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  • UC San Diego Is #1 in Percentage of Female Students in STEM Majors

    In a study of the 100 largest universities in the nation, UC San Diego came out on top as the campus with the highest percentage of female students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Based on statistics for 2013, BestColleges.com found that 33 percent of female undergraduates majored in STEM subjects at UC San Diego, putting the university in first place. The runner-up, North Carolina State, was a close second at 32 percent.Others in the top five included the UC campuses at Davis and Berkeley (which tied for third place). At UC San Diego, biology was the most popular STEM major, accounting for 22 percent of all students), followed by economics (11 percent) and computer engineering (9 percent).

    The study also assessed whether STEM graduates do better than non-STEM grads, and predictably, they do much better. Graduates just out of college typically earn roughly 35 percent more, and by mid-career, the advantage is even bigger -- with STEM graduates earning approximately 47 percent more than their non-STEM peers earn on average.

    Women hold only one-quarter of all jobs in STEM fields, and various federal and state initiatives have made it a priority to attract and keep more female students to STEM subjects. CSE launched the Summer Program for Incoming Students to help those students with little or no programming experience, in hopes of getting them up-to-speed through a five-week program prior to the start of the academic year, and many of the tutors and mentors in the program are young women who are successfully showing incoming freshman students that women can do as well as men in computer science or engineering. CSE is also producing various private initiatives to get young girls excited about computer science, robotics and other fields. One of the most visible is ThoughtSTEM, a company launched by CSE students-turned-alumni Sarah Guthals (Ph.D. '14) and Stephen Foster (Ph.D. '15). ThoughtSTEM runs computer coding camps and other computer-science educational programs for students 8 to 14, and a large proportion of its students are girls. The company also runs after-school and mentoring programs, in addition to developing computer games to teach basic programming skills (including CodeSpells and LearnToMod). 

  • Alumnus Wins Prestigious Computer Architecture Award

    CSE alumnus Tim Sherwood (Ph.D. '03) is the recipient of a prestigious award honoring mid-career computer architects. Sherwood is the 2016 recipient of the ACM SIGARCH Maurice Wilkes Award, named for the computing pioneer credited with proposing microprogramming in 1951, long before it was adopted throughout the computer industry.

    The annual award acknowledges an outstanding contribution to computer architecture made by an individual in the first 20 years of their career. Sherwood was cited for his "contributions to novel program analysis advancing architectural modeling and security." According to CSE Prof. Dean Tullsen, Sherwood was "recognized for his phase-based analysis and simpoint infrastructure work that he did at UC San Diego, as well as his innovative work at UC Santa Barbara on secure architectures (among many other things)."

    The award recipient is now a Professor of Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara, where he is also Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. He joined UCSB in 2003 after receiving his M.S. and Ph.D. that same year from CSE at UC San Diego. His advisor at the time was Brad Calder, now an adjunct professor in CSE while working full-time at Google as a VP of Engineering (following eight years at Microsoft).

    Sherwood co-directs the Computer Architecture Lab at UC Santa Barbara. He is also a regular collaborator and co-author with CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner, most recently in November 2015, in a paper on "Quantifying Timing-Based Information Flow in Cryptographic Hardware," presented at the International Conference on Computer Aided Design in Austin, TX. That paper also featured several UCSD Ph.D. student co-authors, including Jason Oberg, Alric Althoff and Janarbek Matai.  In 2014, Sherwood also co-authored a paper with Ryan Kastner, Jason Oberg and Sarah Meiklejohn -- all based at UC San Diego.

  • Computer Science at UC San Diego #4 in Ranking

    According to a ranking of U.S. computer science undergraduate programs serving international students, UC San Diego ranks #4 nationwide. The website College Values Online used data published separately by the Institute of Education Studies and Payscale.com to factor into the ranking, and the computer science program at UC San Diego was the highest-performing UC campus on the list -- eking out a win over the #5-ranked UC Berkeley program.

    "UCSD has a very large international student population and a top-notch computer science program," according to the website. The ranking considered tuition rates, return on investment, percentage of international students, and accreditations or other 'distinguishing characteristics'.  One key reason why UC San Diego outperformed UC Berkeley is that 20 percent of its students are international -- compared to only 14 percent UC Berkeley. The #1 university in the ranking was the Florida Institute of Technology, in part because 33 percent of its enrollment are international students. "Students in the B.S. program can choose to specialize in bioinformatics," according to the report, citing other computer science research areas including artificial intelligence, security and cryptography, human-computer interaction, and embedded systems and software.

  • Machine Learning Method Differentiates Healthy Male, Female Microbiomes

    The week-long International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) ended June 24, and the last day included the 2016 ICML Workshop on Computational Biology.  CSE professors Larry Smarr and Rob Knight as well as Qualcomm Institute data scientist Mehrdad Yazdani were represented in a poster presentation and paper on "Using Topological Data Analysis to find discrimination between microbial states in human microbiome data." Borrowing a statistical method originally from topology, the co-authors applied Topological Data Analysis (TDA) as an "unsupervised learning and data exploration tool to identify changes in microbial states."

    "Since the human microbiome ecology differs dramatically in different body sites [parts] and individuals," said Yazdani, "understanding how and what changes in the ecology are of crucial importance."

    Yazdani works closely with Smarr and Knight -- whose appointments are in Pediatrics and CSE -- on analyzing colonies of species in the human microbiome in healthy and sick subjects, notably for Smarr's Future Patient project. To test the TDA method, they used a previously published dataset of high-resolution time series of the microbiome from three different sites (mouth, hands, and gut) and from two healthy subjects (one female, one male). Previous studies have shown that microbial communities of a healthy subject are highly stable over time, so TDA and other methods should have been able to identify six total microbial communities - three for the male subject based on his different body sites, and three for the female subject's three sites.

    The scientists wanted to see how TDA compared to other well-established methods, PCA and MDS*. The older methods did identify the clusters for three sites, but did not detect a difference based on the subject's gender. "These methods [PCA and MDS] do not discriminate samples based on the subjects," they noted in the paper. On the other hand, the TDA method identified distinct clusters that discriminated between the female and male gut samples, and based on the skin and tongue body sites. Concluded Yazdani: "This suggests that TDA is able to identify groups of clusters that other methods may potentially miss."

    The ICML Workshop on Computational Biology brought together researchers applying machine learning to challenging biological questions, especially given the development of high-throughput technologies such as next-generation sequencing, mass cytometry (CyTOF), and single-cell sequencing, all of which can now generate vast amounts of data from the biological systems in question.
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    *PCA stands for Principal Component Analysis; MDS refers to Multi-Dimensional Scaling (also known as Principal Coordinate Analysis).

  • Director of Student Affairs Heads into Retirement

    After four-and-a-half years in CSE, and a total of 34 years of outstanding service to UC San Diego overall, Lynne Keith-McMullin is retiring as Director of Student Affairs in the department. Her last official day will be Wednesday, June 29, so two days before that, we'll celebrate her with a Happy Hour. Mark the date and time on your calendar:

    Date: Monday, June 27
    Time: 3pm - 4pm
    Location: Room 4262, CSE Building

    Lynne Keith-McMullin has become an indispensable member of our department staff leadership, recently serving as interim MSO and department business officer pending the arrival of Samira Khazai, who is now in place.  Keith-McMullin has been a true champion of CSE students, and a tireless advocate for the Student Affairs unit. "During this time, Lynne has helped guide the department through some of its most difficult challenges, including the largest growth in student population in our department's history," said CSE chair Rajesh Gupta. "She has been at the helm of managing the complex impact of this explosive growth on Student Affairs advising, enrollment management, course scheduling, and student support, among other areas.

    In addition, Keith-McMullin has provided invaluable insight and direction during the growth and restructuring of the Master's program and was instrumental in developing the Data Sciences undergraduate major (and minor), a program that was recently approved and is expected to launch as early as this fall.

    "It is with truly mixed feelings that I announce that Lynne is retiring from UC San Diego and CSE," added Gupta in an announcement. "While we are very sad to say goodbye to Lynne, we are happy that she is embarking on her well-deserved retirement."

  • 'Decoding the Microbiome' Draws 142,000 Viewers in May

    Who says computer science isn't sexy enough to grab TV viewers? Well, that was certainly not true in May for at least one program produced by the CSE department in collaboration with UCSD-TV. In the first month following the April premiere of "Decoding the Microbiome", the latest program in CSE's Computing Primetime series, the program chalked up more than 142,000 views on the TV network's website alone. That does not include viewers who watched the program on TV via cable, the DISH satellite network, or the old-fashioned way -- over-the-air. For a sense of what that number means, the network says that the microbiome program featuring a conversation between CSE professors Larry Smarr and Rob Knight (whose has appointments in both CSE and Pediatrics) was the #2 most-watched program on UCSD-TV's web portal in May.

    CSE and UCSD-TV are now building a dedicated web presence, The Computer Science Channel, to showcase videos produced by the department as well as from other University of California campuses. The tentative date for the launch of The Computer Science Channel is September 1.

    Watch "Decoding the Microbiome" online

  • CSE Professor and Alumnus Win Bloomberg Data Science Grant

    The Bloomberg Data Science Research Grant Program, run by the financial giant created by billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is a relatively new source of support for computer-science research. It began in 2015. Specifically, faculty can apply for unrestricted gifts to support research in data science, including natural-language processing, machine learning, and data mining. The latest round of grants drew hundreds of applications. Only eight projects were selected for funding, and only six of the winning teams were based at U.S. universities.

    Despite the odds, one of the winning teams consisted of computer science professors at Columbia University and UC San Diego -- one a CSE alumnus, the other a former CSE postdoctoral researcher..

    CSE Prof. Kamalika Chaudhuri (far left) was a postdoc in Calit2's Information Theory and Applications Center (2007-2009) and in CSE (2009-2010), before joining the department faculty. She teamed with CSE alumnus Daniel Hsu (Ph.D. '10), an assistant professor at Columbia, on a project titled "Spectral Learning with Prior Information with Applications to Topic Models." According to Chaudhuri, the goal of this project is to design algorithms and statistical tools to build complex probabilistic models from massive quantities of data in a computationally-efficient manner. "Recent advances in machine learning have led to the development of spectral learning, an efficient method for learning probabilistic graphical models, that can work with such massive quantities of data," said Chaudhuri. "But existing spectral-learning methods cannot utilize auxiliary information that the modeler may have, which limits their applicability."

    In their winning proposal, Hsu -- who did his Ph.D. under CSE Prof. Sanjoy Dasgupta -- and Chaudhuri proposed to address this limitation by designing a framework and algorithms for injecting prior knowledge into spectral learning through constrained optimization.

    As outlined by Bloomberg in announcing the winning projects, "Complex statistical models are challenging to fit to large, high-dimensional data sets. Although several recent developments in machine learning have led to scalable fitting methods based on simple algebraic techniques, they are unable to incorporate prior knowledge constraints into the model fitting. Professors Chaudhuri and Hsu will develop new extensions of these scalable methods that can handle such constraints, and they will apply these methods to perform comparative analyses of large document corpora."

    Columbia's Hsu is a pioneer of spectral learning for natural-language processing (NLP) applications, and he is PI on the project. Co-PI Chaudhuri has also published on spectral learning, including preliminary work on using constrained spectral learning to compare epigenetic sequences from related cell types. The two computer scientists have co-authored six publications over the past seven years. The $60,000 Bloomberg grant will fund two Ph.D. students (one at UCSD, one at Columbia) for one semester each, in addition to some summer support for Chaudhuri.

  • Longtime Staffer Selected Among Exemplary Staff Employees of the Year

    A Computer Science and Engineering staffer is among those named UC San Diego Exemplary Staff Employees of the Year for the 2015-2016 academic year. Glenn Little (pictured below) -- a Programmer-Analyst III who has worked in CSE for more than 30 years -- made the cut. He is one of ten Professional and Support Staff members selected by the campus Review Panel.  Little is one of only three winners from Academic Affairs (the other two hailed from Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the School of Global Policy and Strategy). Little is CSE's Information Technology and Infrastructure Support Manager, and he was cited for recurring examples of "extraordinary service to the CSE community, and more than likely, to other departmental personnel connected to the CSE department."

    Among CSE faculty recommending Little for the honor, Prof. Joe Pasquale noted that "the one constant in every single one of my interactions with him is his absolutely positive, can-do attitude... [Glenn] exemplifies everything one would want in our staff and he has repeatedly demonstrated a total commitment to the university over his many years at UCSD." Prof. Alin Deutsch also wrote in support of Little, and he cited what happened after the department stopped using the software developed by CSE Help in favor of a tool created by the UC San Diego Graduate Division (to process approximately 4,000 applications annually to CSE for grad school. "It soon turned out that the Graduate Division tool did not support the scale and particulars of the CSE admissions workflow, leading to a crisis in which CSE was facing the inability to review the entire applicant pool and generate admissions offers in time to compete with its peer CS departments," noted Deutsch. "Glenn generously stepped in, continuing to maintain [CSE Help's] 'csegradapp' on the side, in addition to his official tasks... [and] Glenn still continues to take care of the application whenever there is a problem.”

    Little also oversees building operations in CSE, and he is an active participant on the Building Renovation Committee, which is responsible for the current $6 million in renovations underway this summer. He also has been instrumental in building computer labs, a dedicated machine room, and managing Linux machines and custom systems to support faculty research, instruction, and staff. The nominating letter points out Little's 'special talent' for problem-solving: "More than likely it is because he is a musician, and a very bright and talented individual. He is always trying to find that perfect note, whether it is in the computing or musical realm."  Congratulations Glenn!

  • Students Develop Games to Teach Kids ‘Cool Ways to Recycle’

    The computer animation is relatively modest – for good reason. Specifically, the 25 students taking CSE 198 with CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker decided that their interactive games should be designed not for college students, but for… third-graders. Why? According to project leader Danielle Tobey, it was because “research showed that the curriculum at that grade level begins to kids about habitat destruction.”

    Once they had decided to develop games for 8- to 9-year-olds, it became important to use simple animations as well as game rules and instructions that could be easily understood and followed by third-graders. Calling itself RecyCool, the team set out to teach the basics and the importance of recycling.

    San Diego County is aiming for zero waste by 2040, yet public schools do not teach kids about recycling. “Kids are sharp, keen, and fast learners, and we wanted  to convey the various cool ways for students to recycle,” said Tobey, a graduating senior in Political Science. “I was fortunate enough to meet a group of talented, like-minded people who also wanted to make a difference, and over the past 10 weeks, together we’ve made incredible progress toward our vision.”

    That vision, she added, is to “bring a fun and engaging recycling game into elementary-school classrooms in San Diego and beyond.”  After recruiting fellow students on social media with her concept for the course, Tobey (pictured at left) petitioned for official credit as a CSE 198 Directed Group Study course, and Prof. Voelker agreed to oversee the Spring 2016 teams.

    Students were divided into separate teams to work on different interactive mini-games, which were then bundled together in a single game environment. Nominally, CSE 198 is supposed to involve reading and discussion by a small group of students under the supervision of a faculty member. But given the proactive goal – to create games that third-graders would want to play and learn from – much of the class discussion focused on design and programming solutions.

    According to Jason Davies, a fourth-year Computer Science major, the team opted to use the Unity game engine, in part because he had already used it. “I did training sessions to bring CS students up to speed on using Unity, so that all of the teams could handle programming of their own gameplay,” said Davies when the teams showcased their games on June 6, before finals week. Each student in the class was also required to play one of the mini-games.

    Each team was responsible for creating a game to get third-graders interested in recycling, and they were obliged to start from scratch. Since CSE 198 was open to students of all majors, only 12 out of 25 students were enrolled in the CSE department. Other students taking the course included majors in Biological Sciences, Business, Cognitive Science, Economics, Film  and Visual Arts.

    Ten students from CSE made up the cohort of developers of the interactive games. The group included three leaders, all majoring in Computer Science:: fourth-year Jason Davies, third-year Wes Okuhara, and second-year Karen Lo. 

    Another nine students with art backgrounds designed the game graphics from scratch under leaders Madeline Hsia and Sharmaine Manalo (the design lead). Both are sophomores in Cognitive Science specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. “I worked with artists on all of the games to pull together a uniform design aesthetic,” said Manalo, who is also minoring in Computer Science. “Since the ultimate goal involved pulling together all of the mini-games into a single program, having a uniform look was not just desirable, it was critical.”

    Students interested in music took charge of creating audio effects for the games as well as the musical accompaniment for each team’s gameplay. They included fourth-year ICAM major Soo Y. Chu, CS sophomore Gabriel Rangel, and freshman Math major Takahashi Taylor.

    In one game, a player distributes pieces of trash into one of three “bins” labeled Compost, Recycle and Trash.. Another game lets players use a waste-paper basket to catch recyclables that are littering a park,  or a player can drag a piece of trash and “jump” over an obstacle to stay ahead of a landfill monster. In all, the class was split into six teams to design three sub-games, while other teams worked on pulling them together.

  • Cybersecurity Expert Named to Irwin and Joan Jacobs Chair

    Just days after he accepted the prestigious ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, University of California San Diego professor Stefan Savage received another honor: the Irwin Mark and Joan Klein Jacobs Chair in Information and Computer Science. This endowed faculty chair at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering honors the school’s namesakes: Irwin and Joan Jacobs.

    “From the moment he arrived at UC San Diego in 2001, Stefan Savage has been a star on the CSE faculty, with broad interests in systems and networking as well as security,” said Rajesh Gupta, Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

    “Stefan Savage is an outstanding scholar, teacher and mentor. In addition, he has done the hard work necessary to ensure that his security research makes a real and lasting impact on society. And for that, we all benefit,” said Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering.

    The appointment of Savage to the Jacobs Chair was the second faculty chair announcement in as many weeks. Previously, CSE computer graphics and vision professor Ravi Ramamoorthi was tapped to be the inaugural holder of the Ronald L. Graham Chair of Computer Science. The Graham Chair was named for professor Ron Graham, who recently retired but maintains an emeritus faculty position in the department. Graham is the previous holder of the Jacobs Chair that is now going to Stefan Savage.

    On June 11, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) presented Savage with the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award at its annual awards banquet in San Francisco. The honor recognized the finest recent innovations by young scientists and system developers in the computing field. The Infosys Foundation provides financial support for the $175,000 annual award.

    “Keeping networks secure is an ongoing battle,” said ACM President Alexander L. Wolf. “Stefan Savage has shifted thinking and prompted us to ask ourselves how we might impede the fundamental support structure of an attacker. His frameworks will continue to significantly influence network security initiatives in the coming years.”

    “Dr. Savage is a true innovator, pursuing his curiosity and passion toward new frontiers in cybersecurity and exemplifying the kind of work that the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award is proud to support,” added Infosys CEO and Managing Director, Dr. Vishal Sikka. “Dr. Savage has dedicated his career to analyzing, protecting and strengthening the systems and networks that make our digital age possible. From network congestion control, worms and malware to wireless security, his work has helped advance a wide range of areas.”

    One day before he accepted the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award, Savage was in Seattle at his alma mater, the University of Washington (UW). The university’s Computer Science and Engineering department presented him on June 10 with its Alumni Achievement Award.