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Award for Computer Systems Research

In November 2013 CSE Prof. Stefan Savage received the ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award during the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles. The award is given to an individual no more than 20 years into his or her career, and Savage was singled out for his contributions to computer systems research in general, and cyber security in particular. Read more…


Students As Oracles

Ph.D. students David Vanoni (far right) and Vid Petrovic (second from left) were in Europe for most of the fall quarter, doing research and taking part in excavations in Calabria and Greece.  They were part of UCSD’s interdisciplinary NSF IGERT project on engineering for culture heritage diagnostics. Vanoni and Petrovic  delivered talks in three countries, starting in Delphi, Greece. Read more… 


Analyzing Network Failures

There is no single way to measure network failures or learn from them. Recent alumnus Daniel Turner (Ph.D. ’13) presented results of a new CSE study at the ACM International Measurement Conference in Barcelona, comparing two standard methods (syslog vs. IS-IS). Conclusion: the syslog approach fell short in identifying failures lasting more than 24 hours. Read paper…


A Knack for Making Apps

CSE undergrad  Dexin Qi produced Triton Pass, a virtual discount card, mainly for Price Center eateries. CSE junior Daniel Brim developed the iPhone app SimpleCard, a 21st-century version of flash cards. A team including junior Shayan Mahdavi created an app for ViaSat installers. Now junior Jesus Rios has coded an Android app for visitors to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. Read more…


The Incredible Shrinking Data Center

Are racks-on-chip the future of data centers? According to an article in the journal Science co-authored by CNS research scientist George Porter (pictured), shrinking racks of servers, and eventually data centers, to fit on a chip will be critical to delivering increased density of computing, storage and networking. And to do so, says Porter, will require a radically new network design for data centers. Read more…


Countering Click Spam

When is a click not a click? How can advertisers be sure that a click on an online banner represents a real consumer, not a deceptive malware program? Click-spam has become a way of life on the Internet, and at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Berlin in November, CSE postdoctoral researcher Vacha Dave (pictured) spelled out a new approach to attacking click-spam. Read more…


Event App Debuts at CSE25

A team of students and alumni led by CSE Prof. YY Zhou used the department’s 25th anniversary to do a ‘stress test’ for their brand-new mobile app. It’s the centerpiece of their startup company, Whova, a spinout from CSE’s Systems and Networking group. Over 280 attendees downloaded the app for iPhone or Android, and by all accounts, the app’s debut went off flawlessly. See web page…


New Frontier for Learning Bioinformatics

Prof. Pavel Pevzner dresses up as a cowboy to promote his new online course on Bioinformatics Algorithms (Part I). In a video on the sign-up page for the Coursera massive open online course, he calls bioinformatics a new frontier like the Wild West, and urges students from math, computer science and biology to take the course that begins Oct. 21. Read more...


Bitcoins: Not So Anonymous, After All

Ph.D. student Sarah Meiklejohn will present "A Fistful of Bitcoins" Oct. 24, which has already caused a stir in cryto-currency circles. Investigating the Bitcoin market and the anonymity of users, she and colleagues found a way to link transactions to Bitcoin merchants and services, potentially undermining a major use of Bitcoin – for online purchases of illegal products. Read more...


Finding a Silver Lining in the Sometimes Dark 'Cloud'

The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) held its summer research review, demonstrated its role as a major player in the cloud, and in designing, managing and improving data center and wide-area networks. Read more...


Decoding the Genetic Basis of Chronic Mountain Sickness

Using whole genome sequencing, CSE researchers dissected the genetic mechanisms underlying high-altitude adaptation based on variations in the genes of Peruvians from the Andes who suffer from chronic mountain sickness, and those who don't. Read more...


Nice Threads!

A new computer model developed by a CSE alumnus and Prof. Henrik Wann Jensen simulates with unprecedented accuracy the way light and cloth interact, with implications for animated movies and video games. Read more...


Family Reunion

In June 2013, roughly 170 former CSE tutors held their second-ever reunion in San Diego. The department also launched the CSE Tutor Challenge with a $25,000 inaugural gift from alumnus Taner Halicioglu (BS '96). Read more...


The Gift That Will Keep on Giving

CSE capped the 2012-'13 academic year with the announcement of an anonymous $18.5 million gift from an alumnus – making it the largest-ever alumni gift to UC San Diego. Read more...

  • Record Applications Lead to 44% Higher Admission Offers

    The popularity of computer science in general, and in the Computer Science and Engineering department at UC San Diego as a hot destination for graduating high school seniors, resulted in a record number of applications from students eager to become part of CSE’s freshman class in September. As reported in January, more than 5,200 students took the time and trouble to apply for Fall 2014 – up 38% from a year earlier – even though it was already clear that it would be a tight race to get in this year.  Now, according to UC San Diego admissions figures released on April 18, CSE has offered freshman admission this fall to more than 1,200 applicants, up 44% from last year’s ‘admits’. Yet far fewer will show up in September.

    The department is not expecting the cohort of incoming students to be very different from the 200 first-year undergraduates who made up the freshman class for the 2013-14 academic year. (Shown above, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla at right, with some of the incoming freshmen who showed up in August 2013 to get an early taste of CSE and campus life in the department's residential Summer Program for Incoming Students, or SPIS.). Many applicants to CSE are among the highest-ranking applicants to UC San Diego, so a large number will end up selecting a different top school on their wish list. Furthermore, there is a limit on the number of students that CSE can let in. “Two-hundred students is the upper limit set by impaction,” says CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta (pictured below), referring to the current cap on the number of students allowed to major in computer science or computer engineering, to prevent overcrowding. “As a result, even with nearly 400 more admits than last year, the department is expecting to welcome roughly the same actual number of freshmen [this September] as last year.”

    Assuming that the freshman class is limited to 200 students, they would represent only 4% of the applicant pool this year. Students who were admitted to UCSD but not allowed to major in computer science or computer engineering could still come – they would just have to switch to a non-impacted major.

    Although admission statistics are not an accurate reflection of the number of freshmen arriving on campus, they can be illustrative in relative terms. For example, this year at least one out of four students offered admission to the Jacobs School of Engineering was offered admission to CSE, which accounts for 5% of total campus-wide admits.  Comparing departments based on the largest number of admission offers, the top three for Fall 2014 were, in order, Economics, CSE, and Mathematics. (The comparison excludes the Division of Biological Sciences, whose admission figures were published at the divisional rather than departmental level.)

    With the jump in applications this year, the CSE department is preparing for a rising tide of freshmen over the next few years. "The department has planned to offer nearly 190 courses throughout the year, compared to a rated capacity of 142,” says the CSE chair. “We have hired lecturers and professors to meet the demand, but we’re also gated by the availability of class-room space." As Gupta recalls, last fall CSE classes occupied every single lecture hall on the campus with 200-or-more capacity for two days of the week.

    Meanwhile, campus officials are tabulating admission figures for transfer students. What we know so far is that, like with incoming freshmen, applications were through the roof: up nearly 50% to 1,110 for this fall, with one in every three applicants to the Jacobs School applying to CSE. Admission figures for transfer students are due soon.

    Looking to the campus overall, the university anticipates enrolling a diverse freshman class of 4,900 students with an average 4.13 GPA (up fractionally from a year ago).

    “We are proud to welcome this bright and dynamic group of students to UC San Diego,” says Khosla. “As a student-centered public university, it is our goal to provide opportunities and a world-class education to these amazingly accomplished and talented students from diverse backgrounds.”

    UC San Diego has offered admission to 9% more students who are the first in their family to attend college, and to 4% more students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Compared to a year ago, admission letters went out to approximately 8% more Chicano/Latino students – the fastest-growing ethnic group among California high school graduates – offsetting a drop in the number of African-American applicants offered admission compared to Fall 2013.

    Graduating high school students now have until May 1 to indicate whether they will attend UC San Diego this fall, but it’s not until the freshmen arrive that the department will get a precise fix on the size of CSE’s Class of ’18.

  • UCSD-TV to Begin Airing Big Data Symposium with CSE Experts

    For anyone who missed the recent Big Data at Work Symposium in March, now you can watch it on-demand. Two of the four speakers are CSE faculty members: Prof. Stefan Savage and Prof. Larry Smarr. Savage was the security expert on the panel, warning that there are substantial security risks when data becomes Big Data, but he also expanded on the potential opportunities inherent in the growth of Big Data (including for CSE graduates who specialize in cybersecurity!). For his part, Smarr  – who directs Calit2 as well – addressed the overall impact of Big Data, especially in health care sector, as millions of Americans join the ranks of the 'quantitative health' movement (like Smarr himself) generating petabytes of data to help the patient and his or her doctor manage the patient's health on a 24/7 basis. The event continues to receive rave reviews, and now there are two ways to watch the one-hour program: it's available immediately on UCTV's website. Alternatively, it will begin airing during the week of April 21 on the UCTV channel itself (with the first primetime showing planned for 9pm April 24). Set your DVR, or watch the complete edited video online at the link below. 

    Watch Big Data at Work Symposium online.

  • Computer Scientist Has Underwater (3D) Vision

    In its April 14 edition, the UTSanDiego featured an article about "Scientists set to roam the world" this summer. "If you toss a dart at a map of the world, there's a good chance it'll land in a region where scientists from San Diego County will do research this summer," wrote science editor Gary Robbins, adding that "summer field research is a cherished part of science." Case in point: the first researcher featured in the article was CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner, who is photographed (at right) displaying an underwater stereo camera system that he developed for producing 3D reconstructions of underwater objects. Kastner "will use high-resolution imaging tools in June to help archaeologists map Mayan ruins in Guatemala and a sunken ship in Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay Underwater Park," according to the article. Kastner will be joined on the Lake Tahoe expedition by undergraduate participants in the Engineers for Exploration program, which is co-directed by Kastner.
  • Computer Software Accurately Predicts Student Test Performance

    Results of a new study led by CSE alumnus Jacob Whitehill (Ph.D., '12) demonstrates that a real-time, automatic method for identifying and analyzing facial expressions can perform with an accuracy comparable to that of human observers when tracking how engaged students are in the classroom. (Pictured at left: Student engagement levels are tracked in real time by the automatic system for recognizing facial expressions; photo copyright 2014 IEEE.) The study also revealed that engagement levels were a better predictor of students' post-test performance that the students' pre-test scores.

    Whitehill is the first author on the paper "The Faces of Engagement: Automatic Recognition of Student Engagement," which was published April 15 in the early online edition of the journal IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. Whitehill -- who now works at Emotient, Inc., a startup he co-founded with the paper's senior author, Javier Movellan -- did much of his work on the study while part of the Machine Perception Laboratory in Calit2's Qualcomm Institute (co-directed by Movellan). The project was funded, in part, by the UCSD-based Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC), led by CSE Prof. Gary Cottrell. TDLC also enabled the key partnership between Movellan and another co-author on the paper, Virginia Commonwealth professor of developmental psychology Zewelanji Serpell, because both are PIs on TDLC's Social Interaction Network. In addition to Movellan, Whitehill and Serpell, the study’s co-authors include  Yi-Ching Lin and Aysha Foster from the department of psychology at Virginia State.

    “Automatic recognition of student engagement could revolutionize education by increasing understanding of when and why students get disengaged,” said Whitehill (pictured below right). “Automatic engagement detection provides an opportunity for educators to adjust their curriculum for higher impact, either in real time or in subsequent lessons. Automatic engagement detection could be a valuable asset for developing adaptive educational games, improving intelligent tutoring systems and tailoring massive open online courses, or MOOCs.” 

    The study consisted of training an automatic detector, which measures how engaged a student appears in a webcam video while undergoing cognitive skills training on an iPad®. The study used automatic expression recognition technology to analyze students’ facial expressions on a frame-by-frame basis and estimate their engagement level. “This study is one of the most thorough to date in the application of computer vision and machine learning technologies for automatic student engagement detection,” said Javier Movellan. “The possibilities for its application in education and beyond are tremendous. By understanding what parts of a lecture, conversation, game, advertisement or promotion produced different levels of engagement, an individual or business can obtain valuable feedback to fine-tune the material to something more impactful.”

    Read the full news release.
    Read  "The Faces of Engagement" article on the Machine Perception Laboratory website.
    Visit the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center website.

by Dr. Radut