Nothing Artificial in This Intelligence
Beginning fall 2011, John Vincent “Vinnie” Monaco ’12, will continue his studies towards both a BS in Computer Science and a BS in Mathematics, with the support of a full scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense’s prestigious Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP). Monaco is one of only 18 students nationwide to receive the coveted award this year.
Monaco’s success is no surprise to the professors who have mentored him. “[Vinnie Monaco] is, by far, the best student I have ever had,” says Professor of Computer Science Allen Stix, PhD, who taught Monaco in his first semester at Pace and tutored him over the summer so that Monaco (who had started school a semester later than other students in his class) could graduate with his peers. During that time, Monaco tackled numerous algorithms and work often assigned to upper level students.
With encouragement from Stix, Monaco took a course in artificial intelligence with Professor of Computer Science D. Paul Benjamin, PhD, in New York City his second semester. That experience led to research in Seidenberg’s Robotics Lab and ultimately the publication of two papers in conference journals, crediting Monaco as co-author.
“Vinnie’s research has clearly been at the level of an outstanding graduate student, which makes him a truly extraordinary undergraduate student,” says Benjamin. “He demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of both theoretical and practical topics, and his enthusiasm and curiosity are boundless.”
Monaco also worked with Lubin Professor of Marketing Kathryn Winsted, PhD, on updating a simulation game for teaching business strategy. Subsequently, Winsted received a Verizon Thinkfinity Grant to convert the game to a web-based format, and with Monaco’s support, the program has now been integrated into the University’s undergraduate business curriculum.
Since his first extraordinary year at Pace, Monaco has gone on to pursue additional research in genetic algorithms, cryptography and cryptanalysis, and biometrics. In 2010, he presented a paper on his cryptography research at the Eastern Colleges Science Conference. He also led a team of graduate students, under the tutelage of Professor of Computer Science Charles Tappert, PhD, in designing and implementing a keystroke biometric system for identifying and authenticating a user. “Vinnie is one of those rare individuals who can code almost anything and in almost any computer language,” says Tappert who is a 25-year veteran of IBM Research.
But it’s not all bits and bytes for Monaco. He also holds a President’s Scholarship; belongs to the mathematics honor society Kappa Mu Epsilon and the Pforzheimer Honors College; has travelled to Brazil to learn about sustainability and to provide technical assistance to schools and community groups; and has served as captain of the Seidenberg team that recently competed in the 2011 Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. In his spare time, Monaco likes tinkering with cars and engines. “My father always used to be working on something in the garage as I grew up, so I guess it’s in my blood,” says Monaco.
IASP awards are given to highly qualified students interested in information assurance. In addition to covering tuition, fees, and books, the scholarship provides a generous stipend, internships during school breaks, and full-time employment with the Department of Defense upon graduation. With receipt of the scholarship, Monaco plans to complete his undergraduate studies and continue on for an MS in Computer Science at Pace and possibly a doctorate while launching a career in applied research. “I enjoy bridging the gap between theory and research,” say Monaco, who believes that artificial intelligence will become increasingly important in the design of advanced security systems.