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CSE News

  • 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). As Rahwan writes, "in the beginning of the Shredder Challenge, we relished [crowdsourcing's] power. But when we got attacked, we realized that crowdsourcing's power is also its curse."

    Read the full story about the UCSD-led team in the Shredder Challenge.
    For a more academic recap of the team's experience, read the Sept. 30 article in EPJ Data Science.

  • 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.

  • 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?"

  • 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.

  • Summer Internship Symposium Showcases Industry Experiences

    In the end, 93 undergraduates crowded into the lobby and auditorium of the CSE building on Oct. 8 to show off the research and other industry experiences they participated in over the summer. Organized by CSE Assistant Teaching Professor Mia Minnes, the Summer Internship Symposium was a hit with students, staff and faculty, and 18 local industry mentors/advisors from companies including HP and Mitek, and other organizations such as SPAWAR.

    The excitement in the room was palpable: many undergraduate students, in addition to the presenters, were in attendance to learn from their peers," said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. "While the event served its primary purpose of recognizing the student accomplishments well, it also created a meeting place for productive interactions between interns, future interns, employers and faculty."

    "The symposium definitely has the potential to become one of the important community events for CSE," Gupta added.

    Kristiyan Dzhamalov (at right) spent the summer at Google in Mountain View, CA, working on the Google Cloud Print team. "The project that I was working on was to convert the Google Cloud Print Android application to Material Design, which was announced in June during the Google I/O," says Dzhamalov. "Material gives users the feeling that they interact with real objects, rather than a computer program. It bridges the gap between technology and human interactions by providing more natural animations, transitions and improved UI components. Users can anticipate the outcome of their interactions with any application, thus providing them with a smoother and much more natural experience."

    Dzhamalov says that his effort was to take the existing Android application and redesign the front- and back-end to fit the guidelines. "As a whole," he adds, "the project was an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to meet amazing engineers, gain invaluable knowledge and take a product to completion."

    For Dzhamalov and the 92 other students displaying their work, the Summer Internship Symposium was an opportunity to network with potential employers, and to convey their excitement to many of the first-year CSE undergraduates attending the event (students who are likely to undertake one, two or more internships prior to finishing their undergraduate degrees).

    Students who did summer internships were eligible to get 4 units of credit by enrolling in CSE 197, as long as they filled out the appropriate paperwork by mid-June and fulfilled all course requirements.

    Learn more about CSE 197.

  • Size of Computer Science Faculty at UC San Diego Returns to 2010 Level; Enrollment Doubles

    Driven by the ever-widening impact of computer science on applications ranging from energy and the environment to health care, student interest in computer science classes and majors at the University of California, San Diego is reaching new heights. As the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department in the Jacobs School of Engineering scrambles to meet growing instructional needs, it is also expanding the scope of research through hiring of faculty in new areas such as social networking and cancer genomics, while also shoring up core research areas including theory, networking and computer graphics.

    For CSE’s effort to boost faculty hiring, it was a banner year.  When balanced against the recent loss of several tenured and teaching faculty members, the department headcount now stands at 43.67 (fractional appointments reflect joint interdisciplinary appointments), pushing it back to the level where it was in 2010. On a sobering note, however, undergraduate enrollment in CSE hit an all-time high this year, topping 2,000 students (at right), more than double the level of undergraduate enrollment in 2010.

    Hiring for the 2014-15 academic year focused on three groups to address teaching needs while continuing to grow research in select areas:

    - Tenure-track faculty: Full professor Ravi Ramamoorthi and assistant professors George Porter and Julian McAuley (pictured l-r at right) have strong research orientations in their respective areas of visual computing (computer graphics and vision), computer networks and data-intensive computing, and social networking. “It’s important that we are attracting talented faculty members who will push the frontiers of knowledge in these critical fields,” added Gupta.

    - Assistant teaching professors: Mia Minnes Kemp and Leo Porter have research interests in computer education, theory and computer architecture, but they are primarily lecturers capable of teaching large classes; and

    - Joint appointments: CSE was able to enhance its teaching faculty by collaborating with other departments on campus to hire young professors whose work straddles two fields: Daniel Kane in mathematics and computer science, and Nuno Bandeira in bioinformatics and computational biology in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

    Looking to the future, CSE is specifically recruiting researchers with initiatives at the intersection of physical sciences (e.g., cyber-physical systems, vision / robotics), data sciences (e.g., databases, security/privacy, human-computer interfaces), or the life sciences (e.g., medical informatics, bioinformatics). “Across all areas,” said CSE’s Gupta, “we have particular interests in candidates who have experience and interest in building real, experimental artifacts in their research.”

  • Recent CSE Alumna Recounts Successful Summer Team Internship

    Narine Cholakyan (pictured below) is one of the 330 students who participated in the Team Internship Program of the Jacobs School this summer. They worked for 42 companies in the U.S. and abroad. Cholakyan graduated in the spring with a B.S. in computer science, prior to spending the summer at Cubic Transportation Systems, which provided a real-world training ground for collaborative and creative work. Cholakyan and her teammates at Cubic helped develop mobile device applications that enable contactless payment for public transit users.

    "I had the opportunity to not only put my programming skills to the test, but also work in a team environment to come up with solutions to meaningful problems that occurred during the internship," said Cholakyan. "There was a lot of support and the work environment was perfect to facilitate brainstorming and the creation of ideas. I think I took away a lot of skills from this internship - both technical and interpersonal and learned how to better communicate my ideas to others."

    The recent CSE alumna is currently working with CSE research scientist Nadir Weibel on a project that will connect paramedics to doctors so they can consult on time-critical patients being transported to the emergency room.

    The Team Internship Program is part of the Jacobs School's effort to enhance students' education through real-world engineering in a team setting. Students work onsite with industry partners in multi-disciplinary teams focused on clearly defined and significant projects. Students who took part in the program said the TIP's interdisciplinary team approach allows for more meaningful and challenging work than could ever be offered to an individual intern over the same period of time.



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