It’s that time of year… time for the Jacobs School of Engineering Research Expo. The Thursday, April 17 event will feature a roster of speakers – one from each of the six departments – and Computer Science and Engineering will be represented by Prof. Yoav Freund (at right), who is set to speak at 3:10pm in the Price Center Forum on the fourth floor. His topic: “Teaching Data Science.” The topic dovetails with “Big Data Analytics,” the CSE 291 course that Freund will teach in Spring 2014.
Research Expo is primarily a major showcase for graduate students, who will be presenting their research projects with over 200 research posters and a networking session where they can rub elbows with alumni and industry partners. A searchable list of all CSE grad-student posters is already up at the Research Expo website, but only registered attendees can view the poster abstracts.
CSE alumna Brina Lee (BS Communications ’08, MS Computer Science ’13) was the first full-time female engineer hired at Instagram, and while she still works there, she is now playing in a much bigger pond following Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. In the latest edition of the magazine ELLE, Lee is quoted as saying, “It’s great now that Instagram is a part of Facebook, so we can leverage all the women here!” After an undergraduate degree in communications, she worked in marketing, eventually at Yahoo! She taught herself HTML, and in 2010 began enrolling in classes through UC San Diego Extension. ”I decided to enroll in part-time classes to build a foundation in computer science by learning Java,” Lee wrote in the Huffington Post in October 2013. “I was surprised I was pretty good at it, but more importantly – I liked it.”
CSE lecturer Rick Ord remembers Lee as a “pesky Extension student trying to get me to sign her Concurrent Enrollment through Extension add card for a CSE 11 that was full with a wait list.” Lee needed the course on her resume, because she had decided to apply to CSE for graduate school. She passed muster successfully completing the core CS undergrad coursework while volunteer tutoring several undergrad classes, and she was accepted into the Master's program. She eventually earned her Master’s degree in 2013, after TA’ing several undergrad classes and doing her main project with CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner. For her project, Lee built a “slouch detector” called Droop (pictured below), a wearable device to help identify bad posture. “It was 100% Brina’s idea, and it spanned several CS topics, including embedded systems, human-computer interaction, and mobile computing,” says Kastner. “It also showed how computing can make an impact in everyday life.”
While working on her MS degree, Lee did internships at Google and Facebook before getting her full-time engineering position at Instagram last April. She credits her degree and a Grace Hopper Scholarship Award for reinforcing her resume when applying for software engineering jobs. Lee regularly also attends the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and she speaks out about the fact that women make up only 13% of all computer science graduates – a fact that is more powerful because it comes from a software engineer who did not get an undergraduate degree in computer science because of one “boring” class on coding in high school. Lee hopes more women will become engineers and computer scientists, and she expects it will become easier for women to get ahead in the tech world as more of them climb the corporate ladder. In her Q&A in ELLE magazine, Lee cited Jocelyn Golfein. “She’s one of the highest engineering directors here at Facebook, and because Sheryl’s at the top,” said Lee, “I think all the male engineers here do look at women differently and allow us to go up the ladder.”
Meanwhile, CSE faculty point out that in addition to enrolling more high school students in computer science, the department must find more ways to make it possible for late converts to change their majors and get into necessary courses if they need to catch up – especially when the department is dealing with an impacted major. Brina Lee is one reason “why I am a strong advocate to keep spots open in our impacted major for those who do not come in as a declared CSE major and find religion (computer science) later on,” notes Ord. “They more often than not become some of our best majors.” “It's never too early or too late to switch majors or careers,” wrote Lee in the Huffington Post, “especially if it's what you're meant to do.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering which Instagram filter for photos is the CSE alumna’s favorite, she says none. But she does have a favorite video filter, it’s called Vesper.
The course began March 1 and is full, but here’s a heads-up for students who may be interested in future classes. It’s a course in UC San Diego Extension taught by CSE Ph.D. student Stephen Foster and built around the game Minecraft. The students are learning how to set up Minecraft servers and build Minecraft mods. In the process, they learn about client/server architecture, network security, operating systems and computer programming. The project-based course follows the broad outline of Foster’s talk in late January on “why we use Minecraft to teach computer science (and why you should too).” Foster is also the CEO of student startup ThoughtSTEM, and co-creator of CodeSpells, a game to teach programming in Java to students aged 8 to 18.
A total of 118 students turned out for the Winter 2014 programming competition for beginners, sponsored by Google and organized by the UC San Diego chapter of Women in Computing (men welcome too!). The contest was designed for undergraduates who are just getting started in programming. They worked in teams or on their own to answer a series of questions.
CSE sophomore Sneha Jayaprakash (at right) is passionate about two things: computer science, and social change. As part of the 2013 Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest, she developed a winning proposal for a mobile app to engage students with volunteerism and social issues – and Jayaprakash walked away with a $2,500 prize to get the project going with six fellow computer science majors. The prize money is in addition to $10,000 awarded to the project by the Microsoft Imagine Fund in February, so the team is revving up to turn the idea into a successful startup. “I’ve always been passionate about global issues,” said Jayaprakash. “I wanted to show people that volunteer service is easy. You don’t have to go overseas or make a big commitment. There are simple things you can do every day to make a difference.”
The winning idea is a mobile app called Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U). Jayaprakash’s app presents simple, service-related challenges for users to complete in order to earn rewards. The challenges are personalized to the interests and skills of the participant. In addition, users can compete with their friends and use their earned points to make real donations to a variety of nonprofits. “I thought, ‘this is something unique we can do with our computer science education,’” said Jayaprakash. “Most people don’t associate computer science with social activism.” Added Winnie Xu, also a computer science student, who worked on the B2U app. “To be able to take what I’m learning in class and apply it to something I’m passionate about is really gratifying.”
CSE faculty, research scientists and other researchers who are eligible to be a Principal Investigator (PI) on a federal funding award have nearly two months to submit one-year grant proposals under the Qualcomm Institute’s Calit2 Strategic Research Opportunities (CSRO) program. Two earlier CSRO rounds awarded over $1.5 million in cash and in-kind grants or graduate fellowships. In the 2012 round, three CSE professors were awardees: David Kriegman, Ryan Kastner and Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou (pictured at right).
PIs must submit their 3-to-5 page proposals by April 30, for grants that will take effect on July 1. Each award typically provides a 50-50 combination of cash and other support in the form of Qualcomm Institute services, equipment, lab space and other resources. Any CSE PI may submit a CSRO proposal. If they are not already an academic participant in the institute, they must sign and date an online Investigator Agreement prior to submitting the proposal.
The institute is expanding the range of research areas in which proposals will be welcomed. Two major areas for 2014 are robotics and brain science, in keeping with major initiatives already underway on campus and in the Qualcomm Institute. Projects should also be consistent with the research initiatives spelled out in the campus Strategic Plan (due to be finalized this summer). PIs will also be asked to indicate whether their proposals fit into one or more of the institute’s targeted enabling technologies (wireless, photonics, cyberinfrastructure and nano-MEMS) or application thrusts (culture, energy, environment and health).
Two CSE faculty members will be among a handful of experts set to explore the explosion of big data in the workplace at a symposium March 12. UC San Diego Extension and UCSD-TV are organizing the campus event to highlight the explosion of data in the workplace – and how students and staff can prepare for jobs in industry or academe. The hour-long ‘Big Data at Work: A Conversation with the Experts” symposium will feature TED-style presentations about emerging trends in big data, including the latest developments in research, services and education. The event will take place in the Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, and the speakers will include CSE professor and Calit2 director Larry Smarr, who will give the opening talk and focus on big data and health, and Prof. Stefan Savage (pictured at left), who will explore the world of cybersecurity and big data. Other speakers will include San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) director Mike Norman, industry speaker Michael Zeller of Zementis, Inc., and SDSC’s Natasha Balac, director of the Predictive Analytics Center of Excellence, who will moderate a panel discussion. While organizers are charging an admission fee of $10 through March 10, or $20 at the door, CSE students, staff and faculty can get in for free. Organizers set aside 40 seats for those affiliated with CSE or the Qualcomm Institute, but RSVPs must be done in advance. CSE students, staff or faculty can respond by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate Big Data in the subject line.
The Big Data at Work symposium is a reminder that CSE and SDSC are collaborating on a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) program in this area. If all goes well, the proposed MAS in Data Science and Engineering could kick off as early as this Fall quarter. The Big Data at Work event will be recorded for a broadcast on UCSD-TV later in 2014.
Teams Sought for SC14 Student Cluster Competition in New Orleans; Deadline to Apply Friday, April 11
CSE and other students interested in demonstrating their high-performance computing skills on a global stage are invited to form teams and sign up to compete in the eighth annual Student Cluster Competition at the SC14 supercomputing conference to be held Nov. 16-21, 2014, in New Orleans. The Student Cluster Competition is a high-energy event featuring young supercomputing talent from around the world competing to build and operate powerful cluster computers. Applications are now being accepted and the deadline for team submissions is Friday, April 11, 2014.
Detailed information about the Student Cluster Competition can be found at http://sc14.supercomputing.
org/engage/hpc- interconnections/sc14-student- cluster-competition. Team proposals must be submitted via the SC14 submission site at https://submissions. supercomputing.org/. Each accepted team must submit a final architecture proposal by Monday, September 29, 2014, and the proposal should contain detailed information about both the hardware being used and the software stack that will be used for the challenge.
On Feb. 26 at the Network Distributed System Security conference in San Diego, a team of computer scientists from CSE as well as from George Mason University, UC Berkeley and the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) unveiled what they learned from examining more than 2,000 pieces of malware used by Bitcoin mining operations in 2012 and 2013. According to the paper on "Botcoin: Monetizing Stolen Cycles," the researchers were able to estimate how much money operators made off their operations and which countries were most affected. The six computer scientists from UC San Diego included first author Danny Huang (at right) and fellow Ph.D. student Sarah Meiklejohn, postdoctoral researcher Vacha Dave, research scientist Kirill Levchenko, and professors Alex Snoeren and Stefan Savage. They reported that the revenue of the ten mining operations they studied reached at least 4,500 Bitcoin over two years. This may not seem like much, but Bitcoin’s value increased from about $10 to about $1,000 during that period, with a peak of $1,100 in November 2013. As of late February 2014, one Bitcoin was worth approximately $618. “At the current stratospheric value of Bitcoin," said Huang, "miners with access to significant computational horsepower are literally printing money.” Greater profitability from Bitcoin mining could turn out to be great for malicious software developers, but bad for cybersecurity and society. "It could reinvigorate the malware industry," warned CSE's Snoeren.
While she has made it her calling to educate youngsters about computer science, CSE Ph.D. student Sarah Esper (at left) is taking a fresh and entrepreneurial approach to making that happen, and she has lofty ambitions. In an article that appeared Feb. 24 in the San Diego Union-Tribune ("Start early to program your next career"), Esper is quoted as saying that "we'd like San Diego to become the hub of really great computer science education." The CSE student -- who expects to receive her doctorate in Fall 2014 -- was featured for the work she is doing as an instructor for UC San Diego Extension's K-16 Programs, for which she teaches the basics of computer science to local high school, middle school and elementary students.Apart from the work she does for Extension, Esper hopes to have her biggest impact through ThoughtSTEM, a company she co-founded with fellow Ph.D. students Stephen Foster and Lindsey Handley. The company does some training of computer science teachers, but its primary mandate is to enroll and teach computer science to children ages 8 to 18. ThoughtSTEM hires approximately 20 UC San Diego undergraduates each year to teach computer science courses to kids all around San Diego, or to help with developing curriculum and technologies to be used by students who enroll in ThoughtSTEM courses. "Not all of the teachers are CSE alumni," says Esper, "but we do hire a lot from CSE." Esper and Foster also jointly developed an educational software package, called CodeSpells (pictured), which takes an innovative, game-like approach to help young students learn how to write code. "We currently don't do anything with CodeSpells in ThoughtSTEM," says Esper, "but in the fall we hope to offer a ThoughtSTEM course using CodeSpells to teach Java."