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CSE News

  • MystartupXX Wins SBA Funding to Support Female Tech Entrepreneurs

    Female alumni from CSE and other Jacobs School of Engineering departments will, for the first time, be eligible to compete for support as part of the mystartupXX accelerator program. MystartupXX is a partnership of the engineering school and the Rady School of Management, and it has just been awarded its second $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a winner of the national Growth Accelerator Fund competition.
    MystartupXX nurtures the next generation of female founders and female-led technology startups through mentorship, education and funding. The program is designed to encourage and aid female students from across campus to create innovative, technology-driven companies. Since its founding in 2012, the mystartupXX program has supported cohorts of female student entrepreneurs (and female-led teams), but for applicants in 2015, recent alumnae will also be eligible to apply for admission (applications due in October).
    The judges reviewed 400 applications before selecting the 80 winners from across the U.S. The winners were announced at the first-ever White House Demo Day on Aug. 4 (see article below on Cocoon Cam presentation). The event highlighted the accomplishments and efforts surrounding the American entrepreneurial and innovation engine.
    “Winning this prestigious award from the SBA will enable the work of the mystartupXX program to grow and expand to include UC San Diego alumni," said Lada Rasochova, the mystartupXX program director. "We have already had many successful outcomes from program participants and this award will help us continue to provide the tools female-led technology startups need to excel in the innovation economy.”
    In the past three years, fiive mystartupXX startup companies have been launched, including Giventure (originally called Bystanders to Upstanders), led by CSE undergraduate Sneha Jayaprakash (right) and a team of mostly female CSE students who have developed an app that enables volunteers, volunteer organizations and nonprofits to connect. In addition, more than $8 million has been raised by startups affiliated with mystartupXX, over 130 jobs have been created, and products on the market are generating more than $1 million in revenues. Two mystartupXX companies were also admitted to other prestigious incubator and accelerator programs.
    “MystartupXX aims at leveling the playing field for female technology entrepreneurs in particular in terms of access to funding and to a strong support network that will serve as a launch pad for their success,” said Rosibel Ochoa, senior executive director of Entrepreneurism and Leadership Programs at the Jacobs School, and co-director of the mystartupXX program.
  • CSE and Facebook at SIGCOMM 2015

    A team from CSE is getting ready to attend the flagship annual conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication on applications, technologies, architectures and protocols of computer communication. The week-long SIGCOMM 2015 takes place in London, UK, starting Aug. 17, and three CSE faculty members will attend – George Porter, Alex Snoeren and Geoffrey Voelker – as will PhD student Arjun Roy (PhD ’16) (at left). The reason? When Roy interned at Facebook, he worked on a project to measure their datacenter network. The results of the joint UC San Diego-Facebook investigation are to be published in a paper at SIGCOMM: "Inside the Social Network's (Datacenter) Network." Snoeren and Porter co-authored the article with grad student Roy and two colleagues from Facebook, Hongyi Zeng and Jasmeet Bagga.

    As they point out in the paper, the co-authors note that "datacenter operators are generally reticent to share the actual requirements of their applications, making it challenging to evaluate the practicality of any particular design" of network fabrics to interconnect and manage traffic within large-scale datacenters. Most prior studies were based on Microsoft workloads, which may not be representative of other cloud services, so having access to some of Facebook's datacenters and workloads breaks new ground in showing how networking inside datacenters is handled. "While Facebook operates a number of traditional datacenter services like Hadoop, its core Web service and supporting cache infrastructure exhibit a number of behaviors that contrast with those reported in the literature," according to the paper's abstract. "We report on the contrasting locality, stability, and predictability of network traffic in Facebook's datacenters, and comment on their implications for network architecture, traffic engineering, and switch design."

    First author Arjun Roy and his co-authors from UC San Diego and Facebook conclude that Facebook's datacenter network supports a variety of distict services that exhibit different traffic patterns that differ substantially from those in previously published studies. "The different applications, combined with the scale (hundreds of thousands of nodes) and speed (10-Gbps edge links) of Facebook's datacenter network result in workloads that contrast in a number of ways from most previously published datasets," they note. "Space constraints prevent us from providing an exhaustive account, [but] we describe features that may have implications for topology, traffic engineering, and top-of-rack switch design."

    Given the interest in the UC San Diego-Facebook paper, SIGCOMM is also publishing a public review of the research, by Microsoft engineer Srikanth Kandula, who highlighted some "novel and interesting measurements." For example, more than 80 percent of traffic in a Hadoop cluster crosses racks (i.e., there was less rack 'locality' than in previous studies on other datacenters). Kandula also notes that "the overall network link utilization is quite small -- an average of less than 10 percent on all potential bottlenecks," noted Kandula, adding that "the other dominant application at Facebook is memcached-style request-response workload, which comprises primarily of small packets and has some specific traffic patterns." [Pictured at right: Per-second traffic locality by system type over a two-minute span: clockwise from top-left, Hadoop, Web server, cache follower, and leader.]

  • Moxie Foundation Gift Supports CSE Assistive Technologies

    A $300,000 gift from the Moxie Foundation will support computer scientists at UC San Diego who are researching and developing high-tech assistive technology to help individuals with disabilities. The funding will support teams of undergraduate and graduate students led by Nadir Weibel, a research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, for two years with the goal of prototyping technology that will help disabled individuals to communicate.

    Using the most advanced ubiquitous computing technologies, the project will look into helping people facing a wide variety of challenges, but the team has already started to work on one: locked-in syndrome, a condition that damages part of the brainstem, leaving individuals aware but unable to move or communicate. Individuals with locked-in syndrome—which usually results from a stroke—are unable to move or verbally communicate due to paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles except for the eyes. Weibel and his team will investigate ways of leveraging eye-tracking technology to translate a patient’s eye movement into different functionalities that will allow affected people to communicate and be more independent. The team is working on applications leveraging computer-generated speech, social media communication, special book readers, novel musical instruments and more.

    “It’s very difficult to get funding for a project like this—it’s very experimental,” said Weibel. “But the Moxie Foundation has been a supporter of our work from the beginning. Thanks to their investment, we will be able to continue our research and make it scalable. At the same time, we are giving students an opportunity to use what they’ve learned in class to make a real difference in the world—and they are eager for that kind of experience.”

    The assistive technology project came about from one of Weibel’s undergraduate classes: CSE118: Ubiquitous Computing. The course provides an opportunity for students to apply their computer science skills and cutting-edge technology to address real-world problems. In the fall 2014 class, Weibel challenged his students to come up with possible solutions to assist a patient with locked-in syndrome, using technology such as Google Glass and eye-tracking systems. By the end of the quarter, the students had developed a number of promising solutions, and a few students volunteered to continue the work with Weibel outside of class, with the goal of creating an early prototype.

    “Expanding hands-on, experiential education for undergraduates is a current priority for both our department and the Jacobs School overall," said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta. "The Moxie Foundation has been a valuable partner in promoting education, innovation and entrepreneurship among our students and faculty.”

  • Startup with CSE Roots Present at First-Ever White House Demo Day

    On Aug. 4, CSE was represented by at least one startup company selected to showcase  their technology at the first Demo Day organized by the White House. The company's name is Wearless Tech Inc., and its first product is the Cocoon Cam, an "intelligent video baby monitor."

    Then-CSE graduate student Pavan Kumar (MS '15) co-founded the company and led software development on the Cocoon Cam. Kumar (pictured third from right) is now Wearless Tech's Chief Technology Officer, but he is not the only CSE person involved in the company. Recent graduate John Chou (BS '15) is the company's iOS developer, and CSE research scientist and lecturer Nadir Weibel has played an important as mentor and adviser to the team after it was accepted into the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. Weibel continues in his current position as "health research scientist," and his work includes involvement in the effort to bring the Cocoon Cam to neo-natal intensive care units (NICUs). He is also working on an NSF STTR grant teaming UC San Diego and Wearless Tech on a grant that is currently under review. 

    Cocoon Cam originated at a couple of hackathons, notably MedHack 2014, where their proof-of-concept for the system was voted "most practical solution."

    Demo Day is designed to bring innovators from across the country and to give young technology companies an opportunity to reach media attending the event in the East Room of the White House. Unlike a regular pitch session, the Demo Day innovators shared their unique stories during the event, which was broadcast August 4 at at 3:40 p.m. ET/12:40 PT. 

    Founded in 2014 and now based in San Francisco, Wearless Tech has developed a unique patent-pending solution that uses computer vision and cloud-based data analytics to continuously monitor a baby’s condition. The intelligent software, coupled with a digital video camera and infrared technology, offers an easy and completely non-invasive method for tracking heart rate, respiration, and skin temperature from a distance. The company sees Cocoon Cam as being the start of a transition from so-called wearables to technologies that can be just as effective from a couple of feet away -- like when the Cocoon Cam is fixed on a baby's crib, but it can still monitor vital signs and activity of the baby in a simple and secure way.

    Unlike other baby monitors on the market, Cocoon Cam continuously checks the baby’s condition, but without the need for uncomfortable wired, clip-on sensors. Parents can view video and receive custom notifications via their smartphone -- without compromising safety.

    Wearless Tech is currently collaborating with UC San Diego to conduct field patient studies in both clinical and in-home environments. In the future, the company plans to develop intelligent video camera systems that provide continuous, non-contact and non-invasive vital sign monitoring for NICUs and Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs) and Emergency Rooms (ERs). The technology promises to reduce false alarms and alarm fatigue in critical care environments. Other areas under development include post-surgery and eldercare monitoring as well as enhanced screening for security applications.

  • NSF Gives Green Light to Pacific Research Platform under CSE's Smarr

    UC San Diego , UC Berkeley lead creation of West Coast big data freeway system

    For the last three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a series of competitive grants to over 100 U.S. universities to aggressively upgrade their campus network capacity for greatly enhanced science data access. NSF is now building on that distributed investment by funding a $5 million, five-year award to UC San Diego and UC Berkeley to establish a Pacific Research Platform (PRP), a science-driven high-capacity data-centric “freeway system” on a large regional scale. Within a few years, the PRP will give participating universities and other research institutions the ability to move data 1,000 times faster compared to speeds on today’s inter-campus shared Internet.

    The PRP’s data sharing architecture, with end-to-end 10-100 gigabits per second (Gb/s) connections, will enable region-wide virtual co-location of data with computing resources and enhanced security options. PRP links most of the research universities on the West Coast (the 10 University of California campuses, San Diego State University, Caltech, USC, Stanford, University of Washington) via the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC)/Pacific Wave’s 100G infrastructure. To demonstrate extensibility PRP also connects the University of Hawaii System, Montana State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern, and the University of Amsterdam. Other research institutions in the PRP include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and four national supercomputer centers (SDSC-UC San Diego, NERSC-LBNL, NAS-NASA Ames, and NCAR).  In addition, the PRP will interconnect with the NSF-funded Chameleon NSFCloud research testbed and the Chicago StarLight/MREN community.

    “Research in data-intensive fields is increasingly multi-investigator and multi-institutional, depending on ever more rapid access to ultra-large heterogeneous and widely distributed datasets,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “The Pacific Research Platform will make it possible for PRP researchers to transfer large datasets to where they work from their collaborators’ labs or from remote data centers.” (Pictured l-r: PI Larry Smarr, co-PIs Camille Crittenden, Phil Papadopoulos, Tom DeFanti, and Frank Würthwein.)

    Fifteen existing multi-campus data-intensive application teams act as drivers of the PRP, providing feedback over the five years to the technical design staff. These application areas include accelerator particle physics, astronomical telescope survey data, gravitational wave detector data analysis, galaxy formation and evolution, cancer genomics, human and microbiome ‘omics integration, biomolecular structure modeling, natural disaster, climate, CO2 sequestration simulations, as well as scalable visualization, virtual reality, and ultra-resolution video. The PRP will be extensible both across other data-rich research domains as well as to other national and international networks, potentially leading to a national and eventually global data-intensive research cyberinfrastructure.

    “To accelerate the rate of scientific discovery, researchers must get the data they need, where they need it, and when they need it,” said UC San Diego computer science and engineering professor Larry Smarr (right), principal investigator of the PRP and director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). “This requires a high-performance data freeway system in which we use optical lightpaths to connect data generators and users of that data.”

    CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta said, “We are proud that a member of our department faculty, Larry Smarr, is once again providing visionary leadership on a large-scale project that will have a transformative impact on national cyberinfrastructure. PRP envisions a practical distributed architecture supporting a wide range of disciplines to ensure that federally funded university research advances science and continues to produce extraordinary talent for generations to come.”

    Read the full news release.

  • Systems, Security and Programming Languages Expert Joins Computer Science Faculty at UC San Diego

    He won’t start work until next year, but Deian Stefan has accepted an appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the University of California, San Diego, effective in July. His research interests are in building principled and practical secure systems, and he will join CSE’s Security and Cryptography, Systems and Networking as well as Programming Languages groups.

    Stefan joins the CSE department with a Ph.D. fresh from Stanford University. His dissertation focused on “Principled and Practical Web Application Security,” under advisors David Mazières of Stanford’s Secure Computer Systems Lab and John C. Mitchell in the Security Lab.

    His delayed arrival on campus will allow Stefan to build up his startup, GitStar, where he currently serves as president and chief scientist. GitStar provides developers with tools for deploying web applications with minimal trust. The company builds on Stefan’s prior research on confinement and information flow control.

    Gitstar wants to change the way developers build and deploy web applications. “The company will be consuming his immediate cycles before he joins us in Fall 2016,” said CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta in announcing Stefan’s appointment. “A big thanks is due to our recruiting committee, led by Mohan Paturi, which continues to attract compelling talent to the department.”

    GitStar flips the traditional application security model from allow-by-default to deny-by-default. “With GitStar,” said Stefan, “you can use third-party modules and ensure they can only perform safe operations, as explicitly allowed by the application’s security policy. This is in contrast to today’s model where any code you use has unfettered access to the file system, database, network, etc.” The framework, now undergoing pilots, allows developers to not only secure their Node.js applications, but also be more productive. “By offloading security enforcement to GitStar, developers can build and deploy applications faster since, firstly, they don’t need to worry about getting subtle security checks right in their application code, and secondly, they can use the latest, hottest (and potentially unsafe) libraries,” added Stefan.

    At Stanford, Stefan worked in Programming Languages and Systems in addition to Security. He co-instructed two courses on Programming Languages, and was a teaching assistant for a graduate seminar on advanced topics in Operating Systems. Stefan said he wants to develop a course at UC San Diego on browser engines that could complement OS courses with a platform for exploring concepts such as resource management, concurrency, scheduling, security and interface design. “The course would cover the major subsystems of the browser, including the network stack, security architecture, JavaScript engine, the Document Object Model (DOM), and the renderer,” explained Stefan. “More importantly, it will explore the interaction between these subsystems and how fundamental concepts arise in such a large, real-world system.”

  • CSE Hosts Inaugural New Computer Science Faculty Workshop

    CSE teaching faculty Beth Simon and Leo Porter, along with Mark Guzdial (Georgia Tech) and Cynthia Lee (Stanford), led a new annual workshop devised to help new faculty excel in teaching.  Starting with a keynote address from Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, participants plunged into a fast-paced series of activities and lessons on evidence-based teaching practices.

    Fundamentally, the goal of the workshop is to help newly-hired CS faculty be better and more efficient teachers. By providing new faculty with a small number of effective teaching practices before their first year, the workshop aims to:

    1. Make teaching more efficient for new faculty, so that they save time for research;
    2. Make their teaching more effective (e.g., improved student learning); and,
    3. Make teaching more enjoyable and increase teacher confidence.

    “I can't believe how much actionable knowledge I picked up about teaching in just a day and a half,” said one participant, speaking to the value of the workshop.

    Organizer Leo Porter was impressed with the level of engagement on the part of faculty. “Our participants could not have possibly given us better feedback,” said Porter. “That was precisely our goal.  We are very impressed by all our participants’ dedication to their students and willingness to adopt new practices for their students’ benefit.”

    The workshop aimed for a small audience in its first year and saw eight faculty from around the country come together for two intense days of activities.  CSE Assistant Professor Julian McAuley was among the attendees.  After the workshop, participants will receive continuing support from the organizers and their peers.

    The workshop is funded by the National Science Foundation and mirrors highly successful workshops in other STEM disciplines, many of which have been running for decades. 

  • UC San Diego Ranked #4 Among U.S. Public Universities

    New rankings name UC San Diego the fourth best public university in the U.S. and the 21st best university in the world. The rankings by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) are based on quality of research, faculty, influence, enterprise and successful alumni.

    The fourth annual global rankings also list UC San Diego as the 16th best university in the U.S. among both private and public colleges. In the category of “influence,” which measures the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals, UC San Diego places as the fifth best university in the world.

    The methodology for CWUR’s 2015 rankings analyzed the world’s top 1,000 universities, measuring eight indicators designed to give the most accurate assessment of their quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of faculty members and quality of their research. According to CWUR, the rankings do not rely on opinion-based surveys, but instead rely on a purely data-driven approach to measure academic and research excellence.

    In addition to its fifth-place finish for influence, UC San Diego also ranks highly in the categories of broad impact (15th), citations (15th), publications (16th), patents (17th) and quality of faculty (19th). The only area where UC San Diego fell among the bottom half of the 1,000 universities was in 'alumni employment', which is based on the number of alumni who have held CEO positions at the world's top companies relative to the university's size.

    Read the complete list of CWUR’s top 1,000 universities in the world.

  • Campus Supports CSE Initiative to Serve Students Interested in Computational Sciences

    In an era of restrictions on the number of freshman and transfer students accepted into computer science and engineering majors, the CSE department has embarked on what it calls a "targeted effort to build and disseminate resources for students interested in studying the computational sciences at UC San Diego." The project recently received a $75,000 grant following a highly competitive round of proposals submitted to the university's Academic Advising Innovation Grant Initiative.

    Principal investigators Mia Minnes (pictured at right), who is a CSE Assistant Teaching Professor, and CSE Student Affairs Director Lynne Keith-McMullin were notified of the selection committee's decision in late June. According to Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez, the committee "awarded those proposals that most clearly demonstrated sustainability and impact on student retention and success."

    With the new grant, Minnes and Keith-McMullin will develop a brochure and online, interactive resource available to prospective and current students interested in computational sciences with information they should take into consideration before picking a major. They will also engage an interdepartmental group of UC San Diego faculty, advisers, current students and alumni to reach out to local community colleges and high schools to host informational events, while also staging community briefing sessions, e.g., on Triton Day and Transfer Admit Day.

    "The end goal of this initiative is to encourage students to consider their career goals and find the best majors to attain them," said Prof. Minnes. "We will engage advisers across campus to build the resources they need to advise their students who are interested in computational sciences. The colleges at UC San Diego are major advising partners and this project will strengthen the connection between them and departments.” 

    The most obvious alternate majors might include Biology (for computational biology or bioinformatics), and Cognitive Science, which has a specialization in computation. Roughly a dozen other alternatives range from Mathematics and Physics to Biology, Music and Visual Arts. They include the recently launched major in Speculative Design, and the pending Data Sciences majors proposed by CSE and Mathematics.

    Prior to submitting the grant proposal, CSE staged several information sessions to convey the new goals-based approach to advising students interested in computational sciences. "The feedback in assessments was very positive from those attendees who filled out the survey," added McMullin, "even from those students who came to the realization that another major was a better fit for their academic and long-term goals."

    Even as more students are channeled to other majors, CSE is making it possible for many more students from across campus to take classes offered by the department. "CSE is committed to serving all students, who can take computer science courses and study computer science material," noted Keith-McMullin. "Our class enrollments have tripled as we make room for everyone to explore the CSE major" in courses that in some cases require few or no pre-requisites.

  • Computational Biologist Faculty-Affiliate Joins UC San Diego

    UC San Diego recently announced the hiring of computational biologist Jill Mesirov as associate vice chancellor for computational health sciences, with a primary appointment in the School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center. But now the CSE department has appointed Mesirov as a faculty-affiliate as well. Until recently, the heavy hitter in academia and industry directed the computational biology and bioinformatics programs at the Broad Institute, a partnership of MIT and Harvard. Before that, she managed computational biology and bioinformatics at IBM.

    Mesirov’s own research focuses on applying machine-learning methods to functional genomics data in two main areas: cancer and infectious disease. In cancer, Mesirov’s team is analyzing molecular data to determine the underlying biological mechanisms of specific tumor subtypes and to stratify patients according to their relative risks of relapse. In infectious disease, her team is using functional data to better understand the host-pathogen relationship in malaria, as well as to identify biomarkers for differential diagnosis of viral and bacterial diseases and biomarkers of vaccine efficacy.

    In addition to applying computational methods to biomedical research, Mesirov is committed to developing “biologist-friendly” software tools and making them freely accessible to the entire biomedical research community. To this end, her team has developed several popular analysis and visualization software packages, such as Gene Set Enrichment Analysis, GenePattern and the Integrative Genomics Viewer. These tools are used by tens of thousands of investigators worldwide to aid in their research.