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Highlights

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

Pacific Interlude

Four of the 10 UCSD undergraduates in the 2014 Pacific Rim Experiences for Undergraduates (PRIME) program are CSE majors. (L-r) Allen Nguyen and Lok Yi (Nicole) Wong did research in Japan, while Matthew Schwegler and Katerina Zorko spent the summer in Australia. Read more…

CSEHeader_PRIME2014.jpg

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

Photo Finish

CSE alumna Brina Lee (M.S. ’13) was the first full-time female engineer hired at Instagram. Then Instagram was purchased by Facebook, and now Lee is spending much of her time talking to female students about opportunities in computer science. Read more… 

Brina Lee

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

Research Expo 2014

At the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Research Expo 2014, CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta (pictured) briefed industry and visitors, and Ph.D. student Matthew Jacobsen won best CSE poster for “Hardware-Accelerated Online Boosting for Tracking.” Read more…

Research Expo 2014

ParentGuardian

Ph.D. student Laura Pina won best paper with Microsoft colleagues at PervasiveHealth 2014 for developing ParentGuardian, a mobile app/sensor detecting stress in parents of children with ADHD. The system helps parents cope with stress in real time. Read more…  

ParentGuardian

New Faculty

Former UC Berkeley professor Ravi Ramamoorthi joined CSE’s visual computing faculty, and he is one of six new CSE faculty hires in 2014. Others include assistant teaching professors Mia Minnes and Leo Porter, and assistant professors George Porter, Daniel M. Kane and Julian McAuley. Read more…

Ravi Ramamoorthi

Fun and Functional

CSE 145 teaches students about embedded systems design, and they do capstone projects. For one team, that meant building Ruku, a robot and mobile app that solves a Rubik’s Cube in 30 seconds. (L-r): William Mutterspaugh, Daryl Stimm and Jonas Kabigting. Read more…

Ruku to solve Rubik's Cube

Overclocked Enthusiasts

CSE alumni, students, staff and faculty turned out in force to run, walk or just cheer on the Overclocked CSE Enthusiasts, the department's main team entered in the Chancellor’s 5K run in June. Prof. Christine Alvarado ranked #1 in her division. Read more…  

5K Race

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...

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  • CSE Researchers Report Security Flaws in Backscatter X-ray Scanners

    A team of researchers from UC San Diego's Computer Science and Engineering department and co-authors from the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University have discovered several security vulnerabilities in full-body backscatter X-ray scanners deployed to U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013.

    In laboratory tests, the team was able to successfully conceal firearms and plastic explosive simulants from the Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanner.  The team was also able to modify the scanner operating software so it presents an “all-clear” image to the operator even when contraband was detected.  “Frankly, we were shocked by what we found,” said J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan. “A clever attacker can smuggle contraband past the machines using surprisingly low-tech techniques.”

    The researchers attribute these shortcomings to the process by which the machines were designed and evaluated before their introduction at airports.  “The system’s designers seem to have assumed that attackers would not have access to a Secure 1000 to test and refine their attacks,” said Hovav Shacham (above right, with CSE Ph.D. student Keaton Mowery), a professor of computer science at UC San Diego.  However, the researchers were able to purchase a government-surplus machine found on eBay and subject it to laboratory testing.

    Many physical security systems that protect critical infrastructure are evaluated in secret, without input from the public or independent experts, the researchers said.  In the case of the Secure 1000, that secrecy did not produce a system that can resist attackers who study and adapt to new security measures.  “Secret testing should be replaced or augmented by rigorous, public, independent testing of the sort common in computer security,” said Shacham (at left, in front of the backscatter x-ray scanner as during a security check).

    Secure 1000 scanners were removed from airports in 2013 due to privacy concerns, and are now being repurposed to jails, courthouses, and other government facilities.  The researchers have suggested changes to screening procedures that can reduce, but not eliminate, the scanners’ blind spots.  However, “any screening process that uses these machines has to take into account their limitations,” said Shacham.

    The researchers shared their findings with the Department of Homeland Security and Rapiscan, the scanner’s manufacturer, in May.  The team will present their findings publicly at the USENIX Security conference, Thursday Aug. 21, in San Diego.  (Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications)

    View details of the results at https://radsec.org/.
    To contact the research team, e-mail radsec-team@umich.edu.
    Read more about CSE faculty, student and alumni participation in USENIX Security 2014.

  • Computer Science at UC San Diego Ranked #11 in World

    UC San Diego is doing great in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) compiled annually by Shanghai Jia Tong University, and CSE is doing even better, based on the results for computer science programs.

    The 2014 rankings are out, pegging UC San Diego as the #14 university in the world. At the same time, the ARWU released its field-by-field rankings, and in the computer science category, CSE tied with USC for the #11 spot. That put computer science at UCSD just ahead of #13-ranked Caltech and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at #14. Both the campus and computer science rankings were unchanged from the 2013 level.

    CSE’s reputation, however, is substantially up from just a few years ago, based on the same ranking system. In 2011 computer science at UCSD was #16 in the world, then rose to #14, before jumping to #11 in 2013 and plateauing this year.

    UC San Diego appears to have benefited from the relative strength of its track record in computer science papers, citations and quality of publications, which together account for 75 percent of data on which the ARWU subject rankings are based. The relative weights in each category: 25 percent of the university’s score comes from highly-cited (HiCi) researchers in computer science; 25 percent on the number of papers in all computer science-related publications and conferences; and since 2009, ARWU also looks at the percentage of those papers published in the top fifth of computer science journals (a measure of the quality of papers). The final 25 percent of each university’s score is based on whether the program boasts any alumni or current faculty who have received the highest award in computer science, the Turing Award (none at UCSD).

    The ARWU rankings grew out of China’s need to benchmark how well Chinese universities perform against the best universities in other countries. Since the primary focus was on research, experts consider the ranking system the most useful in assessing “raw research power” (in the words of one UK expert). The ARWU has ranked the Top 500 universities since 2003.

    Visit the Academic Ranking of World Universities in Computer Science for 2014.
    Read the AWRU 2014 overall rankings, methodology and statistics.

  • Alumni Succeed in Aerial Drone Cinematography Kickstarter Appeal

    A group of CSE alumni have started a new company called SparkAerial, and just launched a campaign on the Kickstarter crowdfunding service. As of Aug. 19, with 20 days to go in the campaign and 76 backers committed, the startup had already surpassed their $5,000 goal, so the Aerial Cinematography Flight School will be funded on September 9 to the tune of $5,686, plus whatever amount is funded in the next 20 days.

    CEO/President Radley Angelo (BS Computer Science '12), pictured at center with, at left, COO Kurt Selander (BS Computer Engineering '13) and CFO/Lead Software Engineer Austin Hill (BS Computer Engineering '13) bill their company as a full-service shop for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), offering custom-built quadcopters and other flying UAVs, and also providing aerial cinematography services. As CSE students, Angelo, Selander and Hill participated in the Engineers for Exploration program, co-directed by CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner and Qualcomm Institute research scientist Albert Yu-Min Lin. Angelo even accompanied Lin on a National Geographic expedition to Mongolia in search of Genghis Khan's tomb. Since then, the students' work has been featured on CNN, ABC's Good Morning America, BuzzFeed, TechCrunch and the National Geographic Channel.

    The Kickstarter campaign funds will primarily allow the team to make an aerial cinematography video training series, including Aerial Photography 101, and Quadcopter/UAVs 101. According to their crowdfunding appeal, the students "want to teach the world how to have fun, fly safe, and capture amazing content." The series will cover everything from the basics (such as choosing a copter and taking off for the first time), to more advanced piloting maneuvers.The Kickstarter funds could also allow SparkAerial to build an online resource center for aspiring drone pilots. 

    Visit the SparkAerial website.
    Read more about the Kickstarter campaign.
    Watch a video showcasing SparkAerial's capabilities.

  • CSE Faculty Participate in New Funding Channel for Research

    More than 100 UC San Diego researchers will be involved in a two-year pilot program on Benefunder, a San Diego-based philanthropic research funding platform for higher education institutions. Benefunder and UC San Diego signed a Memorandum of Understanding to embark on the pilot program, and their long-term goal is "to allow junior and senior faculty in diverse disciplines to create funding relationships with private supporters from across the country, and generate one-time and recurring donations to fund their work and vision." According to Vice Chancellor for Research Sandra Brown, UC San Diego researchers "work on some of the most critical issues facing the world today. Benefunder is a way for donations to have a direct and powerful effect—to help understand and solve problems and enhance the quality of lives around the world. The hope is that working together we will actively expand funding opportunities for our researchers through new engagements.”

    Indeed, UC San Diego has the largest presence among universities on Benefunder to date, in part because ECE Prof. Gert Lanckriet is a co-founder of the platform, which is pending status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Well over half the existing profiles feature UC San Diego faculty, with a fair number featuring CSE professors. They include Ryan Kastner ("extending the limits of human exploration using drones and 3D imaging"), Scott Klemmer, pictured at left ("leveraging human-computer interaction for social and psychological design excellence"), Stefan Savage and his "Fast & Furious Cybercrime-Stompers," Lawrence Saul (pictured at top), whose focus is on "Ending Malware Mayhem", and former CSE Prof. Serge Belongie (now at CornellTech). Presumably more CSE faculty members who want to attract philanthropic support will be added to the roster as more UC San Diego professors are featured on the website.



by Dr. Radut