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CSE News

  • Bioinformatics Experiment Holds Promise for Industrial Production of Algae Biofuels

    CSE Prof. Vineet Bafna was on the roster of experts who spoke at the Green Revolution 2.0 symposium March 12-13 in the Qualcomm Institute, organized by the California Center for Algal Biology and the Center for Food and Fuel for the 21st Century. The bioinformatics expert addressed the “Ecology of Open Algae Ponds for the Production of Biofuels,” noting that algae are great feedstocks for biofuels and other products, but the challenge is to get yield at low cost. (In principle, microalgae may produce between 10 and 100 times more oil per acre than traditional crops, but that has not been achieved in an industrial setting.) “There is a general understanding in ecology that diversity is good for productivity, and that precept might be useful for industrial production,” explains Bafna. “But we don’t know that these ecological ideas can work in an industrial setting.”

    To test his hypothesis, Bafna’s team did a year-long experiment in which they monitored the prokaryotic and eukaryotic composition of an algae pond (pictured), using genome sequencing to assess the taxonomic composition and diversity in the pond. In addition to genomic sampling, they used phenotyping to gauge various measures of pond health. “We managed to optimize productivity of biomass over the course of a year,” says Bafna. “Our results strongly suggest that diversity is important for pond productivity, and even in a managed setting, open ponds behave like natural ecosystems.” The team’s results, as Bafna explained to the FF21 annual conference, indicate that algal diversity promotes production, and that understanding the ecology of open algae ponds for the production of biofuels is critical to managing their output of biomass energy and other products. The study was funded by NSF and carried out in a partnership with FF21 director Stephen Mayfield and Biological Sciences professor Jonathan Shurin (both from UC San Diego). Bafna also thanked collaborators at Sapphire Energy, Life Technologies and SDSU.

    Read the news release about the Green Revolution 2.0 symposium.

  • March 30 Application Deadline for Gordon Engineering Leadership Scholars

    CSE undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply for the Gordon Scholars Program. Organized by the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center, the program expects to select 20 students for the 2015-2016 program, half undergrads, half grad students. Applications for the prestigious scholarships are now available, and the selection committee expects the review and selection process to be very competitive.

    All applicants to the Gordon Center will be asked to prepare an application package consisting of:

    • A cover letter focusing on your perspective on engineering leadership;
    • Grad students must submit a CV with a list of publications or resume;
    • Undergraduates must submit a resume;
    • Video or in-person interview (to be scheduled after application is complete); and
    • Two letters of recommendation should highlight the student's academic progress and engineering leadership potential;

                  - For Ph.D. applicants, one recommendation letter must be from your advisor; or
                  - For Master's applicants, at least one recommendation letter must be from a faculty member.

    The final deadline to submit the online application is Monday, March 30, 2015.

    Students can apply at: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/GordonCenter/g_app/.

  • Center for Visual Computing Gets Ready to Take a Bow

    The Computer Science and Engineering department is home to a new research center on computer vision and graphics, computational imaging and augmented reality, to be announced soon. According to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sony is the largest founding sponsor of the new UC San Diego Center for Visual Computing. Together with Qualcomm, Pixar and Adobe, the companies are investing in a center that “will study everything from virtual and augmented reality to object recognition.”

    While a formal announcement is pending the launch of the center’s new website, founding director Ravi Ramamoorthi (pictured) is quoted as saying, “It is exciting to get this level of industry support in such a short timeframe, which indicates the high level of industry involvement with visual computing technologies, and the potential for major societal impact.”

    In the same March 13 newspaper article, Ramamoorthi is optimistic that other companies will flock to the center. “We expect to see even more sponsors join the center in the next few months,” he said, “and expect to further grow the visual computing effort and research group within the Jacobs School of Engineering.”

    The Center for Visual Computing is the third so-called “agile” research center announced in the past six months within the Jacobs School, and the first to be based in the CSE department. In addition to Ramamoorthi, founding faculty include CSE professors Henrik Wann Jensen, David Kriegman, Zhuowen Tu (joint Cognitive Science and CSE) and Qualcomm Institute research scientist Jurgen Schulze (CSE adjunct).

    According to Ramamoorthi, the center has settled on three overarching research themes: mobile visual computing and digital imaging; interactive digital (augmented) reality; and understanding people and their surroundings. For the latter, researchers aim to automate computer understanding of the visual world, from small-scale underwater organisms to large metropolitan environments.

    According to Ramamoorthi, the center aims to make a formal announcement before the school’s 2015 Research Expo on April 16. That’s when he is slated to represent the center among the faculty speakers, all of whom are based in the agile centers. His topic: the grand challenges in visual computing.

    Learn more about Prof. Ramamoorthi’s talk to Research Expo.
    Read the original San Diego Union-Tribune article about Center for Visual Computing.

  • CSE Faculty, Students Among Winners for Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program

    Five CSE graduate students have received inaugural Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program (FISP) grants from the university. They include Jagannathan Venkatesh, a Ph.D. student working with CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing, and an as-yet-unnamed CSE graduate student who will work with Qualcomm Institute research scientist (and CSE instructor) Jurgen Schulze. For most of the grad students, the awards come with $25,000 scholarships. [Pictured l-r: Ph.D. students Venkatesh, Gautier, Shearer, and M.S. student Thangarajan, bottom right].
     
    Ph.D. student Quentin Gautier will work with CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner on 3D modeling for underwater archaeology, specifically to develop an underwater imaging platform for creating 3D models of underwater artifacts. Separately, Kastner will work with Qualcomm Institute manager Curt Schurgers as co-mentors for CSE Ph.D. student Alexandria Shearer, who will do her research on aerial LIDAR scanning. Shearer’s research is applied specifically to aerial laser scanning of Mayan archaeological sites (which are often complicated because ruins are inaccessible and tend to be located in areas with dense jungle canopies). “Both of these projects were kickstarted with previous awards from the Qualcomm Institute through its Calit2 Strategic Research Opportunities grant program,” noted Kastner.
     
    CSE research scientist Nadir Weibel was awarded $25,000, which will allow him to employ CSE Master’s student Narendran Thangarajan to work for the Winter and Spring quarters, after which he will graduate. The funding will allow Thangarajan to work on a project to detect the social networks of San Diegans considered at-risk of contracting HIV. “Through this interdisciplinary project, I am learning how to participate in research where human subjects are involved, as well as medical practices related to HIV,” said Thangarajan. “The Frontiers of Innovation funding will allow me to spend more time on research, which in turn will help our research project to advance and reach our envisioned goal.”
     
    According to CSE’s Weibel, the researchers will use "publicly available Twitter data to uncover the structure and content of the online social networks of HIV at-risk individuals." Once the Twitter network is characterized, it will be compared to the real-world network of patients already known to the UC San Diego School of Medicine's AntiViral Research Center (AVRC) and Dr. Susan Little, whose Primary Infection Research Consortium (PIRC) collects multidimensional epidemiological, clinical, treatment, social and behavioral data from HIV-infected and HIV at-risk individuals (hence the interdisciplinary nature of the research). "Our goal is to use the information from the online social network to initiate and inform targeted, real-world HIV prevention interventions," said Thangarajan. "This could involve stepped-up efforts in specific parts of the city, or specific segments of the population." 
     
    An additional group of graduate recipients from other departments will work under the co-mentorship of CSE faculty members including Kastner as well as Lawrence Saul, Gary Cottrell, and Vineet Bafna. 
     
    But that's not all. Among 100 students campus-wide to receive the smaller $3,000 scholarships for undergraduates, at least three are going to CSE students, and possibly double that number (because some of the grants were given to faculty for them to assign at their discretion). The named undergrads from CSE include senior Antonella Wilby (majoring in computer science) and Jorge Pacheco (computer engineering junior), who are part of a four-person team under professor Kastner in his capacity as co-director of the Engineers for Exploration program. Also getting funding: CSE undergrad Jennifer Lu, who will work with ECE Prof. Gert Lanckriet on a "multimodal machine learning framework for activity and mood recognition using mobile and stationary sensors." [Pictured above (l-r): CSE undergrads Wilby, Pacheco and Lu.]
  • Computer Engineering #13 in Graduate School Ranking

    U.S. News & World Report is out with its graduate school rankings for 2016. Although the Jacobs School of Engineering overall ranked #17 out of 195 engineering schools, there was better news in the part of the survey focused on computer engineering (which is split between CSE and Electrical and Computer Engineering). The UC San Diego computer engineering program tied for #13 with UCLA and the University of Southern California.

    There was nothing new to report on the computer science side. That's because the magazine does not do annual surveys of computer science programs, since at most schools computer science is not located inside of the engineering school. The last survey of computer science -- published in 2014 -- had UC San Diego tied for #15 among the top U.S. programs.

    Building on fundamental engineering strengths including wireless communications and biomedica engineering, the school is now developing new research centers in emerging, interdisciplinary research areas including wearable sensors, extreme events engineering, sustainable power and energy, and visual computing. The Best Graduate Schools rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence, and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research and students.

    Read the latest U.S. News graduate school rankings.

  • CSE Alumna Receives NSF Funding for Internet Topology Project

    CSE Faculty-Affiliate and alumna Kimberly Claffy (MS ‘91, PhD ‘94) is a PI on a new $1.2 million NSF grant to measure and quantify the changing nature of the Internet’s topology and what it means for the Internet’s future in terms of design, operations, scientific study and public policy. “From both the scientific and policy perspectives, much of the Internet’s evolving ecosystem is largely uncharted territory,” said Claffy, director of the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). ““As the Internet expands to satisfy the demands and expectations of an ever-increasing percentage of the world's population, profound changes are occurring at myriad levels: from interconnection structure and traffic dynamics to creating new economic and political issues that need to be addressed.  These changes also pose broader challenges for technology investment and future network design, so a key goal of this project is to establish a baseline against which to evaluate future Internet architecture designs and implementations.” The project, joint with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory,  is called e”NeTS: Large: Collaborative Research: Mapping Interconnection in the Internet: Colocation, Connectivity and Congestion.”

  • ‘Moving onto Deeper, More Interesting and More Challenging Problems’

    Industry, Academic Experts Flock to Annual Non-Volatile Memories Workshop

    Approximately 220 researchers from academic, industry and national labs were at UC San Diego in early March for the sixth annual Non-Volatile Memories Workshop. The annual event is co-organized by CSE’s Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory, Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute, and the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMRR). It took place in the Price Center March 1-3, culminating in a banquet at Mister A’s overlooking a dramatic downtown skyline. [Click here to view photos from the workshop and banquet]

    The workshop brought together scientists and engineers working on advanced, non-volatile storage devices and systems. “We expanded the program this year to reflect the strong set of submitted papers we received,” said CSE Prof. Steven Swanson (at right, with student), who co-founded the annual workshop and co-organized the 2015 event with ECE Prof. (and former CMRR director) Paul Siegel and Technion’s Eitan Yaakobi. “It’s been very exciting to see the community expand to tackle the wide range of challenges that non-volatile memories present. You can really see the evolution in the problems people are addressing.

    “As a community we have tackled many of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ and we are moving onto deeper, more interesting and more challenging problems,” he added.

    According to Swanson, high points of the 2015 NVM Workshop included industry participation in the form of keynote presentations by top people from Samsung, Intel and Seagate.

    Samsung senior vice-president Bob Brennan (at left), who leads the company’s Memory Solution Lab, addressed the conference on “How NAND-based Technology is Transforming the Data Center.”

    The March 2 afternoon speaker was Phil Brace, Executive VP of Electronic Solutions at Seagate Technology. His topic: “Storage – Moving Towards Tailored Solutions.”

    Then Intel’s Andy Rudoff opened the final day of the workshop, with the Principal Engineer musing on the subject, “In a World with Persistent Memory…”

    In addition to the industry keynotes and a half-day tutorial March 1 on the RAMCloud Storage System, the two parallel conference tracks packed more than 40 paper presentations by researchers from around the world – a substantial number of them working in industry, including at HP Labs, Sandisk, HGST San Jose Research Center, IBM Research in Zurich, Intel and Samsung. 

  • Why Heat May Spell Trouble for 3D Integrated Circuits

    In a recent article about how "3D stacking offers an extension for Moore's Law," Engineering & Technology Magazine suggests that a move to 3D integrated circuits could offer the closest thing to Moore's Law by reducing the average wire length, and therefore energy. But a computer scientist at UC San Diego cautions in the same article that heat produced by that energy could be a potential major problem. Transistors produce copious amounts of heat when they switch, resulting in big increases in heat production when running at high frequencies. "If you look at graphs of long-term growth in transistor performance," said CSE Prof. Michael Taylor, "you would think we would be able to operate them at 15GHz by now." Instead, even the processors in large servers do not run at more than 3GHz. Added Taylor: "Transistors have this inherent capability but we can't use it because the transistors can't use it becaause they have to stay within a power envelope." The article continues that the "situation has reached the point where, to be able to remove enough heat from the chip to stop individual transistors from cooking themselves to death, a large fraction of the overall device needs to be doing nothing."

  • Breakout on Center for Visual Computing at Research Expo 2015

    At the 2015 Jacobs School of Engineering ResearchExpo, the breakout session will showcase the latest and soon-to-be-announced Research Centers. While there are CSE faculty involved in other centers, only one such center -- the Center for Visual Computing (CVC) -- will be represented by a senior faculty member, Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi, from the Computer Science and Engineering department. Ramamoorthi will speak about "Visual Computing: Grand Opportunities" at 3:30pm  - 4:00pm on April 16 in the Price Center Forum on the 4th floor. Other faculty talks will focus on wearable sensors, extreme events engineering, as well as sustainable power and energy.
     
    In his talk, CSE's Ramamoorthi says "visual computing at the interface of computer vision and computer graphics is undergoing a major transformation that impacts our daily lives." He  points to key challenges that remain, notably how to create visual effects in real time and "integrating them with mobile augmented reality systems to extends human perception with mobile augmented realiity. Another major trend is the coming of age for computer vision, where tasks like scene comprehension and gesture recognitionwewew are now becoming commonplace on mobile devices."  Prof. Ramamoorthi will talk about the forthcoming Center for Visual Computing, which will be charged with developing the fundamental technologies needed to take full advantage of new opportunities to display and experience visual content.
     
  • Counter-Intuitive Technique to Put the Brakes on Liar Buyer Fraud

    Mayank Dhiman is now a Powell Fellow in CSE's Security and Cryptography group. But back in 2013, he spent the summer as an undergraduate summer researcher at PayPal, working under CSE alumnus Markus Jakobsson (Ph.D. '97), the company's principal data scientist. Flash forward 18 months, and the two researchers (plus a third former undergrad intern, Hossein Siadati) had their worrk on Liar Buyer Fraud published and accepted for presentation at the Workshop on Usable Security (USEC 2015), which took place in early February.

    In the paper, Dhiman and his colleagues describe a common yet poorly known type of fraud -- so-called Liar Buyer fraud -- and they go on to explain why traditional anti-fraud  technology has failed to  curb this type of fraud, which typically involves a purchase gone bad. Typically the consumer places an order and receives the merchandise, then reports it as not delivered, and asks for a refund. The researchers introduced a counter-intuitive technique in which the claims processor unveils knowledge of detailed iniformation about the purchase, and new experiments showed the new technique based on user-interface modification to address liar buyers has the potentialto dramatically reduce losses from fraud. Using a combination of role playing and questionnaires, they determined the opinions and behaviors of about 1,700 subjects, and found that their proposed technique results in a statistically-significant reduction in fraud rates in an experimental setting. The results are so promising for both men and women that the researchers hope to expand the study to real e-commerce traffic, when the researchers could also test whether men are more willing to lie and defraud than are women. While research has previously confirmed that discrepancy, Dhiman and his colleagues say that results using their new counter-intuitive technique so far show men being about as honest as women.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
    Read the paper on Liar Buyer Fraud, and How to Curb It 



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