College of Staten Island Computer Science undergraduate student Maxim Voyevoda recently took top honors at the 2023 CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP) Symposium held at Laguardia Community College. Mentored by Professor Sos Agaian, Voyevoda’s presentation, entitled Image Encryption via Bit-Plane Decomposition and Pixel Scrambling, focuses on privacy encryption of photos, and won the CRSP’s Best Presentation Award.

The CRSP funds year-long research experiences for associate’s-degree students at all seven CUNY community colleges and three comprehensive schools, including the College of Staten Island. The goal of the program is to encourage undergraduate participation in authentic research and to increase persistence in STEM disciplines. Voyevoda, a rising junior and Computer Science major, proposed a project that offers a solution to image encryption that was not only effective at producing an untraceable image but also ensured zero information loss throughout the process.

“I am very proud of this achievement but more than anything am surprised,” Voyevoda said. “I was told that the key to me winning this award was my ability to break down such an advanced computer science concept into basic layman’s terms. I love teaching and tutoring people on difficult topics, so being awarded for my ability to do so effectively was a very fulfilling thing for me.”

Each year the CRSP conducts its symposium to showcase the outstanding research done by those in the STEM disciplines. This year, more than 100 presentations were made over a broad spectrum of topics, with Voyevoda receiving one of the top honors given post-event, and the only award given for Best Presentation. Voyevoda has been working on his program since February alongside Dr. Agaian, and CSI CRSP Coordinator Maria Ivanova. He admits that the project was one of the toughest he has faced, especially given his rigorous class schedule that included a Data Structures course, two Math courses, and a CodePath Web Development course.

“Being presented with a task in the field of computer vision was very daunting to me, as I had zero experience with working with images prior,” he stated. “I had to take a step back, analyze what I knew at the time, and create a roadmap for how I was going to traverse the problem of image encryption. At the time, I was familiar with the Python programming language but did not know how to leverage it to process images. Despite this, I researched the necessary foundational theory behind digital image processing and over time, the concept of bit-plane decomposition became clearer.”

If that was not hard enough, Voyevoda battled a severe cold on the day of the presentation itself, contributing to the surprise of him winning top honors. “I had a severe cold that day and consequently had a miserable time speaking and I had to leave the event an hour early. I was astonished that I won Best Presentation, as I was congested, coughing, and dry-eyed up on the stage.”

Despite the rigor it took, Voyevoda is obviously thrilled to have gotten involved with the CRSP. “I first heard about CRSP within the discord server for CSI’s Hack-A-Project Club. I was very eager to supplement my studies with some additional work related to my major and so when I discovered that CRSP offers paid undergraduate research opportunities, I was very excited to apply. I am very glad that I did.

Although he is still exploring several different fields within the world of software engineering, Voyevoda is quite passionate about Web development and cybersecurity, hence his research project dealing with image encryption. He hopes to continue to pursue that path potentially into a career in cybersecurity.

Congratulations to Maxim and the entirety of the CRSP cohort on a terrific event. For more information on the CUNY CRSP, visit their Webpage.