circuit (IC) chips, which are critical components in modern electronics. The chips can be found in a wide variety of devices, including computers, vehicles and even refrigerators, Di said. As devices are increasingly interconnected via the “Internet of Things,” designers are intensifying efforts to protect the hardware from outside threats.

 Read More 

Arkansas Researchers Developing Prediction Models for Coronavirus

Justin Zhan & Governor Hutchinson

From left to right: Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Chancellor Joseph Steinmitz, Professor Justin Zhan, and Jerry Adams, president and CEO of the Arkansas Research Alliance, at the Capitol Building in Little Rock.

Fayetteville, Ark.  - Data Science professor Justin Zhan is collaborating with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professors David Ussery and Xuming Zhang to develop accurate predictions of genomic variation trends of coronavirus.

Their work will help public officials monitor the outbreak and adapt to changes.  It could also provide valuable information for the design of vaccines.

"To control and prevent COVID-19, public officials need highly robust models for predicting how and where the virus will spreak," Zhan said. "This project will assist that effort and lead to better detection and prevention strategies.  We think it could have colossal social and economic impacts."

Zhan's research focuses on big data, blockchain technologies, information assurance and biomedical informatics.  For this project, he will use a novel, blockchain-based artificial intelligence system, which integrates information on the relationships of biological systems, to predict trends and changes as the coronavirus spreads.  The system will be evaluated and tested through various coronavirus benchmark datasets.

Ussery and Zhang will provide expertise in the areas of bioinformatics, microbiology and immunology.

A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using cryptography.  Each block contains a cryptographic has of the previous block, and timestamp, and transaction data generally represented as a Merkle tree.  By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data.  It is "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way."  As the fundamental component and functional element of blockchains, Merkle trees allow for efficient and secure verification of large data structures and potentially boundless data sets.

With a large grant from the Army Research Office, Zhan is building a graphics processing unit at the U of A.  The unit is a computer cluster of big data research and education.

Justin Zhan and David Ussery are Arkansas Research Alliance scholars.

Engineering Professors to Develop Technology Aimed to Fight Breast Cancer

Alex Nelson & Magda O. El-Shenawee

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Two University of Arkansas engineering professors received a $19,145 grant from the University of Arkansas Women's Giving Circe to develop technology that could help fight breast cancer.

The award was given to Magda O. El-Shenawee, professor of electrical engineering, and Alexander Nelson, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering.

Read More



The U of A is among universities with the highest level of research activity
Engineering was an early focus of the university
Fayetteville, AR is the fourth best place to live


2019 Newsletter

Data Science Professor Is Newest U of A Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar

Justin Zhan, professor of data science in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, was formally inducted today into the Arkansas Research Alliance Academy during a ceremony with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the Capitol in Little Rock.  Read more here.

Computer Science Doctoral Student Wins Best Paper at Cybersecurity Conference

Graduate student Mohammed Alshehri Sr. took home the top honors from the 12th International Conference on Security, Privacy and Anonymity in Computation, Communication and Storage in Atlanta over the summer. Read more here.

Peng Recieves Teaching  Commendation

The Teaching and Faculty Support Center presented Faculty Commendations for Teaching Commitment certificates to 48 new and not-so-new faculty members who completed specific activities designed to enhance teaching and learning in 2018-2019. Yauri Peng, assistant professor, was among this select group. Read more here. 

Zhan Receives Grant to Build GPU Cluster

Prof. Justin Zhan, who joined CSCE in August as Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar and professor of data science, has received funding from the Army in order to build a GPU cluster that can process huge data sets more than 100 times faster than previous technology. Read more here.

$4.6 Million Award Creates Program to Train Cybersecurity Professionals

A five-year, $4.63 million award from the National Science Foundation will enable a multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Arkansas to recruit, educate and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.  Read more here.



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