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Highlights

Triton 5K 2015

Over 140 CSE alumni, students, staff and faculty registered to run as part of Team Race Condition. As a result, the department took home the prize for the largest turnout and donation at the 2015 Chancellor’s 5K run in early June. Read more…  

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2015 Student Awards

CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta and Profs. Christine Alvarado and Sorin Lerner with graduate and undergraduate student recipients of the inaugural awards given by the department for graduating students.. Read more…

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Dissertation Medal

CSE alumna Sarah Meiklejohn (PhD '14) was singled out for her dissertation, "Flexible Models for Secure Systems", as the recipient of the 2015 Chancellor's Dissertation Medal. Meiklejohn is now a professor at University College London. Read more…

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Research Expo 2015

At the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Research Expo 2015, more than 25 CSE graduate students showcased their research during the poster session visited by hundreds of campus, industry and community members. Read more…

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Best Poster

Graduating M.S. student Narendran Thangarajan won the award for best Computer Science and Engineering poster at Research Expo 2015. He analyzed social media to characterize HIV at-risk populations in San Diego. Read more…  

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Computer Graphics on EdX

After announcing the launch of the Center for Visual Computing, the Center's director, CSE Prof. Ravi Ramamoorthi, announced that in August 2015 he will launch an online course on computer graphics over the edX online platform. Read more…

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$2 Million Alumni Gift

CSE alumnus Taner Halicioglu, an early employee at Facebook, is donating $2 million to the CSE department to recruit, retain and support the professors and lecturers whose primary mission is to teach and mentor students. Read more…

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Big Pixel Hackathon

Seventeen CSE students, most of them graduate students, participated in the first Bix Pixel Hackathon organized by the Qualcomm Institute to demonstrate how data science can be harnessed to tackle public policy issues. Read more...

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Paul Kube Tribute

CSE honored retiring lecturer Paul Kube with a tribute and the subsequent announcement that CSE is creating the Paul R. Kube Chair of Computer Science to be awarded to a teaching professor, the first chair of its kind in the department. Read more...

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Integrated Digital Infrastructure

CSE Prof. Larry Smarr leads a two-year initiative to deploy an Integrated Digital Infrastructure for the UC San Diego campus, including grants to apply advanced IT services to support disciplines that increasingly depend on digital data. Read more...

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Query Language for Big Data

CSE Prof. Yannis Papakonstantinou and Couchbase Inc., are collaborating on a next-generation query language for big data based on the UCSD-developed SQL++, which brings together the full power of SQL with the flexibility of JSON. Read more...

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Honoring Academic Integrity

At 5th annual Academic Integrity Awards, CSE lecturer Gary Gillespie (center, with Leo Porter and Rick Ord) accepted the faculty award in Apri. Then in May, he received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Panhellenic Association. Read more...

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Non-Volatile Memories

In March 2015, CSE Prof. Steven Swanson talks to 220 attendees at the 6th annual Non-Volatile Memories Workshop which he co-organized, and which he said was "moving onto deeper, more Interesting and more challenging problems." Read more...

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Frontiers of Innovation

At least five CSE graduate students and a similar number of undergraduates were selected to receive inaugural Frontiers of Innovation Scholarship Program (FISP) awards initiated for 2015-'16 by UC San Diego. Read more...

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Not-So-Safe Scanners

A team including CSE Prof. Hovav Shacham (right) and Ph.D. student Keaton Mowery released findings of a study pointing to serious flaws in the security of backscatter X-ray scanners used at many airports. Read more...

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Stereo Vision for Underwater Archaeology

As co-director of Engineers for Exploration, Prof. Ryan Kastner led expeditions to test an underwater stereo camera system for producing 3D reconstructions of underwater objects. Here Kastner is shown with the camera system in a UCSD pool. Read more…  

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Girls Day Out

The UCSD chapter of Women in Computing (WiC) held its second annual Girls Day Out in May, bringing roughly 100 girls from San Diego high schools to tour the campus and do hands-on experiments in electronics. Here, girls visit the Qualcomm Institute’s StarCAVE virtual reality room. Read more…  

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Coding for a Cause

Then-sophomore Sneha Jayaprakash's mobile app, Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U), matches students with opportunities to volunteer for social causes. Together with fellow CSE undergrads, she won a series of grants and awards, and is now doing a startup. Read more...

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Internet of Things

Computer scientists at UCSD developed a tool that allows hardware designers and system builders to test security. The tool tags then tracks critical pieces in a hardware’s security system. Pictured (l-r): Ph.D. student Jason Oberg, Prof. Ryan Kastner, postdoc Jonathan Valamehr. Read more…

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

CSE capped the 2012-'13 academic year with the announcement of an anonymous $18.5 million gift from an alumnus – making it the largest-ever alumni gift to UC San Diego. Read more...

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  • 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 Amazon.com 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.