Hume Center Cyber Seminars

The Hume Center's Intelligent Systems Lab has invited researchers and industry professionals to join us at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington (900 N. Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22203) to present seminars on their work. Please join us in person at the VTRC-A (rooms listed below) or on Zoom at this link. If you have any questions about these talks or would be interested in presenting one, please contact Russ Walker at

Upcoming Talks

Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson

4 p.m., Wednesday, April 24; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

Abstract: TBA

Admiral Simpson Biography:

David Simpson has influenced National Defense and Homeland Security policy and provided cutting edge Information, Communications Technology and Cybersecurity solutions for over thirty years. Currently leading Pelorus Consulting Services, specializing in public safety, telecommunications, and Cybersecurity. He is also a Professor at Virginia Tech, integrating Cybersecurity Risk studies into Pamplin College of Business graduate degree programs. He previously served as Chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau from 2013 to 2017. As Bureau Chief, he oversaw public safety, homeland security, emergency management, cybersecurity, and disaster preparedness activities for over 30,000 commercial companies in the telecommunications sector. He worked with public and private partners and through the rulemaking process to ensure that our nation’s networks are accessible, reliable, resilient, and secure, ready to meet the public safety needs of Americans during emergencies.

Admiral Simpson served as the vice director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) from 2011 to 2013. In that capacity, he helped lead an organization responsible for planning, developing and providing interoperable global communications for the Defense community. He also served as a senior delegate to the 2012 ITU World Radio Telecommunications Conference and to the World Conference on International Telecom (WCIT).

From 2009 through 2010, as Director for Communications and Information Services for U.S. Forces Iraq in Baghdad, he synchronized strategic and operational-level communications for U.S. Forces and assisted the Government of Iraq in building capacity for the information and communications technology sector. Simpson’s extensive career includes assignments with responsibility for networks, IT, and crisis communications for afloat and other deployed forces in the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America.

Simpson is a native of Burbank, California and a 1982 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He earned a master’s degree in systems technology from the Naval Postgraduate School. Recipient of the Navy’s Copernicus Award, Federal Computing Weekly’s FED 100 Award and the Next Generation 911 Institute’s 2017 Government Leader Award.

Previous Events

Dr. Rick Forno - The Cognitive Dimension of Cyber

4 p.m., Thursday, November 29; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

Some believe 'cyberspace' is purely a technical environment requiring technical solutions to its problems.  Others view it as an operational environment that involves aspects of the physical, informational, and cognitive. In recent years, we have seen how these environments can be targeted, attacked, and/or exploited for nefarious purposes by adversaries ranging from criminals to foreign nations. Although some argue this represents a new form of warfare, it actually has its roots deep in history and simply is the latest example of adversaries using all available tools to acheive their goals.

From social media, so-called 'fake news', disinformation, 'deep fakes', good old fashioned hacking, and how 'cyber' is presented by the media to the public, the cognitive dimension remains most vulnerable and attacked. This talk will discuss the interdisciplinary human factors of cyber and how adversaries, both foreign and domestic, use these constructs in combination to disrupt the sociotechnical fabric of the world to influence political, commercial and/or cybersecurity outcomes. After all, the human mind is the most complicated information system in the world -- but also perhaps the most vulnerable one, too.

Dr. Forno Biography:

Dr. Richard Forno is a Senior Lecturer in the UMBC Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, where he directs the UMBC Graduate Cybersecurity Program, serves as the Assistant Director of UMBC's Center for Cybersecurity, and is an Affiliate of the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society (CIS). His twenty-year career in operational cybersecurity spans the government, military, and private sector, including helping build the first formal cybersecurity program for the US House of Representatives, serving as Chief Security Officer for Network Solutions (then, the global center of the internet DNS system), and co-founding the CyberMaryland conference. From 2005-2012 he was a Visiting Scientist at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he served as a course instructor for the CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC). As a technologist and student of national security studies, Richard has multiple interdisciplinary research and professional interests in the influence of technology upon national security, individuals, and global society.

Dr. Joe Pesce - Critical Thinking & Leadership

4 p.m., Thursday, January 24; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

In this talk, human cognitive and psychological elements that impact problem solving (e.g., research, analysis) will be discussed. We will explore the utility of considering multiple perspectives when solving problems), learn how an explicit methodology can assist in analysis, recognize mindsets and biases and how they affect the analytic process, and use critical thinking to identify and help mitigate errors that occur in problem solving.

Dr. Pesce Biography:

Joe Pesce is an Astrophysicist primarily interested in the external environments of the galaxies hosting supermassive black holes. Dr. Pesce is currently a Program Director at the National Science Foundation, Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Division of Astronomical Sciences; a Part-time Professor at George Mason University; and a Visiting Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is an expert in critical & creative thinking, analytic methodology, STEM issues, interdisciplinary research, and leadership issues. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and received a B.A. degree (cum laude and with Honors) in Physics from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and M.Sc., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees from Cambridge University (Peterhouse) and the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy. Dr. Pesce other interests include interspecies communication, non-human intelligence, and psychology, art, history, Star Trek, and all things British!

Dr. Alexander Kott - Cyber Defense will be the Domain of Autonomous Intelligent Agents

4 p.m., Wednesday, February 13; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

I will begin my talk my pointing out that in a number of important domains, especially mobile, such as military but also industrial, conventional cyber defense paradigms are increasingly inadequate, and one solution might involve host based autonomous cyber defense agents. For a number of reasons machine learning is a key to creation and continuing adaptation of such an agent. I will discuss what this agent might look like and what distinct functional features and advantages it might exhibit. I will also describe a tentative vision of how such agent might be architected and where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning fits into the architecture. I will outline requirements for the learning process, and possible approaches to how the agent can learn to actively parry the actions of the malware; and what apparent limitations of today’s AI must be overcome in order to address such requirements.

Dr. Kott Biography:

Alexander Kott earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, in 1989, where he researched AI approaches to invention of complex systems.

He serves as the US Army Research Laboratory’s Chief Scientist in Adelphi, MD. In this role he provides leadership in development of ARL technical strategy, maintaining technical quality of ARL research, and representing  ARL to external technical community. Between 2009 and 2016, he was the Chief, Network Science Division, Computational and Information Sciences Directorate, ARL, responsible for fundamental research and applied development in network science and science for cyber defense. In 2003-2008, he served as a Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA) Program Manager. His earlier positions included Director of R&D at Carnegie Group, Pittsburgh, PA. There, his work focused on novel information technology approaches, such as Artificial Intelligence, to complex problems in engineering design, and planning and control in manufacturing, telecommunications and aviation industries.

Dr. Kott received the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award, in October 2008. He published over 100 technical papers and served as the co-author and primary editor of over ten books.


Dr. Fei Fang - Integrating Learning with Game Theory for Societal Challenges

4 p.m., Wednesday, February 27; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

There is a rising interest in developing artificial intelligence-based tools to address challenges in various security domains, e.g., protecting critical infrastructure and cyber networks and protecting wildlife, fishery, and forest. Motivated by these challenges, we have proposed game theory and machine learning based models and algorithms for problems with strategic interactions among agents. In this talk, I will introduce our models and algorithms that have led to two successfully deploy applications: one used by US Coast Guard for protecting the Staten Island Ferry in New York City since April 2013, the other used in multiple conservation areas around the world for anti-poaching effort. In addition, I will highlight our most recent advances in integrating deep learning with game theory, including computing equilibrium by learning from self-play and end-to-end learning of game parameters.

Dr. Fang Biography:

Fei Fang is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Software Research in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Before joining CMU, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) at Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California in June 2016. She received her bachelor degree from the Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University in July 2011. Her research lies in the field of artificial intelligence and multi-agent systems, focusing on integrating game theory and mechanism design with machine learning. Her work has been motivated by and applied to security, sustainability, and mobility domains, contributing to the theme of AI for Social Good. Her work has won the Distinguished Paper at the 27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the 23rd European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAIECAI’ 18), Innovative Application Award at Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence (IAAI’16), the Outstanding Paper Award in Computational Sustainability Track at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI’15). Her dissertation is selected as the runner-up for IFAAMAS-16 Victor Lesser Distinguished Dissertation Award, and is selected to be the winner of the William F. Ballhaus, Jr. Prize for Excellence in Graduate Engineering Research as well as the Best Dissertation Award in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. Her work has been deployed by the US Coast Guard for protecting the Staten Island Ferry in New York City since April 2013. Her work has led to the deployment of PAWS (Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security) in multiple conservation areas around the world, which provides predictive and prescriptive analysis for anti-poaching effort.

Dr. Tien Pham - AI & ML in Complex Environments – research and develop artificially intelligent agents that rapidly learn, adapt, reason and act in distributed, dynamic, congested and contested environments

4 p.m., Wednesday, March 20; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) Essential Research Program (ERP) on Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning (AI & ML) seeks to research, develop and employ a suite of AI-inspired and ML techniques and systems to assist teams of soldiers and autonomous agents in dynamic, uncertain, complex operational conditions. Systems will be robust, scalable, and capable of learning and acting with varying levels of autonomy, to become integral components of networked sensors, knowledge bases, autonomous agents, and human teams. Three specific research gaps will be examined: (i) Learning in Complex Data Environments, (ii) Resource-constrained AI Processing at the Point-of-Need and (iii) Generalizable & Predictable AI. The talk will highlight ARL’s internal research efforts over the next 3-5 years that are connected, cumulative and converging to produce tactically sensible AI-enabled capabilities for decision making at the tactical edge, specifically addressing topics in: (1) adversarial distributed machine learning, (2) robust inference & machine learning over heterogeneous sources, (3) adversarial reasoning integrating learned information, (4) adaptive online learning and (5) resource-constrained adaptive computing. The talk will also highlight collaborative research opportunities in AI & ML via ARL’s Army AI Innovation Institute (A2I2) which will harness the distributed research enterprise via the ARL Open Campus & Regional Campus initiatives.

Dr. Pham Biography:

Dr. Tien Pham is the Senior Campaign Scientist (SCS) for the Information Sciences Campaign at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Adelphi, MD, USA. He is responsible for the planning, direction, management, and oversight of very complex theoretical and applied R&D programs associated with sensing and effecting, system intelligence and intelligent systems, human and information interaction, network and communications, and cyber security. He serves as the scientific ambassador and advisor for information sciences to top-level administrative and technical management officials within the ARL, Army, Department of Defense, other Government agencies, and outside organizations from academia, industry and coalition partners. As the SCS for Information Sciences, Dr. Pham also serves as the Lead Coordinator for the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML) Essential Research Program (ERP) at ARL. He has over 25 years of R&D experience and 15 years of research project and program management experience in network & information sciences, data & information fusion and processing, networked sensing, multi-modal sensing and acoustics. Dr. Pham received his B.S. (Magna Cum Laude), M.S and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland respectively in 1988, 1991 and 2006.

Samuel Visner - The Evolution of Cyberspace

4 p.m., Wednesday, April 3; Foggy Bottom Room, VTRC-A floor 2

Cyberspace has become more than an operational domain; in the minds of some, it has become a domain of human action, subject to sovereign governance and control. To countries that have adopted such a point of view, cybersecurity is less about the protection of information than it is about the extension of the state’s sovereign prerogatives. Samuel (Sam) Visner will discuss the evolution of cyberspace through the development of integrated computer networks, and the parallel, though more recent evolution of cyberspace as a domain of human action, drawing together these two threads into a discussion of the transformation of cybersecurity as an exercise of state power.

Director Visner Biography:

Samuel Sanders Visner is the Director of the National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center (MITRE), sponsored by the National Institute of Science and Technology (appointed October 30, 2017). Sam also serves as member of the Cyber and Domestic Security Councils of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, and the Cyber Committee of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. Sam is an adjunct professor of Science and Technology in International Affairs at Georgetown University, where he teaches a course on cybersecurity policy, operations, and technology. Sam is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council, and an Intelligence Associate of the National Intelligence Council, and is a member of the Intelligence Community Studies Board, sponsored by the National Academy of Science and serving the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Sam served previously as Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cybersecurity and Resilience, ICF International. Prior to ICF, Sam served as Vice President and General Manager, CSC Global Cybersecurity, as a Senior Vice President at SAIC, and as Chief of Signals Intelligence Programs at the National Security Agency, from which he received the Agency’s highest award for civilian service. Sam also served as a member of the Board of Directors, CVG/Avtec (2008- 2010). Sam holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in Telecommunications from George Washington University. Sam served twice on the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force of the Defense Science Board, and has published articles on national and cybersecurity in World Politics Review, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, and the Defense Intelligence Journal. Sam is married to Antoinette (Toni) Burnham, Washington DC’s leading urban beekeeper.