Pursuit of Excellence

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 13, 2020

Ruth Bearden and Dr. Dan Lo posing in the computer lab.
In her time as a Kennesaw State student, senior Ruth Bearden has sought out new challenges and activities in addition to taking classes toward her degree. One rewarding opportunity she’s found has been conducting research as an undergraduate student.

Bearden, a computer science major and Honors student, has participated for three years in a research project with computer science professor Dan Lo. Bearden’s research focuses on finding methods to detect macro malware, code that hackers hide in Microsoft Office files to infect computers by spreading viruses, worms, and other forms of malware.

“Being involved in this research has been a really good experience for me,” Bearden said. “You learn so much through a project like this, and it was great to have this to push me. In terms of developing skills as a software developer, it has been vital.”

Bearden’s research, part of a grant Lo received from the National Science Foundation, involves writing and applying different algorithms to try to find patterns in different types of data in order to detect macro malware. The goal, according to Lo, is to improve undergraduate information assurance and security curriculum, and Bearden has assisted him in sharing their research through webinars available to the public and workshops for faculty from around the United States.

In addition, Bearden has presented her work at the 2019 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), hosted by Kennesaw State, and at KSU’s C-Day research showcases each spring and fall. Bearden also teamed with Lo to publish their research results, and she then presented a paper at the 2019 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Big Data in Boston.

“It’s very rare that an undergraduate student can publish in a formal publication,” Lo said. “She is dedicated and self-motivated, and one of the best students I’ve seen in undergraduate research. I’m so proud of Ruth.”

Although the research remains a work in progress, Bearden stated that it has been successful as “a proof of concept to show that this can be done.” From her own perspective, Bearden feels that the greatest value of the project has been the growth she has experienced academically as well as personally.

“In research, you try things that you hope will work, and most of the time it doesn’t work as well as you want it to,” Bearden said. “You mess up a lot and you have to figure out how to work around it. That is a wonderful exercise in stubbornness and patience and endurance.”

Along with her coursework and research commitments, Bearden, a music minor, plays the flute in the KSU Wind Ensemble. She also is actively involved in her church and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.

So, Bearden was a logical choice to be Kennesaw State’s representative this year for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Academic Recognition Day. The annual event honors one outstanding scholar from each USG institution who has a 4.0 grade point average, reflects the University System’s best qualities, strives for excellence and can share knowledge in an area of expertise.

“I was kind of shocked because I’ve never sought to be academically recognized. I just pursue what I enjoy,” Bearden said. “I’m very honored and humbled at the same time because I know that a lot of KSU students are just as deserving of the recognition. It was a gift that I accept, and it spurs me to continue my pursuits with excellence.”

Written by Paul Floeckher
Photography by Rob Witzel

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