Skip to Content

CSE News

  • Computer Scientists Find Way to Make All That Glitters More Realistic in Computer Graphics

    Iron Man’s suit. Captain America’s shield. The Batmobile. These all could look a lot more realistic thanks to a new algorithm developed by a team of U.S. computer graphics experts.

    The researchers, led by Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi at the University of California San Diego, have created a method to improve how computer graphics software reproduces the way light interacts with extremely small details, called glints, on the surface of a wide range of materials, including metallic car paints, metal finishes for electronics and injection-molded plastic finishes.

    The method developed by Ramamoorthi and colleagues is 100 times faster than the current state of the art. They are presenting their work this month at SIGGRAPH 2016 in Anaheim, California. The method requires minimal computational resources and can be used in animations. Current methods can only reproduce these so-called glints in stills.

    Accurate rendering of a material’s appearance has always been a critical feature of computer graphics, Ramamoorthi said. It has become even more important with the advent of today’s ever-higher display resolutions.

    The standard approach to modeling the way surfaces reflect light assumes that the surfaces are smooth at the pixel level. But that’s not the case in the real world for metallic materials as well as fabrics, wood finishes and wood grain, among others. As a result, with current methods, these surfaces will appear noisy, grainy or glittery.“There is currently no algorithm that can efficiently render the rough appearance of real specular surfaces,” Ramamoorthi said. “This is highly unusual in modern computer graphics, where almost any other scene can be rendered given enough computing power.”

    The researchers’ solution was to break down each pixel of an uneven, intricate surface into pieces covered by thousands of light-reflecting points smaller than a pixel, called microfacets. The team then computed the vector that is perpendicular to the surface of the materials for each microfacet, called the point’s normal. The normal is key to figuring out how light reflects off a surface.

    For any specific computer-generated scene, the microfacets on a surface reflect light back to the computer’s virtual camera only if its normal is located exactly halfway between the ray from the light source and the light ray that bounces back from the surface. Computer scientists calculated the normals’ distribution within each patch of microfacets. Then they used the distribution to determine which normals where in that halfway position.

    The key to the algorithm’s speed is its ability to approximate this normal distribution at each surface location, called a “position-normal distribution.” This enables the algorithm to easily computer the amount of net reflected light with a speed that is orders of magnitude faster than previous methods. Using a distribution rather than trying to calculate how light interacts with every single microfacet resulted in considerable time and computer power savings.

  • Alumna to Launch App to Help Growers Monitor Crop Conditions

    CSE alumna Chandra Krintz (at left)  says she loves designing systems and solving problems. As a professor of computer science at UC Santa Barbara since 2001, Krintz (M.S., Ph.D. '98, '01)  is doing both with a project called SmartFarm. She is developing a mobile app to "help growers identify real-time conditions in their fields and run their operations more efficiently," according to a feature article in Capital Press, the top agriculture-related publication in the western U.S. "It's for ag, [and] we want to do something analogous to that with SmartFarm."

    Before the end of 2016, the UC San Diego alumna hopes to begin offering the app to farmers free of charge, for use on any smartphone or tablet (the sensors aren't free, but Krintz says they are relatively cheap). The app taps into cheap sensors installed in the soil surrounding each plant (or on the plant itself) at a 20-acre experimental farm north of Santa Barbara. "We believe that by taking very precise measurements at the plant level, we'll collect individual information... that will help a farmer make better decisions than what is possible today." The plant and soil conditions are integrated into weather and other reports to help farmers improve soil health and plan irrigation schedules..

    Krintz comes by her interest in agriculture naturally: she grew up on a farm in her native Indiana. After undergraduate work at Cal State Northridge, she did graduate school at UC San Diego, including her doctoral dissertation on reducing load delay to improve performance of Internet-computing programs (under then-advisor Brad Calder). Today, Krintz's research interests include programming support and adaptive optimization for cloud computing applications and systems, and techniques for efficient interoperation and integration of web services (such as SmartFarm and Vigilance, a software program to help people manage their diabetes). The current plan is to offer SmartFarm at no costm even though she has had the experience of co-founding a successful startup called AppScale Systems (where she remains chief scientist). AppScale makes open-source software to back up applications built around the Google App Engine and for data located in "the cloud" using platforms including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Alibaba Cloud, and others.. .

  • 'Critical Mass' in CSE for Computer Science Education Research

    CSE represents one of the top programs worldwide in the area of computer science education research, according to the Computing Education Blog. Georgia Tech computer scientist Mark Guzdial, who writes the blog, noted that only two U.S. universities can boast of having established a 'critical mass' of researchers in computer educaton research. He defines critical mass as including at least three faculty members whose primary research is in the area. The two universities he points to? University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), and the University of California San Diego. UNO's group is only now becoming large enough to qualify, while UC San Diego began building its program more than a decade ago, and it currently includes (pictured below l-r) Christine Alvarado, Beth Simon, Leo Porter and Scott Klemmer.

    In 2004 CSE hired lecturer Beth Simon who received Ph.D. from CSE in 2002. Since then, the group has gradually expanded to include Alvarado (2012) and Porter (2014). Porter -- another CSE Ph.D. graduate -- arrived from Skidmore College to join teaching professors Alvarado and Simon in the department. The blogger noted that Porter has won many of the best-paper awards at the two most prestigious conferences in the field, SIGCSE and International Computing Education Research (ICER).. Alvarado joined after being "key to the growth of women in computing at Harvey Mudd," noted Guzdial.  Beth Simon, who "still probably has the most ICER publications of anyone, has just returned to UCSD," following a leave of absence to work at Coursera, the largest platform for online learning.  But the list doesn't end there. The blog notes that CSE Prof. Scott Klemmer (who has dual appointments in CSE and Cognitive Science) also touches on computer science educaton research; notably, he gave the keynote presentation at the ICER conference in 2013, where he talked about “Design at Large” and how his work on design can be applied to computer-science education. Klemmer is currrently a co-director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego.

    Since 2014 CSE has had four faculty members all or partly focused in this area, and there is at least one new arrival in Cognitive Science this year: Philip Guo (at left) intends to work with Porter, Simon and Alvarado, and is expected to receive a partial appointment in CSE. He is coming from the University of Rochester, where he was an assistant professor of computer science. The blog notes that Guo "built the Python Tutor that we use in our ebooks, blogs frequently on CS Ed issues, and has been publishing a ton recently (including four papers at VL/HCC last year) on issues related to learning programming." .After finishing his Ph.D. at Stanford in Computer Science in 2012, Guo built online learning tools as a software engineer at Google, and did a postdoc at the online learning platform, edX, while in MIT's artificial-intelligence lab. So why join CogSci? "My recent research has been heading more and more toward using computers as tools to augment human cognition," writes Guo in his own blog, "rather than trying to improve the underlying computing technologies." He expects to collaborate with faculty who specialize in human-computer interaction in both departments, as well as with CSE faculty including Ranjit Jhala, Sorin Lerner and Bill Griswold in the area of programming languages and software engineering

  • CSE Has #2 Cryptography Group Internationally in New Computer Science Rankings

    UC San Diego computer science is among the top-10 programs in the nation and the world, according to a new method for Computer Science Rankings that is still in beta testing. A team led by University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Emery Berger recently unveiled the CSRankings for university computer-science programs, based on aggregate numbers compiled from faculty papers at top-rated conferences in each of 21 specialty areas (e.g., artificial intelligence, programming languages, etc.). Whereas US News and World Report rankings are based on surveys, "this ranking is entirely metric-based," says Berger. "It measures the number of publications by faculty that have appeared at the most selective conferences in each area of computer science."

    Based on average annual publications between 2000 and 2016, UC San Diego ranks #9 in the U.S. and worldwide (though only universities in Europe, Canada and the U.S. are tallied in the international total). The only University of California campus to outperform UC San Diego is UC Berkeley at #4. The top three programs in the overall CSRankings are Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Stanford.

    The rankings point to stellar performance in certain areas. The highest-ranked subject area in CSE at UC San Diego is cryptography, with the group ranked #2 in the world. Professor Mihir Bellare (pictured at left) is the most prolific author of 37 papers presented at CRYPTO and Eurocrypt (the flagship conferences in cryptography). In the field of measurement and performance analysis, the CSE group ranks #3 in the U.S, led by Stefan Savage and Geoffrey Voelker with 23 publications between them. In the computer graphics category, UC San Diego ranks #4 nationally, largely on the strength of professor Ravi Ramamoorthi's 52 papers published in SIGGRAPH or in Transactions on Graphics. Ramamoorthi is listed as the most prolific faculty member overall, combining his graphics papers together with 16 papers in computer vision (in which UC San Diego is ranked #9 nationally). 

    Other top-10 groups in CSE include those In computer architecture, ranked #5, as well as programming languages and computer security, both ranked #6 in their respective categories (with 11 faculty co-authors on security-related papers led by Stefan Savage). Operating systems research at UC San Diego is #10 in that field, with professor YY Zhou accounting for half of all papers presented at the Symposium on Operating Systems Principles (SOSP) or the USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI). The databases group is also #10 among others in that category.

    Doing well but just out of the top-10 in their respective categories, CSE faculty in machine learning and data mining as well as logic and verification are each ranked at #11, and human-computer interaction at #12 (with Scott Klemmer the most prolific with 23 publications). Software engineering at UC San Diego ranks #13, and our faculty tied with Princeton at #14 for algorithms and complexity. UC San Diego is ranked #15 for computer networks, and #19 in mobile computing.

    It will be interesting to see how UC San Diego groups fare in future rankings. Currently at #20 in the field of robotics, CSE and other departments are hiring for the newly-announced Contextual Robotics Institute. The faculty director is outgoing Georgia Tech roboticist Henrik Christensen, who is joining the CSE faculty this fall, along with other new faculty in robotics. Within a couple of years, UC San Diego could start climbing the ladder into the top-10.

  • CSE Introduces Accelerated Biological Data Science M.S.

    Department offers hybrid graduate degree combining online, offline education

    For students who recognize how the world of Big Data is already revolutionizing the fields of biology and medicine, the University of California San Diego is introducing a new program that combines online and classroom education. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) is introducing Biological Data Science (BDS), a 10-course, accelerated Master’s degree program.  

    The accelerated BDS program complements courses that are currently taught in CSE and its Bioinformatics specialization, and program faculty will introduce new courses directed specifically at BDS. The distinctive feature of this program is a mix of offline and online courses developed by UC San Diego faculty in the form of currently available Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

    “Taking some courses online at the student’s preferred pace will reduce the ‘on-campus’ time of the students,” said CSE Professor Pavel Pevzner (at right), who helped launch the Bioinformatics graduate program at UC San Diego as well as a series of popular MOOCs on the Coursera learning platform. “The accelerated option should be of particular interest to U.S.-based working professionals who may want to obtain an M.S. degree within a year or less.”  Finding Hidden Messages in DNA, the first in a series of bioinformatics courses developed by Pevzner, was named one of the Top 50 MOOCs in a survey published July 19 on the online learning website, Class Central.

    By establishing its first accelerated M.S. program, UC San Diego joins the ongoing revolution in online education at leading computer-science departments. In 2014, for example, Georgia Tech introduced an online M.S. program in Computer Science, which attracted thousands of excellent students, many of them working full-time at major corporations.  But according to CSE’s Director of Masters Programs, students enrolled in a purely online program are missing something.

    “They are missing the powerful experience of being on campus for at least a part of their studies and interacting face-to-face with top professors,” said Gregory Kesden. “Here at UC San Diego we aim to show that having a hybrid online-offline program will carry with it the best of both worlds.”

    The accelerated M.S. program in BDS will leverage a series of courses and specializations that have been developed by UC San Diego faculty (see illustration at left from Pevzner's MOOC). By taking those courses online, students enrolled in the program will be able to complete the M.S. program specializing in Biological Data Science with as little as three quarters (30 weeks) attending classes on the ’bricks-and-mortar’ Southern California campus.

    This hybrid program combines the advantages of both online and offline experiences. It will provide an option for UC San Diego students who are unable to attend classes on campus full-time, or who recognize that a purely online degree is not optimal for someone who hopes to translate the M.S. degree into more pay or a better job.

    “In fully online M.S. programs, students do not get face-to-face access to world-famous Biological Data Science experts,” said CSE Chair and Professor Dean Tullsen. “We anticipate that many companies will consider the BDS program as an attractive option to educate their workforce because it directly addresses the needs of students currently in full- or part-time jobs.”

    According to Kesden, the next goal is to “extend the accelerated M.S. program from the BDS specialization to the entire field of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, perhaps as early as 2017.”

    BDS is at the intersection of biology, data science and computing, and its genesis can be traced to the Human Genome Project, one of the largest computing efforts in the history of science. At completion in 2001, the Project assembled the three billion bases of the human genome from hundreds of millions of short fragments. Fifteen years later, a single laboratory can generate an even larger volume of data in a single day, and the advent of such massive biological data sets has resulted in a tidal wave of data covering all aspects of life sciences. Handling and understanding such data is critical to new biomedical discoveries and it is expected to pave the way for the emerging field of precision medicine.

    Analyzing ‘big biological data’ also creates computer-science challenges and a new type of professional – the biological data scientist – to address the challenges.  The biological data scientist combines the skills of a software programmer, statistician or bioinformatics expert to create computational models of biological data, decode it, identify trends, and present them in ways that can be understood by biologists.

    Initial online courses would include “Data Structures and Algorithms” (currently available as a Specialization of six online courses and a capstone project on the Coursera platform); “Bioinformatics Specialization” involving seven online courses; and “Analyze Your Genome,” to be released on Coursera later this year. Additional online offerings for the Biological Data Science program will be developed in 2017.

  • Academia Sinica Elects (Partial) Retiree Fan Chung Graham

    Professor Fan Chung Graham retired this month from her dual appointments in Computer Science and Engineering and Mathematics, also relinquishing her endowed chair as the Paul Erdős Professor in Combinatorics. But that's not the end of the story. Later this summer she will assume a part-time research professorship which will allow her to continue  conducting research and advising graduate students. The change in status comes as she receives one of the highest honors available to scholars in her native Taiwan.

    Every two years the Academia Sinica elects new members, and the latest roster of distinguished academics was announced at the academy's biennial convocation in early July. Chung (at right) was one of only three women 'academicians' elected to the Academia Sinica from a class of 20 mostly male inductees in 2016. The academy is Taiwan's closest analog to the combined U.S. National Academies. Founded in 1928 in the Republic of China, it was re-established in Taipei, Taiwan, to promote scholarly research in the sciences and humanities following the Communist takeover in China.

    That was in 1949, the same year that Fan Chung was born. She graduated from National Taiwan University in 1970, and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974.

    From there she worked for 19 years, first at Bell Labs then at Bellcore. It was at Bell Labs that she met and later married fellow mathematician Ronald Graham in 1983. (Ron Graham also recently retired from CSE but will resume a part-time appointment in CSE while also remaining Chief Scientist of Calit2.) After a stint at the Institute for Advanced Study (1990-1992), Fan Chung became a professor of Mathematics as well as Computer and Information Science at her alma mater, UPenn, before moving to CSE and Math at UC San Diego in 1998.

    [At left: Ron and Fan Chung Graham with their longtime co-author and Hungarian math genius Paul Erdős.]

    In announcing the new class of members, the Academia Sinica noted Fan Chung Graham's fundamental contributions. "Her recent research has been instrumental in establishing the foundations of spectral graph theory," noted the academy, which also pointed to her book on random graph theory that "provides the foundation for quantitative and rigorous analysis for modeling and analyzing large complex networks." Chung is also credited with introducing and developing the concept of quasirandomness. Working with Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős (for whom her endowed chair was named), Chung also "determined the sizes and structure of unavoidable graphs and hypergraphs," according to Academia Sinica. "In recent years, she has [also] done seminal work on the quantitative analysis for ranking algorithms in graphs."

  • Faculty Startup Whova Wins Award for Global Growth

    The conference networking app Whova, developed as a startup by CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou, has received a $10,000 prize to pursue Whova's potential in international markets. The MetroConnect Prize is a  program of the World Trade Center San Diego to help local companies accelerate their global growth, and Whova is one of 15 prize recipients announced in early July.

    While Whova has not done a proactive campaign with international users, word of mouth is the reason why foreign markets already represent 35 percent of the 3,000+ events that Whova has supported (see breakdown to date at right). The U.S. market accounts for 65 percent of total events. "We're glad to have an excellent starting point, with events held in 85 other countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, India, China and more," said YY Zhou. "The Whova app has great features meant for globalization, and the MetroConnect Prize will allow us to improve on those features to further serve our global customers." 

    According to Zhou, the prize money will be used to perfect Whova's language support. Event organizers can already upload event-specific information in their own language, but Whova also wants to support localization of the app's user interface. The app will also expand on social media used locally in foreign markets (such as WeChat and Kakao). Finally, Whova wants to expand customer support in order to provide quick service to event organizers and attendees in other time zones. "We’d like to thank World Trade Center San Diego and the MetroConnect program for giving us an opportunity to further accelerate our global growth and support more events globally," noted Zhou in a post on the Whova website. "We will work to localize our product and provide the same quality service around the world!"

    Whova applied to the MetroConnect Prize program on the recommendation of Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Albert Pisano and The von Liebig Center's former director, Rosibel Ochoa (now at UC Riverside, where she is Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Partnerships).

  • UC San Diego Hires Top Robotics Expert to Lead Contextual Robotics Institute

    Henrik Christensen, one of the most influential robotics researchers in the world, is joining the University of California San Diego. He will direct the UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute and serve as a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Christensen is leaving his post as executive director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology to come to UC San Diego.

    “Henrik Christensen is a world leader in robotics with an exceptional track record in education, research and industry partnerships. He is a leader who will build bridges between engineering, computer science and the social sciences as we work together as a campus to develop the useful robotics systems that will improve human lives,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla.

    As the faculty director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego, Christensen (at right) said he plans to help the more than 50 faculty members in the Institute boost research efforts; expand partnerships with industry; build educational programs at the undergraduate and graduate level; and create new robotics outreach programs for kids. “We are going to do all this better than anyone else in the world,” he said. In 2011, Christensen was awarded the Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award, widely considered the world’s most prestigious robotics honor. [Photo courtesy Georgia Tech]

    UC San Diego officially launched the Contextual Robotics Institute in October 2015. The institute is a partnership of the Jacobs School of Engineering, the Division of Social Sciences and Qualcomm Institute (QI). QI has also committed 3,500 square feet of space in its headquarters building, Atkinson Hall, to house parts of the robotics institute.

    “Hiring Henrik Christensen is an important step in our multi-year effort to make UC San Diego, Southern California and the international CaliBaja region a global robotics powerhouse,” said Albert P. Pisano, dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

    The mission of UC San Diego’s interdisciplinary Contextual Robotics Institute is to develop safe, useful and human-friendly robotics systems that are deeply integrated with how humans live. Christensen said he plans to double research funding for the institute in the next five years.

    “We have very aggressive growth targets for the program’s students, faculty and partnerships with industry,” said Christensen.

    Over the past three decades, Christensen (at left) has established a stellar track record of leading robotics institutes and bringing them to the forefront of the robotics field. Ten years ago, he took over the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at Georgia Tech. The institute quadrupled its funding during that time and rose to one of the top three robotics programs in the nation. He had similar success building up the Center for Autonomous Systems at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology as well as the EU Network of Excellence in Robotics. 

    The opportunities for expanding and strengthening the robotics ecosystem in San Diego are incredible. San Diego is half the cost of Silicon Valley, and the research institutions, the talent, the industry clusters, and the military and government players are all here, explained Christensen.

    Christensen said he is looking forward to working with San Diego’s robotics community. “We want to make an economic impact and make sure that we are solving problems that industry is interested in,” he said. “One of the next frontiers in engineering is connecting the Internet to the physical world,” he said. “This will happen through robotics.”

    According to CSE Chair Dean Tullsen, contextual robotics systems will perceive, coordinate and act on a real-time understanding of different types of context around them. "This will require collaborations among computer scientists, engineers, cognitive and other social scientists," said Tullsen. "With Henrik Christensen's pending arrival, at least nine CSE faculty have signed up to participate in the Contextual Robotics Institute, with more to come. They bring with them expertise in fields including machine learning, computer vision, pattern recognition, control, wireless systems, sensors, data science and more. In the process, they will play a role in robotics that could transform elder care and assisted living, disaster response, medicine, transportation, environmental sensing, education and a wide range of consumer-oriented applications."

    Research and biography

    Christensen is a leader in the setting of national policy for the field of robotics and has testified before Congress on the subject. He is the head of a nationwide effort to draft a robotics roadmap for the future and explore the field’s potential to transform U.S. society via new markets and industries; create new jobs; and address issues of national importance. He served as the founding chairman of the European Robotics Research Network, now a community of more than 230 research groups in academia and industry.

    Christensen's own research covers computer vision, artificial intelligence and robotics, and his primary emphasis has been on a systems-oriented approach to machine perception, robotics and design of intelligent machines. He has worked with a number of industry partners, including Boeing, KUKA, iRobot, BMW and Apple.

    “We are trying to solve real problems with real solutions,” he said.

  • Nearly 5,000 International Students Are 20% of UC San Diego Undergrads

    Just days after a research group ranked UC San Diego as #4 nationally in terms of the percentage of international undergraduates majoring in computer science, another ranking looks at the overall influence of international students on U.S. campuses. U.S. News and World Report surveyed 1,800 colleges and universities for its 2015 ranking of undergraduate programs, and the information on international students it is now publishing came from the institutions themselves for the 2014-2015 academic year.

    U.S. News reports that 19.9 percent of undergraduate students in all majors at UC San Diego are from overseas -- putting the university at #7 on the list of the Top 10 campuses serving international students (who pay out-of-state tuition and fees that are nearly triple the tuition/fees paid by in-state students). The Florida Institute of Technology topped the list at #1, with international students accounting for 32.9 percent of all Florida Tech undergraduates. But among the Top 10, UC San Diego represents by far the biggest cohort of international students (because most other universities making the list are much smaller). The 19.9 percent rate means that nearly 5,000 international students are studying (and paying out-of-state fees) at UC San Diego.  The second-largest international contingent is at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, whose international student body of 2,580 undergrads is approximately half the size of UC San Diego's, and it ranked #9 on the U.S. News list. 

  • CSE Professor Reaches Finals of Inaugural Online Teaching Prize

    Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi cited for pioneering work on computer graphics education

    One of the largest online course platforms, edX, announced the finalists for its inaugural edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning.  The 11 finalists for the first edX Prize in 2016 include University of California San Diego professor Ravi Ramamoorthi, who was also recently appointed to the Ronald L. Graham Chair of Computer Science. 

    A professor in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department of the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering, Ramamoorthi and other nominees worldwide were selected because they were very influential in the early development of online teaching and learning methodologies and courses, and had taught highly successful courses on the edX platform in the last two years.   The finalists will be evaluated further by the edX University Advisory Board, which will select a winner later this summer.  The winner and finalists will all be recognized at edX’s 2016 Global Forum in the Sorbonne in Paris this November. 

    “In its first year, the edX Prize jury recognized as finalists some of the top early pioneers of massive open online courses – so-called MOOCs,” said edX Director of Academics and Research, Nina B. Huntemann, adding that the committee included faculty, instructional designers, college deans, and online learning directors from edX partner institutions.

    On multiple counts, Ramamoorthi can claim to be one of the earliest practitioners of online teaching. “Professor Ramamoorthi is a true pioneer in online education, teaching the first-ever MOOC in computer graphics, which he did at UC Berkeley,  and the course was one of the first nine courses launched on the edX platform in fall 2012,” said Jeff Elman, director of the Office for Online and Technology Enhanced Education at UC San Diego. “That course featured the first automatic grader for graphics assignments, based on thresholded image differences, an innovation that was essential for the visual concepts in computer graphics. It was a radical departure from prior text or multiple-choice grading schemes.”

    Elman, who nominated Ramamoorthi for the edX Prize, also noted that when he joined the UC San Diego faculty in 2014, the computer scientist developed CSE 167x, Computer Graphics, to be the first course launched under the university’s new partnership with edX.

    In the period of eligibility to be considered for the edX Prize, Ramamoorthi’s graphics courses were taught three times. In late 2014, students were able to take his BerkeleyX course. Subsequently, Ramamoorthi taught UC San Diego’s first edX course, 167x, at the instructor’s pace, and a few months later the same course opened for new enrollment offering students course material they could take at their own pace.

    “Across half a dozen instalments of my online courses, more than 100,000 learners have registered to take the courses through edX,” said Ramamoorthi, who also directs the Center for Visual Computing at UC San Diego.  “We also offer the video lectures from the course through YouTube, and at last check, students and instructors had viewed the YouTube videos more than 500,000 times.”  These numbers speak to the substantial impact Ramamoorthi and edX have had in educating students around the world about computer graphics. 

    Those numbers do not even include students who registered to take the MOOC in Mandarin translation in fall 2014 through edX’s partner, XuetangX. The Mandarin version is also available to smaller institutions in China, including schools, to run locally as part of a hybrid course, or SPOC (which stands for ‘small private online course’). In a SPOC, instructors combine online modules with classroom teaching in a real (physical) classroom (not just a virtual one).

    “Professor Ramamoorthi is clearly a leader in online teaching, not least because he has enabled the visual concepts of computer graphics to be included as an integral part of MOOC education,” added UC San Diego’s Elman. “His original course is an important part of edX history, and its success played a major role in the future growth of the platform. It was also a cornerstone of UC Berkeley’s involvement and integration with edX.”