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CMU Portugal Visiting Scholar Alexandra Mendes wins FLAD Atlantic Security Award


Alexandra Mendes, a 2023 CMU Portugal Visiting Faculty & Researcher scholar from Universidade do Porto (FEUP), has been recognized  with the FLAD Atlantic Security Award, promoted by Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD). The winning project idea emerged after her time at Carnegie Mellon University, visiting Professor Nicolas Christin at the Software and Societal Systems Department (S3D), where she came across a research project that analyzes fluctuations in prices in drug markets by analyzing dark web data. 

“My time at Carnegie Mellon University allowed for research discussions and exchange of ideas that brought me into contact with research using dark web data. This was crucial for the project idea that later resulted in this award.”

Alexandra Mendes’s awarded research focuses on creating a software tool to support decision-making processes within the defense and security sectors. The project involves the development of a prototype that aims to use a Large Language Model (LLM) trained or fine-tuned on data from the dark web and relevant policies for the Atlantic region.

The goal is to facilitate the formulation of defense strategies and policies, as well as security force operations against cybercrime, illicit trade, and other threats in the Atlantic region. The solution involves not only training/refining the model but also refining the prompts (instructions that allow us to ask the model for what we want) that guide interactions with it.

The €15,000 prize will allow the researcher to strengthen collaborations with stakeholders such as FLAD, the Atlantic Center, and the National Defense Institute (IDN), while also fortifying ongoing partnerships, including the one with CMU.

Alexandra Mendes is an Assistant Professor at Department of Informatics EngineeringFaculty of Engineering, Universidade do Porto, a member of the Software Engineering R&D laboratory, and a researcher at HASLab/INESC TEC. 

Photo: FEUP