Wednesday, January 17, 2018
CSE Alumnus's Startup Shows Tech Takeovers Can Happen... Even in Smaller Markets
Just because he's not in Silicon Valley or San Diego doesn't mean that CSE alumnus Matthew Der (M.S., Ph.D. '13, '15) couldn't work for a dynamic startup that would attract a blue-chip takeover. That's exactly what happened to Notch, Co., a tech consulting firm in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A year after CEO Paul Hurlocker and Der's brother David started the company in 2014, Matt Der joined as Chief Technology Officer in 2015 after completing his Ph.D. in Computer Science at UC San Diego, with a focus on machine learning. His dissertation involved "Investigating Large-Scale Internet Abuse through Web Page Classification."
At Notch, Der oversaw the company's data science and machine learning consulting. "Having a Ph.D. in machine learning is a big differentiator, especially in a mid-sized market," Der said after Notch won a local Emerging Technology Business Award in 2017. "It immediately gave us street cred, sales material and conversation starters."
Notch attracted so much attention that one of its own customers, credit-card giant Capital One Financial Corporation, bought the company outright in December (for an undisclosed price). Thirteen Notch employees have now moved to Capital One's campus in nearby Goochland County. (Capital One was already the largest employer in the Richmond region.)
In making the move, Der and his colleagues joined the larger company's team that was already working on using AI and machine learning in the credit-card industry, notably in areas such as cyber security, fraud prevention and customer service. "Capital One is already using machine learning and data in innovative ways," said Der. "We are joining at a time ripe with opportunity to further transform the business with machine learning, and permeate it throughout the company."
While the acquisition presumably buttressed Der's bank account, he is staying put at Capital One for the immediate future while resuming involvement in academia as well. "There is a lot of good we can do given Capital One's size and customer base," he noted. "Hopefully having a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC San Diego will allow me to engage with Capital One's partnering universities to conduct research and fill Capital One's talent pipeline."
As a graduate student, Der was involved in CSE's AI, Systems and Networking and Security research groups under advisors Lawrence Saul, Geoffrey Voelker and Stefan Savage. He was also affiliated with the Center for Networked Systems (CNS).
Computer Science Major Honored for Undergraduate Research in Applied Cryptography
Computer Science and Engineering undergraduate Julia Len recently got word that she is a runner-up for a prestigious award honoring outstanding undergraduate researchers. The awards are given annually by the Computing Research Association (CRA) to undergrads at North American universities who show "outstanding research potential in an area of computing research."
Len is currently doing a fifth year of undergraduate work at the University of California San Diego after changing her major from Bioengineering to Computer Science mid-way through her undergraduate studies. The student was honored for research she carried out last spring in a CSE 191 course (Projects in Cryptography) taught by CSE professor Mihir Bellare. Doing a project in applied cryptography, Len helped develop cryptographic hash functions that provide provable security guarantees.
"Hash functions are some of the most vital cryptographic tools," noted Len. "For example, the TLS protocol underlying HTTPS -- which we rely on for everyday interactions with popular websites -- uses hash functions to create digital certificates that authenticate servers. If an adversary were to find a collision for such a hash function, certificates could be forged and allow servers to be impersonated, putting personal information at risk of theft."
"Our project improved the design of hash functions after analyzing hash functions constructed using the Merkle-Damgard transform," she added. "The most commonly utilized hash functions are constructed using the Merkle-Damgard transform, which iterates a compression function to produce a hash function. Our work proved that weakening the condition on the compression function would still result in a collision-resistant hash function."
According to professor Bellare, Len contributed to a method for designing hash functions that are less likely to fail in the future. "Her work provides new design paradigms that yield hash functions with improved provable-security guarantees, decreasing the likelihood of failure and moving us towards greater security in future Internet communications," observed Bellare. "Julia obtains this as part of a general framework that also explains the weaknesses of the current design paradigm and unifies different approaches and results in the area."
The project was so successful that it became the subject of a joint academic paper by Len with Bellare and CSE Ph.D. student Joseph Jaeger. On behalf of her coauthors, Len flew to Dallas last November and presented their joint paper* on collision-resistant hashing at the 2017 ACM Computer and Communications Security Conference (CCS). The meeting brings together information security researchers, practitioners, developers and users from all over the world to explore cutting-edge ideas and results. (Also attending CCS 2017 -- to accept the CCS Test of Time Award -- was CSE professor and security researcher Hovav Shacham.)
"Julia has done innovative, timely, real world-relevant research in cryptography leading to a paper she co-authored at CCS 2017, considered to be a first-tier conference in security and cryptography," Bellare noted in a letter nominating Len for the CRA award. "She also presented the paper in Dallas, and it's very rare for an undergraduate to present at a first-tier conference, and much of the work was done while she was a junior!"
Len is a former president of the UC San Diego Scholars Society and is active in the UC San Diego chapter of Women in Computing. She became a CSE Tutor in Spring 2016, and since then has tutored for courses including Introduction to Modern Cryptography (CSE 107), Theory of Computability (CSE 105), Discrete Mathematics (CSE 20), and Computer Organization and Systems Programming (CSE 30). Len was also head tutor for the popular lower-division course, Introduction to Computer Science and Object-Oriented Programming: Java (CSE 11).
A Regents Scholar, Len is looking forward to graduating this June, and she has already applied to multiple Ph.D. programs in Computer Science. She plans to pursue cryptography research for her doctorate, and isn't wasting any time: she wants to start grad school this fall.
The very competitive CRA program selects four winners and four runners-up each year. Julia Len is one of four students nominated from UC San Diego this year, and she is the first student from UC San Diego to get this far in the CRA competition.
The CRA awards were sponsored this year by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, which alternates as sponsor every other year with Microsoft Research.
*Bellare, M., Jaeger, J., & Len, J. (2017, October). "Better Than Advertised: Improved Collision-Resistance Guarantees for MD-Based Hash Functions." In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (pp. 891-906). ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/
U.S., Japanese Research Institutions Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Artificial Intelligence Cooperation
The University of California San Diego and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have forged a five-year pact to cooperate on research in the fields of computer science and technology.
On January 10, representatives of both institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining some of their specific areas for potential collaboration. AIST was represented by Satoshi Sekiguchi, Director General of the Japanese institute's Department of Information Technology and Human Factors. UC San Diego Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth H. Simmons pre-signed the non-binding MOU (because she was on travel), and at the ceremony San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) Chief Technology Officer Philip Papadopoulos also signed on behalf of UC San Diego. The signing took place at the UC San Diego Faculty Club.
"We are building on a history of more than 15 years collaborating with AIST on specific projects," said Papadopoulos, who is also an academic lecturer in CSE. "What has changed is that the MOU is expanding the partnership to other units across our university via a campus-wide agreement that will broaden an already close relationship between our two institutions."
The MOU covers research, education and the application of scientific knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). This collaboration is also expected to extend into data-intensive science and robotics. Specific types of activities in the MOU include organizing workshops in fields of mutual interest in Japan and the U.S.; exchanges of AIST researchers with faculty and postdoctoral scholars from UC San Diego; and AIST hosting UC San Diego students to work on related research projects in Japan.
The two sides will also collaborate on cyberinfrastructure projects, notably involving the UC San Diego-based and National Science Foundation-funded Pacific Research Platform (PRP) and Cognitive Hardware and Software Ecosystem Community Infrastructure (CHASE-CI), as well as AIST's AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI). Both PRP and CHASE-CI are led by Calit2 Director Larry Smarr, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering in UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering. PRP links more than 25 universities and other research institutions in the western U.S., while CHASE-CI's 10 member research universities are deploying a cloud of affordable graphics processing units (GPUs) networked together with non-von Neumann architectures to facilitate development of next-generation cognitive computing.
"AIST has been an active collaborator with Calit2's Qualcomm Institute from its inception," said CSE's Smarr. "We look forward to this expanded framework for collaboration, and in particular, to deepening our collaboration on artificial intelligence and high-speed networking."
In addition, AIST and SDSC will be sharing best practices on complementary systems such as SDSC's Comet petascale supercomputer which, like Japan's ABCI, is a hybrid computing cluster.
"When it launches, ABCI will be the world's first large-scale, open innovation platform for AI research and development and it will significantly accelerate AI deployment in the physical space," said AIST's Sekiguchi. "Using top-level, high-performance compute and data capabilities to achieve more than 550 Petaflops of computing power (at half precision), the ABCI platform integrates high-performance computing, big data, ultra-high bandwidth and low-latency hardware in a modern design to accelerate joint academic-industry research and development." Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is funding the acceleration of AI deployment with a grant of approximately $175 million (19.5 billion yen), which includes 5 billion yen for the ABCI facility.
AIST's vision is to create a global partnership with UC San Diego and other Pacific Rim organizations. Under this MOU, AIST gains access to UC San Diego researchers and students who will bring new perspectives and knowledge, while UC San Diego benefits from access to ABCI's large-scale computational resources - giving university researchers the opportunity to perform data-intensive research for AI on an unprecedented scale.
Previously, AIST and UC San Diego worked together through UC San Diego's Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly (PRAGMA) computer science research community to maintain services provided by AIST during the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. PRAGMA - which is led by SDSC's Papadopoulos - was established in 2002 with UC San Diego and AIST among its founding members.Through the long-term partnership described in the MOU, both organizations stand to benefit from joint research projects developed together in AI broadly, as well as in related fields. Together with UC San Diego, AIST aims to create a dynamic, innovative and exciting computer science research environment for the future.
Authorities Release Math-CS Student Who Inadvertently Crossed Border
A UC San Diego senior majoring in Mathematics-Computer Science spent nearly a week in detention at the U.S.-Mexico border after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities detained the student.
Israeli-born Orr Yakobi was finally released from federal custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Friday, Jan. 12, after a number of political and other leaders lobbied for his freedom -- including lawmakers Scott Peters and Todd Gloria, as well as UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, CSE Chair Dean Tullsen, and Mathematics Chair Lei Ni. In Khosla's letter to the director of ICE's field office in San Diego, the Chancellor noted that Yakobi "is a valued and active member of our UC San Diego community, and we would very much like to have him return to our campus so he can fulfill his ultimate goal of obtaining his degree."
The 22-year-old Yakobi is part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. In Yakobi's case, he was five years old when his parents moved from Israel. When the DACA program was instituted, Yakobi applied to the program and was accepted. He has never traveled to Israel since he arrived in the U.S., speaks with an American accent, has been an honors student at UC San Diego, and expects to graduate this quarter with only a couple of courses to finish his degree. He is also a freelance computer programmer to help pay for school.
Last April, Yakobi and two fellow students won the university's top award for student startups in UC San Diego's The Basement incubator. Their startup -- Sin Fronteras Tax -- took first prize on Triton Entrepreneur Night. The company is an intermediary to facilitate speedy tax refunds for international workers who paid U.S. taxes but could not easily collect their refunds. (Yakobi estimated that billions of dollars in annual IRS refunds are not collected by immigrants out of fear that refund requests could put them on a watchlist for potential illegal migrants.
Despite being released from ICE custody, the UC San Diego student still faces possible deportation along with other DACA beneficiaries. The Administration has threatened to cancel DACA in March if Democrats in Congress do not approve billions of dollars in spending for a physical border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Even if DACA persists, Yakobi remains at risk of being dropped from DACA on a technicality: he was arrested after leaving an outlet mall near the border in San Ysidro with his UC San Diego roommate Ryan Hakim, who inadvertently drove onto I-5 South after exiting the mall -- not realizing that there were no more off-ramps on the U.S. side. Hakim and others launched an online petition to urge Yakobi's release; at last check, more than 7,500 signatures had been collected.
The DACA program forbids most travel outside the United States (without a special permit) as long as DACA children and young adults want to remain in the program. Yakobi was not driving, but after recognizing that there was no U.S. exit ahead of them, Hakim made a U-turn and was stopped by border agents. They took Yakobi into custody, handcuffed him, and began preliminary proceedings to deport the student (even though it was clear that he passed the border unintentionally just 45 seconds before making the U-turn).
As of Yakobi's release from detention, his attorney Jacob Sapochnick said Yakobi's DACA status had not been terminated. "There's nothing in the paper work," said Sapochnick. "As far as we know, it's a clean release." If deportation proceedings are not pursued by U.S. authorities, Yakobi should be able to complete his undergraduate degree by the end of March. But he and many other students in the DACA program will be watching closely what happens in Washington, D.C., especially given the March 5 deadline to end the program (unless an agreement between Congress and the Administration can be ironed out beforehand). Indeed, thousands of people protected by DACA are already in deportation proceedings at a rate of some 122 every day, and an estimated 22,000 will have lost their DACA protections by the March 5 deadline. If DACA is permanently axed, another 700,000 people could lose the right to stay and work in the U.S. -- and they'll be obliged to return to home countries they don't remember, and in many cases where they don't even speak the language.
Joint Cyber Security Course Focuses on Technology and Public Policy
The winter quarter is barely underway, and already we're looking ahead to the spring quarter. According to CSE professor Stefan Savage, he will again teach a policy-focused course on Cyber Security next quarter. As previously, the course will be co-taught by School of Policy and Strategy (GPS) Dean Peter Cowhey. The course has been offered half a dozen times starting in 2011.
The course will focus on the intersection of cybersecurity and public policy at both the national and international levels. It will draw graduate students from both the Jacobs School of Engineering, including CSE, as well as from GPS and the Department of Political Science.
"There are no magic fixes for cybersecurity," Cowhey said in connection with a previous iteration of the policy course. "It's a set of evolving, ongoing problems that require a multilayered policy response to reduce risks of cybersecurity threats."
Topics will include the technical challenges involving cybersecurity, an understanding of the range of threats, fundamental problems of designing prudent national policies that are politically feasible, and the possibilities and limitations regarding the design of appropriate cooperative strategies.
"In addition to our own lectures (which split between technical and policy arenas) we've traditionally brought in strong area experts to speak as well," says Savage. "Those area experts will come from industry, government, law enforcement and the intelligence community."
The course is principally evaluated via a group project - and in an email announcing the course, Stefan assured that the groups will be "engineered to make sure each group has both policy geeks and technical geeks to flesh out a policy question in detail." Enrolled students will each also be responsible for an individual paper about the component of group project handled by the particular student.
"This is a different kind of course, but if you have interests in how public policy really works and how a technical person can influence it," adds Savage, "I can guarantee it will be eye opening."
There is a new course number (due to the renaming of IR/PS to become GPS). GPAA 477 will take place every Wednesday evening in the spring quarter, from 6:30-9:20 p.m.
Design@Large Speakers Set for Winter 2018 Quarter
CSE will continue to host the Design Lab at UC San Diego's popular Design@Large lecture series, with all of the talks in the Winter 2018 quarter scheduled to take place in CSE room 1202 every Wednesday at 4pm. The speakers are all scheduled, barring last-minute replacements (see below).
Following the inaugural talk in the Winter 2018 series by UC San Diego Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science Jeffrey Elman, upcoming speakers this season will include:
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 4:00pm
Danielle Bragg (University of Washington) is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at UW. Her research interests combined accessibility, human-computer interaction, and applied machine learning. Bragg's talk: "Building Accessible Information Systems: A Data-Driven Approach." She will present three systems that expand and enrich access to information: 1) ASL-Search, an American Sign Language (ASL) dictionary trained on data from volunteer ASL students, 2) Smartfonts and Livefonts, scripts that re-imagine the alphabet's appearance to improve legibility for low-vision readers, and 3) ASL-Live, the first animated reading/writing system for ASL.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 4:00pm
Tricia Wang (co-founder of Constellate Data) is a global technology ethnographer. Constellate Data helps companies understand people with data. With more than 15 years' experience working with designers, engineers, and scientists, Wang has a particular interest in designing human systems. She also advises organizations on integrating Big Data and what she calls Thick Data - data brought to light using digital-age ethnographic research methods that uncover emotions, stories, and meaning in order to improve strategy, policy, products, and services.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 4:00pm
Bill Buxton (Microsoft Research) is a principal researcher and advocate for innovation, design and consideration of human values, capacity and culture in the conception, implementation and use of new products and technologies. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2005, Buxton had his own Toronto-based boutique design and consulting firm, Buxton Deisgn. His research focuses on human-computer interaction and computer vision.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 4:00pm
Department of Communication professor Morana Alac (UC San Diego) is also a professor of Science Studies. She is trained in semiotics (with Umberto Eco) and cognitive science (with Ed Hutchins). Her research deals with ordinary, interactional and practical aspects of science. In particular, she is interested in the ways in which scientists study cognition in environments heavily sustained by advanced technologies, notably brain imaging and machine learning laboratories. By looking at live activities in the lab, Alac pays particular attention to the interface between body and technology.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 4:00pm
Erin Glass (UC San Diego) is the Associate Director of the Center for the Humanities on campus. She joined UCSD as the Digital Humanities Coordinator, a newly-formed pilot position split between the Library and the Division of Arts and Humanities. Prior to her move, Glass served as a Digital Fellow at The CUNY Graduate Center where she worked with Matt Gold (Editor of Debates in the Digital Humanities) on multiple participatory software initiatives that fostered collaborative research and pedagogy, including Social Paper, which received a 2014 NEH Digital Start-Up grant.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 4:00pm
Kelly Gates (UC San Diego) is an Associate Professor of Communication and Science Studies. Professor Gates' research focuses on the critical analysis of digital media technologies. Her main emphasis has been the politics and social implications of computerization, and particularly the automation of surveillance, in the United States from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Gates' 2011 book, Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, explores the effort underway since the 1960s to teach computers to see the human face.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 4:00pm
Batya Friedman (University of Washington) is a Professor in the Information School, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering. She directs the Value Sensitive Design Research Lab. Friedman pioneered value sensitive design (VSD), an approach to account for human values in the design of information systems. First developed in human-computer interaction, VSD has since been used in information management, human-robotic interaction, computer security, civil engineering, and other fields.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 4:00pm
Elizabeth Simmons (UC San Diego) was recently appointed executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UC San Diego. She is a highly distinguished physicist who focuses on particle theory and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She previously held two leadership roles at Michigan State University, a public research university with a student population of more than 50,000. Simmons is a physicist who focuses on particle theory in her research.
All Design@Large seminars are open and free to the public. For updates on the series, visit the Design@Large page on the Design Lab at UC San Diego website.
Thursday, January 18
Disciplines of Engineering Career Fair
It's time for the latest iteration of the Disciplines of Engineering Career Fair (Decaf), which will welcome approximately 50 companies and other exhibitors to UC San Diego to network and look for potential student recruits for internships or full-time jobs.
Date: Thursday, January 18
Time: 10am - 3pm (9am for FLO Early Access)
Location: Price Center Ballrooms (East & West)
The annual job fair is open to all UC San Diego students and alumni with valid UC San Diego identification. This event provides companies a unique opportunity to interact and engage with UC San Diego's talented engineering students regarding career options, internships, and permanent or summer employment opportunities.
Open exclusively to UC San Diego students and alumni, Decaf is coordinated by the Triton Engineering Student Council and over 40 pre-professional engineering student organizations at the Jacobs School of Engineering. These engineering societies, representing the spectrum of disciplines at the Jacobs School, work in close collaboration to maximize the attendance of UC San Diego's 8,500 undergraduate and graduate student engineers and to ensure the satisfaction of companies involved.
F.L.O. Early Access enables you to get early access to Decaf (an hour before other students), allowing you to get the first crack at speaking with representatives from every company attending. Students qualify for F.L.O. if they attended any of the pre-Decaf workshops hosted by organizations in association with the Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC).
Monday, January 22
Mark Your Calendars for CSE Day 2018
The student-run Computer Science and Engineering Society (CSES) is putting the finishing touches to the 2018 CSE Day at UC San Diego. The student community is invited to attend any of the sessions slated for this year's celebration.
Date: Monday, January 22, 2018
Time: 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Location: Room 1202, CSE Building
Organizers bill CSE Day as "UC San Diego's principal Computer Science and Engineering undergraduate event." As in past years, it will be a full day of events, games, talks, free food and giveaways. Undergraduates are invited to join the annual celebration of computer science and engineering, and there is more information available on the Facebook event page for CSE Day.
The featured sessions include a Developers' Fair, a Tech Talk, Recruiter Panel, conversations with CSE alumni, and a game of CSE Jeopardy to end the day. Plus lunch and dinner will be served.
Take the CSE Alumni Survey. It only takes a few minutes. We'd really like to hear from you!
The Jacobs School of Engineering offers a variety of ways to support the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. As the 2016-'17 academic year gets underway, please consider giving online to the CSE Engineering Tutor Program or the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science. You can also honor your favorite teacher when you donate to the CSE Teaching Endowment Fund.