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Triton 5K 2015

Over 140 CSE alumni, students, staff and faculty registered to run as part of Team Race Condition. As a result, the department took home the prize for the largest turnout and donation at the 2015 Chancellor’s 5K run in early June. Read more…  


2015 Student Awards

CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta and Profs. Christine Alvarado and Sorin Lerner with graduate and undergraduate student recipients of the inaugural awards given by the department for graduating students.. Read more…


Dissertation Medal

CSE alumna Sarah Meiklejohn (PhD '14) was singled out for her dissertation, "Flexible Models for Secure Systems", as the recipient of the 2015 Chancellor's Dissertation Medal. Meiklejohn is now a professor at University College London. Read more…


Research Expo 2015

At the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Research Expo 2015, more than 25 CSE graduate students showcased their research during the poster session visited by hundreds of campus, industry and community members. Read more…


Best Poster

Graduating M.S. student Narendran Thangarajan won the award for best Computer Science and Engineering poster at Research Expo 2015. He analyzed social media to characterize HIV at-risk populations in San Diego. Read more…  


Computer Graphics on EdX

After announcing the launch of the Center for Visual Computing, the Center's director, CSE Prof. Ravi Ramamoorthi, announced that in August 2015 he will launch an online course on computer graphics over the edX online platform. Read more…


$2 Million Alumni Gift

CSE alumnus Taner Halicioglu, an early employee at Facebook, is donating $2 million to the CSE department to recruit, retain and support the professors and lecturers whose primary mission is to teach and mentor students. Read more…


Big Pixel Hackathon

Seventeen CSE students, most of them graduate students, participated in the first Bix Pixel Hackathon organized by the Qualcomm Institute to demonstrate how data science can be harnessed to tackle public policy issues. Read more...


Paul Kube Tribute

CSE honored retiring lecturer Paul Kube with a tribute and the subsequent announcement that CSE is creating the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science to be awarded to a teaching professor, the first chair of its kind in the department. Read more...


Incoming Freshmen

Prior to entering UC San Diego as first-year undergraduates in CSE, high school students prepare to graduate from CSE's month-long Summer Program for Incoming Students, a residential program with a heavy dose of programming. Read more... 


Integrated Digital Infrastructure

CSE Prof. Larry Smarr leads a two-year initiative to deploy an Integrated Digital Infrastructure for the UC San Diego campus, including grants to apply advanced IT services to support disciplines that increasingly depend on digital data. Read more...


Query Language for Big Data

CSE Prof. Yannis Papakonstantinou and Couchbase Inc., are collaborating on a next-generation query language for big data based on the UCSD-developed SQL++, which brings together the full power of SQL with the flexibility of JSON. Read more...


Honoring Academic Integrity

At 5th annual Academic Integrity Awards, CSE lecturer Gary Gillespie (center, with Leo Porter and Rick Ord) accepted the faculty award in Apri. Then in May, he received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Panhellenic Association. Read more...


Non-Volatile Memories

In March 2015, CSE Prof. Steven Swanson talks to 220 attendees at the 6th annual Non-Volatile Memories Workshop which he co-organized, and which he said was "moving onto deeper, more Interesting and more challenging problems." Read more...


Frontiers of Innovation

At least five CSE graduate students and a similar number of undergraduates were selected to receive inaugural Frontiers of Innovation Scholarship Program (FISP) awards initiated for 2015-'16 by UC San Diego. Read more...


Not-So-Safe Scanners

A team including CSE Prof. Hovav Shacham (right) and Ph.D. student Keaton Mowery released findings of a study pointing to serious flaws in the security of backscatter X-ray scanners used at many airports. Read more...


Stereo Vision for Underwater Archaeology

As co-director of Engineers for Exploration, Prof. Ryan Kastner led expeditions to test an underwater stereo camera system for producing 3D reconstructions of underwater objects. Here Kastner is shown with the camera system in a UCSD pool. Read more…  

Kastner Underwater

Girls Day Out

The UCSD chapter of Women in Computing (WiC) held its second annual Girls Day Out in May, bringing roughly 100 girls from San Diego high schools to tour the campus and do hands-on experiments in electronics. Here, girls visit the Qualcomm Institute’s StarCAVE virtual reality room. Read more…  

Girls Day Out

Coding for a Cause

Then-sophomore Sneha Jayaprakash's mobile app, Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U), matches students with opportunities to volunteer for social causes. Together with fellow CSE undergrads, she won a series of grants and awards, and is now doing a startup. Read more...

Sneha Jayaprakash

Internet of Things

Computer scientists at UCSD developed a tool that allows hardware designers and system builders to test security. The tool tags then tracks critical pieces in a hardware’s security system. Pictured (l-r): Ph.D. student Jason Oberg, Prof. Ryan Kastner, postdoc Jonathan Valamehr. Read more…

Internet of Things

The Gift That Keeps 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...

  • Gravitational Wave Discovery Echoes CSE Professor's 1975 Dissertation

    In his doctoral dissertation at the University of Texas, Austin in 1975, CSE professor Larry Smarr developed a computational method for solving Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity. Smarr’s PhD thesis, “The Structure of General Relativity with a Numerical Illustration: The Collision of Two Black Holes,” showed how computers could reveal the “generation of gravitational radiation from the formation of black holes,” he wrote in his dissertation. “The particular case of two non-rotating black holes colliding head-on is chosen as a test case for the computer.”

    Forty years later, Smarr – now director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Harry E. Gruber professor of Computer Science and Engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego – was inundated with messages following a Feb. 11 announcement by the National Science Foundation at the National Press Club. A global consortium of more than 1,000 scientists had, for the first time, detected evidence of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. The waves were produced by the merger of two black holes in space some 1.3 billion years ago, but passed through the Earth only last September. The waves were recorded using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) barely one day after the observatory became operational following a major upgrade to make the detectors more sensitive. The devices – located in Louisiana and Washington State – are now referred to as Advanced LIGO. “These gravitational waves induced fluctuations in length of Advanced LIGO’s two 4-kilometer laser beams that are smaller than one-thousandth the diameter of a proton,” said Smarr.

    [Pictured above: Calit2 Director Larry Smarr holds his 1976 handmade model of the curved space caused by two black holes just before they collided. Each paper strip of the coordinate grid was printed out with its distorted shape accurately represented.  Then the strips were woven together by hand.  One could consider this an analog precursor to today’s digitally driven 3D printers.  Next to Smarr are his Golden Goose Award, his blue PhD dissertation, and the book he edited on the 1978 workshop on Sources of Gravitational Radiation. Photo by Alex Matthews/Qualcomm Institute.

    The power radiated in gravitational waves by the collision of the black holes (merging black holes estimated to be 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, respectively) was 50 times larger than the power emitted by all the stars in the universe and yet would have been invisible to humans on Earth without LIGO.

    “It’s hard to overstate how historic the moment is,” Smarr told HPCwire yesterday. “Think about all of the amazing astronomical objects we’re studying with radio astronomy, x-ray astronomy, ultraviolet astronomy, infrared astronomy or optical. Those are all just parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is an entirely new spectrum, from end to end, with as diverse sources as the electromagnetic spectrum that we have been working on since Galileo.”

    The hard evidence of gravitational waves came almost exactly 100 years after Einstein’s general theory of relativity proposed the concept of space-time and distortions in what are now known as gravitational waves. Einstein believed, however, that the waves would be so small and fleeting that they would never be detected experimentally. “The National Science Foundation began funding development of LIGO some 30 years ago, even though they knew that the first version of the ‘telescope’ could not be powerful enough to make this observation,” said Calit2’s Smarr. “It cost more than a billion dollars to get this far over 30 years, and it demonstrates how important long-term research funding is to our understanding of physics and the universe.”

    [Pictured at left: Advanced LIGO detector in Livingston, Louisiana, registered the two-black-hole collision’s gravitational waves at 9:51 UTC (2:51 Pacific time) on September 14, 2015; seven milliseconds later the sister detector in Hanford, Washington, recorded the same signal. The signals at each site are depicted below.]

    Smarr recalls that after his Ph.D., as a Junior Fellow at Harvard, he organized an international workshop in Seattle in 1978. The workshop explored “Sources of Gravitational Radiation,” and Smarr edited a book based on the proceedings (still available on Amazon). The first article in the book was by Ray Weiss, the researcher at the NSF press conference yesterday who invented the gravitational-wave laser interferometer, and the third article was by Kip Thorne, who was also at the press conference (and with whom Smarr first met in 1970). 

    “We all knew in 1978 how difficult the problem was going to be – both to solve computationally the nonlinear coupled Einstein equations for the collision of the two black holes and the subsequent generation of gravitational radiation, as well as to build the most sensitive measuring instrument in human history,” noted Smarr on Thursday. “However, I was always confident that technology would eventually improve to where it would be sensitive enough to detect what was reported yesterday.”

    Smarr’s work on black holes made him realize how revolutionary supercomputers were going to be in a wide array of disciplines.  So he pulled together a team of pioneering researchers and submitted an unsolicited proposal to NSF in 1983 to create a university-based supercomputer center. “My research led me to understand that academics needed access to supercomputers,” he noted. His was the first proposal to the NSF, closely followed by one from Sid Karin at General Atomics in 1984. The eventual result: NSF funded the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where Smarr became the founding director.  Sid Karin became the founding director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Karin is an emeritus professor of computer science at UC San Diego.

  • CSE Team Targets Record Turnout for Triton 5K Race

    It's never too early to start planning for Alumni Weekend on the UC San Diego campus. One highlight is the 20th annual Triton 5K race, scheduled for 9am on Sunday, April 10. The starting line is at North Point Lane in front of the Spanos Athletic Training Facility. CSE students, staff, alumni and faculty are aiming to overtake the 149 runners and walkers who won last year's prize for fielding the "Largest Overall Team" at the event. The CSE team routinely places among the largest to run or walk the 3.1-mile scenic course through the heart of the UC San Diego campus.

    Runners can sign up as individuals or in teams of five or more. According to Cheryl Hile, who is again organizing CSE's official team entry in the Triton 5K, so far 77 people have registered to be members of "Team Race Condition", the CSE team moniker, and the informal goal is to push participation to 150 or more members in order to beat the team's record last year. "The team in second place last year trailed far behind our team with some 30 members compared to CSE's team with 149 members," says CSE fund manager Hile (pictured with team prize cup in 2015). "We crushed the competition last year and we're going to crush it again this year!"  The CSE team could also be competitive in two other prize categories: "Largest UC San Diego Department", and "Top Fundraising Team", because all runners' fees will go to support student scholarships.

    Anyone interested in being part of the CSE team should register at and select "Race Condition" in the team field. To receive the team shirt, you must first register, then fill in the Google Doc at with your name, email address, and shirt size (sizing guidance for men and women is on the second tab of the Google Doc). (Note: Staff, faculty, alumni and parents are recommended to register before 11:59pm on February 28 in order to take advantage of the Early Bird rate -- $25 per person -- versus $30 for those registering by April 3, and $35 for those registering on-site on the day of the race. Students get in for $10 no matter when they register.) Only those who have registered by noon on March 15 are eligible to receive a CSE team shirt. The high-quality New Balance "tech" shirt will be separate from the overall campus Triton 5K shirt, and it will look different from last year's team shirt. According to Cheryl Hile, the "2016 shirt will be a different color because I know people are starting a collection!"

    In addition to the team shirt, Race Condition participants in the race (sanctioned by USA Track and Field) will receive a gear bag. A strong turnout could also put CSE in contention for the "largest fundraiser" prize, since the runners' fees will benefit student scholarships. Since 1996, the race has raised more than $3.4 million that benefited over 1,000 students. The Triton 5K Festival also starts at 9am on April 10 at the Triton Track and Field Stadium. Activities will include entertainment, a Junior Triton Run, a play zone, and hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Mathematics (STEAM) activities for children of all ages.

  • Women in Machine Learning Profile CSE Professor

    On February 3, the Women in Machine Learning (WiML) organization profiled CSE Prof. Kamalika Chaudhuri on its Facebook page. The Feb. 3 article  notes that her research is on "the theoretical foundations of machine learning, and she works on designing machine learning [ML] algorithms with rigorous performance guarantees."

    Chaudhuri (at right) is particularly interested in privacy-preserving machine learning -- how to design ML algorithms that operate on the sensitive data of individuals, while ensuring that their outputs are rigorously guaranteed to preserve privacy. "An obvious approach to privacy is anonymization -- removing names and addresses and the obvious identifiers from the data, and then using the rest of the data for learning," said Chaudhuri. "These approaches however are insufficient for privacy. Even without obvious identifiers, personal data tends to be very unique, and it is often possible to automatically link together different sources of information and re-identify individuals in anonymized data."

    The computer scientist and former CSE postdoctoral researcher (2007 to 2010) went on to explain her focus on guaranteeing 'differential privacy', a rigorous definition of privacy designed by cryptographers in 2006. "Differential privacy is typically obtained by randomly perturbing the result of a function -- which could be as complex as a classifier or a clustering -- computed on the sensitive data," said Chaudhuri. "The challenge is to design algorithms that can achieve privacy as well as high accuracy given a certain number of samples."

    Chaudhuri is also studying privacy challenges that arise in more correlated and more complex data, such as time series and social networks, and she has been working on "algorithms that can compute statistics on such data while still guaranteeing a generalization of differential privacy."

    Learn more about Women in Machine Learning at the WiML Facebook page.

  • Women Well Represented Among Potential CSE Faculty Recruits

    The hiring season for new CSE faculty is now in full swing. Between February 5 and the end of March, nine potential recruits have so far been invited to deliver talks on their areas of research expertise as part of the recruiting process. Of those, more than half are women, including an assistant professor from Notre Dame, a postdoc as well as a Ph.D. candidate (both from Carnegie Mellon), and Ph.D. candidates from UC Berkeley and a German research institute. The five female candidates include:

    Friday, February 5, 11am: Heather Knight will talk about "Algorithms for Charismatic Robots" (see CSE web calendar for Knight's abstract.) She is a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon and an alumna of the MIT Media Lab's Personal Robots group. Knight's research interests include human-robot interaction, non-verbal machine communications, and non-anthropomorphic social robots. Knight was featured on the cover of Wired magazine's UK edition with her comedy performance robot named Data. She is also the founder of Marilyn Monrobot, which stages an annual Robot Film Festival (as well as "robot comedy" TED Talks). Knight was named to the 2011 Forbes List of 30 under 30 in Science, and her work also includes robotics and instrumentation at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, interactive installations with Syyn Labs, as well as field applications and sensor design at Aldebaran Robotics.

    Monday, February 8, 11am: Another candidate from Carnegie Mellon, Ndapa (pronounced "daka") Nakashole, has been a postdoctoral fellow in CMU's School of Computer Science since 2013. Her research interests are in machine reading, natural language processing, machine learning, and data mining. Before joining CMU, Nakashole received a Ph.D. in computer science from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Informatics, where she also received the Max Planck Society's dissertation award. Nakashole did her undergraduate and master's degrees at the University of Cape Town in her native South Africa.

    Wednesday, March 2, Noon: Stefanie Mueller is completing her Ph.D. in computer science and human-computer interaction (HCI) in 2016. Her dissertation at Germany's Hasso-Plattner-Institute is on interacting with personal fabrication machines. Mueller shared in the Best Paper awarded at ACM's Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) conference in 2013, for a paper on "LaserOrigami: Laser-Cutting 3D Objects," and she has two papers to be presented at CHI 2016 this May, including a "sensemaking" tactile display system based on a 3D printer designed to be used by the visually impaired.

    Monday, March 7, 11am: Justine Sherry is finishing her Ph.D. in computer science at UC Berkeley this May. Her research interests are primarily in computer networks, including middleboxes (such as firewalls and caches), networked systems, measurement, Internet architecture, cloud computing, and congestion control. Her dissertation is on new opportunities and challenges arising from moving middlebox services to clouds and ISPs. In 2015, Sherry received the Best Student Paper award at SIGCOMM 2015, for her paper on "Rollback Recovery for Middleboxes." She earned her M.S. in 2012, also from UC Berkeley, after completing undergraduate degrees in computer science and international studies at the University of Washington in 2010. Mueller has held software engineering internships at Amazon, Microsoft Research, and Research Intern.

by Dr. Radut