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Highlights

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…  

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…  

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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…

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$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…

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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...

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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...

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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... 

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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…  

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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…  

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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...

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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…

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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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  • Howard University Alumnus Awarded Sloan Ph.D. Fellowship in Computer Science at UC San Diego

    Jeremy Blackstone is the first graduate student selected to receive a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. Program to do a doctorate in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He graduated magna cum laude in computer science from Howard University, where he also earned his M.S. degree, but Blackstone is not a newcomer to the UC San Diego campus. For the past two summers, he worked in the lab of CSE Professor Ryan Kastner in an eight-week program for Master’s and undergraduate students.

    The fellowship follows the Sloan Foundation’s naming of UC San Diego, MIT and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as University Centers for Exemplary Mentoring in the foundation program started in 2014. They join four previous universities selected for the Sloan Scholars program: Pennsylvania State, University of Iowa, Georgia Tech, and the University of South Florida.

    At UC San Diego, the program provides support for 12 incoming Ph.D. scholars in the Jacobs School of Engineering or the Division of Physical Sciences. Each scholar is awarded $42,000 over four years in addition to other financial support typically provided to each student.

    The Sloan Minority Ph.D. Program is a three-year, multi-million-dollar initiative to support underrepresented minority graduate students in STEM fields. According to the Computing Research Association, African Americans represent only 1.2% of Ph.D.’s awarded annually in computer science nationwide.  Sloan Scholars will participate in professional development activities and attend the Institute for Teaching and Mentoring at least twice during their graduate program at UC San Diego.

    Combining foundation and university funds, 122 minority graduate students will receive tuition, stipends, and professional development support at UC San Diego, MIT and UIUC over the next three years. “Increasing the diversity of graduate education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering means getting talented minority candidates into quality Ph.D. programs and helping them succeed once they get there,” says Elizabeth S. Boylan, Director of the STEM Higher Education program at the Sloan Foundation. “These universities really stand out for the depth of their commitment to minority Ph.D. students in the sciences and engineering.”

    UC San Diego itself is implementing ambitious campus-wide reforms aimed at ensuring that one of every five applications, offers, and acceptances to their graduate programs in engineering and physical sciences comes from a minority scholar. In addition to significant fellowship and tuition support, UC San Diego is aggressively recruiting and providing a host of services to entering students, including guest lectures, networking mixers, a one-month orientation for newly admitted students, and a peer-mentoring program that matches new students with more-advanced colleagues.

    Jeremy Blackstone is originally from Annapolis, MD, and the Sloan Foundation was impressed with his credentials as a mentor to other minority students. “I became interested in mentoring during my experience as a teaching assistant at Howard University, which I began as a freshman,” recalled Blackstone. “It helped me realize that some of the most powerful ways I can affect change in people’s lives is through education and service.”

    According to Blackstone, as the computer science curriculum at Howard became more challenging, he helped fellow students understand difficult concepts and assisted them in debugging their code. He volunteered to help new computer science students during their lab, and even tutored his friends in math and taught them basic programming skills.

    “I like that by helping others overcome their obstacles they can be afforded similar opportunities as I have been given,” he added. “My parents and community sacrificed to ensure that I had a proper foundation for my education and I want to help provide that same foundation for others.”

    While at Howard, Blackstone became a team leader in Alternative Spring Break, a program that sent him as a team leader to New Orleans for spring break, where the students cleared fields so that displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina could return to their homes. The following year he was a team leader in Atlanta, mentoring elementary school students and encouraging them to achieve higher academic goals. During the school year, Blackstone worked for Project Dream Big and DC Metropolitan High School, an alternative school where he tutored students struggling in math and science.

    Blackstone’s desire to give back was amplified after a heart attack as a high school senior, when he was declared dead for 20 minutes. He had been misdiagnosed with asthma, but doctors discovered a rare heart condition that was later reversed with open-heart surgery. He missed some school, but went on to graduate in the top one percent of his class. That same year his dream of going to college became a reality, after receiving a full scholarship to Howard. “I was ecstatic about this because my parents’ level of income would not have been sufficient to pay for tuition, fees, room and board, especially with my younger brother about to graduate high school after me,” explained Blackstone. “The scholarship lifted a huge burden and allowed me to focus on my studies and continue with my academic success.”

    “Overcoming these challenges has allowed me to be an example of hope for other African-American students who may have similar financial or health backgrounds,” said Blackstone. “I seek to foster a community of students by openly sharing what I have experience and encouraging others to do the same. I hope this will empower them to believe that they can achieve as well.”

    While still at Howard, Blackstone was accepted into the UC San Diego-Howard University Partnership for Graduate Success program, which leverages the Summer Training Academy for Research in the Sciences (STARS) program to provide a mentored summer research experience for up to 10 Howard students for eight weeks each summer.

    In 2013 and 2014, Blackstone was mentored by CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner on two of his key projects. The first year, he worked in the Engineers for Exploration program, co-directed by Kastner, to develop an “intelligent camera trap” to automatically detect and classify the behaviors of captive animals (first deployed in the tiger enclosure at the San Diego Zoo). Blackstone developed an infrared tiger detector as well as an automated computer-vision algorithm based on Haar features (using OpenCV) for detecting the tiger. Then in summer 2014, Blackstone helped a team in Kastner’s lab developing the Reusable Integration Framework for FPGA Accelerators (RIFFA). The RIFFA system is a framework for communicating data from a host computer processor to an FPGA via a PCI Express bus. Blackstone created interfaces to a variety of external memories that sit on the RIFFA board (involving programming of device drivers and hardware).

    Blackstone will return to work in the lab of Ryan Kastner as a Sloan Scholar this fall. “I am extremely excited that Jeremy accepted our admissions offer to come to UCSD to do his PhD,” said Kastner. “He has a compelling record in scholarship, outreach, and contributions to diversity, and I have no doubt that he will continue to be an outstanding role model for everyone around him.”

  • Faculty Startup Highlighted on Front Page of San Diego Business Journal

    The growing popularity of the networking app Whova, particularly with conference and other event organizers, is focusing new attention on the small startup founded by CSE Prof. Yuanyuan Zhou and a few of her postdoctoral researchers. They made the front page of the San Diego Business Journal (pictured l-r: Soyeon Park, Weiwei Xiong, YY Zhou, and Tianwei Sheng), which is a lot of publicity for a team of computer scientists who tend to be shy. Indeed, their app aims to help students and any conference-goer "to get out of their shells and mingle with strangers," as Zhou told the Journal's technology reporter, Brad Graves. He goes on to note that Zhou considers networking "a career skill that will be just as necessary as knowing the fine points of computer code. Zhou's third startup business, in fact, is kind of a technological work-around for introverted people who find themselves thrown together at conferences."

    The Whova app briefs the user on fellow conference attendees, especially information that could be a conversation starter (e.g., if they went to the same school). There is even a one-touch utility to say "hi" to someone else using the app in the vicinity. Whova recently completed its first six months of offering the service commercially, and customers have included TEDx, MIT, and a number of conferences held at UC San Diego (including CSE's 25th anniversary celebration). In those first six months, the app was deployed at more than 1,000 conferences. The article notes that Zhou learned her lesson after launching her second company, Pattern Insight, in the Bay Area -- and then having to commute back and forth from San Diego since moving here from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009.  Much of Pattern Insights assets were eventually sold to VMware, but when she decided to launch Whova, she opted to locate it on Sorrento Mesa, an easy reach from campus, where she holds the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Computing.

    Read the full article (subscription required)

  • Computer Science at UC San Diego #14 in Global Ranking

    Computer science at UC San Diego is ranked #14 in the world, and #13 in the United States, according to the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). For the third year in a row, UC San Diego overall was also ranked the #14 best university in the world (#12 in the U.S.), while the engineering program in general also ranked #14. The rankings are released by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

    In addition to broad subject fields such as life sciences and engineering, ARWU ranks schools in five specific fields. Among those, UC San Diego's best performance was in computer science (#14), trailed by chemistry (#18), economics (#19), mathematics (#30), and physics (which ranked below #51).

    “It is an honor for UC San Diego to be recognized as a world-class university with strengths across multiple disciplines,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This recognition can be attributed to our stellar faculty and outstanding students who are dedicated to producing research that changes lives, solves critical problems and benefits society.”

    The Academic Ranking of World Universities uses five indicators to evaluate world universities in the computer science field: the number of alumni and staff winning Turing Awards; the number of highly-cited researchers in computer science; the number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index - Expanded in Computer Science fields; and the percentage of paper published in the top 20% of computer science journals compared to total publications in all computer science journals.

    Given that UC San Diego is a relatively young campus and that CSE boasts no alumni nor current staff winners of the prestigious Turing Award (the highest in computer science), the university gets zero points on the first two scores that make up 25% of the total field score. On the other hand, CSE has a strong track record publishing in top journals and getting cited by other academics, which largely accounts for the score that qualified the department to be ranked #14 in the world.

  • Bioinformatics Pioneers Launch First Online Bioinformatics Specialization on Coursera

    Next week, learners around the world will have the opportunity to enroll in a series of courses designed for biologists eager to gain computational skills and for computer scientists who want to explore the frontier of bioinformatics. UC San Diego will launch its six-course Specialization in Bioinformatics on Coursera, which culminates in a Capstone Project using software tools and big data provided by Illumina, a leading company in genome sequencing and the emerging field of personalized medicine.

    The new Bioinformatics Specialization will allow learners to earn a Specialization Certificate that serves as a mini-degree in this fast-growing, cutting-edge field. “Our online courses are identical to a core class in the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Program at the University of California, San Diego, one of the top programs in the world. Actually, they have even more content,” said Pavel Pevzner, a professor of computer science and engineering at UC San Diego, who co-developed the Specialization with longtime colleague Phillip Compeau (far right with Pevzner), who this month joined the computational biology faculty at Carnegie Mellon University. “In fact, the Specialization will cover twice as much material as we teach in our UC San Diego course, so online learners can acquire world-class skills, even if they don’t know anything yet about biology – or computer programming.”

    The Bioinformatics Specialization gives learners the option of participating in one of two separate tracks: one for students who already have programming skills, the other designed largely for biologists who don’t code but do want to learn how to use popular bioinformatics tools to solve practical problems.

    “Biologists use bioinformatics tools such as BLAST in their daily lives,” said Compeau. “BLAST is like the Google of biology: everybody uses it, even if they don’t know how it works. But it’s important for a biologist to know how BLAST works to avoid pitfalls, so we explain how these tools work even if the learner doesn’t know how to program.” Learners who already know how to program will take a “hacker track” that will automatically test their programming skills using over 100 algorithmic puzzles motivated by modern biology.

    Each of the Bioinformatics courses will run for four weeks, and the starter course in the series, Finding Hidden Messages in DNA, will begin August 31 and replay every six weeks. Subsequent courses include: Genome Sequencing; Comparing Genes, Proteins, and Genomes; Deciphering Molecular Evolution; Genomic Data Science and Clustering; and Finding Mutations in DNA and Proteins. These courses are followed by a Capstone Project, Big Data in Biology, which includes challenges in bioinformatics and personalized medicine developed jointly with scientists at Illumina. “In the Capstone, students will face the same kind of challenges that researchers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry face,” said Compeau. Pevzner added, “Each section of the Capstone will include a motivating example illustrating how the emerging field of personalized medicine has contributed to decoding the causes of mysterious diseases that traditional approaches failed to diagnose.”

    All sections of the Capstone have been developed jointly with scientists led by Semyon Kruglyak, the Senior Director of Informatics Research at Illumina. “Illumina cares about education.  We offer continued education to our own scientists, and we have the BaseSpace cloud platform that thousands of biologists around the world use.  We are making our data sets and analysis on BaseSpace available to people taking these courses,” said Kruglyak. “Illumina is most interested in educating biologists in bioinformatics because bioinformatics plays an important role in experimental design and data interpretation, but the subject is largely missing from even some of the best biology programs.  This course seems like an ideal way to close that gap quickly.”

    Plus, noted Kruglyak, “success in this Specialization could lead to Illumina job opportunities, because the company is looking for employees who can tackle biological Big Data.”



by Dr. Radut