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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…


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


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…  


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...

  • Discussion Groups for the Online Classroom (and Off)

    CSE and Cogntive Science professor Scott Klemmer (right) is one of the brains behind a new tool called Talkabout, developed at UC San Diego and Stanford and already deployed as part of Klemmer's massive open online course (MOOC) on human-computer interaction. Talkabout is a virtual discussion section built around Google Hangouts (which limits to nine the maximum number of participants in a Talkabout, or as few as two). Talkabout was built with Klemmer's former colleagues at Stanford, computer science professor Michael Bernstein and Ph.D. student Chinmay Kulkarni, and the project currently includes an incoming CSE M.S. student, Yasmine Kotturi (who graduates from UCSD in cognitive science this year). As originally implemented in Klemmer's first MOOC, the tool offered students the opportunity to log on any time, but students couldn't be sure that anyone else would be there at the same time.

    So instead, according to a report this week in Stanford Daily, "the new system works by randomly assigning a few people to each group. There is no moderator and students encounter new peers in each discussion section." Talkabout also allows students to choose between verbal discussion or contributing by text (which is often preferred by students for whom English is a second language).

    Talkabout has been used for many MOOCs. For example, CSE faculty-affiliate Terry Sejnowski recently used the tool for his Learning How to Learn MOOC on Coursera produced by the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center. (The center is directed by CSE Prof. Gary Cottrell).

    An upcoming online courses set to use Talkabout for discussion groups is Learn to Mod, which teaches students how to code modifications of the wildly popular computer game, Minecraft. The instructor will be Sarah (Esper) Guthals (at right), a CSE alumna (PhD '14) and co-founder/CTO of the startup ThoughtSTEM, which develops courses, trainings, software and textbooks for children 8 to 18 to learn how to program. Guthals and ThoughtSTEM co-founder and CSE Ph.D. candidate Stephen Foster also created a video game, CodeSpells, to help teach kids programming skills. The research implementation was so successful -- attracting $164,000 from nearly 5,500 backers on Kickstarter -- that it is now under development as a full-scale commercial game by professional video game developers. Their success with CodeSpells led Guthals and Foster to develop LearnToMod software, which provides a game environment with puzzles and tutorials on how to craft "mods" in a browser, teaching how to code at the same time. That same software forms the basis of the "Learn to Mod" online course.

  • Alumnus Reports on Advances in Encryption for the Cloud

    "Data Encryption in the Cloud: Square Pegs in Round Holes" is the title of a guest article by CSE alumnus Tom Ristenpart (PhD '10), on Information Week's DARK Reading information security website. In it, the computer science professor from the University of Wisconsin reports that conventional encryption is a surefire solution for protecting sensitive data -- except when it breaks cloud applications. The solution, he offers, is something called 'format-preserving encryption.' Ristenpart's research spans a broad range of computer security topics, focusing primarily on threats to cloud computing, as well as topics in applied and theoretical cryptography.

    In his May 21 article for DARK Reading, Ristenpart argues that encryption can secure data in case of a data breach in the enterprise. However, "the bad news is that traditional encryption techniques can also pose limitations to the functionality of cloud applications," says the alumnus. "I call this the 'square pegs-round-holes' problem." This is because every type of sensitive data comes with its own format. "Not only do credit card numbers have to be 16-digit strings, but salaries must be positive integer numbers, emails must be alphanumeric strings with an ‘@’ character, a domain name, and a TLD like ‘.com’, and so much more," Ristenpart writes in the article. "So it’s not just that square pegs must fit into round holes, but also stars, triangles, pentagons, rhombuses, and so on." While he is not the first expert to talk about format-preserving encryption (FPE), the CSE alumnus and colleagues have come up with encrption algorithms that are not only secure, but also solve the key usability issues of making it easy to specify a peg size. "Creating a new encryption engine is something that any developer can do seamlessly," explains Ristenpart. "This allows them to quickly adapt to the particulars of different cloud services... It's gratifying to see emerging security technologies bring these types of academic breakthroughs to the cloud security market," Ristenpart added. "The intention is that with more functional encryption capabilities, companies will be able to enable cloud services for a wider range of use cases."

  • A Graduate Student's Perspective on Data Scientists

    As CSE seeks campus approval for a new major in Data Science and Engineering, Ph.D. student Zachary Chase Lipton asks the question: "Will the real data scientists please stand up?" That's the title of his May 19 column in KDnuggets, which covers data mining, analytics, big data and data scence. In the article, Lipton parses the various definitions of "data scientist," which he says has grown to include "computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists as well as business school graduates, economists, and other social scientists. Some positions seem to require mathematical maturity, others superior coding skills, and yet more are clearly looking for SQL jockeys, who can generate visualizations and insert them into powerpoint presentations."

    Lipton (at right) distills the profession into five archetypes of data scientists. The "theorists" are mostly academics who "primarily study algorithms that are provably efficient and provably correct, even if they must rely on unrealistically strong assumptions," writes Lipton, who works with CSE Prof. Charles Elkan in CSE's Artificial Intelligence group. "Theory papers contain proofs correctness, proofs of convergence, and guarantees on performance." The second archetype is the machine learning scientist, who works in universities or big tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. Lipton says "machine learning scientists sit somewhere between theorists and data miners," and they develop new algorithms but also "care about empirical performance on real-world tasks." Archetype #3 are the data miners. "These engineers are often strong programmers and combine domain-specific intuition with a knowledge of algorithms to generate valuable insights," writes Lipton, and they work at a broader cross-section of Silicon Valley-type companies as well as in health and other spaces that are focused on mining a particular industry's data.

    "Script kiddies" is what Lipton calls the fourth archetypal data scientist, defined as end-users of data science products such as Azure ML, IBM Watson and KNIME. "They may know roughly what a support vector machine does," says Lipton, "but wouldn't code one from scratch." And finally, the loosest definition of data scientist might more appropriately be called "Powerpoint jockeys". They are employed in management consulting firms and elsewhere. They may previously have been called business analysts, but now want a fancier-sounding title such as data scientist. "These individuals may have no coding skills or mathematical background," writes Lipton, "but why should qualifications stand in the way of ambition?" Strong skills in Powerpoint and Excel make it possible to churn out impressive-looking visualizations to justify the "data scientist" moniker.

  • CSE Computer Security Startup Starts Selling Toolkit

    A startup out of the CSE department is flexing its muscles. This week, Tortuga Logic's co-founder and CEO, CSE alumnus Jason Oberg (PhD '13) announced immediate availability of the company's toolkit to transform the way hardware designers and system architects test the security of hardware designs.

    "The semiconductor industry needs to redirect its attention from only analyzing software vulnerabilities to identifying ways to detect security issues in hardware designs," said Oberg (at right) in a news release. "As more and more devices are designed to be Internet-enabled, the more we need to be concerned about hardware security. Hackers are focusing now on hardware." Tortuga Logic is a pioneer in the so-called design-for-security market. Its new toolkit, called Prospect, is able to uncover hidden bugs and prove the absence of vulnerabilities in hardware designs, thus minimizing security breaches in hardware and systems by automating the process of verifying security properties. Oberg's co-founders in Tortuga Logic include CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner and UC Santa Barbara Prof. Tim Sherwood, as well as Jonathan Valamehr, who is now the company's CFO and chief operating officer. This week's announcement put Tortuga Logic one step closer to graduating from the EvoNexus incubator, where it has been headquartered since late last year. The company should now be able to start adding commercial sales to a business that until now relied primarily on angel investors and NSF Small Business Innovation Research funding. In mid-April, Tortuga Logic was one of 16 startups participating in EvoNexus' Demo Day, where 350 attendees saw the company's demonstration of how their software analyzes the security properties in hardware designs to prevent cyber-security breaches. The company expects growing demand for its products with the advent of the Internet of Things. "Attacks have already been demonstrated on embedded devices such as pace makers, automobiles, baby monitors, and even refrigerators," Oberg told Chip Design magazine in late April. "Most companies are trying to solve this problem purely with software security, but this is a constant cat-and-mouse game we cannot win. As IoT grows, we are seeing more software being pushed down into hardware and our modern chipsets are growing in complexity. This is driving attackers to begin focusing on hardware and, without ensuring our chipsets are built in a secure manner, these attackers will continue to succeed.”

by Dr. Radut