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  • Study Ranks UC San Diego #5 Among Theoretical Computer Science Programs Nationwide

    CSE #1 in Published Papers at Top Cryptography Conferences

    According to an authoritative study by professors from MIT and the University of Maryland, the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at UC San Diego has the #5-ranked program in theoretical computer science in the country. The new ranking of computer-science departments is based on the number of papers accepted to major algorithms and theory conferences and weighted according to whether the conference is considered a Rank 1 venue or Rank 2 (with Rank 3 and unranked conferences not taken into consideration).

    Buried in the data was more good news: CSE faculty at UC San Diego had more papers accepted to the top conferences in cryptography than any other U.S. university. They had 43 papers in Advances in Cryptography (CRYPTO), and 36 papers in the European Conference on Cryptography (Eurocrypt). The data were updated as of July 2014.

    “This ranking is based purely on conference publications, which more closely reflects both the field's own internal valuation and the evaluation of the university system,” notes CSE Prof. Mihir Bellare (at left). “But one should take any ranking with a pinch of salt, since publication quantity may be loosely related to quality and decisions taken by conference program committees are not perfect.”

    For all conferences in theoretical computer science (including cryptography), UC San Diego came in #5 after MIT, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. While the latter four institutions were in the top-5 in U.S. News’ ranking for theory programs in computer science, UC San Diego ranked #14.

    “It is heartening to see a young department outperform much older established departments and schools in computer science. The results reaffirm our strategy of hiring excellent core faculty and creating a collaborative environment,” says CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. “Pursuing this strategy over the past decade, we have built a strong research program in cryptography, computer security, programming languages, bioinformatics and computer architecture. Our ongoing efforts will push frontiers in data sciences and intersections of computing to societal infrastructure and human health.”

    In detailing their methodology, MIT professor Erik Demaine and University of Maryland professor Mohammad T. Hajiaghayi noted that the best measure of productivity in the computer-science community and a large fraction (if not all) of jobs, awards, grants, products, etc., in computer science are based on how prolific the researcher is at top conferences.

    "Due to our belief on lack of transparency and well-defined measures in methods used by U.S. News to rank CS departments in theoretical computer science (and in general)," wrote Demaine and Hajiaghayi, who undertook the study as part of their Big Dynamic Network Data (BigDnD) project. They attempted to provide "a ranking based on a real and measurable method for top 50 U.S. universities."

    To decide which algorithms and theory conferences should be considered Rank 1 or Rank 2, the authors used a standard list produced by Georgia Tech, and then deleted all Rank 3 and unranked conferences. The university was given a full point for each publication in one of the eleven Rank 1 conferences, and half a point for each Rank 2 conference publication.

  • CSE Students Participate in Women's Hackathon

    Nine computer science students from UC San Diego were among the 67 young women who registered to participate over the weekend in the International Women's Hackathon, which took place over 12 hours on Saturday, Oct. 11,  at Cal State San Marcos. The event was sponsored by Microsoft Research as a way to provide a fun learning environment for girls to get more exposure to computer programming, IT pros, mentors, companies and community members. Twenty-five college students and 42 high school students, all ages 16 or older, participated. Teams of four to six girls were required to build a website, game, cloud-based service, application or mobile app to address one of two challenges: visualizing the impacts of climate change; or helping organizations and communities to prepare for effective response after a natural disaster.

    The hackathon followed several days of publicity surrounding the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which took place in Phoenix. While the mostly-female participants there were impressed with the turnout of women and girls interested in computer science, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella caused a furor when he urged the mostly-female audience in Phoenix not to ask for raises, but to recognize instead that the system and karma would eventually reward them. After his remarks triggered negative headlines worldwide, Nadella retracted his statement and said both women and men should ask for raises if they are merited.  According to an article in Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune, the furor over Nadella's remarks was echoed in the hackathon. The newspaper quoted UC San Diego computer science undergraduate Sandra Lamantas (pictured in center) as responding, "Whose karma? Really, who's going to help us if we don't ask?"

  • Students, Faculty Celebrate Women in Computing

    UCSD CSE Was Silver Sponsor of 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration

    Nearly 40 students from the University of California, San Diego – most of them affiliated with the university’s chapter of Women in Computing – plus multiple CSE alums attended the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing Oct. 8-10 in Phoenix, AZ. For two of the undergraduates majoring in computer science, it was also an opportunity to showcase research projects in the area of sketch recognition. [Photo at right by Anu Mupparthi, BS '08, MS '11]

    In a poster session, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) student Ren Lee – who is head tutor in CSE 131 Compiler Construction this fall, and did her summer internship at Qualcomm – reported on looking for patterns in the errors produced by sketched symbol recognition techniques. Her goal: to find the patterns and improve the recognition algorithms. Lee (below left) was a semi-finalist in the ACM Student Research Competition funded by Microsoft. At the same time, junior Eliah Overbey (below right) presented a poster on “Digital Circuit Recognition with Shape Context,” in which she examined how to use a technique from computer vision to recognize hand-drawn shapes. Overbey just finished her second consecutive summer internship as a software engineering intern, this year at Google, the previous at Qualcomm.

    The research projects of both Lee and Overbey were supervised by CSE Prof. Christine Alvarado, who was a program co-chair of the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) this year. It was also the ninth year in a row for Alvarado to attend the conference.

    "Having such a large group of students attend GHC, in addition to having UCSD CSE be a Silver Sponsor for the conference, sends a strong message about our commitment to and our support for our women students," said Alvarado. "At the conference, our women students, who make up only about 18% of the CSE major, get the opportunity to feel what it is like to be surrounded by technical women, and they get to meet women near-peers who are thriving in the tech industry."

    A big draw for CSE and other students attending the conference was the Career Fair, which Alvarado describes as "enormous and very active." “There’s a very real chance that they will get a job at GHC,” she added.

  • Summer Internship Symposium Showcases Industry Experiences

    In the end, 93 undergraduates crowded into the lobby and auditorium of the CSE building on Oct. 8 to show off the research and other industry experiences they participated in over the summer. Organized by CSE Assistant Teaching Professor Mia Minnes, the Summer Internship Symposium was a hit with students, staff and faculty, and 18 local industry mentors/advisors from companies including HP and Mitek, and other organizations such as SPAWAR.

    The excitement in the room was palpable: many undergraduate students, in addition to the presenters, were in attendance to learn from their peers," said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. "While the event served its primary purpose of recognizing the student accomplishments well, it also created a meeting place for productive interactions between interns, future interns, employers and faculty."

    "The symposium definitely has the potential to become one of the important community events for CSE," Gupta added.

    Kristiyan Dzhamalov (at right) spent the summer at Google in Mountain View, CA, working on the Google Cloud Print team. "The project that I was working on was to convert the Google Cloud Print Android application to Material Design, which was announced in June during the Google I/O," says Dzhamalov. "Material gives users the feeling that they interact with real objects, rather than a computer program. It bridges the gap between technology and human interactions by providing more natural animations, transitions and improved UI components. Users can anticipate the outcome of their interactions with any application, thus providing them with a smoother and much more natural experience."

    Dzhamalov says that his effort was to take the existing Android application and redesign the front- and back-end to fit the guidelines. "As a whole," he adds, "the project was an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to meet amazing engineers, gain invaluable knowledge and take a product to completion."

    For Dzhamalov and the 92 other students displaying their work, the Summer Internship Symposium was an opportunity to network with potential employers, and to convey their excitement to many of the first-year CSE undergraduates attending the event (students who are likely to undertake one, two or more internships prior to finishing their undergraduate degrees).

    Students who did summer internships were eligible to get 4 units of credit by enrolling in CSE 197, as long as they filled out the appropriate paperwork by mid-June and fulfilled all course requirements.

    Learn more about CSE 197.

  • Size of Computer Science Faculty at UC San Diego Returns to 2010 Level; Enrollment Doubles

    Driven by the ever-widening impact of computer science on applications ranging from energy and the environment to health care, student interest in computer science classes and majors at the University of California, San Diego is reaching new heights. As the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department in the Jacobs School of Engineering scrambles to meet growing instructional needs, it is also expanding the scope of research through hiring of faculty in new areas such as social networking and cancer genomics, while also shoring up core research areas including theory, networking and computer graphics.

    For CSE’s effort to boost faculty hiring, it was a banner year.  When balanced against the recent loss of several tenured and teaching faculty members, the department headcount now stands at 43.67 (fractional appointments reflect joint interdisciplinary appointments), pushing it back to the level where it was in 2010. On a sobering note, however, undergraduate enrollment in CSE hit an all-time high this year, topping 2,000 students (at right), more than double the level of undergraduate enrollment in 2010.

    Hiring for the 2014-15 academic year focused on three groups to address teaching needs while continuing to grow research in select areas:

    - Tenure-track faculty: Full professor Ravi Ramamoorthi and assistant professors George Porter and Julian McAuley (pictured l-r at right) have strong research orientations in their respective areas of visual computing (computer graphics and vision), computer networks and data-intensive computing, and social networking. “It’s important that we are attracting talented faculty members who will push the frontiers of knowledge in these critical fields,” added Gupta.

    - Assistant teaching professors: Mia Minnes Kemp and Leo Porter have research interests in computer education, theory and computer architecture, but they are primarily lecturers capable of teaching large classes; and

    - Joint appointments: CSE was able to enhance its teaching faculty by collaborating with other departments on campus to hire young professors whose work straddles two fields: Daniel Kane in mathematics and computer science, and Nuno Bandeira in bioinformatics and computational biology in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

    Looking to the future, CSE is specifically recruiting researchers with initiatives at the intersection of physical sciences (e.g., cyber-physical systems, vision / robotics), data sciences (e.g., databases, security/privacy, human-computer interfaces), or the life sciences (e.g., medical informatics, bioinformatics). “Across all areas,” said CSE’s Gupta, “we have particular interests in candidates who have experience and interest in building real, experimental artifacts in their research.”

  • Recent CSE Alumna Recounts Successful Summer Team Internship

    Narine Cholakyan (pictured below) is one of the 330 students who participated in the Team Internship Program of the Jacobs School this summer. They worked for 42 companies in the U.S. and abroad. Cholakyan graduated in the spring with a B.S. in computer science, prior to spending the summer at Cubic Transportation Systems, which provided a real-world training ground for collaborative and creative work. Cholakyan and her teammates at Cubic helped develop mobile device applications that enable contactless payment for public transit users.

    "I had the opportunity to not only put my programming skills to the test, but also work in a team environment to come up with solutions to meaningful problems that occurred during the internship," said Cholakyan. "There was a lot of support and the work environment was perfect to facilitate brainstorming and the creation of ideas. I think I took away a lot of skills from this internship - both technical and interpersonal and learned how to better communicate my ideas to others."

    The recent CSE alumna is currently working with CSE research scientist Nadir Weibel on a project that will connect paramedics to doctors so they can consult on time-critical patients being transported to the emergency room.

    The Team Internship Program is part of the Jacobs School's effort to enhance students' education through real-world engineering in a team setting. Students work onsite with industry partners in multi-disciplinary teams focused on clearly defined and significant projects. Students who took part in the program said the TIP's interdisciplinary team approach allows for more meaningful and challenging work than could ever be offered to an individual intern over the same period of time.

  • CodeSpells Triples Its Take from Crowdfunding Campaign

    A team of CSE students and alumni finished their massively successful campaign to seek funding from "the crowd" for further development of their computer game to teach programming skills. Friday was the final day of the month-long campaign for CodeSpells on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Co-founded by Ph.D. student Stephen Foster and recent CSE Ph.D. alumna Sarah Esper, the company ThoughtSTEM launched the campaign to raise $50,000, but by the end of Friday, Oct. 3, nearly 5,500 supporters had committed more than $164,000, more than triple the original target.  

    The success in getting the public to fund CodeSpells means that the team will be able to ramp up production and expansion of CodeSpells much faster. The team will now be able to convert CodeSpells to a multiplayer experience by early 2016, which means that students will be able to learn programming while dueling each other in wizarding battles and coding their own mini-games to play with their friends. Also promised for 2016: a new artificial intelligence system for non-player characters that populate the game world, along with a dialogue system so players can create new story-based adventures within CodeSpells.Then by early 2017, users will be able to create their own new species inside the game. The first 'alpha' version of the game will be released this December to those supporters who contributed $80 or more to CodeSpells during the Kickstarter campaign. The team also released the first CodeSpells Development Update on Sept. 29 (see image), and in it the team offers viewers an inside look at some of the tools currently being developed within the Earth environment, which allows players to execute spells that modify their avatar's surrounding environment. 

    Learn more about the crowdfunding campaign for CodeSpells.
    Watch the CodeSpells Development Update #1 video.

  • Why Computer Scientists May Want to Attend Contextual Robotics Forum

    Faculty and other researchers in Computer Science and Engineering are invited to participate in a robotics forum on October 10 organized by the Jacobs School of Engineering. The first Contextual Robotics Technologies International Forum will feature eight headliners who are world leaders in robotics disciplines that are relevant for the coming era of ubiquitous consumer robotics. Medicine, agriculture, environmental monitoring and disaster response are some of the areas of modern society that ubiquitous consumer robotics is poised to disrupt. "We organized this forum to bring world-class robotics thought leaders together before an audience of Southern California technologists and entrepreneurs with an interest in robotics,” said Jacobs School Dean Albert P. Pisano. “We are dedicated to building and nurturing a robust robotics ecosystem here in San Diego. This means working to help build and sustain collaborations and partnerships among many different players in industry, academia, the military, entrepreneurial communities, and more generally, the region’s public and private sectors.” What does "contextual robotics" mean? The term highlights how the context must be addressed if technologists and society at large are to realize the potential of ubiquitous consumer robotics for the public good. This entails developing robotics systems that are able to determine the context of a situation involving humans, determine a course of subsequent action and then accomplish that action. Contextual robotics systems will likely integrate mobile platforms empowered with sense, machine learning, adaptive control, communications and locomotion functions, and, on occasion, collaborative robots working toward a common goal.

    In addition to introductions by Dean Pisano, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla (who has a partial faculty appointment in CSE) and Ramesh Rao (director of the Qualcomm Institute, a co-sponsor of the forum), the forum will showcase some of the top minds in robotics. They include University of Pennsylvania professor Vijay Kumar on "Robot Swarms", 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson on "Airborne Big Data", MIT professor Daniela Rus speaking about "Printable Robots", and the chief technology officer of Rethink Robotics, Rodney Brooks, who will talk about mobility, manipulations and messiness -- the three major challenges in robotics research. Other speakers include Brad Nelson of ETH-Zurich on "MicroRobotics and NanoMedicine", Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob on "Smartphone-powered Robots", DARPA robotics program manager Gill Pratt, and Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research and the FIRST robotics competitions as well as the Segway. Kamen will talk about creating and forming future technology leaders. The Contextual Robotics Forum begins at 8:30am on October 10 and ends at 5pm. Registration is required.

    Learn more and register at the forum website.

  • Deadline Looms for Startup Ideas for I-Corps; Info Session for Student Entrepreneurs Oct. 7

    The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center is inviting students to apply to the I-Corps Program. This fall, 30 teams interested in starting their own companies will have the opportunity to explore the commercialization potential of their ideas. Those teams will be selected by organizers based on applications that are due no later than October 9.  To socialize the I-Corps process among faculty and students, von Liebig is organizing an information session on October 7 from noon to 1pm in Jacobs Hall's Qualcomm Conference Room. The info session has been expanded to include other entrepreneurship opportunities and resources for students at UC San Diego, including the Moxie Entrepreneurship Academy (which runs 6-8pm every Tuesday) and the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge, in addition to I-Corps.

    While the program is geared to the graduate student community, undergraduates can request special permission to participate. The 30 projects to be incubated in 2014-15 will each receive an initial $1,000 and business mentoring, plus an opportunity to receive an additional $2,000 if their ideas and progress toward commercialization are deemed strong by a team of judges. Most of the students will also take part in a series of courses designed to help engineering students take a product to market. Called Venture Mechanics (ENG 201), the course is given in the fall and spring. Students who are not yet enrolled in the course, but who are planning to apply for an I-Corps spot, are advised to enroll for the Fall 2014 quarter.  Even if they cannot take the course, you can still compete for the seed funding by competing in twice-yearly competitions. Ultimately, student teams who go through the I-Corps program may be eligible to compete for up to $50,000 in funding made available by the I-Corps National program, and going through the program also positions student startups to compete for various funding opportunities, including small-business SBIR grants worth up to $150,000.

    Register to attend the Oct. 7 info session for I-Corps, Moxie and Entrepreneur Challenge. 
    Visit the I-Corps UC San Diego website for more details.

  • Undergrads Receive Award for Augmented-Reality Solution for Color Blindness

    It isn't every day that an academic paper at a major conference is authored or co-authored by undergraduate students, especially not a paper that wins an award. But at the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, that's what happened. The UbiComp program commitee gave the UC San Diego paper, "Chroma: A Wearable Augmented-Reality Solution for Color Blindness", a Best Paper Nominee award, which is reserved for the best five percent of accepted papers (in a conference that accepts only 20% of submissions). At the mid-September conference in Seattle, WA, computer science undergraduate Enrico Tanuwidjaja delivered the presentation as the first author of the paper, but he wasn't the only undergrad among the co-authors: others included Derek Huynh, Kirsten Koa, Calvin Nguyen, Churen Shao and Patrick Torbett. The students undertook nearly two-dozen interviews with people with varying types and levels of color-blindness. In addition to the undergrads, the authors included CSE research scientist and lecturer Nadir Weibel and research associate Colleen Emmenegger.

    Weibel worked with the six CSE undergrads, all of whom took his CSE 118 course as a follow-up to the Google Glass project they worked on in their class last fall. "I decided to invite them to participate in a 198 Directed Study Group course last winter quarter, with the goal of going from an early prototype to a real research project," recalls Weibel. "We worked on IRB, participant recruitment, development of the system, interviews, testing and evaluation." Together they wrote the paper submitted to, and honored by, UbiComp. The team developed Chroma, a wearable augmented-reality system based on Google Glass. It allows users to see a filtered image of the current scene in real time.

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