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  • In Facebook Open Academy, CSE Undergrad Earns Oculus Rift VR Kit

    In February, Facebook expanded its Facebook Open Academy to UC San Diego and nine other top computer science schools, in addition to Stanford and 14 other schools admitted in 2012 and 2013. The 2014 program kicked off with approximately 250 students and faculty from 25 schools assembling at Facebook headquarters to meet with mentors from 22 open-source projects (such as Ruby on Rails, Mozilla Firefox and Wikimedia). The Open Academy specifically encourages practical, applied software-engineering experiences for undergraduates by matching them with active open-source projects and mentors. According to Jay Kunin, executive director of the Jacobs School of Engineering's Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship, “we had 11 undergrad CSE students complete the course, which spanned the Winter and Spring quarters.” For the prize contest, each student was asked to develop a project summary for the Open Academy.

    In mid-July Facebook informed Kunin that CSE junior Wai Ho Leung (at left) had submitted one of the four winning papers, related to his work with the Waterbear Open Source Project, a visual programming toolkit that aims to make programming more accessible and fun, especially for self-educated learners. "I have been helping with designing a simple-to-use integrated development environment [IDE]  and localizing Waterbear," says Leung, who is working full-time this summer at Websense. "I believe a simple IDE sets up a friendly learning environment, which is the key to drawing people's interest in programming."

    Leung’s prize: an Oculus VR development kit for the headline-grabbing Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, primarily used in its early incarnation for 3D gaming. Mulling over ideas about what to develop, the student thinks his first project will be a 3D flight simulator.

    Leung is no stranger to software development challenges. Since his AP Computer Science teacher at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, Calif., urged him to do so, Leung has competed or mentored students in IBM’s Master the Mainframe competition five years in a row. As a university freshman, he also entered the UCSD Programming Contest. In CSE he tutored roughly 500 students in Java, Android, PHP, C++ and other topics over a 15-month period. Leung expects to graduate from UC San Diego in 2015 with dual B.S. degrees in Computer Engineering and Mathematics-Computer Science. To supplement his formal education at UC San Diego, Leung says he joined the CSE 198 Autograder team as a sophomore. (Autograder is an application that will grade programming assignments automatically and publish the grades online.) "We plan to release a beta version of Autograder this fall," says Leung.

    After graduation, he plans to work as a software engineer, but his dream is to start his own business eventually. Meanwhile, Leung says he will remain involved with Waterbear open-source project. "Ten years from now programming will most likely become a required course for primary and secondary schools," he notes. "I am hoping that Waterbear will be used to teach programming to the next generation."

    Learn more about the Facebook Open Academy and how to participate.
    Visit Wai Ho Leung's LinkedIn profile.

  • Best-Paper Prize for Computational Cognitive Modeling

    At the 36th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society which runs from July 24-26 in Quebec City, CSE Prof. Gary Cottrell (at right) and his Cognitive Science Ph.D. student Ben Cipollini will be honored with a best-paper award. This Thursday, July 24, they will receive the Computational Modeling Prize for Perception/Action. It awards the modeling paper in one of four categories of computational cognitive modeling. (The other three categories are Applied Cognition, Higher-Level Cognition, and Language.) The prize-winning research, “A Development Model of Hemispheric Asymmetry of Spatial Frequencies,” will be presented in a session on Cognitive Development—Reasoning that afternoon. In the paper, they put forward a “differential encoding (DE) model” which suggests that “lateralization in visual processing of spatial frequencies is the result of a postulated asymmetry in the spatial spread of connections with the retino-topic visual cortex.” The authors connected lateralized function to anatomical asymmetries, and the anatomical asymmetries to temporal asymmetries in development.

    The same day as he and Cipollini receive their $1,000 award, Cottrell will watch as one of his Ph.D. students, Panqu Wang, gives a talk on modeling the relationship between face and object recognition (a paper co-authored by Cottrell and Vanderbilt University’s Isabel Gauthier). On Thursday, Cottrell will also present a poster at the conference on some of the work he did during his year-long sabbatical in Dijon, France, with University of Burgundy professor Bob French. In it, they explain what Cottrell and French have dubbed TRACX 2.0, a “memory-based, biologically-plausible model of sequence segmentation and chunk extraction.”

  • Deciphering CSE's Upcoming Presence at Crypto 2014

    CSE professors Mihir Bellare and Daniele Micciancio will be in Santa Barbara August 17-21 for the 34th International Cryptology Conference at UC Santa Barbara. The conference is sponsored by the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), and the general chair of the conference is CSE alumna Alexandra (Sasha) Boldyreva (Ph.D. ’04), who worked in Bellare’s lab and is now an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s Information Security Center.

    This year’s IACR Distinguished Lecture will be given by UC San Diego’s Bellare (pictured at left). The title of his talk: “Caught in between theory and practice.”  “This talk explores the culture and motivations of the cryptographic research community,” explains Bellare. “I examine the tension between theory and practice through the lens of my own experience in moving between them. I examine the peer-review process through the lens of psychology and sociology. In both cases the aim is to go from critique to understanding and, eventually, change.”

    Bellare also has two other papers at Crypto 2014. In the August 18 opening session, he and colleagues Kenneth G. Paterson (University of London) and Phillip Rogaway (UC Davis) have a paper on "Security of Symmetric Encryption against Mass Surveillance." According to its authors, the research was “motivated by revelations concerning population-wide surveillance of encrypted communications.” In the paper, Bellare and colleagues formalize and investigate the resistance of symmetric encryption schemes to mass surveillance. The research abstract notes that, “We assume that the goal of ‘Big Brother’ is undetectable subversion,” going on to spell out a way to defend against so-called algorithm-substitution attacks (ASAs), which aim to replace a real encryption algorithm with a subverted encryption algorithm.

    Separately, Bellare and his postdoc (Viet Tung Hoang), and Ph.D. student Sriram Keelveedhi teamed on a paper called, "Cryptography from Compression Functions: The UCE Bridge to the ROM." UCE stands for Universal Computational Extractor, and ROM is the Random Oracle Model.

    Then on August 19, in a session on lattices, Micciancio (at right) and his French postdoc Léo Ducas have a paper on “Improved Short Lattice Signatures in the Standard Model.” They will present “a signature scheme provably secure in the standard model (no random oracles) based on the worst-case complexity of approximating the Shortest Vector Problem in ideal lattices within polynomial factors” – achieving short signatures (consisting of a single lattice vector), and “relatively short” public keys.

    CSE Alumni and Former Postdocs

    Crypto 2014 is also an opportunity to hear from CSE alumni and former postdocs in CSE’s Cryptography and Security Group. For example, CSE alumnus Michel Abdalla (Ph.D. ’01) has co-authored a paper on “Related Key Security for Pseudorandom Functions Beyond the Linear Barrier.” Since 2005 Abdalla (at left) has been a full-time researcher in the Computer Science department of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. (Note: Abdalla is also lead author on a July 2014 paper in the Journal of Cryptology on “Verifiable Random Functions: Relations to Identity-based Key Encapsulation and New Constructions.”) Another CSE alumnus, Bogdan Warinschi (Ph.D. ’04), is co-author of a Crypto paper on “Homomorphic Signatures with Efficient Verification for Polynomial Functions.” Warinschi is now a lecturer at the University of Bristol in the UK.

    Yi-Kai Liu (Ph.D. ’07) earned his doctorate under CSE Prof. Russell Impagliazzo and Math Prof. David Meyer. Now a staff scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Liu (at right) did postdocs at UC Berkeley and Caltech before joining NIST. At Crypto 2014, he has a presentation on “Single-shot security for one-time memories in the isolated qubits model.”

    Finally, Eike Kiltz (at left), a former postdoc working with Mihir Bellare, is now on the faculty at Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum. He spent 2004-05 at UCSD. For Crypto 2014, Kiltz has co-authored a paper on “(Hierarchical) Identity-based Encryption from Affine Message Authentication.” His co-authors, Olivier Blazy and Jiaxin Pan, are from the same university.

    Other CSE postdocs sit on the Crypto 2014 program committee. They include UC Santa Barbara professor Stefano Tessano, who worked with Bellare (2010-‘12), and Nadia Heninger, who worked with Micciancio (2011-12), who is now on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Visit the Crypto 2014 conference website.

  • CSE Faculty Win Qualcomm Institute Research Funding

    CSE professors Ryan Kastner and Steven Swanson (pictured l-r) are leading two projects awarded seed grants from the Qualcomm Institute’s Calit2 Strategic Research Opportunities (CSRO) program. It’s the third round of CSRO grants totaling $1,673,000 to 35 one-year projects that got underway effective July 1. In addition to the CSE-led projects, several Qualcomm Institute researchers who teach CSE courses made the final cut, including Jurgen Schulze, Albert Lin, Curt Schurgers and Falko Kuester.

    The awards to CSE’s Kastner and Swanson allocated support to graduate student researchers in the form of full or partial CSRO Fellowships. The projects now getting off the ground are:

    • Mapping and Visualizing Complex, Large Scale Underwater Archaeological Sites and Artifacts (PI Ryan Kastner): This project was awarded a partial CSRO Fellowship, in addition to cash for equipment and travel expenses – primarily for an expedition to a submerged archaeological site. The project will enhance a 3D underwater imaging platform, notably by integrating location information into existing structure-from-motion 3D modeling software.
    • Rapid Prototyping of Electronic Gadgets  (PI Steven Swanson): In addition to a CSRO Fellowship for recent CSE graduate, Devon Merrill (at right), who has been accepted into the Ph.D. program, Swanson was seeking substantial services from the Design and Prototyping Lab in the Qualcomm Institute. Swanson envisages a Gadgetron system that would “allow almost anyone to design and have manufactured simple electronic devices.” The CSRO project is specifically focused on the rapid prototyping aspects of the Gadgetron project.

    CSE’s Kastner is co-PI on another project getting the green light from the Qualcomm Institute. With “Aerial Sensing for the Maya Jungle,” led by Curt Schurgers, undergrads from the Engineers for Exploration program (including many CSE students) will work with aerial drones and LiDAR laser scanners to sense and map Mayan ruins in Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula. Separately, Albert Lin was funded to develop what he calls “The Location Lab” – a geospatial lab with tools and expertise for analysis and research to support UCSD and external partners who have expressed a growing need to use GIS in their projects. 

    Another CSE lecturer, Jurgen Schulze, is co-PI on The Location Lab, but also leads a separate CSRO team developing an Applied Virtual Reality Initiative that could eventually evolve into a full-fledged center using cutting-edge VR technology to help companies enter the VR marketplace. And CSE faculty-affiliate Falko Kuester leads a project on "Multi-Sensing Micro-Drone Swarms that Save Lives."

    Most of the funding for the CSRO program was earmarked from private support received by the Qualcomm Institute, notably from Qualcomm, Inc., the Qualcomm Foundation, and The Legler Benbough Foundation. 

    Read the full Qualcomm Institute news release.

  • New Hire in Computer Graphics and Vision

    Effective July 1, former UC Berkeley professor Ravi Ramamoorthi joined the Computer Science and Engineering department as its senior faculty hire this year. He joined professors David Kriegman (in computer vision) and Henrik Wann Jensen (in computer graphics) to form the nucleus of a combined group in visual computing. “Much of my research lies at the interface of computer graphics and computer vision,” says Ramamoorthi. “I have published and been active in both of these communities, so I have tried to build bridges between them.”

    The department expects to add at least two more faculty members in graphics and vision, and hopefully more. Also ahead, the group hopes to build a joint research center and to go after large-scale NSF and industry support, while also beefing up the range of courses available to students. “We want to have a full teaching program in graphics and vision to expose students to the full range of the field,” says Ramamoorthi. For his own part, Ramamoorthi will begin teaching a graduate course this winter at the intersection of graphics, vision and photography. Then next spring, he will launch a new Advanced Graphics course for upper-division undergraduates.

    When Ramamoorthi joined the Columbia University faculty in 2002, Columbia was just starting to build its Vision and Graphics Center. “We went from zero papers in SIGGRAPH four years earlier to having ten papers four years later – more than any other group that year,” he recalls. Then in January 2009, a young family in tow, Ramamoorthi moved back to California. He joined UC Berkeley to help rebuild their program in computer graphics. “There wasn’t that much activity in graphics at Berkeley the previous few years, but we built that into what you can argue is the best graphics group in the country,” he notes.

    Ramamoorthi did his undergraduate work at Caltech, where he completed a B.S. and dual M.S. degrees in computer science and physics in 1998. He then earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University in 2002 with a dissertation on spherical harmonic lighting (now widely used in videogames and movies – including for the production of “Avatar” and various animated films from Pixar, where he was a consultant for three years).

    Read the full news release.
    Visit Ravi Ramamoorthi's home page.

  • CSE Mathematician Honored with Simons Fellowship

    The Simons Foundation has announced its prestigious slate of 2014 Simons Fellows in Mathematics. Prof. Sam Buss (at right), who has joint appointments in Mathematics and CSE, is one of the 40 people selected for the honor in 2014. Buss is also the first professor from UC San Diego to be named a Simons Fellow in Mathematics since 2012, when the foundation began making the math awards. The fellowships were designed to encourage leaves of fabsence, and each Simons Fellow's home institution receives up to $100,000, or half of the fellow's normal academic salary, whichever is less, to offset the cost of a six-month leave. Buss earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton University in 1985. He did postdoctoral fellowships at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and in the UC Berkeley Department of Mathematics, prior to joining the UC San Diego faculty in 1988. In July 2013, Buss won the Best Paper award at the 16th International Conference on Theory and Applications of Satisfiability Testing (SAT), jointly with his former Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, Maria Luisa Bonet.

  • Computer Science Graduates in Strong Demand

    They didn’t track graduates of UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering program specifically, but there is plenty of good news in a new report from UC San Diego Extension. In its sixth annual report on “Hot Careers for College Grads and Returning Students,” Extension reports that the single hottest career nationwide is… computer systems analysts.

    Indeed, the survey tracked a number of positive trends for college graduates and mid-career professionals, and the ranking identifies the job opportunities that are “most likely to expand in the foreseeable future.” Nine of the top 10 careers are technology- or business-oriented, with elementary school teachers (at #5) the sole exception. CSE produces graduates for three of the top 10 careers: they include computer programmers (#9) and database administrators (#8) in addition to the systems analysts at #1. Computer network architects came in at #11.

    In announcing the new survey, UC San Diego Extension reported that “technology continues to drive job creation, with many of the growing careers tied to technological changes ranging from cloud computing to the need for easily accessible data in such emerging fields as healthcare and biotech.” Tech-oriented sectors also continue to seek a high level of analytical and marketing skills as the prime hiring criteria. The four major criteria considered in establishing the Hot Careers 2014 list included: current employment in the field; projected growth in the occupation from 2010 to 2020; median annual salary; and characteristics of the workplace environment in each occupation. Extension also reported an across-the-board hiring “rebound in the aftermath of the Great Recession,” noting a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which found that more than 30 percent of graduating college seniors from the Class of ’14 were hired prior to graduation.

    Hot Careers for College Grads and Returning Students 2014

  • Former CSE Professors Join Faculty of 5-Week Summer Program for Incoming Students

    The team behind CSE's Summer Program for Incoming Students (SPIS) is growing, as is the number of students admitted to the 2014 program. SPIS was devised to help incoming students excel in their early computer science courses and beyond---even if they have no background in computer science or programming.

    Sixty-six students (including 13 non-CSE majors from various disciplines) will attend the five-week program that kicks off August 17, 2014. Sixteen of the accepted students hail from low-ranking California schools (rank 7 or lower). Selection was based on the students' degree of preparation in computer science, and how much organizers thought they would benefit from the program. More than half the students received financial assistance to attend the residential program, and tuition is free for all, thanks to support from CSE, the Qualcomm Institute, and local community donors. In addition to CSE faculty members Christine Alvarado, Mia Minnes and Mohan Paturi as well as humanities faculty Amanda Solomon (all of whom organized SPIS 2013), two former CSE faculty members - Laurette Bradley and Gus Uht (pictured above) - will return to campus to participate in the SPIS program as faculty in 2014. The married couple stepped down as assistant professors from the (relatively new) CSE department's faculty in 1992.

    Also joining the SPIS teaching faculty this year: CSE instructor Diba Mirza (at left), fresh from teaching CSE 140 (Components and Design Techniques for Digital Systems) during the spring quarter, and CSE 30 (Computer Organization and Systems Programming) in Winter 2014. Mirza is a former member of CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner's research lab and computer engineering alumna (from ECE). Faculty or potential sponsors who want to know more about the program or to contribute in some fashion are urged to connect with Mohan Paturi.

    Summer Program for Incoming Students 2014 website. 

  • CSE-Related Research and Researchers Dominate USENIX Security Forum

    Here's an alert to graduate students in CSE who want to attend the 23rd annual USENIX Security Symposium that will take place August 20-22 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. The conference has extended the deadline for students to apply for travel, accommodations and/or registration grants to attend this year's event. The new deadline is Monday, July 14, and applications must be submitted online (see link below).

    USENIX Security is one of the "big three" conferences in computer security, and this year's meeting is going to showcase the work of current faculty and grad students, but also the work of UC San Diego CSE alumni. CSE Prof. Hovav Shacham (pictured at right) is the senior author of a paper, "On the Practical Exploitability of Dual EC in TLS Implementations," co-authored with colleagues including grad student Jake Maskiewicz and CSE alumni Stephen Checkoway (now at Johns Hopkins) and Tom Ristenpart (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Shacham is also senior author on another paper with co-authors from UC San Diego and the University of Michigan. CSE Ph.D. student Neha Chachra (at left during previous internship at Google), advised by Geoffrey Voelker and Stefan Savage in the Systems and Networking group, is one of the co-authors on a paper titled, "Hulk: Eliciting Malicious Behavior in Browser Extensions." In addition to Chachra, the co-authors on the Hulk paper hail from two other University of California campuses -- three co-authors from UC Santa Barbara, and two from UC Berkeley and the International Computer Science Institute, including senior author Vern Paxson.

    In addition to the paper above, CSE alumnus Tom Ristenpart (Ph.D. '10) has three other papers on the USENIX Security program. Both Ristenpart and Georgia Tech professor Alexandra (Sasha) Boldyreva (Ph.D. '04) studied under CSE Prof. Mihir Bellare, and Boldyreva also has a paper at USENIX Security this year. Another CSE alumnus, Stephen Checkoway (Ph.D. '12), had four papers accepted (two of them co-authored with UC San Diego researchers). A fourth CSE alumnus, Chris Kanich (Ph.D. '12) -- now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- also has a paper ("The Long 'Taile' of Typosquatting Domain Names"). Pictured above (l-r): CSE alumni Ristenpart, Checkoway, Boldyreva and Kanich.

    According to Center for Networked Systems director Stefan Savage, CSE's intellectual imprint on USENIX Security 2014 goes beyond the individual papers. "There are two sessions whose purpose is driven by our past work," said Savage. "There is a session on return-oriented programming (ROP) that is driven entirely by Hovav Shacham's seminal work on ROP. On top of that, roughly 75 percent of the side-channel session is motivated by the work Tom Ristenpart did here at UC San Diego on cross-VM attacks in the cloud."

    Full-time grad student online application for grants to cover travel, accommodations or registration fees.
    Visit the online program for USENIX Security 2014.

  • Former CSE Faculty Member Receives ACM SIGCOMM Award

    While he was still on the CSE faculty at UC San Diego, last summer George Varghese was named the winner of the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award (named for the longtime leader of NEC). At that time, Varghese was cited for his "contributions to the field of network algorithmics and its applications to high-speed packet networks." Fast forward to summer 2014, and once again he is being honored -- this time by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) with its highest award in communications networking. Varghese is the recipient of the 2014 ACM SIGCOMM Award, and he was cited for his "sustained and diverse contributions to network algorithmics, with far-reaching impact in both research and industry." Varghese stepped down from the CSE faculty in August 2013 to take a position at Microsoft Research after 14 years at UC San Diego. Together with colleagues from Microsoft's networking and programming-languages groups (the latter because of their experience with program verification), Varghese hopes to take the new field of network verification to the next level and apply it to Bing, Windows Azure and other networks run by Microsoft. As he said last year, "The hope is to make our networks — and perhaps our customers' — more available and easy to manage." Another of his current research directions: interactive genomics. Responding to word of Varghese's ACM SIGCOMM honor, CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta noted that, "Coming as it does on the heels of the Koji Kobayashi Award by the IEEE, this is very impressive and very much in keeping with the excellence George has come to personify."

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