2015 CAHSI Summit – My first first-author research paper



During the Spring 2015 semester I embarked in an interdisciplinary project during my Cyberinfrastructure Applications course. The nature of the course is to join science students from other ares with computer science students and try to produce applications to solve problems that the scientists may have by using Semantic Web technologies.

I was lucky to join a project with a couple of very talented peers from computer science and Perry Houser, Geology PhD student interested in integrating data about a certain location, specially when planning for field trips. So, we focused our project on semantically integrating openly available data from three initial sources and an special characteristic:

Our first result was the GeoField ontology, which we made available on iLink’s (our lab) ontology repository.

During the summer, we worked hard to prepare the paper about this research for the upcoming 2015 CAHSI Summit, a conference which joins Hispanic students with computing leaders both from science and industry. Happily, we were accepted for the conference with very good reviews: we were selected for oral presentation amongst the five better evaluated papers of the conference. The paper and poster, entitled Towards semantically integrating data to enhance a field trip experience, are available at the page of the conference.

Sadly, due to an unexpected family situation, I could not attend the conference to showcase our work. This is a watershed for me, because this is the first paper I publish as first author and hopefully we will continue with this effor to better integrate this diverse information to provide it for scientists to use.



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2015 Forum of Experts in Software Engineering

On August 14th, I was lucky to visit my hometown. The authorities from my beloved school, the Facultad de Ingeniería of the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua invited me to attend the 2015 Forum of Experts in Software Engineering, a half-day conference cycle in which several Software Engineering professionals gave their viewpoint about the realities and expectatives of one of the more famous branches of the Computer Science / Information Technologies profession.

After the conferences, I was invited to join a discussion group of actual and former students of the Virtual Software Engineering Bachelor that we offer, in order to listen to their experience, the situations and problems they had. I was glad to meet such hard working and dedicated students, since they are already working but still want to obtain a degree and work hard for it, even sacrificing time with their family, a situation I certainly share with them.

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No NaNoWriMo 2015 for me… Instead, AcWriMo 2015.

Three years ago I embarked myself in an adventure called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which calls anyone who wishes to try to write a novel or 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. I had heard about the project years before, but finally managed to join for 2012… and I was sucessful. To forced myself to write a little over 1500 words average a day, while working 2 jobs and just having married was a great experience. The final product needed (and still needs) a big editing effort, but at least the main part of it is already done. Now that I think back, I have the feeling that having such a focus somewhat relates this effort and commitment to my PhD endeavors.

After that, I was not being able to do it again (2013) due to the preparation for my PhD application, and these two years (2014, 2015) because of the PhD itself. But now, I found that there is a similar effort in academia: The AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month). So, since I have some impending projects which require some writing, and have some pending research to write, I will be doing the AcWriMo. Since one of the requisites is to publically make a commitment, here it goes:


I have 4 upcoming projects for my courses:

* Implement a complex algorithm.
* Perform a survey relating my own research field with Computer Architecture.
* Develop a bussiness plan for a cell phone app powered by IBM Watson.
* Write a report for a graph database implementation which georeferences geological characteristics.

Therefore, my minimal objective is, of course, to produce the final reports for each of these activities.

Also, I think that I will be able to produce publishable research (for the very least, posters) from:

* The IBM Watson app.
* The graph database implementation.

And I also have two pending research efforts, which I want to fulfil:

* Complete a brief survey about how to translate data base constraints in an ontology (brief paper).

* Produce a poster about an interdisciplinary field trip I attended (poster).

These four I will work during december and january (Seasons Greetings), once the classes are over.

So, there it is. I will be posting about my advances during upcoming novembre. I better start reading and developing as much as I can in these three more days!

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My Fulbright story, Chapter 2

fulbright_logo Comexus1As I said in my previous post, I could not attend with the rest of my Fulbright-García Robles fellow generation to the reception that the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores prepared as a farewell for us, so in a way I was not able to truly feel like a Fulbrighter, until the 2014 Austin Fulbright Enrichment Seminar.

The US Department of State hosts several Enrichment Seminars for the international students in the US. I was selected for Austin’s, being the topic Civic Engagement. One of my wishes for my PhD is to go back to Mexico and help improving Computer Science education and research in my university and in my community. I can figure why they selected me for this specific seminar.

So there I go, having to finish earlier my semester to travel to Austin, Texas for three days, and I finally was able to live the Fulbright experience, being able to meet so many brilliant students from all over the world working truly hard and sacrificing themselves for a dream of academic excellence. I must say I was also sadened because all of them are very far from home and family, while I am fortunate enough to be able to get my car and drive to see my folks in a little over four hours. It is part of the sacrifice when you want to do something that is worth. My recognition to each and every one pursuing this dream.

After we went to the hotel, and registered, we had some free time before the activities started. I walked the nearby streets looking for something to eat and got some pretty good pulled pork at Stubb’s. I would definitively like to attend a concert someday at the venue. I was also amazed on how green it was all around. I’m living in west Texas, where everything is really arid, but here in the center of the State it is truly beautiful and green.

So green, definitively not the Texas I am used to...

So green, definitively not the Texas I am used to…

The topic of Civic Engagement is one with which I am familiar because in my country we have a big discontent with our government and politicians due to corruption, scandals, lack of noticeable work, populism… Our societies try to get away from such activities because people are fed of all that, and do not trust neither democracy nor the government. The seminar was a lot about trying to bring hope again, and show that, though hard as it may be, we still have the power and can regain it… and we should do it by means of thepolitical process, legitimizing the will of the people.

Fulbright Austin 2015 Enrichment Seminar

Fulbright Austin 2015 Enrichment Seminar

The seminar started with a delicious Salt Lick texan barbeque dinner (the best I’ve ever had) at the Thurman’s Mansion with keynote speaker Larry Schooler, an engagement consultant, giving us points on the importance of engaging in civic activities and how to do it having respect for the political process.

Some other activities were:

  • An specially emotive visit to the Austin Harmony Project, an effort to help people with learning disabilities through music. I must confess that I was never very conscious of developmental problems until I met my wife, which is an autism therapist, and through her I have become interested in such topics. Being able to visit the Harmony Project was just the right thing for me.
The Harmony Project

The Harmony Project

  • A home hospitality activity, in which we were divided in small groups and dined with local families. This was such a great experience, getting to know local people, talk about my other country, about Austin… I really enjoyed this activity.
Some more good texan Barbeque, now from Rudy's.

Some more good texan Barbeque, now from Rudy’s.

Finally, what struck the most was meeting the other Fulbrighters. Most of them were younger than me and doing their masters, but each of them where brilliant, hard working and driven, without being unscrupulous such as most of the very-driven people I’ve met before. On the contrary, they were all very concious of the opportunity bestowed to us, and were set to make the most of it, in order to bring something different to their countries. Also, they were proud of their culture and would share it gladly with anyone around.

The symposium was just three days, but it certainly was intense in the personal sense. I really think that being a Fulbrighter leave a mark on you; a mark of awareness to go further, not only for yourself but for those around you: your family, your region, your country.

Luckily, during the symposium we had some free time to walk around Austin. I visited the State Capitol (the second I have visited, after California’s some years ago). I regret not going to the river.

At the Texas State Legislature.

At the Texas State Legislature.

A view of the Texas Capitol.

A view of the Texas Capitol.

And, just before boarding my plane, I was able to give a proper farewell to Austin having a good brisket sandwich…

Brisket sandwich from The Salt Lick. So good!

Brisket sandwich from The Salt Lick. So good!

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Fall 2014 – Some good music.

I consider myself a big music fan, and usually listen to something while I am studying/working/driving, etc. And even though I have not been able to keep looking for new music as much as I would like to, I am at least very faithful to those bands and artists I already consider as my favorites.

During the Fall 2014 semester, surprisingly, I lost the ability to listen something while working or studying. I guess it is a stress-related situation, or that I have to focus a lot while performing such activities. Anyway, evem with such issues, I managed to listen to the following records:

  • Opeth – Pale Communion (2014).


I have been a huge Opeth fan since, thanks to a friend, I listened to Blackwater Park (2001). It’s mix of progressive and aggressive music was just perfect for me, so I started exploring their more doomy period, their aggressive period and I guess I am now starting to digest their proggy period. I will be honest, their previous album Heritage (2011) was too much of a blow for me and I still cannot “forgive” them for going absolutely 70s prog and leaving behind the much beloved (by me at least) combination of prog signatures, hard riffs and doom ambient. But I gave them the chance again with Pale Communion and was truly blown away. Their progressive 70s inspirations are even more consolidated and this is not definitively a metal album, but a prog one. It has some truly beautiful melodies.

Highlights: Eternal rains will come, Cusp of eternity.

  • Neonymus – O (2013).


The only album I could listen to and did not distract or disturb me; more over, truly helped me to concentrate and soothe, was the paleolitically inspired O by spanish artist Neonymus (Silverio Cavia), one of the few living persons which I would acknowledge as master. More than one first light found me listening to this album while working. The music is meant to be primitive, but evolves and grows in richness and complexity as the tracks flow.

As a curious note, can’t remember if in dreams or in some erratical mental situation, I thought that this album meant a story a-la Assasin’s Creed, going through time telling a story of a series of persons, first in the paleolitic, then on the dark medieval ages, ending up in a trance-like awakening at present time. Just a crazy thought, I guess.

Highlights: Funeral Visigodo (all 3 movements), Mati eri marne, Respuesta de lo remoto.

  • Pink Floyd -The Endless River.


An album I have been waiting for about half my life. Pink Floyd has been in hiatus for most of my life, but we got this (for me) masterpiece as farewell. For me it is the perfect instrumental companion / follow-up for The Division Bell (1994). I really enjoyed its intrincate melodies.

Highlights: Sum, Louder than words.

  • U2 – Songs of Innocence (2015).


There are some albums that just come right in a certain moment of life. I has happened to me several times, like for example with El Espíritu del Vino of Héroes del Silencio, Anathema’s Eternity, and I would just keep naming. The same happened with U2’s Songs of Innocence. I think this is one of the few albums in which I have felt something true and personal coming from them, as they usually present somewhat vanal music and lyrics, at least for the last few albums. Not this one, it comes from their very soul. I think of this album as if it had been done in the 80s, near to the time when U2 admired Joy Division. They where finally able to make the internal record they could not do for over 30 years. And by destiny, it came to my life during hard moments with melodies that truly touched me.

Highlights: Every breaking wave, Volcano, Raised by wolves.

  • Anathema – Distant Satellites.


I have been an Anathema fan since I listened to Eternity thanks to the same friend that introduced me to Opeth. Their music has evolved from growling doom/death to doom/prog to, I will venture the term, pop/prog. Sometimes their proposal is not that appealing to me, but Distant Satellites’ first half truly was. The meditative-though-gripping ambientation that they created was just in place with my quiet desperation, and allowed me to manage it better.

Highlights: The Lost Song (complete), Anathema (which I consider their “Comfortably Numb”).

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2015 Summer dying fast

I had hoped that I would have some time to write on this blog during the summer, but PhD is something that never stops. I do not complain, far from it; I was able to get some good work done during this time.

I hope to be able to drop some posts during the following weeks, before school again  requires full throttle.

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My Fulbright story, Chapters 0 and 1

fulbright_logo Comexus1My first contact with the Fulbright program was years ago when a dear friend received the honor to study his Masters in Chemistry at Yale. When I started planning for my PhD and was looking around for scholarships, I sincerely did not thought I would stand a chance for it, but luckily something inside me was in a mood for going for whatever it may and I gathered the required documentation (I already had most of it because it is almost the same as the one for an admission request), wrote the essays and applied for the Fulbright – García Robles scholaship, which is funded both by the United States Department of State and our mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.

After some time passed, I was required to turn in more documents, take a couple of Internet-based tests, and finally have an interview with an evaluation panel, in english. Unexpectedly, but thankfully, I got an email telling me I had been granted the scholarship. I still can’t believe it. I guess the lesson in this was to try with all your heart and hope for the best.

I sadly was not able to meet with the rest of my Fulbright-García Robles generation in an event in Mexico City due to work commitments, but I was fortunate to have met two of my generation peers later.





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2015 UTEP Interdisciplinary Research Symposium

Just a very quick post because I must keep working on an assignment.

Yesterday I attended (briefly) the 2015 UTEP Interdisciplinary Research Symposium poster session. Since one of my main study objectives is interdisciplinar research and because one of my friends/coworkers presented a poster, it was a good opportunity to see what is being done here at my university.

The posters that strike me most were:

1. Stanley Mubako’s study about freshwater withdrawal and its economic impact, which required a lot of data integration from Excel, GIS, etc. We, the iLink guys, will certainly be helping him in some future project.

2. Alberto Esquinca’s narrative analysis of Latina’s resilence in CS and Engineering tries to find how to better support women studying (and having a hard time) in STEM programs.

3. Since my advisor is working in this project, I am feeling very inclined to collaborate on Kelvin Cheu’s proposal concerning smart cities.

4. Sergio Tarin is proposing an analysis of what is ethics.

5. Finally, my friend Luis Garnica presented his latest contributions to the ELSeWeb project, one of the crown jewels of the lab I work in. If you ask me, it was the most elegant poster of the session.

Sadly, I could not attend to any of the events programmed for today. I specially regret the “Interdisciplinarity 101” panel with Deana Pennington, Ph.D.

I am glad to have written these few lines. Hopefully I will have a new post soon. I hope you are having a great semester.


2015 UTEP IDR Symposium

2015 UTEP IDR Symposium

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A view around The University of Texas at El Paso

I just wanted to post some pictures from UTEP, I hope you enjoy them.

*UPDATE ON March 22nd.*

UTEP Entrance by University Ave.

UTEP Entrance by University Ave. Or exit, since it was already night and I was leaving campus.

The Chemistry and Computer Science Building, my home in a way.

The Chemistry and Computer Science Building, my home in a way.

Mining Minds with Juarez, Mexico in the background

Mining Minds with Juarez, Mexico in the background.

College of Engineering

College of Engineering.

The Sun Bowl

The legendary Sun Bowl Stadium.

The Sun Bowl Stadium, during a foggy day. Weird in the desert.

The Sun Bowl Stadium, during a foggy day. Weird in the desert.

The big M (for Miners, our mascot) behind the Sun Bowl Stadium, also during the foggy day.

The big M (for Miners, our mascot) behind the Sun Bowl Stadium, also during the foggy day.

Going up the Franklin Mountains behind our home on a snowy day.

Going up the Franklin Mountains behind our home on a snowy day.

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Fall 2014: My first semester

My first semester as a student is done and I am about to start the second next Tuesday (after the long weekend due to the MLK Birthday). Sadly, I cannot tell I had the best results, but I am certainly confident to have learned very valuable lessons for the future.

*UPDATE*: I was reading this post today (March 22nd) and decided to add some more info and correct some things around.

1. Try to adapt to your environment as fast as possible. And even force it. I am certainly fortunate to have come to a city which I have been visiting for over twenty years, where I have friends. And I am even more fortunate because this city is very near to my hometown (about 250 miles). But believe me it is a completely different thing to know a city by visiting it than by living in it. If you can adapt quickly, you’ll have a great advantage. Even going to the store and select groceries is a challenge at first.

2. Be ready for a different system. Having studied in my home country for all my life, including bachelor and masters, changing educational systems has been interesting, to say the least. I now understand the value of a professor taking care of you, and appreciate them to help me in that way.  *UPDATE*: Also try to make friends, they can be an unvaluable support and help. Try both with locals and even international students, since each will have different experiences. Also, support your friends; in Grad School we all can use a pat in the back.

3. Take advantage of everything you can. American universities have a myriad of services which are very useful for students, many of them not available at home or at least not as consolidated as they are being offered here. In my case, I have been taking prfessional psychological counseling due to stress and anxiety issues. It has been a tremendous help to get back on my feet and keep this going. Counseling, athletic facilities, library, cultural events… You name it, you are already paying for it! Use them! *UPDATE*: Of course, if you have time. My case, I have not been able to use the athletic facilities. And also, get involved in the activities and traditions of your university! Such experiences will go a long way and will surely provide great memories! Extend yourself, do not only do what you are supposed, become a “universal” man/woman!

4. Network. I have always felt uncomfortable with this word considering that professionals use it as a pretext to take advantage of other people, but from now on for me it means to know people which have different abilities than yours and that can complement you and your work. I was fortunate to attend a seminar by the end of my first semester (future post coming), and it really nourished me to meet people facing challenges like my own, each with their characteristics. Even though you think of yourself as a shy person, always try to talk and contact the people around you: you will be happily surprised if you are open and sincere.

5. Find a topic for your thesis / dissertation AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Even though it sounds corny and cliché, I can’t stress this enough: Find a topic which makes you passionate for research, and do it fast! I was fortunate that I took the Graduate Research Methods class, and that the professor made us complete a first draft of our research proposal. I won’t lie to you, it was HARD to find a topic, especially within the limited time of a semester. Within the first two months, I switched topics three times, but thanks to the  professor and my dissertation advisor I managed to find a topic which really intrigues me and makes me want to start working on it. I feel I am on a solid track to get something done, and it is something worth! And once you have it, make a plan on how you will be making your advances towards your goal.

6. Pay attention to your family. You can get deeply immersed on your studies, I know it gets hard and you feel you have to. In my case, I am married and have two little kids, and I have my parents back home, my brother and his family, my in-laws, some of my cousins… During my hardest time this semester, my immediate family resented my stress and lack of quality for them. Be careful with it, even if your family is not with you, always find some time to keep in touch. Work will not be over, never. But you may lose your family. Don’t risk it. Work hard, of course! but always make time for your family and give them all you can during that time. Make it special, show them how you love them and that you are truly caring and sacrificing for a better tomorrow.

7. Take care of yourself. Long hours, hard work, sleep deprivation, malnutrition will take a toll on you. Manage yourself carefully through the tide of assignments, exams and even work. Find a time for you. Keep track of what you eat, and try to eat healthy: your body and mind will thank you and keep helping you. Try to exercise; it goes a long way with stress.

8. Keep the faith. If you do not actively profess a religion, jump this point. I am Catholic, but sadly I must confess that all the work and pressure took a toll on my religious life. Do not. Always find your time for God, find refuge and comfort in your belief.

*UPDATE*¨: 9. Find support. I mentioned something about in a previous point, but let me go further. Many of the guys/gals you are next too will also have similar problems as you. Being overworked, stressed, missing their family… You name it. Help this people, care for them and let yourself be cared. Such relations may end up been truly endearing and enduring.

That’s all I can think right now. There are certainly other more personal lessons, but I wish to keep those private. You will certainly have your own.

I hope you have a great Spring 2015 semester. Keep working hard!

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