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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...

  • Computer Science and the Art of the Doodle

    “Long dismissed as a waste of time, doodling is getting new respect,” or so say researchers quoted in a July 29 article in the Wall Street Journal. Those experts include two CSE co-authors behind a 2011 study that lent credibility to the pro-doodling argument. CSE Research Scientist and Lecturer Nadir Weibel (at right with UbiSketch componenets) is quoted by the newspaper as saying that the opportunity to doodle "changed the way people expressed their feelings." “Their pictures communicated more than just a text or a regular photo,” added Weibel. “They were more personal, more intimate."

    Former CSE Ph.D. student-turned-software developer Lisa Cowan (Ph.D. '11) (pictured below right), who led the study, felt that many of the doodlers were expressing complex emotions “that they wouldn’t have shared via written posts or texts.” Indeed, Cowan and her co-authors of the original study explored the use of doodling and sketching as a powerful new tool for communicating through social media. Cowan, Weibel, current Ph.D. student Laura Pina, CSE Prof. Bill Griswold and CogSci/CSE Prof. Jim Hollan developed a system called UbiSketch – short for “ubiquitous real-time sketch-based communication system” – that combined the familiarity of doodling on paper, but with the completed doodle easily exportable to Facebook or Twitter. The notebook paper had a pattern of dots, so when an Anoto digital pen is used to draw on the paper, the system tracks the pattern against the dots and sends the doodle via Bluetooth to the phone. From there, it can be uploaded automatically to the social network of choice. The researchers even integrated a flap of paper with buttons on the notebook which the pen can tap to indicate which social medium to use. Among the conclusions of a paper presented at a conference on human-computer interaction, the researchers found that “ubiquitous sketching broadened and deepened social interactions.” More than twice as many comments, likes and friend requests were triggered by sketches compared to photos.  In the exploratory field study, the UC San Diego researchers provided detailed examples of how doodling and social media enhanced communication. As reported in the Journal, the father of a newborn baby “drew a frazzled-looking brain (at left)  to convey a feeling of being overwhelmed,” while a grad student drew a “towering obelisk looming over a childlike figure, to convey the pressure she felt over a deadline for a paper.”

    According to Wall Street Journal writer Sue Shellenbarger, “recent research in neuroscience, psychology and design shows that doodling can help people stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information.” Clearly, computer science should be added to the list of disciplines where science is documenting the value of doodling in the broader context of social media. Although the rapid development of sketching capabilities on today’s smartphones has the potential to overcome the need to use paper in the loop, there is still no evidence of wide doodling or sketching on social media. According to CSE’s Weibel, the affordances of paper and the more direct interaction that this enables still make this medium often more suitable for rapid, informal and more natural communication. Weibel is continuing this research and he is currently exploring how paper-based sketching can be used to overcome the generational gap and support new communication capabilities between older adults who are used to pen and paper, and younger generations used to online social media.

    Read the complete article in the Wall Street Journal. 
    Access more information on UbiSketch. 
    Watch a video of UbiSketch in action. 
    Read the full conference paper on “Ubiquitous Sketching for Social Media.” 

  • Ph.D. Student’s ‘Unconventional Odyssey’ to SMART Fellowship

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded CSE Ph.D. student Natalie Larson a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship for three years to finish her doctorate. The fellowship will cover all of her costs in return for a commitment to work the next two summers and at least three years in a DoD lab after graduating in 2017.

    “After graduating I hope to continue doing work in the field of Internet science,” says Larson (at right). “It’s an area whose importance to the Department of Defense’s science and technology enterprise should only grow with time, and the work I will be doing – ensuring national security – will be important and meaningful.”

    Larson will work with the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Corona, 92 miles north of San Diego, and she hopes to select a Ph.D. topic in the general field of Internet congestion that would tie into the work she will be doing in Corona. “There are no formal constraints on the research I do while at UCSD,” says Larson. “However, I am hoping that new research directions will emerge from my interactions with NSWC Corona, and that the work I do in the coming years can be beneficial for both UCSD and the Navy.”

    In her first year at UCSD, Larson worked with CSE Prof. Scott Baden on scientific computing, but for the past year she has worked with the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) in SDSC, formerly known as the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis. This summer Larson is working at Simula Research Lab in Norway with CAIDA collaborators on analyzing congestion in Norwegian mobile broadband networks.

    CAIDA Director KC Claffy (a CSE faculty-affiliate) and CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker, who recommended Larson for the SMART award, are her Ph.D advisors. CAIDA Research Scientist Amogh Dhamdhere has also been a key mentor for Larson.

    Larson has been active in CSE on many fronts. She has TA’d courses on Computer Networks (CSE 123), Introduction to Programming in Java (CSE 8A), as well as Mathematics for Algorithms and Systems Analysis (CSE 21). One of three CSE representatives to UCSD’s Graduate Student Association, Larson is also a member of Women in Computing – and she received a $1,500 grant from the Center for Networked Systems (CNS) to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in 2013. She also received a travel grant to attend the Internet Traffic Monitoring and Analysis Workshop this spring in London, where she presented a poster on interdomain Internet congestion.

    The CSE student admits that hers has been an “unconventional odyssey” – from a B.A. in art at Grinnell College in 2006, to a graduate program in philosophy, then switching gears, Larson earned dual B.S. degrees in mathematics and computer science at Vanderbilt University, before enrolling at UCSD in 2012.

    Read the full news release for details on Larson’s research activities past, present and future.

  • Whova App on Display at Women Investing in Women Summit

    CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou’s Whova team was out in force July 18-19 at the inaugural Women Investing in Women (WIIW) Summit in San Diego – appropriately enough, given that Whova was founded by two women (Zhou and former postdoc Soyeon Park).  The summit was a major networking opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors, and organizers enlisted Zhou’s help in deploying the free Whova Mobile App for iOS and Android to be used by attendees. In addition to networking – and making it easy to view profiles of other attendees in each session – the Whova app allowed users to customize the agenda by adding specific sessions of interest, to send in-app messages to other attendees to arrange private meetings, to exchange contact information, and to access lists of other attendees who share the same professional or academic background. Whova also includes an easy interface that allowed attendees to send Twitter messages directly via the app. But according to Whova, the most popular feature at the WIIW Summit was also the newest. Called Slide/Album, the feature lets users upload and download presentation slides or other relevant materials to supplement the presentation.  

  • In Facebook Open Academy, CSE Undergrad Earns Oculus Rift VR Kit

    In February, Facebook expanded its Facebook Open Academy to UC San Diego and nine other top computer science schools, in addition to Stanford and 14 other schools admitted in 2012 and 2013. The 2014 program kicked off with approximately 250 students and faculty from 25 schools assembling at Facebook headquarters to meet with mentors from 22 open-source projects (such as Ruby on Rails, Mozilla Firefox and Wikimedia). The Open Academy specifically encourages practical, applied software-engineering experiences for undergraduates by matching them with active open-source projects and mentors. According to Jay Kunin, executive director of the Jacobs School of Engineering's Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship, “we had 11 undergrad CSE students complete the course, which spanned the Winter and Spring quarters.” For the prize contest, each student was asked to develop a project summary for the Open Academy.

    In mid-July Facebook informed Kunin that CSE junior Wai Ho Leung (at left) had submitted one of the four winning papers, related to his work with the Waterbear Open Source Project, a visual programming toolkit that aims to make programming more accessible and fun, especially for self-educated learners. "I have been helping with designing a simple-to-use integrated development environment [IDE]  and localizing Waterbear," says Leung, who is working full-time this summer at Websense. "I believe a simple IDE sets up a friendly learning environment, which is the key to drawing people's interest in programming."

    Leung’s prize: an Oculus VR development kit for the headline-grabbing Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, primarily used in its early incarnation for 3D gaming. Mulling over ideas about what to develop, the student thinks his first project will be a 3D flight simulator.

    Leung is no stranger to software development challenges. Since his AP Computer Science teacher at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, Calif., urged him to do so, Leung has competed or mentored students in IBM’s Master the Mainframe competition five years in a row. As a university freshman, he also entered the UCSD Programming Contest. In CSE he tutored roughly 500 students in Java, Android, PHP, C++ and other topics over a 15-month period. Leung expects to graduate from UC San Diego in 2015 with dual B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Mathematics-Computer Science. To supplement his formal education at UC San Diego, Leung says he joined the CSE 198 Autograder team as a sophomore. (Autograder is an application that will grade programming assignments automatically and publish the grades online.) "We plan to release a beta version of Autograder this fall," says Leung.

    After graduation, he plans to work as a software engineer, but his dream is to start his own business eventually. Meanwhile, Leung says he will remain involved with Waterbear open-source project. "Ten years from now programming will most likely become a required course for primary and secondary schools," he notes. "I am hoping that Waterbear will be used to teach programming to the next generation."

    Learn more about the Facebook Open Academy and how to participate.
    Visit Wai Ho Leung's LinkedIn profile.

by Dr. Radut