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  • CSE Sophomores Take VR Skills to Santa Barbara Hackathon

    UC San Diego computer science sophomores Connor Smith, Kristin Agcaoili and Anish Kannan were on hand April 22-24 when UC Santa Barbara hosted the second annual Santa Barbara Hackathon. The campus group SB Hacks hosted the 36-hour marathon coding competition, which was open to college students from around California, including community college students.

    CSE was represented by (pictured l-r) Smith, Agcaoili and Kannan, all members of the Virtual Reality Club at UC San Diego. The team created Chemistry Lab VR, an educational virtual-reality experience that teaches students lab procedure and safety. It could be used in chemistry classrooms to simulate real-life lab procedures to reduce the risks of working with potentially harmful chemicals. This was not the first time that the VR Club team developed a program to improve scientific instruction: at the HackingEDU hackathon in October 2015, Smith, Agcaoili and Kannan successfully coded a Cell VR program to teach cell biology and interact with a virtual human cell. They finished in third place at HackingEDU. The same team of three students also competed in November 2015 at HackSC in Los Angeles, where their application Diver -- to spread awareness about ocean pollution -- was awarded the Best VR/Game Hack of the USC-organized hackathon.

    As Smith told the UC Santa Barbara campus newspaper in an interview, the team traveled from San Diego to make a statement. "There are prizes, but we don't really do it competitively," he said. "We're just trying to do something that has impact beyond this space." The team arrived at UCSB with an HTC Vive system that Smith described as a "new, room-scale virtual reality, where you can actually walk, move and duck, all within the given boundaries."  Vive users are outfitted with a headset, headphones and two handheld controllers, and they interact with a programmable interface that allows "free movement between two lighthouse motion trackers that define a 16-square-foot space." (In 2015, Smith was an HTC Brand Ambassador, which paid him to demonstrate the VR system to fellow students.)

    Smith told the campus newspaper that he couldn't have asked for more support from hackathon organizers. "It's just a really supportive environment," he noted. "There are mentors, there's free food, great energy and just a lot of people working on something really cool. These events output so many cool projects as well, things that maybe people wouldn't have time to do otherwise.

  • Andrew Kahng's Best Paper at CDNLive Silicon Valley and Megatrends at Cadence Distinguished Speakers Series

    For the very first time, CDNLive Silicon Valley ran an academic track during its 2016 meeting, with a UC San Diego professor taking top honors. CDNLive is the Cadence User Conference, which attracts experts as well as users and developers of Cadence technologies and techniques for designing advanced silicon, systems, and systems-on-chip. The April 5-6 event took place in Santa Clara, CA, and drew a standing-room-only audience. According to a conference rapporteur, CSE and ECE Prof. Andrew Kahng "stole the show" with his talk on bridging the gap between academic research and commercial Electronic Design Automation (EDA)."  To noone's surprise, the presentation, "Toward New Synergies Between Academic Research and Commercial EDA",  received the Best Paper award for the Academic track, which included presentations by faculty from six other universities: USC, Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Texas A&M, and the University of Calgary.

    On the day after he spoke at CDNLive, Kahng (at right) presented as part of Cadence's internal Distinguished Speakers Series. His talk focused on "PPAC Scaling at 7nm and Below."  PPAC stands for power-performance-area-cost. The industry has talked about PPA for a long time, with the A for area also being a surrogate for cost. But with different process choices, multiple patterning vs. EUV someday and other options, area alone is not the only parameter that feeds into cost. According to a review of Kahng's talk by Cadence's Paul McLellan, the UC San Diego professor sees two megatrends that are driving "all the issues" in this area. The first is the "race to the end of the roadmap", i.e., taking Moore's Law as far as possible on existing or foreseeable knowledge, which is expected to result in volume production of 7nm technology in 2018. The second megatrend involves keeping power under control by adopting more extreme approaches after having "done a lot of the easy stuff in previous process generations" to enable low power for markets ranging from mobile to big data to cloud. Kahng's final call to arms in his Cadence talk was for a massive "moonshot" to predict tool outcomes, find the sweet spot for different tools and flows, and thus design in specific tool and flow knobs to the overall methodology. The end-result: a fully predictive, one-pass flow with optimal tool usage. With modern massively parallel, big-data architectures, argued Kahng, who is a former member of the Cadence Technology Advisory Board, it is not unreasonable to use tens of thousands of machines if it could "get us to the moon" of a non-iterative flow.

  • Former M.S. Student Seals $3 Million Deal for Drone Security Venture

    Grant Jordan was a student in the CSE Master's program because he wanted to focus on computer security and its potential, after earning his undergraduate degree in computer science at MIT and testing anti-drone technology at the Air Force Research Lab. While at UC San Diego, he and fellow student Paul Wicks (M.S. '14), both working in the security group of CSE Prof. Stefan Savage, co-founded an IT-security consulting firm called Somerset Recon. Then in 2015, Jordan and Wicks co-created a second, security-related startup: SkySafe. As CEO of SkySafe, Jordan made headlines on April 19 when one of the top venture-capital firms in Silicon Valley, Andreessen Horowitz, agreed to lead a $3 million investment in the fledgling company.

    "I think security is one of the most exciting and diverse areas of computer science," said Jordan in the wake of the announcement. "It cuts across all other research areas and every project is new. What other area lets you work on such diverse subjects as spam, underground economies, Bitcoin, Internet of Things devices, and drones, all in the course of just a few years?"

    In a nutshell, SkySafe has developed technology that will allow institutional users to disable drones flying in areas that are off-limits, or in areas that may be accessible but which are threatened by drones flying dangerously. The technology leverages radio waves to override the instructions from a drone owner's remote control unit, thus taking control of the airborne device.

    In an article posted on LinkedIn April 20, Jordan (at left) noted that there have been no effective tools to control airspace and protect people and places from drone threats. "Our goal is to help drones be a positive change in society by improving safety, management and coordination," said Jordan. "We're building the tools to let facilities properly control and protect their airspace. Our system detects, identifies, tracks and takes action when needed... to secure the area, allowing the safe operation of authorized drones and stopping dangerous ones."

    In an interview with TechCrunch, Jordan also noted that, "Between that security work and [my] drone work, we saw a growing threat in the drone space." He added that SkySafe is initially targeting organizations such as "airports, prisons, stadiums, other event venues, border proection, critical infrastructure."

    Added the SkySafe CEO: "The number of places that have seen incidents in the past year has grown tremendously."

    According to Jordan, being part of Stefan Savage's security research group was an important stepping stone to SkySafe. "Stefan Savage made an incredible impact on my interest in cyber security," he noted. "He's such an incredibly engaging, insightful, and creative thinker. I was incredibly lucky that he took an interest in me and invited me to work on his team; I couldn't have found a more awesome research group."

    SkySafe is currently inviting partnerships or test deployments of the drone security system, and the company has plans to launch SkySafe in the second half of 2016, initially to qualified public-safety customers.

    Visit the SkySafe website.

  • Adjunct CSE Professor Named Interim Dean of Physical Sciences

    A professor of mathematics at UC San Diego who is also an adjunct professor in Computer Science and Engineering will take over on July 1 as the Interim Dean of Physical Sciences. Professor Jeffrey Remmel, who is currently the Associate Dean of the division, will take over temporarily for the outgoing Dean, Mark Thiemens. The campus has begun a national search for Thiemens' permanent successor, but the university tapped Remmel to serve as Interim Dean until his permanent replacement is appointed.

    Remmel is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mathematics, and he has been on the UC San Diego faculty since 1974. In addition to CSE, he is also adjunct faculty in the Rady School of Management. His current research interests include combinatorics, logic, and theoretical computer science.  He has published over 300 papers in a variety of fields and has personally mentored and graduated 31 Ph.D. students. Remmel has been Associate Dean of Physical Sciences since 2001, and he chaired the Mathematics department from 1998 to 2002. Remmel is also co-director of the newly-created Center for Advancing Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education (CAMSEE), and serves on the UC Executive Committee for the California State Summer School in Mathematics and Science (COSMOS), for which CSE typically hosts at least one thrust for high-school students each summer on the UC San Diego campus.

    Remmel has worked with faculty from across disciplines to establish new programs and encourage interdisciplinary research and scholarship.  He served on the steering committees to establish the Ph.D. and undergraduate major in Bioinformatics, and spearheaded the effort to create new Ph.D. and M.S. programs in Computational Science, Mathematics and Engineering (CSME).

  • Former CSE Professor's Solution to Caching Problem

    Wired magazine published an article this week on the importance of caching for organizing computer memory -- concluding that it is a lot like organizing your closet. The article was excerpted from a book published April 19, "Algorithms to Live By" (Henry Holt & Co., 2016). In it, the writers quote former CSE professor Rik Belew.

    Belew joined the UC San Diego department in 1986, switched to Cognitive Science f in 2002, where he is now an Emeritus Professor following retirement in 2012. (Today he lives in Oakland, CA, where contributes tacultyo open-government and open-access efforts, including the development of interactive data visualization to let citizens explore raw crime and election Belew's research in adaptive knowledge representation and the integration of new insights derived from low-level machine learning techniques with other representations of related human knowledge, relates to multiple applications, including searches through free-text documents. Using home storage as a metaphor, Belew was asked to weigh in on the dilemma of a husband who liked to store his clothes in a pile on the floor next to the bed -- creating a "smaller, faster, closer" form of cache compared to the bedroom closet or basement storage. The husband argued that a pile of clothes can be a highly efficient caching scheme, but his wife disagreed.  In the face of this conundrum, Belew suggested a solution to the marital dispute. Belew, "who studies search engines from a cognitive perspective, recommended the use of a valet stand," according to the excerpt in Wired. "A valet stand is essentially a one-outfit closet, a compound hanger for jacket, tie and slacks -- the perfect piece of hardware for your domestic caching needs." The magazine goes on to say that Belew's solution "just goes to show that computer scientists won't only save you time; they might also save your marriage." 

  • CSE Building Additions and Renovations Shift into High Gear

    After more than a year of planning and preparation, and the start in late March of renovations to create the Master's Commons working area for M.S. students on the second floor, the campus has announced that additions and renovations to the first floor and basement of the Computer Science and Engineering building will get underway on Friday, April 22. The construction will involve adding 4,500 square feet of new meeting-room spaces.

    Campus architect and assistant vice chancellor for Facilities Design and Construction, Wm. Joel King, AIA, made the announced on April 19, setting an expected completion date for the work next January 4, 2017. "Work will include a small addition, a trellis structure, and interior and exterior renovations," King wrote in an April 19 campus-wide announcement. "Renovations will include demolition and reconstruction of interior partitions and finishes on the first floor and in the basement... [while] exterior renovations will include the removal of the existing skylight and surrounding paving, and the installation of new presentation and conference space along the west side. It will also include minor work on the south side of the building, which includes an enlarged bicycle parking pad, a new access stair and signage."

    The contractor will be locating a large trash dumpster and storage units in the dock area between Atkinson Hall and the CSE building (from which the CUPS cafe has moved for the duration to across the courtyard in front of Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall). As a result, access through the dock area will be limited to the construction team and trash pick-up crews, and the west side of Voigt Drive will be used for the installation and removal of the recycling dumpsters and delivery of fencing and construction materials. Detours and signage (e.g., illustrating alternate paths) will direct vehicles and pedestrians around the impacted areas (see map above), and pedestrians and bicyclists will also experience interruptions due to construction on Warren Walk and along Voigt Drive across from Warren College Housing.

    Flaggers will also be present to direct traffic.  Updates will continue to be provided throughout the construction period. The department says that work on the Master's Commons area will run simultaneously with the work on lower floors, at least until the work on the second floor is completed in late May.

    Complaints about noise, safety, access and other problems may inconvenience some campus visitors and CSE personnel, but the campus architect has assured the department that access from the courtyard into the basement will be accessible throughout the duration of the project. Comments are welcomed via an online form embedded in the CSE website that offers detailed information about all pending renovation and building projects in and around the building.

  • Student Research Honored as Best CSE Poster at Research Expo 2016

    At the annual Jacobs School of Engineering Research Expo, a team of three students advised by CSE Prof. George Porter received the top award out of nearly 30 posters (see story below) presented by graduate students from the Computer Science and Engineering department. The award went to the team of primary researcher Ashish Kashinath, with student collaborators Debjit Roy and Justin Tee, all of them students in CSE (pictured from left to right below; photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications).

    Their poster focused on "Fibbing to Alleviate Congestion in WAN and Data Center Networks." The 'fibbing' technique injects fake nodes and links into hybrid networks so that both OpenFlow and legacy routers compute forwarding tables based on augmented topologies. According to Kashinath and his colleagues, their solution to relieving congestion in data centers and wide-area networks (WANs) is a hybrid, centralized software-defined networking (SDN)/distributed approach that leverages fibbing. "Fibbing can be a readily deployable and effective solution to congestion relief," noted Kashinath, adding that in simulating congestion, the researchers that fibbing increased throughput of flows compared to ordinary TCP (or even ECN-enabled TCP). The poster also spelled out a routing table with metrics for times when congestion-triggered fibbing can be most effective. In the abstract accompanying their poster, Kashinath, Roy and Tee concluded that the "fibbing technique is a viable and effective solution to congestion relief in data centers and WAN that is readily deployable in hybrid networks."

    Prof. Porter, the students' advisor, put their award-winning project into the broader perspective. "Networks are undergoing a fundamental transformation to become significantly more programmable, letting operators and even users tailor the network to organizational needs," said Porter. "In this poster, Tee, Roy, and Kashinath explore the applicability of providing artificial input signals to network switches and routers to cause them to react to traffic in non-standard ways, yet end up providing better performance compared to their in-built programming.  What is exciting about their work is that they demonstrate the applicability of this technique to both globe-spanning wide-area networks, as well as single-building data centers which underpin massive sites like Google, Facebook, and Amazon."

  • Research Expo Showcases Over 30 CSE-Related Research Posters

    For the school-wide research poster session at the 2016 Jacobs School of Engineering Research Expo on April 14, nearly 30 posters were presented by CSE graduate students, including six posters presented by students of CSE Prof. Ravi Ramamoorthi in an area reserved for researchers in the Center for Visual Computing (directed by Ramamoorthi). . The winner of the Best CSE Poster award was a team of three students advised by CSE Prof. George Porter (see story above).

    Like Ramamoorthi, CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner's students had six posters on display at Research Expo. Four of them -- by grad students Quentin Gautier, Alexandra Shearer, Antonella Wilby and Perry Naughton -- were exploration-themed, in part deriving from the students' prior work in the Kastner-led Engineers for Exploration program. Three other computer-engineering projects were presented by Alireza Khodamoradi and Alric Althof on IBIT-compressed imaging, Dajung Lee on hardware-accelerated graph analytics in a reconfigurable system, and machine learning for system-level design space exploration on FPGAs (a joint project of Althoff and Gautier with Pingfan Meng).  CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing was the next-most-represented faculty member in the CSE poster session, showing the research of Mohsen Imani on approximate computing using configurable associative memory, Akanksha Maurya on time-series data clustering for Internet of Things applications, and Pietro Mercati and recently-graduated Baris Aksanli with a computational modeling approach touser behavior for swarm control applications.

    Only two other CSE faculty members had multiple graduate posters on display in the Price Center. CSE Prof. Bill Griswold advised Yan Yan and Massimiliano Menarini, whose poster explored continuous semantic inspection for software evolution, while Soohyun (Eileen) Nam reported on her investigation of the impact of class size on peer instruction in computing (jointly advised by Griswold and Leo Porter). Two other poster presenters were advised by CSE Prof. Vineet Bafna: Seong Won Cha's work dealt with proteogenomics for the detection of colorectal cancer-related antibody peptides; and Viraj Balkrishna Deshpande, whose research is on identifying and reconstructing tumor amplicons. In addition to Bafna, Deshpande is also advised by professors Pavel Pevzner and CK Cheng.

  • Postdoctoral Researcher to Receive UC San Diego Sustainability Award

    On Tuesday, April 26, the UC San Diego Sustainability Office will host its annual Sustainability Awards ceremony (in the Price Center's The Loft beginning at 3:30pm).

    In this year's Individual category, CSE postdoctoral researcher and alumnus Baris Aksanli (M.S., Ph.D. '12, '15) won the top award, beating out the only other nominee, biochemistry major Zack Osborn, who works for Revelle College's community garden. Aksanli works in the System Energy Efficiency Lab of CSE Prof. Tajana Rosing, and his research interests include energy efficiency and peak power management of data centers, smart grids and other large-scale systems. Currently he is working on smart and efficient battery use in a smart grid by focusing on end-users and efficient control and distribution of energy in a smart grid. Aksanli's doctoral dissertation explored the subject of energy and cost-efficient data centers. The computer scientist will be honored for his research on topics including sustainable computing in large-scale systems, energy-aware automation of residential homes, and sustainable energy management and coordination between residential neighborhoods and the smart electrical grid.

  • CSE Team Takes Top Honors in Triton 5K to Benefit Scholarships

    Despite gray skies and some drizzle, members of CSE's Team Race Condition turned out in force at this year's Triton 5K race, which coincided with Triton Day on campus, when students accepted to UC San Diego are invited to the campus with their families to learn more about the university as they decide where to attend in the fall among the universities that gave them acceptance letters. Some 2,800 runners were at the starting line, and the CSE team was by far the largest at 226 runners, nearly three times the 82 runners in the second-largest team, which represented the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Of the five team trophies handed out after the race, CSE walked away with two: for the largest overall team, as well as the top fundraising department (based on the number of runners and their combined registration fees). The Triton 5K benefits undergraduate scholarships, and to date, the race has raised more than $3.4 million since 1996.

    "We started in memory of our [late] departed MSO, Don Peters-Coville," noted CSE Chair and runner Rajesh Gupta. "We had the largest department team and definitely the most spirited one (sans pink tutus)." Gupta thanked team organizer and fund manager Cheryl Hile (who came in #5 in her age category). , whose husband Brian Hile placed #1 in his age division, as did staff member Loretta Smith in her cohort.

    The fastest runner on the CSE team, however, was CSE alumnus Neal Harder (B.S. '98), who ranked #4 race-wide. Ph.D. student Dustin Richmond, who expects to graduate in computer engineering this year, blew past most of the competition to finish at #10 overall with a time of 17:11 minutes (#3 in his age division). On Richmond's heels, graduating computer-science senior Marcel Aguiar, who is also a member of the UC San Diego Triathlon Team (and its webmaster), placed #11 for the Triton 5K overall, and #5 in his age division.Two runners -- Hile's husband Brian and manager Loretta Smith -- placed #1 in their respective age divisions.  Some standouts racing to represent CSE faculty included Mihir Bellare (#6 for his age group), while Ron Graham and Fan Graham, according to Gupta, "smoked their division" at #6 and #5, respectively. Christine Alvarado also came in #5 in her division.