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  • Computer Science and Cultural Heritage

    It's been a busy month for some of the CSE Ph.D. students who are part of the NSF IGERT project in cultural heritage based in the Qualcomm Institute's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3).

    In late September, CSE Ph.D. student David Vanoni (at right) was in the 2,000-year-old city of Lecce on the southeastern heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. He presented his research at the first International Conference on Augmented and Virtual Reality (Salento AVR 2014). Vanoni, whose doctoral research has focused primarily on augmented reality, recounted his experience with the "Intuitive Visualization of Reflectance Transformation Imaging for Interactive Analysis of Cultural Artifacts." As with most CISA3-related research, Vanoni collaborated with colleagues from other departments for the underlying research presented in Lecce, i.e., with structural engineering Ph.D. student Li Ge, and with their other co-author, structural engineering professor Falko Kuester, who is a faculty-affiliate in CSE and director of CISA3.

    Vanoni and fellow CSE Ph.D. candidate Vid Petrovic (at left) later accompanied Kuester to the second annual CyArk 500 Summit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. October 7-8. The event focused on democratizing cultural heritage by enabling access to information, technology and support. Government ​ministers, ​corporate ​executives, ​diplomats, ​scholars, ​and ​heritage ​professionals ​attended the event to learn about ​new ​technologies ​that are ​benefiting ​and ​augmenting ​heritage ​preservation. ​ ​Specifically, the summit aimed to update progress in meeting the ​CyArk ​500 ​Challenge, whose goal is ​to ​digitally ​preserve ​500 ​heritage ​sites ​in ​five ​years in order to “save these cultural heritage sites digitally before more are ravaged by war, terrorism, arson, urban sprawl, climate change, earthquakes, floods, and other threats.” Kuester gave an invited talk on digital archives for cultural heritage diagnostics and preservation, while Petrovic and Vanoni had the opportunity to deliver related research involving their respective computer-science contributions to cultural heritage. Petrovic focused on "Visual Analytics Techniques for Big Data," while Vanoni explored "Augmented Reality Techniques for Multi-Spectral Data Analysis." CyArk was founded in 2003 to create a free, 3D online library of the world’s cultural heritage sites using laser scanning and other technologies of the sort used by CISA3 for projects in art, archaeology and historic structures. 

  • UCSD Computer Science Ranked #11 in World; UCSD Overall in Top 20

    UC San Diego is one of only five public universities in the U.S. to make the top 20 list in a new ranking of the world’s top 500 colleges. The campus took the #18 spot in U.S. News and World Report’s first-ever global ranking of universities, which measures factors such as research, global and regional reputation, international collaboration as well as the number of highly-cited papers and doctorates awarded. The five U.S. public universities cracking the global top 20 were UC Berkeley at #3, UCLA #8, followed by the University of Michigan, University of Washington and UC San Diego.

    Computer Science

    Adding to the excitement as the top-20 ranking for UC San Diego blew up on social media, U.S. News also published their "computer science indicator rankings" for the same universities. Overall, the computer science program at UCSD ranked #11 worldwide. CSE ranked #8 for total citations, which was slightly worse that two measures of highly-cited papers, resulting in a normalized citation impact putting us at #11. UCSD's research reputation didn't do so well: our global reputation put us at #25, while our regional reputation (i.e., in North America) sank to #39. Another drag on our ranking, however, was that CSE did very poorly on our level of international collaboration. Computer science at UCSD ranked #136 in that area, which accounts for 10% of our overall ranking. (This was also a factor in the high ranking of four institutions that beat UCSD into the top 10 in computer science: China's Tsinghua University; Singapore's Nanyang Technological University; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.)

    Nevertheless, research publications and citations, taken together, represented more than 50% of the weight on which computer science at UCSD was graded, hence the #11 overall ranking in computer science. In addition to beefing up our profile in reputation surveys and doing more international collaborations, UCSD computer science could also gain ground by increasing the number of Ph.D.'s the university awards, a metric on which CSE lags behind many of the older academic institutions in the survey.

    Going back to the overall UCSD rankings, the criteria are different from those used for the magazine's Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools rankings of U.S. programs. However, UCSD's #18 ranking is consistent with other global rankings which have also listed UCSD among the top 20 for the world’s best universities. The campus was recently ranked the 14th best university in the world for the second consecutive year, by the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). UC San Diego was also named the 20th best by the Center for the World University Rankings (CWUR).

  • Larry Smarr to Speak at Trillion Sensors Summit

    Faculty from the Jacobs School of Engineering, including CSE, will be speaking at the upcoming Trillion Sensors (TSensors) Summit in San Diego (which itself is sponsored by the Jacobs School). The industry-academic event will cover topics ranging from  ubiquitous sensing for health and wellness care to sweat-powered sensors. Organizers say the summit is for decision makers from industries planning to participate in, and benefit from, trends such as the Internet of Everything, mHealth, etc. CSE will be represented at the podium and on a panel by Prof. Larry Smarr, Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). He will speak on Nov. 12 at 12:30pm in a session on "TSensors for Healthcare Abundance." Smarr will talk about what he calls "the assay lab within your body," focusing on biometrics and biomes. The following day, he'll take part in a panel discussion  on "Closing the Loop in Wellness Care via Trillion Sensors." Others on the panel will include Jacobs School Dean Albert P. Pisano, ECE Prof. Patrick Mercier (who is also associate director of the new UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors), and NanoEngineering Prof. Joseph Wang.

  • Magazine Reports on CSE Graduate Student Fellowship Recipient

    As we reported recently, CSE Ph.D. student Dustin Richmond (at left, with CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner behind him) is one of 31 UC San Diego students to receive a graduate fellowship from the San Diego chapter of the ARCS Foundation for 2014-15 academic year. Now San Diego Metropolitan magazine picked up the story, noting that ARCS fellowships support the growth of scholarship in science, engineering and medical research. The national nonprofit is led entirely by women.

    According to the magazine, the third-year CSE Ph.D. student builds complex computer hardware systems with the power to process large data sets such as the data involved in DNA sequencing. The Metropolitan also notes that Richmond helped the company Cognex design an ultra-high-speed image processing pipeline for active 3D scanner, which can decompress and process 20,000 images per second. It's one of several technologies used in connection with the Engineers for Exploration program and its recent expedition to Guatemala to survey Mayan ruins using laser scanners."I like the applications side of my work because I get to help people and learn new fields," Richmond told the magazine. "I help them access the computational power that enables fellow researchers to work with really large data sets."

  • Looking Back at CSE's Crowdsourcing Experiment in the DARPA Shredder Challenge

    A former postdoctoral researcher in CSE, Manuel Cebrian (pictured) is now a senior scientist at the University of Melbourne, where his work lies at the intersection of computer and social sciences. He is also featured prominently in a feature article on the New York-based quarterly journal Nautilus about the experience of a team Cebrian led at UC San Diego to compete in the DARPA Shredder Challenge in 2011.

    The UCSD-led effort was based on a crowdsourcing model, which opened up the competition to anyone in the world, and contributors would have received a cut of the $50,000 prize if the team came in first place.The Nautilus article coincides with the recent publication of an official post-mortem on what happened to Cebrian's team, "Error and attack tolerance of collective problem solving: The DARPA Shredder Challenge." The article in the journal EPJ Data Science, published online on September 30, was by Cebrian and colleagues Nicolas Stefanovitch, Aamena Alshamsi and Iyad Rahwan.

    The article in Nautilus is by Rahwan, now an associate professor at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates, who collaborated with Cebrian on the Shredder Challenge. The challenge involved piecing together 10,000 pieces of a shredded document, and the team was ranked #3 about three-quarters of the way through the competition. Then disaster struck. As the article points out, the UCSD-led effort was undermined by a dedicated hacker from an opposing team. Instead of working to speed the attacker's team, the hacker opted to mount a series of attacks on the UCSD team, and while Cebrian and his colleagues were able ultimately to stop each attack, but not quickly enough. As Rahwan recalls in Nautilus, "the crowd was hopeless against a determined attacker... destroying all [our] progress required just 416 moves by one attacker in about an hour. In other words, creation took 100 times as many moves and about 40 times longer than destruction." As a result, the UCSD-led team only came in sixth (as opposed to the first-place win by Cebrian's team in earlier DARPA challenges).

  • Engineering and Entrepreneurship: Learning in Class, in a Challenge and from the Original 'Scorpion'

    The Entrepreneur's Academy offered by the Moxie Center and open to students from across campus got underway this Fall with 32 students (pictured at left), including from the Rady School, Jacobs School of Engineering, Economics, and the School of Medicine. Those students formed 11 teams around the most popular startup ideas pitched by the students. Now they are spending eight weeks interviewing prospective customers and learning about key steps to a successful startup. 

    Some of those students are likely to show up for the 9th annual UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge kickoff event of the fall, when genius Walter O'Brien will deliver a lecture in the group's Distinguished Speaker Series. The real-life Scorpion, on whose life the new TV series of that name is based, will talk on November 19 in the Rady School's Beyster Auditorium. The event, which includes the showing of a short film on "Risking Aspirations" produced a group of UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge alumni, kicks off at 5:45pm with free food and networking.

  • Reflections on CSE 197 Summer Internships

    Undergraduates who spent the summer doing on-site internships for academic credit  in CSE 197 will share their experiences with other students and faculty on Friday, October 24 starting at 3:30pm through 6pm. All of the activities will take place in Room 1202 and the Lobby of the CSE Building.

    Ten students were deployed to sites in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego, where they worked on a variety of research projects at host companies. The summer interns will showcase research on topics ranging from fulfillment technologies at Amazon (by undergrad Troy Campbell) to ads and data software at Yahoo! (Kevin Xiankun Zhang). At Amazon, Campbell (pictured at right) optimized the functionality and revamped the user interface of tools to manage the workforce at fulfillment centers -- upgrades that went into production and are now live in every Amazon fulfillment center worldwide.

    Other internships were hosted at Salesforce, GoPro (founded by UC San Diego alumnus Nick Woodman, Muir '97), Intuit, Sony Network Entertainment, Bluebeam, and Pacific Gas & Electric. At the latter company, students Olivia Castaneda and Maria Joseph worked on information technology and middleware operations, respectively. At GoPro, Linda Shih worked on the Automated Test Harness for the Hero4 camera.

    All 10 upper-division undergraduates will present their work, including Sharon Chung talking about an automation framework at Sony, Joe Xunzhe Xu on software quality analytics at Salesforce, and Panayiotes Kakleas on a studio dashboard for Bluebeam Software. Two students stayed in San Diego to do their internships: Jungyoon Chung did web development at Profits4Purpose, which helps companies (and universities, including UCSD) engage volunteers, empower giving and manage grant and gift programs; and James Lee delved into Turbo Tax Online at Intuit.

    Lecturer Susan Marx (at left) was the faculty advisor for all 10 summer interns (whereas 15 faculty are advising individual CSE 197 interns one-on-one during the Fall quarter). "The interns will provide tips based on their successful experience of interviewing, working hands-on with technology, professional behavior, and different software languages and tools," says Marx. "Several interns have accepted full-time job offers after exceeding the companies' expectations for their internship projects." CSE 197 is offered every quarter. Prerequisites for enrolling in the course include getting the consent of the instructor and the department, and students must file an application for Special Studies with the Registrar's office. For students who are considering future internships, the presentations on Friday will help them learn how to land an internship, how to excel at interviewing, what to do on your first day at work, and more.

  • Study Ranks UC San Diego #5 Among Theoretical Computer Science Programs Nationwide

    CSE #1 in Published Papers at Top Cryptography Conferences

    According to an authoritative study by professors from MIT and the University of Maryland, the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at UC San Diego has the #5-ranked program in theoretical computer science in the country. The new ranking of computer-science departments is based on the number of papers accepted to major algorithms and theory conferences and weighted according to whether the conference is considered a Rank 1 venue or Rank 2 (with Rank 3 and unranked conferences not taken into consideration).

    Buried in the data was more good news: CSE faculty at UC San Diego had more papers accepted to the top conferences in cryptography than any other U.S. university. They had 43 papers in Advances in Cryptography (CRYPTO), and 36 papers in the European Conference on Cryptography (Eurocrypt). The data were updated as of July 2014.

    “This ranking is based purely on conference publications, which more closely reflects both the field's own internal valuation and the evaluation of the university system,” notes CSE Prof. Mihir Bellare (at left). “But one should take any ranking with a pinch of salt, since publication quantity may be loosely related to quality and decisions taken by conference program committees are not perfect.”

    For all conferences in theoretical computer science (including cryptography), UC San Diego came in #5 after MIT, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. While the latter four institutions were in the top-5 in U.S. News’ ranking for theory programs in computer science, UC San Diego ranked #14.

    “It is heartening to see a young department outperform much older established departments and schools in computer science. The results reaffirm our strategy of hiring excellent core faculty and creating a collaborative environment,” says CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. “Pursuing this strategy over the past decade, we have built a strong research program in cryptography, computer security, programming languages, bioinformatics and computer architecture. Our ongoing efforts will push frontiers in data sciences and intersections of computing to societal infrastructure and human health.”

    In detailing their methodology, MIT professor Erik Demaine and University of Maryland professor Mohammad T. Hajiaghayi noted that the best measure of productivity in the computer-science community and a large fraction (if not all) of jobs, awards, grants, products, etc., in computer science are based on how prolific the researcher is at top conferences.

    "Due to our belief on lack of transparency and well-defined measures in methods used by U.S. News to rank CS departments in theoretical computer science (and in general)," wrote Demaine and Hajiaghayi, who undertook the study as part of their Big Dynamic Network Data (BigDnD) project. They attempted to provide "a ranking based on a real and measurable method for top 50 U.S. universities."

    To decide which algorithms and theory conferences should be considered Rank 1 or Rank 2, the authors used a standard list produced by Georgia Tech, and then deleted all Rank 3 and unranked conferences. The university was given a full point for each publication in one of the eleven Rank 1 conferences, and half a point for each Rank 2 conference publication.

  • Students, Faculty Celebrate Women in Computing

    UCSD CSE Was Silver Sponsor of 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration

    Nearly 40 students from the University of California, San Diego – most of them affiliated with the university’s chapter of Women in Computing – plus multiple CSE alums attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing Oct. 8-10 in Phoenix, AZ. For two of the undergraduates majoring in computer science, it was also an opportunity to showcase research projects in the area of sketch recognition. [Photo at right by Anu Mupparthi, BS '08, MS '11]

    In a poster session, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) student Ren Lee – who is head tutor in CSE 131 Compiler Construction this fall, and did her summer internship at Qualcomm – reported on looking for patterns in the errors produced by sketched symbol recognition techniques. Her goal: to find the patterns and improve the recognition algorithms. Lee (below left) was a semi-finalist in the ACM Student Research Competition funded by Microsoft. At the same time, junior Eliah Overbey (below right) presented a poster on “Digital Circuit Recognition with Shape Context,” in which she examined how to use a technique from computer vision to recognize hand-drawn shapes. Overbey just finished her second consecutive summer internship as a software engineering intern, this year at Google, the previous at Qualcomm.

    The research projects of both Lee and Overbey were supervised by CSE Prof. Christine Alvarado, who was a program co-chair of the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) this year. It was also the ninth year in a row for Alvarado to attend the conference.

    "Having such a large group of students attend GHC, in addition to having UCSD CSE be a Silver Sponsor for the conference, sends a strong message about our commitment to and our support for our women students," said Alvarado. "At the conference, our women students, who make up only about 18% of the CSE major, get the opportunity to feel what it is like to be surrounded by technical women, and they get to meet women near-peers who are thriving in the tech industry."

    A big draw for CSE and other students attending the conference was the Career Fair, which Alvarado describes as "enormous and very active." “There’s a very real chance that they will get a job at GHC,” she added.

  • CSE Students Participate in Women's Hackathon

    Nine computer science students from UC San Diego were among the 67 young women who registered to participate over the weekend in the International Women's Hackathon, which took place over 12 hours on Saturday, Oct. 11,  at Cal State San Marcos. The event was sponsored by Microsoft Research as a way to provide a fun learning environment for girls to get more exposure to computer programming, IT pros, mentors, companies and community members. Twenty-five college students and 42 high school students, all ages 16 or older, participated. Teams of four to six girls were required to build a website, game, cloud-based service, application or mobile app to address one of two challenges: visualizing the impacts of climate change; or helping organizations and communities to prepare for effective response after a natural disaster.

    The hackathon followed several days of publicity surrounding the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which took place in Phoenix. While the mostly-female participants there were impressed with the turnout of women and girls interested in computer science, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella caused a furor when he urged the mostly-female audience in Phoenix not to ask for raises, but to recognize instead that the system and karma would eventually reward them. After his remarks triggered negative headlines worldwide, Nadella retracted his statement and said both women and men should ask for raises if they are merited.  According to an article in Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune, the furor over Nadella's remarks was echoed in the hackathon. The newspaper quoted UC San Diego computer science undergraduate Sandra Lamantas (pictured in center) as responding, "Whose karma? Really, who's going to help us if we don't ask?"

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