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  • Breakout on Center for Visual Computing at Research Expo 2015

    At the 2015 Jacobs School of Engineering ResearchExpo, the breakout session will showcase the latest and soon-to-be-announced Research Centers. While there are CSE faculty involved in other centers, only one such center -- the Center for Visual Computing (CVC) -- will be represented by a senior faculty member, Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi, from the Computer Science and Engineering department. Ramamoorthi will speak about "Visual Computing: Grand Opportunities" at 3:30pm  - 4:00pm on April 16 in the Price Center Forum on the 4th floor. Other faculty talks will focus on wearable sensors, extreme events engineering, as well as sustainable power and energy.
    In his talk, CSE's Ramamoorthi says "visual computing at the interface of computer vision and computer graphics is undergoing a major transformation that impacts our daily lives." He  points to key challenges that remain, notably how to create visual effects in real time and "integrating them with mobile augmented reality systems to extends human perception with mobile augmented realiity. Another major trend is the coming of age for computer vision, where tasks like scene comprehension and gesture recognitionwewew are now becoming commonplace on mobile devices."  Prof. Ramamoorthi will talk about the forthcoming Center for Visual Computing, which will be charged with developing the fundamental technologies needed to take full advantage of new opportunities to display and experience visual content.
  • Counter-Intuitive Technique to Put the Brakes on Liar Buyer Fraud

    Mayank Dhiman is now a Powell Fellow in CSE's Security and Cryptography group. But back in 2013, he spent the summer as an undergraduate summer researcher at PayPal, working under Markus Jakobsson, the company's principal data scientist. Flash forward 18 months, and the two researchers (plus a third former undergrad intern, Hossein Siadati) had their worrk on Liar Buyer Fraud published and accepted for presentation at the Workshop on Usable Security (USEC 2015), which took place in early February.

    In the paper, Dhiman and his colleagues describe a common yet poorly known type of fraud -- so-called Liar Buyer fraud -- and they go on to explain why traditional anti-fraud  technology has failed to  curb this type of fraud, which typically involves a purchase gone bad. Typically the consumer places an order and receives the merchandise, then reports it as not delivered, and asks for a refund. The researchers introduced a counter-intuitive technique in which the claims processor unveils knowledge of detailed iniformation about the purchase, and new experiments showed the new technique based on user-interface modification to address liar buyers has the potentialto dramatically reduce losses from fraud. Using a combination of role playing and questionnaires, they determined the opinions and behaviors of about 1,700 subjects, and found that their proposed technique results in a statistically-significant reduction in fraud rates in an experimental setting. The results are so promising for both men and women that the researchers hope to expand the study to real e-commerce traffic, when the researchers could also test whether men are more willing to lie and defraud than are women. While research has previously confirmed that discrepancy, Dhiman and his colleagues say that results using their new counter-intuitive technique so far show men being about as honest as women.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
    Read the paper on Liar Buyer Fraud, and How to Curb It 

  • CSE Chair Comments on First U.S. Chief Data Scientist

    When the San Diego Union-Tribune looked for an assessment of incoming White House chief data scientist DJ Patil, the newspaper turned to CSE chair and professor Rajesh Gupta for a comment: "DJ perfectly reflects UCSD's core: young and [on the] leading edge of science." In the article about President Obama elevating Patil to be the first-ever U.S. Chief Data Scientist, the reporter noted that the CSE department, "which has more than 2,500 students, has been straining to meet enrollment demand, partly because of soaring interest in data science."

    Patil received his undergraduate degree from UCSD in 1996, but from mathematics, not computer science. At the time, the computer science program was much smaller than it is today. Patil later earned his Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Maryland, where he also began his teaching career. At various points Patil has served in industry, including stints at eBay as a distinguished research scientist, and as chief scientist for social-media giant, LinkedIn. Most recently, Patil was a data scientist in residence at one of the oldest venture-capital firms in Silicon Valley, Greylock Partners.

    In his first memo as U.S. Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil noted that "'big data' has become a regular part of our daily lives. In 2013 researchers estimated that there were about four zettabytes of data worldwide: That's approximately the total volume of information that would be created if every person in the United States took a digital photo every second of every day for over four months!" But Patil was upbeat in hs first official memo, titling it: "Unleashing the Power of Data to Serve the American People."  The good news for Patil is that he doesn't have to move. He is already deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Patil has assumed the Chief Data Scientist as well. His most immediate priority is in President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative (tapping medical and genomic data to transition from one-size-fits-all to truly personalized medicine).

  • Recent Faculty Recruit on Importance of Microbiome

    The TED Talks website has posted a much-awaited presentation by UC San Diego professor of pediatrics as well as computer science, Rob Knight. Actually, it was recorded at TED 2014 nearly a year ago, when Knight  was still a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder. Knight made the switch to UC San Diego early this year, and the TED organization finally lifted the free-viewing curtain on the video of his March appearance at TED 2014 in Vancouver.

    Then, in just over 24 hours, approximately 125,000 visitors viewed Knight's talk on "How our microbes make us who we are." What's more, TED Books began to sell the hardcover as well as Kindle and audio CD editions, all through Amazon. The book based on Knight's presentation, now dubbed "Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes" (see photo below), will be released on April 7.

    In his original TED presentation, now available for free on the TED website and via TED apps or iTunes, Knight is described as a "microbial ecologist", which, while true, is an understatement of his impressive credentials. After earning his Ph.D. from Princeton, he became an expert in the human microbiome, mgicrobial community ecology and what he now calls "multi-omics". In joining UC San Diego's Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program in the focus areas of bioinformatics and glycobiology, Knight simultaneously agreed to spend part of his time working closely with the team of bioinformatics faculty in the Computer Science and Engineering department.

    "A major challenge in microbiome research is in computation," said Knight.  "The ability to generate the data has greatly outstripped a lot of people's ability to analyze the data." Knight's decision to join the UC San Diego faculty is owed, at least in part, to the university having "a unique combination of high-performance computing, immunology... " as well as other companies, institutions and hospitals.

    "Ninety percent of the cells in your body are not human," said Calit2 Director Larry Smarr, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune when the hire of Rob Knight was announced. "They are bacteria located in places like your large intestine. Medicine has been ignoring those microbes. But that's changing, and UCSD will be a leader in this transformation. Indeed, Smarr hopes to move his own research into Knight's larger lab once it is fully established.

    Watch the webcast of Rob Knight's TED 2014 talk or read the Interactive Transcript.

  • CSE's Lovett Is Only UC Computer Scientist Honored with 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship

    This year five faculty from UC San Diego, and 18 from the system-wide University of California are being honored by the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation with Sloan Research Fellowships for 2015. And only 16 computer scientists from the U.S. and Canada made the cut.
    Indeed, only one professor of computer science among the 18 UC honorees was named, when the foundation singled out UC San Diego's Shachar Lovett. The expert in computational complexity studies the foundations of computer science, and how computational problems can be efficiently solved. "As the scientific, engineering and life sciences communities continue to be transformed by new, ever larger data sets, the motivation for designing very efficient algorithms to manipulate, store and transfer data is becoming ever more clear," said Lovett in his research statement to the Foundation. "Specifically I study how the interplay between structure and randomness plays a central role in algorithm design and analysis."
    The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. The two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field, in Lovett's case, computer science. Other UC San Diego researchers named Sloan Fellows included Padmini Rangamini (Computational and Evolutionary Molecular Biology), Paul Niehaus (Economics), Andrea Tao (Chemistry) and Bradley Voytek (Neuroscience). 
    "Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada," noted the Foundation in a full-page New York Times advertisement, adding that since 1955, "Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win 43 Nobel Prizes, 16 Fields Medal, 65 National Medals of Science" and numerous other honors.
    In addition to Lovett. the CSE department claimed another of its own in the form of University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Thomas Ristenpart, a relatively recent alumnus from UC San Diego (Ph.D,, 2010). Ristenpart also is a frequent co-author on cyber security or cryptography papers with current CSE faculty including Hovav Shacham, Mihir Bellare and Stefan Savage.
  • CSE Professor Partners with Instagram Co-Founder on Coursera

    Coursera is pushing further into specialized sequences of courses that may be more attractive to people looking to boost their career prospects. The largest network offering massive open online courses, or MOOCs, Coursera is also partnering with companies to help shape the curriculum.

    Case in point: CSE and Cognitive Science professor Scott Klemmer will launch a sequence of online courses in Interaction Design, beginning June 16 with Klemmer's own introductory course on Human-Computer Interaction Design. In it, students will learn how to design great user experiences and to apply their skills in a capstone project. Klemmer has recruited a partner in industry: Michel (Mike) Krieger, a co-founder of Instagram. Following the sequence of six courses (some as short as three weeks, or as long as nine), students must do a capstone project in which they design a creative, end-to-end user experience using professional interaction design and "UX" (user experience) tools. Krieger has agreed to provide feedback to students about their projects, and some of the best students will earn the chance to get personalized feedback from Krieger as well as from Prof. Klemmer. The capstone project is only available to students who pay to take the full sequence of Interaction Design courses, while all six courses prior to the capstone can be taken at no cost, as long as the student does not require a verified certificate (which are reserved for paying customers). For his part, Krieger said that similar coursework he took in college had a lasting impact on his career and on the design of Instagram. "As our devices become increasingly powerful," he said, "it's essential that we create a generation of designers and builders who can help people around the world harness that power."

  • Lab-in-a-Box Takes Aim at Doctors’ Computer Activity

    They call it “the Lab-in-a-Box.” According to Nadir Weibel, a research scientist in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at the University of California, San Diego, inside the box are assorted sensors and software designed to monitor a doctor’s office, particularly during consultations with patients. The goal is to analyze the physician’s behavior and better understand the dynamics of the interactions of the doctor with the electronic medical records and the patients in front of them. The eventual goal is to provide useful input on how to run the medical practice more efficiently.

    Very often physicians pay attention to information on a computer screen, rather than looking directly at the patient. “With the heavy demand that current medical records put on the physician, doctors look at the screen instead of looking at their patients,” says Weibel (pictured below). “Important clues such as facial expression, and direct eye-contact between patient and physician are therefore lost.”

    The first findings from the project are just-published in the February 2015 edition of the journal, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing* and have been highlighted by the New Scientist magazine.  The Lab-in-a-Box solution could capture multimodal activity in many real-world settings, but the researchers focused initially on medical offices and the problem of the increasing burden on physician introduced by digital patient records.

    The Lab-in-a-Box has been developed as part of Quantifying Electronic Medical Record Usability to Improve Clinical Workflow (QUICK), a running  study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and directed by Zia Agha, MD. The system is currently being deployed at the UC San Diego Medical Center, and the San Diego Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center.  

    The compact suitcase contains a set of tools to record activity in the office. A depth camera from a Microsoft Kinect device records body and head movements. An eye tracker follows where the doctor is looking. A special 360-degree microphone records audio in the room.  The Lab-in-a-Box is also linked to the doctor’s computer, so it can keep track of keyboard strokes, movements of the mouse, and pop-up menus that may divert the doctor’s attention.

    The greatest value of the Lab-in-a-Box, however, is in the software designed to merge, synchronize and segment data streams from the various sensors – assessing the extent to which a certain confluence of activity may lead to distraction on the part of the physician. For example, says Weibel, lots of head and eye movement would suggest that the doctor is multitasking between the computer and the patient.

    Weibel and the UC San Diego/VA team will compare data from different settings and different types of medical practice to pinpoint those factors that lead to distraction across the board, or that affect only specific medical specialties. Their findings could help software developers write less-disruptive medical software. The researchers envision also deploying the Lab-in-a-Box permanently in a doctor’s office to provide real-time prompts to warn the physician that he or she is not paying enough attention to a patient. “In order to intervene effectively, we need to first understand the complex system composed by patients, doctors, and electronic medical record in depth, and this is what our study will finally yield.” says Weibel. Ultimately, as Weibel and his co-authors state in their original Personal and Ubiquitous Computing article, the Lab-in-a-Box “has the potential to uncover important insights and inform the next generation of Health IT systems.”

  • How UC San Diego and CSE Fare in R&D Spending

    The latest authoritative statistics on university research and development (R&D) expenditures show that UC San Diego overall came in fifth place among all U.S. institutions of higher learning, with just over $1 billion in total R&D. Of that, $630,000 came from the federal government. UC San Diego ranked #5 following the universities of Wisconsin, Washington, Michigan and at #1, Johns Hopkins University.

    Looking at R&D in the computer sciences only, UC San Diego ranked #10 in the nation for R&D spending, down from #8 the previous year. That drop reflected a 22 percent decline in computer-science R&D expenditures from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013 (pictured at right). Total R&D expenditures at UC San Diego in the computer sciences were just under $38 million in fiscal 2013, when less than half of the computer-science R&D came from federal sources (only $17.7 million). 

    It's worth noting that after pulling out of a slump in the early 2000s, total R&D expenditures in higher education went up in each of the past five years, from $1.5 billion in 2008 to just over $2 billion as of fiscal 2013.  But it's also worth pointing out some comparisons which show how computer science stacks up with other fields when it comes to universities in search of R&D funding. The $2 billion total for the computer sciences in fiscal 2013 was less than what went to the social sciences, less than what went to the physical or environmental sciences, and less than one-tenth of what sent to the life sciences. 

    The Higher Education Research and Development Survey is the primary source of information on R&D spending at the 645 U.S. colleges and universities that reported at least $1 million a year on R&D in the latest year (which together account for more than 99 percent of total higher education R&D expenditures nationwide in fiscal 2013). Another talking point for UC San Diego: among the seven universities boasting at least $1 billion a year in R&D spending, UC San Diego received more funding from industry -- over $68 million -- than its six rivals.

    Read more about the Higher Education Research and Development Survey.

  • UW-UCSD Project Demonstrates Wireless Car Hacking for TV Newsmagazine

    If you watched CBS's 60 Minutes program on Sunday, Febrary 8, you missed seeing the CSE logo. As part of a broader feature on information security research undertaken with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the TV newsmagazine showcased the joint research on automotive hacking undertaken by researchers at the University of Washington and faculty in the Computer Science and Engineering department at UC San Diego, which together created the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security. The car hacking portion of the 60 Minutes program was filmed entirely in Seattle, so members of the San Diego team (including CSE professors Stefan Savage and Hovav Shacham) did not get any 'face time' in the TV report. Indeed, CBS producers decided in the end to delete all names of people and institutions, except for DARPA, so the CSE and UW logos on the test car used by correspondent Lesley Stahl were covered over in the final version of the broadcast.

    The demonstrations captured for CBS occurred last August, when 60 Minutes deployed  a phalanx of cameras on and around the test car to demonstrate an escalating level of threat scenarios involving wireless hacking of a car's computer system (what researchers called 'remote exploit control' in a landmark 2011 paper at the USENIX Security Symposium). For the 60 Minutes program, Lesley Stahl was in the driver's seat of the wirelessly-hacked automobile, and at various points, she lost control of the breaks, the steering wheel, the windshield wipers, even the speedometer (which showed the car in "park" even though it was clearly accelerating).

    As CSE's top expert on automotive hacking, Prof. Stefan Savage noted recently that there has been a lot of cross-over of personnel between UC San Diego and UW, in both directions. Case in point: UW professor Tadayoshi Kohno was an early collaborator on the project while he was finishing his Ph.D. at UC San Diego. In the other direction, the lead Ph.D. student at UW, Karl Koscher (right), recently graduated and is now a postdoctoral researcher in Savage's group at UC San Diego. (Koscher was visible in the 60 Minutes segment, playing the role of the hacker who wirelessly took control of the car's functions even as CBS's Lesley Stahl was driving.)

    Watch the DARPA segment on the CBS 60 Minutes website.
    Read the 2010 and 2011 papers from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security.

  • Theory of Computation Expert to Give Inaugural Talk in New Lecture Series

    On Friday, Jan. 30 at 11am, CSE Profs. Mohan Paturi and Russell Impagliazzo will host computer scientist and mathematician Avi Wigderson, one of the most prolific and influential researchers in the theory of computation. Wigderson was invited to speak in the department's colloquium and Distinguished Lecture Series. His topic: "Randomness". The talk is aimed at a general scientific audience. Wigderson is a professor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study, best known as the longtime intellectual home of Albert Einstein in the U.S. (from 1933 until his death in 1955), located in Princeton, NJ.

    According to the abstract, "Is the universe inherently deterministic or probabilistic? Perhaps more importantly - can we tell the difference between the two? Humanity has pondered the meaning and utility of randomness for millennia.  There is a remarkable variety of ways in which we utilize perfect coin tosses to our advantage: in statistics, cryptography, game theory, algorithms, gambling... Indeed, randomness seems indispensable! Which of these applications survive if the universe had no randomness in it at all? Which of them survive if only poor quality randomness is available, e.g. that arises from "unpredictable" phenomena like the weather or the stock market?" 

    Wigderson goes on to note that a "computational theory of randomness, developed in the past three decades, reveals (perhaps counter-intuitively) that very little is lost in such deterministic or weakly random worlds. In the talk I'll explain the main ideas and results of this theory." 

    Wigderson has made fundamental contributions to circuit complexity, parallel algorithms,cryptography (in particular, to zero-knowledge proofs and private multi-party computation), the role of randomness in computation, proof complexity, and connections between complexity and combinatorics. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Princeton University in 1983, studying with Prof. Richard Lipton.  He was a professor at Hebrew University from 1986 to 2003, and has been on the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study since 2003. Among many other honors, Wigderson is the recipient of the Nevanlinna Prize (1994), awarded every four years for outstanding contributions in mathematical aspects of information sciences; and the Gödel Prize (2009), jointly with Omer Reingold and Salil Vadhan, for their work on the zig-zag graph product. In 2013 Wigderson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. 

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