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  • Real (Computer) Science. Now in Real Time.

    Julian McAuley, one of CSE's newest faculty hires, believes in open science. So much so, that he decided to turn his staid faculty portrait into a real-time streaming video feed that allows interested viewers to watch McAuley at his desk in the CSE Building.

    "I believe that science should be open and reproducible," says McAuley. "Releasing code and data is great, of course, but why not make the entire scientific process transparent? Every experiment I run, and every line of code I write should be accountable. Even though I hope nobody is watching my every move, it does create a personal sense of accountability just knowing that somebody could be doing so."

    McAuley says he was also trying to inform those viewers who might be curious about what the scientific process looks like. "Most people have no idea what computer scientists actually do all day," he adds. "Admittedly, the answer may not actually be all that exciting, or I'd probably have more viewers."

    The CSE assistant professor even allows viewers to track what he is working on by providing a video insert showing what's on the PC screen he is looking at. He says the video feed makes him more, rather than less, productive in the workplace.

    "I've always found that I procrastinate less when somebody is watching me, so why not have people watching me all the time?" asks McAuley, who goes on to say that he is "much more reluctant to waste 20 minutes watching YouTube videos if I think somebody might be judging me for it."

    McAuley recognizes that there may be security or privacy concerns when colleagues or students show up in his office and may be caught on camera without having specifically signed off on a "guest appearance" on The Julian McAuley Show. For now, he posts an "On-Air" sign on his door to give visitors advance warning. "I'll have to give more thought to it if this ever becomes popular," he says, adding that he may at times come off as less than professorial. "When Rajesh Gupta emailed the department to announce that I'd accepted a position at UCSD, I was busy shoving pizza into my face while my future colleagues were visiting my website."

    For all the pros and cons, McAuley says he will continue to replace his faculty photo with a live video feed from his desk. He jokes that someday the National Science Foundation will require broadcasting of every minute of scientific activity on the projects it funds. If so, the CSE professor will have a leg up on the competition.

    View Julian McAuley's home page.

  • CSE Alumni, Students Take Advantage of Growing Startup Ecosystem

    This Wednesday, December 10, students will have the rare opportunity to hear about the entrepreneurship-related programs available through CSE and UC San Diego, all in one place, at one time.  From noon to 1pm in Jacobs Hall's Qualcomm Conference Center, three groups will stage a combined Info Session. The NSF I-Corps program run by The von Liebig Center, the Jacobs School-based Moxie Center, and the student-run UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge will spell out how students can get involved in the process of taking a concept from the lab to the marketplace.

    Representatives of these groups will talk about their respective programs. Moxie Center director Jay Kunin will talk about the Moxie Entrepreneur's Academy, scheduled for Wednesday evenings during the winter quarter from 6-8pm.  The von Liebig Center's Jay Gilberg will spell out plans for the I-Corps programs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6-8pm. Nine startups developed in the Fall quarter will move to the second stage, and another 15 or so new student teams begin stage one..

    The UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge's Michael Hayden will talk about several different competitions designed to help students develop and convey their best ideas for commercialization, with most activities scheduled for Monday evenings. The contests include the Best Elevator Pitch (pitches less than 60 seconds in length), the Best Business Plan competition, and hackathons, in addition to the E-Challenge itself, which singles out the best startups in life sciences and other technologies.

    CSE students and alumni have taken advantage of such programs, in part due to the decision to locate the Moxie Center in the CSE Building. "We are very proud of current and former students who have taken an idea and turned it into a viable startup or licensing deal," says CSE chair Rajesh Gupta.

    Gupta points to alumna Natalie Castellana (M.S. '09, Ph.D. '12), who is Chief Technology Officer at Digital Proteomics LLC (since May 2012, when she finished her doctorate under CSE Prof. Vineet Bafna, who co-founded the company with CSE professors Pavel Pevzner and Nuno Bandeira). Castellana (at left) developed algorithms and software for interrogating the proteome through mass spectrometry. She also developed a pipeline for automated gene finding. Digital Proteomics offers more than half a dozen toolkits to scientists who want to undertake monoclonal antibody sequencing, universal peptide identification, de novo  peptide sequencing as well as spectral clustering and quality filtering. Among other deals with biotech companies, Digital Proteomics has worked closely with Genentech to develop Castellana's antibody sequencing tool called Valens.

    CSE students can take advantage of new sources of funding, as well. These include crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Currently one of the big success stories on Kickstarter is Hush Technology, whose campaign has already raised nearly $400,000 more than the original goal of $100,000. CSE senior Daniel (Chesong) Lee and his fellow co-founders have benefited from engagement with multiple entrepreneurship activities, including the Elevator Pitch contest, and later Hush began to develop what the company now calls "the world's first smart earplugs," with coaching from advisors at both the Moxie Center and the NSF I-Corps program. Hush was one of the seven winners at this week’s Plug and Play San Diego competition,  each of which won $25,000 investments and admission to Plug and Play’s  Sunnyvale-based accelerator program.

    "CSE has been a source of talent, amplified by the Moxie Center with its ability to reach out to talent beyond computer science," said CSE's Gupta. "A good example is Hush Technology, which has been a great success in part because the computer science student co-founded the company with students from the structural engineering as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering departments."

    Hush remains in the Moxie Center Incubator and it needs to do further development to fulfill its "stretch" goals as the Kickstarter funds outpaced even the team's wildest dreams. But Hush is a rarity in the Moxie Incubator; virtually all of the 16 other student startups remain cash-poor. Of all 17 startups in the incubator, seven have at least one CSE student on the management team. Two of the startups are in both the Moxie Incubator and the Fall I-Corps Program: Cocoon Cam (led by student Pavan Kumar Pavagada Nagaraja, who also took home the Most Practical Solution award at MedHack San Francisco in September); and Meego Tech (formerly USKey) which has designed and built a second-generation prototype of the device that CSE senior Jorge Landaverde and his colleagues call "the smartest motion-activated laptop theft prevention system."  Other companies in the Moxie Incubator: Datalockr (Jake Pham and Kelly Lim), which is promoting the use of QR codes to help sell properties in the real estate market; and Aqua Design Innovations (Victor Wu), whose aquaponics filter EcoQube for home aquariums is now shipping  (manufactured in China, air-shipped to the U.S.), and their second-generation product is on the drawing board.

    Other startups in the Moxie Center Incubator feature systems and services specifically targeted at fellow students. They include Abdulhafiz (Omar) Itani (at left), who hopes to finish his B.S. in December, prior to launching CampusLessons as a web-based service to help students find a go-to point of contact on campus to engage with other students through activities and academics. Rajiv Pasricha, a Jacobs School Scholar who won the Audience Choice award at the Moxie Center PitchFest in April 2014, and CSE sophomore Ganesh Datta have a startup called Study Groups; it is a service to help students form... study groups. Finally, a team of three CSE students -- Dexin Qi, Yu Xia and Zijian Tao -- have a startup called CollegeTickr (formerly iPassStore), which provides a web platform for college and university students to share their secrets anonymously.

    Other recent success stories include Tortuga Logic, co-founded in 2013 by CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner and Ph.D. student (as well as CEO) Jason Oberg (M.S. '12), and postdoctoral researcher Jonathan Valamehr (CFO/COO). 

  • CSE Undergraduate Sees His Company Valued at $200 Million

    You know you’ve hit the big time when Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher plugs your company on Twitter:

    Ashton Kutcher @aplusk:
    Congrats to @Getaround for huge partnership with San Francisco. Sign this petition so other cities will follow.   10 Apr 2014

    But for Elliot Kroo, a CSE undergraduate (pictured below second from right) who interrupted his education to co-found the San Francisco car-sharing service Getaround, the company really hit the jackpot in late November, when some of the top names in venture capital pumped $24 million into Getaround – valuing the company at approximately $200 million.

    Getaround is a peer-to-peer car sharing company, which lets car owners rent their automobiles to people who want to rent by the hour, by the day, or even longer. When the company signs up a new car owner, it installs a device on the car that tracks location, driving speeds, and is able to lock or unlock the doors remotely. As a result, people looking to rent on the spur of the moment can do the transaction completely on their mobile phone – even starting the car.

    The owner pays just under $100 to have the device installed, and $20 a month to subscribe to the service. Getaround also earns 40 percent of the rental price.

    The Ashton Kutcher tweet back in April was for a petition in favor of a San Francisco carsharing plan that would get 10,000 cars off the road by approving 900 proposed parking spots in the city reserved for car-sharing vehicles.  In the end, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board did vote to approve new parking spots reserved for car-shares as part of a two-year pilot program of the city with Getaround, Zipcar, and City CarShare, but it decided on only 40 new spots rather than the 900 requested by car-share companies.

    Kroo and his two co-founders came up with the idea in 2009 at a Singularity University event, when Google co-founder Larry Page challenged attendees to come up with ways to positively impact one billion people in the next 10 years. They figured that at least one billion cars go unused for 22 hours every day, so they decided to tackle ‘car overpopulation’ as the higher purpose of Getaround.

    The service debuted in 2011 at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City, where Kroo and his colleagues walked away with the $50,000 first prize, as well as the Audience Choice award. The judges included then-Google VP (now Yahoo! CEO) Marissa Mayer, who went on to invest in Getaround in 2012 along with Google’s then-CEO, Eric Schmidt – and Ashton Kutcher.

    In 2012, Business Insider included Kroo, Getaround’s Director of Engineering, on its list of "26 Up-And-Coming Tech Entrepreneurs You Need To Watch." Separately, on the widely-watched AngelList – widely watched especially by those in need of angel investors – Elliot Kroo has over 200 followers, including many high-profile entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and tech investors.

    Meanwhile, Getaround operates in San Francisco, San Diego, and Austin, with plans to expand to Oakland, Portland and Washington early next year.

    Even before arriving at UC San Diego to study computer science, Kroo became what he calls “the youngest engineering intern ever at Google.” At age 14, he began working summers installing cameras on vehicles to take the first wave of images that became part of the Street View feature in Google Maps.

  • CSE Alumni Quarterly Profiles iboss Network Security CEO

    In early December, the web security firm iboss Network Security paid just over $8 million for a new headquarters building in University Towne Center near the UC San Diego campus. The move by iboss CEO Paul Martini coincided with publication of the Winter 2015 edition of the UC San Diego CSE Alumni Quarterly, featuring a cover story about the CSE alumnus (BS '01) and his fast-growing company. To download the 8-page publication or read it online, click here.  Following is the cover story charting the incredible success of Martini, who recently spurned efforts by Texas to lure his company away from the San Diego region.


    Texas was dangling millions in financial incentives in front of San Diego technology companies to get them to move their headquarters to the Lone Star state. The founder and CEO of iboss Network Security, Paul Martini, was tempted, before one of its biggest rivals, Websense, quit San Diego for Austin earlier this year.

    Martini was shaken, but didn’t stir. Instead, he decided to stay put in California, and saw Websense’s departure as an opportunity to recruit some of that company’s employees who didn’t want to make the move to Texas.

    “We saw a lot of great talent who didn’t want to relocate, so we decided to stay and grow in San Diego,” says UC San Diego alumnus Martini (B.S. Computer Science ’01), whose company needs to double its workforce to 200 jobs as soon as possible. “We have a lot of former UC San Diego students who work here, and we’re relocating our headquarters to be across the street from UCSD, which will make it even easier to access students and engage in collaborative research as well.”

    Making the decision to stay in San Diego was made easier because iboss is growing rapidly, with revenues doubling last year to $20 million, and they could soar as high as $80 million in 2014.

    “We are in an extreme growth phase,” explains Martini. “We want to be the next billion-dollar company in terms of revenue.”

    Now 11 years old, the company appears to have done everything right. Martini was working at Copper Mountain Networks when it dawned on him that security was the place to be. He quit his job and in 2003 Martini bootstrapped a company to provide security solutions in the cloud – long before the term ‘the cloud’ existed.

    “We just called it multiple data centers in those days. Internet bandwidth was growing, and I knew that there was going to be a problem with security as Internet connectivity grew,” he says. “There were going to be problems not just data loss, but malware, viruses and things like that.”

    In part because of his background in computer science, the UC San Diego alumnus saw a real business opportunity in providing security as a service to large organizations. Specifically, iboss specialized in the lucrative market for secure gateways linking company intranets with the Internet.

    “We focused on algorithms versus using hardware or something that’s more commoditized to do the job,” he says. “A lot of our skills and background from UCSD especially helped us to look at the problem in a different way. So we’ve been able to scale to massive amounts of bandwidth, massive amounts of devices, which leave our competitors behind.”

    Martini was also quick to take advantage of the mobility trend, as more and more corporate employees were using their smartphones on the go, creating a new spectrum of security threats that could only be repelled with cloud-based solutions that essentially safeguard the data no matter where it originates. At the same time, large organizations need to safeguard their high-bandwidth channels. Martini notes that iboss recently won large contracts from five states which operate 10 Gigabits-per-second network channels.

    “That’s ten billion bits every single second, and we have to decide whether we are going to let those bits through or stop them,” notes Martini. “It’s a really interesting, challenging problem.”

  • Two UC San Diego Computer Scientists Named IEEE Fellows

    Two members of the Computer Science and Engineering faculty at the University of California, San Diego have been elevated to be Fellows in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). CSE Prof. David Kriegman was honored for his contributions to computer vision, and CSE Prof. Yuanyuan Zhou was cited for her “contributions to scalable algorithms and tools for computer reliability.”

    Following a rigorous, annual evaluation procedure, the IEEE Fellow Committee recommends a select group of recipients for elevation to IEEE Fellow.  Less than one-tenth of one percent of voting members are selected annually for elevation to the highest member grade. At its meeting in November, the IEEE Board of Directors approved Fellow status for 300 researchers worldwide, effective January 1, 2015.

    Kriegman (far right) and Zhou (near right) join an elite contingent of CSE faculty to be named Fellows of IEEE. They will join seven current or emeritus professors including Walter Burkhard and CK Cheng (both in 2000), William Howden (2001), CSE chair Rajesh Gupta (2004), Jeanne Ferrante (2005), Dean Tullsen (2009) and Andrew Kahng (2010).  Former CSE professors also elevated to IEEE Fellow status included Francine Berman (2011), Andrew Chien (2007) and Larry Carter (2000).

    Professor Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou is one of only a handful of current CSE faculty who have achieved fellowship status in both IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). She became an ACM Fellow in 2013. Zhou is the inaugural holder of the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Systems, which she assumed when she joined the CSE faculty in 2009. Prior to UC San Diego, she was on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 2002 to 2009. Zhou earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2000, after completing her M.A. in computer science (also at Princeton) in 1996, and B.S. in computer science from Beijing University in 1992. Zhou’s many past honors have included an Alfred Sloan Fellowship (in 2007), NSF Career Award (2004), CRA-W Anita Borg Early Career Award (2005), DOE Early Career Principal Investigator Award (2005), and IBM Faculty Awards (2004 and 2005). Prior to UIUC, Zhou worked at NEC Lab and co-founded a storage startup, Emphora. In 2006, she also co-founded and remains CTO of Pattern Insight (which sold its Log Insight business to VMware in 2012), and more recently launched her third startup, Whova, which developed a mobile app for large events (including, recently, TEDxSanDiego and the Trillion Sensors Summit).

    In addition to software dependability (for which she was cited by IEEE), Zhou’s current research includes mobile software reliability and data center configuration management. “As rapid advances in computing hardware have led to dramatic improvement in computer performance, the issues of reliability, availability, maintainability, and cost of ownership are becoming increasingly important,” says Zhou. “My research aims to address these challenge issues in designing the next generation of computing systems.” 

    Like Zhou, David Kriegman was teaching at UIUC prior to joining the UC San Diego faculty in September 2002. He received his Ph.D. in 1989 from Stanford University, taught at Yale University from 1990 to 1998 (when he also won a prestigious NSF Young Investigator Award in 1992), and was on the Computer Science faculty and the Beckman Institute at UIUC from 1998 to 2002. Kriegman was also a visiting professor at Caltech in the summers of 1993 and 1994. He was the Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence from 2005 to 2008, the leading journal in his field.  Kriegman co-founded two companies, TAAZ Inc. and Kriegman-Belhumeur Vision Technologies (KBVT). KBVT was acquired by Dropbox this year and TAAZ received the CONNECT Most Innovative New Product Award in 2008. Dr. Kriegman is also involved with Sight Commerce, which generates hundreds of millions of images each month to help retailers inspire their consumers, understand their shopping preferences and increase sales by building confidence in the consumer's purchase decision.

    Professor Kriegman is one of the most widely cited experts on the subject of face recognition, a crucial component of vision-based security systems for human-computer interaction as well as homeland security purposes. For his research on recognizing objects under illumination extremes and for reconstructing surface shape from lighting variation, he won Best Paper awards in the U.S. and Europe. In turn, he has introduced new methods to render photorealistic images through image-based modeling of surface reflectance.  He has applied his research methods to understanding human perception, robotic perception and navigation, computer graphics, and electron microscopy.   With the significant decline of coral reefs due to global climate change, the Computer Vision Coral Ecology project with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has developed CoralNet  to analyze photos of coral reefs automatically.

  • Smart Earplugs Make Noise on Kickstarter

    Hush, ironically, is making some loud noise with potential supporters. Hush Technology is a Moxie Center incubator startup founded by CSE senior Daniel Lee (below far left), who expects to graduate next spring, and two other students named Daniel: Daniel Synn, a senior in structural engineering; and a second Daniel Lee (same name, different person), getting his degree this year in mechanical and aerospace engineering. The three are making a splash with a Kickstarter launch to raise $100,000 in crowdfunding by the December 22 deadline. As of Nov. 24, the crowdfunding appeal had raised over $202,000 from over 1,650 supporters, and they still have 28 days left before the campaign ends. 

    What does Hush do? It is developing wireless noise-masking earplugs that let you block out the world while still letting you hear the things that matter most (as the Kickstarter appeal spells out). Hush combines sound eliminating foam with noise masking to isolate you from your surrounding environment. If you want to sleep you should be able to fall asleep and stay asleep regardless of the noise around you. Hush connects wirelessly with your smartphone so you can fully power off with the peace of mind knowing that you'll be awakened when you're needed. As a wireless miniature device that has to play sounds and stay connected to the phone for over 10 hours, battery life was one of the team's biggest concerns. To do this they designed everything with low power in mind. By using Bluetooth Low Energy and playing back locally stored audio files, Hush says its smart earplugs can surpass this requirement on a battery that other wireless in-ear products exhaust in two hours. The Hush Case is small and light, and has its own rechargeable batteries that can recharge Hush up to 10 times without plugging in. The developers also put an extra USB port on the case so that both the Hush earplugs and a smartphone can recharge at the same time.

    Learn more about the world's first smart earplug here on Kickstarter

  • Faculty-Affiliate Bioinformatics Expert Elected AAAS Fellow

    A bioinformatics expert affiliated with CSE is among three UC San Diego faculty newly awarded the distinction of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Professor Trey Ideker has affiliated-adjunct status in CSE, and he is a Professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. He was cited by AAAS for “distinguished contributions to the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology, particularly in pioneering network research.” Ideker and two faculty from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will be among the 401 honorees to be officially listed as new Fellows in the November 28 issue of the journal Science.

    Prof. Ideker's research seeks to comprehensively map connections between the many genes and proteins in a cell and how these connections trigger or prevent disease. His current work focuses on DNA mutations that cause cancer. Although each person’s cancer tumor may be caused by a nearly unique set of mutations, Ideker has shown that different sets of mutations often alter and hijack the same gene networks. The long-term goal of his research is to build a whole working model of a cancer cell that can be used in the clinical setting to interpret patients’ genomic data — both their inherited DNA and the mutations associated with their particular malignancy — to refine and tailor cancer diagnoses and treatments. Such analyses are in the early stages of being used to screen people who are unlikely to respond to certain types of chemotherapy.

    AAAS members are considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections, by three existing Fellows, or by AAAS’s chief executive officer. Prof. Ideker and the other new Fellows will be recognized on Saturday, February 14, at the AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, Calif. 

  • Four CSE Undergrads Win 'Best iOS Hack' at USC Hackathon

    Josh Anatalio, a third-year computer science major at UC San Diego, was among the members of more than 50 teams from UCSD who drove up to Los Angeles recently to participate in HackSC, organized by the University of Southern California. Project manager Anatalio entered the November 7-9 hackathon with three teammates, all fellow third-year CSE undergraduates: Noah Martin, a computer engineering major; as well as Lawrence Luk and Alvin Ho, both majoring in computer science. [Pictured (l-r) Anatalio, Martin, Luk and Ho.]

    HackSC aims to “empower hackers to learn and explore new technologies through hands-on development and experience.”

    The team arrived in Los Angeles with no preconceived notion about the type of application they wanted to develop. After a brainstorming session, Anatalio and his colleagues came up with idea.  

    “At HackSC, my teammates and I created a really cool application,” said Anatalio, the iOS software developer, after the hackathon. “It was especially great because we got the attention of Apple engineers and recruiters.”

    What attracted Apple was their application called ezTouch. “The app allows the user to lock and unlock one or more remote Mac computers using an iPhone’s fingerprint scanner,” says Anatalio. “We developed the iPhone remote application in Swift to let users scan their fingerprint, communicate with our server, and securely lock or unlock their computer.” 

    In addition to Swift, the developers used other tools, including Sketch and TouchID. Noah Martin designed and implemented the Mac application for OSX in Objective-C; Lawrence Luk managed and created the server using Ruby on Rails to handle communication between the iOS and the Mac app; and Alvin Ho created the design for the iOS and Mac app, while also implementing the user interface for the iOS app and designing the artwork for both applications. Luk also created ezTouch’s website at

    The CSE team was one of only 13 teams entered to compete on Apple platforms. Most other teams competed on Android. The UC San Diego were also among the teams that were able to complete their apps before the deadline. By the end of the hackathon, Apple awarded Anatalio and his teammates with the “Best iOS Hack” award.

    Instead of cash prizes, HackSC gave out tech prizes to help participants develop bigger and better hacks going forward. The Apple Hack award included support from Apple staff.

    The CSE team members all had experiences with hackathons prior to HackSC, but it was still an intense experience. “It involved roughly 12 to 15 hours of actual coding, plus time for breaks and sleep because the 36-hour challenge ended at 9am on Sunday,” explained Anatalio. “But having entered previous hackathons definitely gave us an edge. It was a lot of fun, but the most fun was winning.”

  • CSE Professor, Research Affiliate Accept HPCwire Awards for WIFIRE Project

    The WIFIRE project led by the University of California, San Diego has triumphed with three top 2014 HPCwire Awards. All the awards were announced on Nov. 17 at Supercomputing ’14 in New Orleans.

    With a multi-year $2.65 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the WIFIRE project is a partnership led by San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) researcher Ilkay Altintas, a CSE academic-instructor. Altintas and WIFIRE co-PI and CSE Prof. Larry Smarr received the three awards in New Orleans.  All three awards cited WIFIRE “for building a cyberinfrastructure to better monitor, predict and mitigate future wildfires.”

    “These awards are truly wonderful news for the entire WIFIRE team,” said Altintas, director of SDSC’s Workflows for Data Science Center of Excellence. “We all are very grateful to HPCwire’s editors and readers for recognizing this project and the impact that it can have not only here in California but anywhere where wildfires can be a threat to the local populace and environment.”

    In the category of Best Application of Big Data in High Performance Computing (HPC), the San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego and the University of Maryland tied for the #1 spot for Readers’ Choice with a PayPal deployment to improve customer shopping experiences.  In the separate category of Editors’ Choice for the best application of big data in HPC, the same project, WIFIRE, took top honors as selected by a panel of HPCwire editors.

    In the broader category of Best Data-Intensive System (End-User Focused), the WIFIRE project also came in #1 as the Editors’ Choice.  (The Readers’ Choice in this category went to NASA’s Earth Exchange platform, which supports dozens of data-intensive projects in Earth sciences.)

    According to CSE’s Smarr, WIFIRE is a logical progression in the fight against wildfires. “We are all based in southern California and wildfires represent one of the most intractable environmental threats we face on a regular basis,” said the Calit2 director. “The technology we deploy for WIFIRE will make a substantial difference in our ability to detect, track, and respond to wildfires going forward.”  

    In recent years, the number and scale of wildfires in the U.S. has risen, threatening cities and forests, and at times forcing large-scale evacuations. The NSF grant allowed WIFIRE participants to begin cataloguing and integrating large, data-intensive sets related to dynamic wildfire models from a variety of resources, including sensors, satellites, and scientific models, and creating visual programming interfaces for using that data in scalable wildfire models.

  • CSE's Griswold Makes 'Sense' at Founders Day Symposium

    CSE Prof. Bill Griswold wowed the audience when he was asked to deliver a TED-style talk during the university's Founders Day Symposium. The symposium kicked off a three-day celebration, Nov. 13-15, to celebrate "the curiosity and passion that have allowed our campus to transform the world."

    Griswold was one of six "extraordinary minds" and faculty experts who "illuminate the collaborative approach used to understand and address complex issues within the broad research themes of understanding and protecting the planet, and enriching human life and society." In the Price Center East Ballroom, the CSE professor was the first speaker on the latter subject, and he focused on "Pervasive Air-Quality Monitoring for the Crowd."

    "Recent revelations about the impact of air pollution on human health are troubling, yet air pollution and the risks it poses to us are largely invisible because federally mandated monitoring stations are sparse," says Griswold (at right), who thinks one answer to the problem is a project called CitiSense. Developed by computer scientists and population-health experts from the School of Medicine, CitiSense leverages the proliferation of smartphones and the advent of cheap, compact sensors to enable real-time monitoring of air quality. By sharing all users’ data through the cloud, CitiSense can create a regional air-quality map and even predict air pollution for those who are not carrying a sensor.

    Griswold began his presentation with a series of alarming numbers, including: 30%, the proportion of public schools that are near highways (hence, sending asthmatic kids to school potentially puts them in harm's way); and 50%, the increase in asthma events near highways in the United States.

    He called CitiSense "a computing approach" to the problem of not-enough air pollution sensors, especially given the fact that pollution levels fluctuate between nearby locations. "Pollution levels vary widely by locale," said Griswold, pointing to a map, who went on to point out that "individual exposres vary widely compared to the reported EPA Air-Quality Index."  Historically, air-quality sensors were also placed on rooftops, rather than at ground level where most people are likely to be affected by pollution. CitiSense components include sensors built into a board inside a smart phone, which can display real-time air-quality readings, and pass the data on to servers that map the air quality levels throughout the San Diego region. Consumers can then access the county-wide pollution maps over the Internet, either from a computer or from a smartphone to get not only nearby data, but information on air quality anywhere else in San Diego. The maps also use advanced scientific visualization to make it very clear the areas facing the worst pollution levels in real time.

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