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CSE News

  • Bellare, Co-authors Honored for Paper on Encryption vs. Mass Surveillance

    On Tuesday, June 30 in Philadelphia, CSE Prof. Mihir Bellare was among the recipients of the 2015 Privacy-Enhancing Technologies Award. The ceremony was part of the annual Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) Symposium. The award honored the three co-authors of a 2014 paper on "Security of Symmetric Encryption Against Mass Surveillance." In their paper, Bellare and his co-authors Phillip Rogaway from UC Davis and Kenneth Paterson at Royal Holloway University of London, described how they were "motivated by revelations concerning population-wide surveillance of encrypted communications" by the National Security Agency, as disclosed in documents released by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. [Picturedt: UCSD's Bellare, at left, and Rogaway from UC Davis accepting the PET Award in Philadelphia.] 

    In their paper, Bellare and his colleagues formalized and investigated the resistance of symmetric encryption schemes to mass surveillance, focusing primarily on one type: so-called algorithm-substitution attacks, or ASAs. This involves "big brother" replacing an existing algorithm for encryption with a subverted encryption algorithm. The computer scientists offered both attacks and defenses to ASAs. Among the latter, they showed "how to design symmetric encryption schemes that avoid [ASA] attacks and meet our notion of security."

  • CSE Professor Launches Online Courses in Interaction Design

    Learners around the world, regardless of background, will have the opportunity online to learn how to design great user experiences and what it takes to design technologies that “bring people joy rather than frustration.” The courses were developed by University of California, San Diego Professor Scott Klemmer, who will begin teaching the sequence of seven online courses on “Interaction Design” on the Coursera platform on June 24.

    CSE Prof. Klemmer (pictured) is also a professor of cognitive science in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences.The sequence of courses is the first offered by UC San Diego on Coursera since the platform began offering specializations in 2014 for closely related courses – allowing students to master a skill and apply it to a capstone project. Although the courses do not count for credit at UC San Diego, students passing all the courses and getting a Verified Certificate for each can complete a capstone project to earn a Specialization Certificate that demonstrates mastery over the broader skillset.

    “Design is a critical component of the development process in every industry, so we took this opportunity to create a sequence of courses open to everyone, with no particular background required,” said Klemmer, who is also associate director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego. “We are also delighted to be partnering with Instagram co-founder and Director of Engineering Mike Krieger.” Instagram’s Krieger helped Klemmer (his former professor) create the requirements for the final capstone project: to design a creative, end-to-end social user experience using professional interaction design and user-experience (UX) tools. Krieger and Klemmer will judge the projects and provide personalized feedback to the creators of the best designs.

    “Here you get to do an open-ended project where you get to show the world and yourself what you can do with all these design materials,” said Klemmer. “This is a great opportunity to put together a portfolio piece or something you can use to impress your family and friends, or get a job in the design field.”

    The full sequence of courses is geared to students who want to be designers or product managers, but it’s open to anyone. Klemmer covers key elements in the design process. “We start out with need-finding, go through rapid prototyping, make something that is higher fidelity, and test it both in-person and online,” explains Klemmer. “Then students can revise and iterate while polishing the design. Students will be able to experience the whole cycle in the specialization.”  Students learn techniques for brainstorming and generating ideas, how to prototype designs rapidly before implementing them, and how to gather meaningful feedback from users. Students also learn principles of effective visual design, perception and cognition, and how to organize a team’s design process to maximize creative output.

    The seven courses will cover: Human-Centered Design: An Introduction; Design Principles: An Introduction; Social Computing; input and Interaction; User Experience Design; Information Design; and Designing, Running and Analyzing Experiments. The courses are self-paced, with an estimated workload of 10-12 hours per week. The lectures are pre-recorded and they don’t have to be taken in order, although initially only the first two courses are available. Course three is due in July, course four in August, and the remaining courses in the fall.

  • Adjunct CSE Professor Divulges Google's Network Strategy

    This week Google partially lifted the curtain of secrecy surrounding the homegrown network architecture it built over the past decade to handle the massive amount of Internet traffic through the search giant's servers. To divulge the details, Google selected an adjunct CSE professor to go public. Amin Vahdat, who started advising Google while he was still teaching at UC San Diego and leading the university's Center for Networked Systems (CNS), is now a full-time Google Fellow and Technical Lead for Networking at the company, and he remains an adjunct member of the CSE faculty. [Vahdat is pictured below during the 2013 CNS Research Review.]

    Vahdat gave a presentation at the 2015 Open Network Summit on June 17, "revealing for the first time the details of five generations of our in-house network technology," according to Google. While Vahdat was careful about not divulging too many proprietary details, he presented a first look into Google's data center network design and implementation, focusing on the data, control and management plane principles underpinning five generations of our network architecture." Vahdat told the conference that around 2005, the hardware didn't exist that Google required to build a network of the size and speed the company needed. So  instead of buying networking from companies such as Cisco Systems, Google designed its own equipment and had it made to order in Asia and elsewhere. Today, he said, Google designs 100 percent of the networking hardware used inside its data centers. As a result, the company has been able to boost the capacity of a single datacenter network more than 100-fold in 10 years. The current generation of cluster switches, called Jupiter, provide about 40 terabits of bandwidth per second, the equivalent of 40 million home Internet connections. That capability, Vahdat said, is critical to meeting Google's bandwidth and scale demands that are growing exponentially -- doubling approximately every year.

    Timed to coincide with his talk, Vahdat posted an article on the Google Cloud Platform blog. "Our datacenter networks are shared infrastructure," he wrote. "This means that the same networks that power all of Google's internal infrastructure and services also power Google Cloud Platform. We are most excited about opening this capability up to developers across the world so that the next great Internet service or platform can leverage world-class network infrastructure without having to invent it."

    The hallmark of Google's network approach involved moving the complexity out of the hardware and into the software -- so-called software-defined networking -- which allowed the company to build complex networks on top of relatively cheap and abundant microchips. "Taken together, our network control stack has more in common with Google's distributed computing architectures than traditional router-centric Internet protocols," added Vahdat. "Some might even say that we've been deploying and enjoying the benefits of software-defined networking at Google for a decade... these systems come from our early work in datacenter networking." While Vahdat was talking about Google's early work specifically, it's clear that his own early work in CSE and the Center for Networked Systems pointed to the importance of software-defined networking for datacenters -- and he put theory into practice when given the opportunity to create what may be the largest computer network in the world... giving CSE some bragging rights by association. 

  • CSE Student Turn Satellite Images into Policy Analysis

    Recently, over 50 students – 17 of them from CSE – showed up for the day-long Big Pixel Hackathon organized by the Qualcomm Institute's Big Pixel Initiative (BPI) to showcase what can happen when you let students loose on the largest private collection of high-resolution satellite imagery on earth. The three interdisciplinary winning teams each had at least one member from the CSE department, and students tackled subjects ranging from urban slums and natural disasters to human traficking and illegal fishing.

    UC San Diego is one of only two universities offered free access to the entire DigitalGlobe Basemap archive for one year. In addition to nine faculty projects approved so far, the BPI staged a May 23 hackathon that was unlike most hackathons. The teams were not asked to come up with a finished app or clean-cut solution, but rather, to ask big policy questions that might be addressed with satellite imagery that is accurate down to a resolution of half a meter (about 16 inches). Depending on the research question resolved by each team, they were given access to download specific image tiles from the earth database, covering areas including Tijuana and San Diego, French Polynesia, Gujarat and Mumbai in India, oil and gas regions in Texas and Alberta, Canada, Brazil, and so on.

    CSE’s graduate and undergraduate students accounted for the largest number in the hackathon. The next largest contingent after CSE's 17 came from Economics, with eight students. The hackathon distributed $1,500 in cash prizes to the 13 members of the three winning teams.

    In the first category, teams competed to come up with the Best Research Question. The diverse group included CSE sophomore Liz Izhikevich. The team looked at whether satellite images can help predict the impact of small-scale fisheries on the environment. The team came up with a neat computer vision-based solution for detecting hotspots of activity by small fishing boats, often in places where fishing is supposed to be restricted.

    The Most Compelling Visualization/Strategy award went to a five-member team including CSE Master's student Dev Agarwal.  The team set out to track unregistered (i.e., possibly illegitimate) global sea traffic. In principle, this would include the identification of ships carrying migrants (they showed one example of a ship in the Mediterranean crowded with passengers – visible even from a satellite in space).

    Finally, the prize for Most Insightful Discovery went to a team including graduating senior Kevin Hung, a double major in CSE and Mathematics (who is also co-founder of the relatively new Data Science Student Society at UC San Diego). Hung and colleagues asked why some areas recover from natural disaster more quickly than others. The team looked at before-and-after satellite images for differences in color and shape, particularly focusing on the rate at which vegetation grows back. Looking at satellite images of hard-hit Tacloban City before and after Typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines in November 2013, they came up with a “compute disaster damage” index applied to the before-and-after images. They also looked at other factors that are likely to have an impact on the speed of recovery, ranging from median incomes (which spell faster recovery) to census data.

    On June 17-18, experts from the Big Pixel Initiative including Jessica Block and Ran Goldblatt will visit Digital Globe headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO, to deliver a preliminary report on the UCSD projects that are using Basemap imagery. By next March, Digital Globe will decide whether to continue, expand or disband the university's free access to the Basemap.

  • $2 Million Gift from Alumnus Supports Computer Science Undergraduate Engineering Education at UC San Diego

    A $2 million gift from a University of California, San Diego alumnus will provide critical support for undergraduate education in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The funds will help recruit, retain and support the professors and lecturers whose primary mission is to teach and mentor students.   

    “This gift goes to the heart of our mission: to transform the lives of our students through an exceptional educational experience provided in the classrooms and laboratories at UC San Diego. It’s extremely gratifying when an alumnus draws on the success achieved after graduation to ensure that the next generation of leaders and innovators will share all that we have to offer,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla.

    “Today, we are celebrating our ability —thanks to this gift— to make a financial commitment to recognize the educators who engage and inspire our students,” said Rajesh Gupta, chair of computer science and engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

    [Watch a video on YouTube about the $2M gift.]

    The gift comes at a time of tremendous growth for the computer science department, now the largest in the University of California system, with close to 2,200 undergraduates enrolled as of fall 2014. The department is currently ranked 7th in the United States and 11th in the word, according to U.S. News and World Report.

    “I want to give the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego the resources it needs to teach students and the ability to serve as many aspiring students as possible,” said Taner Halicioglu (far left, with CSE chair Rajesh Gupta), the computer science alumnus who gave the generous $2 million gift. “These teachers truly inspire students.”

    Half of the gift will go to establish UC San Diego’s first-ever endowed chair for a teaching professor. The other half will go to attract and retain the best lecturers, allowing them to engage more with students, mentor them and develop new courses and programs.

    “We are working hard to engage all of our undergraduate computer science and engineering students in hands-on or experiential education, starting in their very first year,” said Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “I am sincerely grateful for this gift. It will help our computer science educators innovate in their classrooms and teaching labs.”

    Giving Opportunities

    The Jacobs School of Engineering offers a variety of ways to support the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Please consider giving online to the CSE Engineering Tutor Program or the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science. Honor your favorite teacher when you donate to the CSE Teaching Endowment Fund.

    Gift from an alumnus

    It was a lecturer who left the greatest impression on Halicioglu when he was an undergraduate majoring in computer science. He graduated from UC San Diego in 1996 with a bachelor of science and a passion for systems and data science. The lecturer was Keith Muller and he was working at ATT Labs while teaching here on campus. “He always had an anecdote from his work life about why you wanted to know what he was teaching you,” Halicioglu recalled. “I remember a good portion of the students stayed after class and talked to him.”

    Muller, who is now a Fellow and lead architect at Teradata, inspired Halicioglu to come back and teach in the department. Halicioglu currently teaches an undergraduate seminar in computer operations and production engineering, where he imparts some of the wisdom he’s gained over the years working in the tech industry. His resume includes stints at eBay, Facebook and Blizzard Entertainment, the popular video game company that created World of Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo.

    The purpose of the gift

    The Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego is home to 51 faculty, including four teaching professors, whose research focuses on computer science education rather than on a specific discipline of computer science. The gift funds a new $1 million endowed chair, named after retired teaching professor Paul Kube, to add a fifth teaching professor. It will be used as a recruiting tool to hire a teaching superstar, Gupta said. (Read more about the Kube teaching chair here.)

    “This gift allows us to attract phenomenal teachers to our ranks—excellent teachers from anywhere in the world,” Gupta said. “The market for teaching talent is extremely competitive. With the distinction that this new endowed chair affords, we hope we can tip the scales in our favor in attracting that talent.”

    In addition, Halicioglu said he wanted to give renowned and well-liked lecturers the ability to devote part of their time to activities beyond classroom teaching, such as mentoring students, training tutors, and developing new courses and programs. The gift establishes a $1 million endowment fund that will pay for at least two distinguished lecturerships each year. The lecturerships will be named at a later date. The lecturerships will relieve their recipients of teaching one course per quarter. The recipients will then have more time to focus on mentoring students and refining innovative teaching techniques in their classrooms.

  • UC San Diego Students Spend Summer in Japan on PRIME Program

    CSE undergraduate Michelle Wu is one of four UC San Diego students who will be spending the summer in Japan as part of the Pacific Rim Experiences for Undergraduates (PRIME) program. PRIME's internship program promotes undergraduate research experiences on projects related to cyberinfrastructure.

    Wu (at right) and three other students depart for Japan on June 20, where they will work with "host" mentors for 10 weeks while embedded in research organizations in Osaka or Nara. For Wu, who is going into her senior year, the host institution is Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Osaka, and her mentor is Dr. Jason Haga. Haga is a former postdoctoral fellow and project scientist in UC San Diego's Institute for Engineering in Medicine (IEM), but he left UCSD a year ago to be a senior researcher at NICT and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). 

    Using an EEG scanner and 200-inch glasses-free 3D HD display, both developed at NICT, Wu aims to investigate how linking up a person's emotions can be supported by a virtual-reality application running on the 3D HD display. Emotions are invisible entities, so the end-goal is to build an artistic dynamic virtual environment, complete with audio and visual components, representative of the user's emotional state. Accompanied by samples of music by Mozart, the environment will be comprised of particles appearing in gradients of colors and moving at fluctuating speeds dependent on the type of emotion detected. Further exploration will be conducted as to whether or not placing the user in an environment constructed from his or her emotions can have a therapeutic effect (for example, might it induce the user to cheer up when he or she becomes aware of feeling unhappy?). The capabilities of this visual application will depend on which emotions can be distinguished with the EEG scanner.

    Wu will be joined at NICT in Osaka by Richard Hsiao, another PRIME student who is a senior majoring in Bioengineering. He will work on a browser-based disaster management application to run on SAGE2, a middleware that facilitates collaboration in shared display environments. The other two PRIME students will work at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) in Nara: Curtis Sera is a biochemistry/cell biology junior (with a minor in Japanese studies), and senior Nimish Pratha has dual majors in Physiology and Neuroscience. 

    Pictured are (l-r) Richard Hsiao, Nimish Pratha and Curtis Sera.

  • Paul Kube Honored as Computer Science Educator

    Endowed Chair Created in Kube's Name at UC San Diego

    Jennifer Lu took four computer science courses with Lecturer Emeritus Paul Kube at the University of California, San Diego. She clearly remembers her first computer science class on campus. It came after a less-than-positive computer science experience in high school, and Kube was her professor. “The subject actually made sense for the first time. Because of that, I ended up switching my major from economics to computer science. I am grateful to have had Paul Kube as my professor, especially during a time when I was still unsure about my major.”

    Lu isn’t alone.

    “Professor Kube was always one of my favorite professors,” said UC San Diego alumnus Lindsey Fowler, who is now a Software Development Manager at Amazon. “He was able to explain the fundamentals in a way I consistently understood.  In addition, I learned how to work with a partner to really get something big accomplished, which I do every day in my current profession.”

    Kube (at left) is now being recognized and honored for his contributions to the lives of individual students at UC San Diego and for his vision for furthering the frontiers of computer science through education. Thanks to a generous gift from UC San Diego computer science alumnus Taner Halicioglu, the university was able to create a new endowed chair for a teaching professor. It’s the first of its kind at UC San Diego, and named after Kube. Creating the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science is part of a $2 million dollar gift from this UC San Diego alumnus who is passionate about undergraduate computer science education at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Read more about the generous gift here.

    “Paul Kube was often the first face of computer science to our entering students,” said Rajesh Gupta, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego. “Paul encouraged and inspired all students to do well, setting up transition classes when necessary. I cannot think of anyone more deserving to name our first teaching professor endowed chair after.”

    As a newly appointed member of the Jacobs School of Engineering faculty in 1988, Kube conducted research in areas such as artificial intelligence and computer vision. Kube, however, said his deepest interests always lay in teaching.

    “As a teacher, I am tasked with passing down the eternal truths of computer science —the fundamentals that every computer scientist needs to know— to new generations,” said Kube. “I am forever grateful to the CSE department at UC San Diego for their support as I transitioned into a full-time teaching role.”

    Kube remained in that role for 25 years.

    Kube has a “free advice” section on his Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) website. With quotes from engineering proverbs, blog posts and well-known computer scientists, the collection demonstrates Kube’s love and respect for the field’s thought leaders.

    “Computer science teaches the theory and practice of devices that can be programmed to do anything you can imagine,” said Kube (pictured at right with CSE chair Rajesh Gupta). “And these devices are really quite new. We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. Giving students the knowledge and skills they need to push the frontiers —that’s our educational mission.”

    Kube said he was speechless when Gupta, who holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Embedded Microsystems, told him that an endowed chair would be named in his honor.

     “I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me happier,” said Kube. “I am grateful for Rajesh’s support over the years, but most of all for his vision and efforts to further computer science and engineering education.”

    The Jacobs School of Engineering offers a variety of ways to support the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Please consider giving online to grow the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science or to strengthen the CSE Engineering Tutor Program

    Honor your favorite teacher when you donate to the CSE Teaching Endowment Fund.

  • UC San Diego Launches edX Channel; Computer Graphics Course Announced

    Campus Also Appoints Head of New Online Learning Office

    The recently-launched CSE-based Center for Visual Computing, or VisComp, at UC San Diego, confirmed that its first course on the edX learning platform will be taught by the center’s director, computer science professor Ravi Ramamoorthi. The news was part of a formal announcement by UC San Diego that it is partnering with edX, the leading nonprofit, open-source online learning destination that offers online courses to students around the world.

    Under the name UC San DiegoX, the campus will host its first free, non-credited course beginning Aug. 17 on edX. The course, Computer Graphics CSE167x, will be taught by Ramamoorthi (at right), a “returning edX professor and early adopter of the edX platform” while at UC Berkeley, before he joined the Jacobs School of Engineering faculty at UC San Diego last year. As with a similar course originally offered by Berkeley, CSE167x will cover the foundations of computer graphics.

    The Computer Graphics course will run for six weeks, consisting of four segments: an overview and basic math needed to get started in graphics; transformations; OpenGL and lighting; and raytracing. The course material involves C++, OpenGL and GLSL programming that is portable, so all students need some type of C++ development environment. “This is a course on the foundations of computer graphics and covers concepts, not the intricacies of a particular software package,” said Ramamoorthi.

    Each of the four segments comes with two or three lectures, and each video lecture is between 10 and 20 minutes long. Each lecture will include an individual programming assignment. By the end of the course, students should be able to write complex, interactive and offline 3D graphics programs to create images of 3D scenes with lighting in both real time and with offline raytracing.

    The edX course is not for credit, but students who pass the course (by achieving a score of 50% or higher) may obtain a free honor-code certificate from UC San DiegoX. Scores are determined entirely by the programming assignments, and students receive immediate autograder feedback.

    Computer Graphics 167x will be the first UC San Diego course on edX under a formal partnership established between the campus and the online platform. UC San Diego faculty, including CSE faculty, have developed courses and sequences for other platforms, notably Coursera.

    In another sign that online learning and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are reaching new audiences, UC San Diego yesterday announced the creation of an Office of Online and Technology Enhanced Education. Part of the Teaching and Learning Commons, the newly-launched initiative is closely aligned with the Commons goals of supporting both instructors and students.

    UC San Diego also appointed an inaugural director for the new office: cognitive science professor Jeff Elman, a former dean of the Division of Social Sciences. “EdX is a great partner,” said Elman (at left). “They are very much interested in working with us to develop and innovate the platform.” In his new job, Elman will provide oversight of the university’s online education activities and serve as the institutional liaison with technology platform partners such as edX.

    Elman believes that online technology odpens up the possibility of students practicing skills and getting instant feedback, and having personalized experiences that dynamically changes as students learn. This adaptive learning, tailored to the needs of the specific students, is almost impossible to do in a large classroom environment, so to make it happen, “we are looking to the future and one of our goals is to find partners who will be open to innovations that we think are important," noted Elman. "There will doubtless be new models that will emerge in coming years."

  • Inauguration of CSE Awards and End-of-Year BBQ

    On Friday June 5, the CSE department awarded its inaugural Graduate and Undergraduate Awards. The award ceremony took place in the Calit2 Auditorium of Atkinson Hall. The awards came in four categories: Research, Teaching, Service and Contributions to Diversity.

    Nominations were sought earlier in the year, and Gradcom, MSCom and UGCom had the difficult task of deciding the final winners among the many great nominations. A graduate award winner for Research is Pingfan Meng (pictured far right receiving his award from CSE Prof. Sorin Lerner). Other graduate student winners are: Niki Vazou (who also won in the Research category), Gautam Akiwate (Teaching), Neha Chachra (Service) and Olivia Simpson (Contributions to Diversity).

    The undergraduate award winners are: Antonella Wilby (Research), Jacob Maskiewicz (Teaching), Brandon Russell (Russell), and Eliah Overbey (Contributions to Diversity). Jennifer Lu was also honored as the recipient of the Jacobs School's Ring Ceremony Award for Excellence. Finally, undergraduates Anthony Lopez and Max Shen received Research Honorable Mentions, and Sneha Yelimeli and Josh Marxen received Teaching Honorable Mentions.

    Pictured below (l-r): CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta; Teaching Professor Christine Alvarado; undergraduates Eliah Overbey, Jennifer Lu, Brandon Russell, Jacob Maskiewicz; Prof. Sorin Lerner; grad students Neha Chachra, Pingfan Meng, Niki Vazou, Gautam Akiwate; winners not present: grad student Olivia Simpson for Contributions to Diversity, and undergraduate Antonella Wilby for Research. 

    Congratulations to all the winners, and to all CSE students for continuing to be such a talented group. The ceremony was followed by a celebratory BBQ in the CSE Courtyard, where everybody had a good time.

  • CSE Team Triumphs (Sort of) in Triton 5K

    On Saturday, June 6, the Triton 5K race got underway under mostly blue skies, and the CSE team took home a decisive victory in one category. They weren't the fastest on the course, but CSE's Team Race Condition received the award for entering the biggest team in the contest. With 141 people registered to run or walk the 5K course, CSE's entry was the largest this year, striding past their closest rival, Team ViaSat. Having more registrations also meant raising more cash for student programs.

     

    Pictured above (l-r): Lecturer Taner Halicioglu with CSE chair Rajesh Gupta (whose injury forced him to walk rather than run this year); fiscal and HR admin Carla Velasquez; assistant professor Julian McAuley; facilities manager Dave Wargo, student advisor Viera Kair and professor Dean Tullsen; and CSE grad student Natalie Larson finishes the San Diego 100-miler wearing the Team Race Condition T-shirt. (Photos courtesy Cheryl Hile)

    Pictured below: CSE's Team Race Condition won the award for largest team.



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