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Updated 10:00 AM October 15, 2007




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U-M, WSU begin joint Ph.D. program to secure Internet

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U-M and Wayne State University have launched a multi-disciplinary doctoral research-and-education program to help make the Internet less like the "Wild West" by making online transactions safer and more secure.
A School of Information student, above, demonstrates the level of detail that can be seen with new video-conferencing technology. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

Harnessing the latest technologies to make participants at different universities feel they're in the same room, the Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions (STIET) program is supported by industry-leaders Google, Yahoo and IBM, and backed by more than $6.2 million from the National Science Foundation and $3 million in institutional support.

"This project is about the organization of the Internet, and how we know someone is who they say they are online." says Thomas Finholt, associate dean for research and innovation at the School of Information. "That's the biggest question surrounding the Internet."

STIET addresses the extraordinary changes in communications and computing technology. Researchers use an incentive-centered design approach to tackle problems, focusing on the motives and behavior of the people using Internet systems and providing them with effective incentives to be honest, and to behave productively.

"We're really excited about the cross-campus collaboration," says STIET Director Jeff MacKie-Mason, Arthur W. Burks Professor of Information and Computer Science, and a professor of economics and public policy. "We are bringing together the social sciences and the engineering sciences to help us address the question that really matters: how people behave and interact online.''

The presidents of U-M, Wayne State and Michigan State universities are expected to announce the effort today as an example of how they are using their jointly produced Michigan Lambda Rail (MiLR) project to create an ultra high speed broadband connection to tie research universities together.

The universities deployed technology that easily can connect classes and researchers, making it seem like colleagues are in the same room. The STIET program uses a high performance videoconferencing link providing interactive, studio-quality high definition video instantly between the sites.

U-M researchers already are working on ways to improve the system including using banks of current "off the shelf'' computer equipment and monitors to allow users to collaborate in ways they never could before using large, high resolution displays. The system makes it possible to bring multiple experts from many locations together to study data, compare notes and even jointly zoom in on the slightest details otherwise un-noticed by the naked eye.

STIET involves the School of Information, Department of Economics and Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Wayne State's Department of Computer Science and the Business School, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and Department of Economics and offers NSF-funded fellowships.
The STIET Summer Research Opportunity Program is a new undergraduate summer research training and mentoring program to prepare and encourage promising undergraduates to pursue a graduate degree, and will provide a training ground in research leadership and mentoring for doctoral students.

For more on STIET go to

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