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CSE News

  • CSE Team Targets Record Turnout for Triton 5K Race

    It's never too early to start planning for Alumni Weekend on the UC San Diego campus. One highlight is the 20th annual Triton 5K race, scheduled for 9am on Sunday, April 10. The starting line is at North Point Lane in front of the Spanos Athletic Training Facility. CSE students, staff, alumni and faculty are aiming to overtake the 149 runners and walkers who won last year's prize for fielding the "Largest Overall Team" at the event. The CSE team routinely places among the largest to run or walk the 3.1-mile scenic course through the heart of the UC San Diego campus.

    Runners can sign up as individuals or in teams of five or more. According to Cheryl Hile, who is again organizing CSE's official team entry in the Triton 5K, so far 77 people have registered to be members of "Team Race Condition", the CSE team moniker, and the informal goal is to push participation to 150 or more members in order to beat the team's record last year. "The team in second place last year trailed far behind our team with some 30 members compared to CSE's team with 149 members," says CSE fund manager Hile (pictured with team prize cup in 2015). "We crushed the competition last year and we're going to crush it again this year!"  The CSE team could also be competitive in two other prize categories: "Largest UC San Diego Department", and "Top Fundraising Team", because all runners' fees will go to support student scholarships.

    Anyone interested in being part of the CSE team should register at and select "Race Condition" in the team field. To receive the team shirt, you must first register, then fill in the Google Doc at with your name, email address, and shirt size (sizing guidance for men and women is on the second tab of the Google Doc). (Note: Staff, faculty, alumni and parents are recommended to register before 11:59pm on February 28 in order to take advantage of the Early Bird rate -- $25 per person -- versus $30 for those registering by April 3, and $35 for those registering on-site on the day of the race. Students get in for $10 no matter when they register.) Only those who have registered by noon on March 15 are eligible to receive a CSE team shirt. The high-quality New Balance "tech" shirt will be separate from the overall campus Triton 5K shirt, and it will look different from last year's team shirt. According to Cheryl Hile, the "2016 shirt will be a different color because I know people are starting a collection!"

    In addition to the team shirt, Race Condition participants in the race (sanctioned by USA Track and Field) will receive a gear bag. A strong turnout could also put CSE in contention for the "largest fundraiser" prize, since the runners' fees will benefit student scholarships. Since 1996, the race has raised more than $3.4 million that benefited over 1,000 students. The Triton 5K Festival also starts at 9am on April 10 at the Triton Track and Field Stadium. Activities will include entertainment, a Junior Triton Run, a play zone, and hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design and Mathematics (STEAM) activities for children of all ages.

  • Women in Machine Learning Profile CSE Professor

    On February 3, the Women in Machine Learning (WiML) organization profiled CSE Prof. Kamalika Chaudhuri on its Facebook page. The Feb. 3 article  notes that her research is on "the theoretical foundations of machine learning, and she works on designing machine learning [ML] algorithms with rigorous performance guarantees."

    Chaudhuri (at right) is particularly interested in privacy-preserving machine learning -- how to design ML algorithms that operate on the sensitive data of individuals, while ensuring that their outputs are rigorously guaranteed to preserve privacy. "An obvious approach to privacy is anonymization -- removing names and addresses and the obvious identifiers from the data, and then using the rest of the data for learning," said Chaudhuri. "These approaches however are insufficient for privacy. Even without obvious identifiers, personal data tends to be very unique, and it is often possible to automatically link together different sources of information and re-identify individuals in anonymized data."

    The computer scientist and former CSE postdoctoral researcher (2007 to 2010) went on to explain her focus on guaranteeing 'differential privacy', a rigorous definition of privacy designed by cryptographers in 2006. "Differential privacy is typically obtained by randomly perturbing the result of a function -- which could be as complex as a classifier or a clustering -- computed on the sensitive data," said Chaudhuri. "The challenge is to design algorithms that can achieve privacy as well as high accuracy given a certain number of samples."

    Chaudhuri is also studying privacy challenges that arise in more correlated and more complex data, such as time series and social networks, and she has been working on "algorithms that can compute statistics on such data while still guaranteeing a generalization of differential privacy."

    Learn more about Women in Machine Learning at the WiML Facebook page.

  • Modifying the Microbial Makeup of C-Section Babies

    Professor Rob Knight has appointments in both CSE and Pediatrics, and the microbiome expert led a small pilot study that could have repercussions for expectant mothers -- especially those whose children were delivered by C-section. In the study published on February 1 in the journal Nature Medicine, Knight and co-authors from UC San Diego, New York University, University of Puerto Rico and Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine determined that a simple swab to transfer vaginal microbes from the mother could alter the C-section-delivered newborn's microbiome (microbial makeup). The resulting microbiome then more closely resembles that of a vaginally-delivered baby. This could be important, because prior research suggests a link between C-section delivery and increased subsequent risk of obesity, asthma, allergies, atopic disease and other immune deficiencies. Furthermore, says Knight, "other research suggests that the microbiome differences between vaginal and C-section babies can persist for years."

    The latest study originated at home. “When my own child was born by unplanned C-section, we took matters into our own hands to see to it that she was exposed to vaginal microbes,” said Knight, who directs the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego. “She is now four years old and healthy, but that was an uncontrolled experiment of one and so we can’t tell whether it had an effect, from a scientific perspective. This study now starts to prove that the effect exists, telling us that some of those vaginal microbes probably do stick around when transferred to a baby born by C-section, at least for the first month of life.”

    According to Knight, the pilot study "provides the proof of concept that microbiome modification early in life is possible, [but] we need substantially more children and a longer follow-up period to connect the procedure to health effects."

    Read the full news release on the Jacobs School of Engineering website.

  • New York Times Quotes Larry Smarr on Underwater Data Centers

    On January 31, New York Times technology correspondent John Markoff reported on an exciting new experiment involving the design and placement of a data center underwater off the central coast of California.

    For the article, the newspaper turned to CSE professor (and Calit2 director) Larry Smarr for an outsider's perspective on the future of computing systems underwater. The test by Microsoft aimed to see if a self-contained data center (the gray cylinder pictured at left on deployment) could reduce air-conditioning bills by sinking the data center hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean. Microsoft is also looking at attaching a turbine or tidal-energy system to generate electricity.  

    As quoted in the article, UC San Diego's Smarr (right) noted that, "For years, the main cloud providers have been seeking sites around the world not only for green energy, but which also take advantage of the environment." The article notes that demand for centralized computing has grown exponentially, and it's likely to continue with rapid advances in digital entertainment, the Internet of Things and cloud computing. The first prototype -- dubbed the "Leona Philpot", after a character in Microsoft's Halo video game series -- is now back at the company after a 105-day trial in the Pacific near San Luis Obispo, and Microsoft is now designing a version that is three times the size of the 8-feet in diameter, cylindrical prototype.

  • CSE Faculty Develop Online Course on Mastering the Software Engineering Interview

    Students and anyone interested in interviewing for a job in software engineering will now be able to take a course on how to ace the interview – whether the student is enrolled at the University of California, San Diego (where it was created) or not, and whether the potential interviewee is located in the United States or anywhere around the world.

    Three faculty members from UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department will launch a new course, “Mastering the Software Engineering Interview”, on February 8 (advance enrollment is now open). It was commissioned by Coursera, a leading provider of open online courses with 17 million registered learners worldwide. The interviewing course is part of a four-part series of online courses to teach intermediate software development. Taken together, the four courses and a Capstone Project make up a Coursera Specialization in “Java Programming: Object-Oriented Design of Data Structures,” a mini-degree program originally launched in September 2015.

    The course and the Specialization were developed by CSE Teaching Professors (pictured l-r) Leo Porter, Mia Minnes, and Christine Alvarado. They received assistance from a team at Google; the company is contributing ideas for real-world projects and the involvement of its engineers as guest lecturers.

    The new course provides learners with advice on how to succeed in technical interviews for software engineering positions, while also giving the online learner an opportunity to practice how to improve their technical and “soft” skills. “To prepare job seekers for the rigors of a software engineering interview,” said Prof. Alvarado, “the course provides opportunities for practice and feedback on the four key parts of most technical interviews: Introducing Yourself; Introducing Your Work; Writing Code; and Solving New Problems.”

    In 2015, the UC San Diego team was awarded the opportunity to work with Coursera to develop the intermediate-level Specialization. While the course is aimed at helping learners anywhere in the world to prepare for technical interviews, the new course aims most critically to prepare applicants from previously underrepresented groups by providing them with “insider” information about interviewing ‘best practices’ and by addressing key soft skills (confidence, communication, and more).

    This is the fourth course in the intermediate programming and software engineering Specialization.  Previously-launched courses in the Specialization have focused on intermediate programming concepts critical for interviews, including object-oriented programming (launched last Sept. 15), basic data structures and algorithm analysis (Oct. 26), and advanced data structures (which began on Dec. 21). “These three courses employ a number of online-learning pedagogical innovations and are among the top learner-rated courses on Coursera – each earning between 4.7 and 4.8 out of 5 stars,” noted Prof. Minnes. “Currently more than 75,000 students are enrolled in the existing three courses.” Coming soon is the fifth component of the Specialization, the Capstone Project, which is only open to learners who have taken all four online courses.

  • CSE Student Featured in #ILookLikeAnEngineer Jacobs School Series

    In case you've missed the engaging series of interviews involving engineering and computer science  students under the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer, one of the latest undergraduates highlighted in the series is Akanksha Kevalramani (pictured). The sophomore (Class of '18) majoring in Computer Science spoke with the Jacobs School of Engineering blog in late January.

    Coding is a favorite pastime of the international student, who chose engineering at UC San Diego because she was "really impressed by how far this university had come in such a short time," said Kevalramani, adding that she "could see this university growing a lot in the years to come in terms of education, infrastructure and research opportunities."

    Kevalramani  also said that one of her career goals is to "affect the way women are represented in STEM fields." Indeed, the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag began trending on Twitter last fall as a vehicle to undermine the stereotypes that tend to dissuade female students from pursuing engineering degrees or jobs n the field. (The creator of the original hashtag was a female software engineer in the Bay Area who wanted to counter typical depictions of engineering and computer science as men-only professions. 

    "I believe that no one should be judged or mistreated based on another’s assumptions," said Kevalramani. "I believe this campaign is an excellent way to raise awareness about that, and the fact that people here care about things like these makes me even more proud of UC San Diego."

  • New Computer Science Approach to Detecting Colon Cancer Biomarker

    A computer science approach has led to the detection of a colon cancer biomarker called CDX2. Those without CDX2 have a poorer prognosis than patients with CDX2 but in some cases are more likely to benefit from chemotherapy.
    ​Using a new computer science approach, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Columbia University and Stanford University discovered a distinctive molecular feature — a biomarker — that identified colon cancer patients who were most likely to remain disease-free up to five years after surgery. The biomarker, a protein called CDX2, also helped the researchers identify Stage II colon cancer patients who are most likely to benefit from chemotherapy after surgery.
    The retrospective study is published January 21 by the New England Journal of Medicine.
    “Because previous studies did not take into account differences between colon cancers with and without CDX2, doctors have long struggled to identify which Stage II colon cancer patients might benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy,” said first author Debashis Sahoo, PhD, (right) assistant professor of pediatrics, and computer science and engineering at UC San Diego. “But what we’ve now found is that some of these patients might benefit from chemotherapy, and we now have a biomarker to tell the difference, potentially saving many lives and reducing toxicity from unnecessary treatment.”
    Sahoo led the study alongside co-first author Piero Dalerba, MD, of Columbia University, and senior author Michael Clarke, MD, of Stanford University.
    This study took advantage of a novel bioinformatics approach Sahoo developed to identify differences in gene expression patterns. Sahoo had earlier pioneered this method to find genes involved in stem cell differentiation — the process by which stem cells specialize into specific cell types in an organ, such as the colon. 
    “Dr. Sahoo’s bioinformatics approach is extraordinarily powerful,” said Dalerba. “We used it to search for biomarkers that could help us identify which colon tumors were likely to contain high numbers of stem-like cells.”
    Dalerba and Sahoo discovered that when the gene CDX2 is “off,” another molecular marker of stem-like cells in colon tumors, called ALCAM, is always “on.”
    “We reasoned that colon tumors lacking CDX2 would likely contain a higher number of stem-like cells, and would therefore be more aggressive than CDX2-positive tumors,” said Dalerba.
  • Students, Faculty, Alumni and Industry Converge on CSE Day

    CSE Day 2016 took place Thursday, January 21, from 11am to 8pm, with most of the activities taking place in the CSE auditorium (Room 1202).The student-run event was organized by the Computer Science and Engineering Society (which held its first general meeting of the year on Jan. 14).

    CSE Day is an event dedicated to the passion and education of all who are interested in computer science or computer engineering, especially for more recent arrivals in the department who can learn about potential job or educational oppportunities in industry and academia.

    The event serves an important purpose in the computing community on campus by showing students what they can do with industry to maximize their opportunities after graduation. CSE Day sessions will help "demystify the pathways they can take to become successful, and show them the opportunities that their peers, the faculty and the attending companies can offer them," according to organizers, including CSES's co-chairs for CSE Day, Jacob Davis and Raghav Mehta (both Class of '18) (pictured below right).

    The schedule kicked off with an internship panel the CSE Auditorium, featuring students Mike Shi, Michael Chu, J Delaney and Jesse Gallaway, who have interned at Facebook, Hulu, MongoDB, Google and Qualcomm. The panel was followed by an open (and free) lunch catered by Subway served from noon to 12:45pm. Continuing in the afternoon, students had an opportunity to hear from a panel of recruiters -- including from Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies -- on what they look for in candidates with software skills.

    Following that panel, at 2:15pm representatives from student and professional clubs talked about how to get involved in CSE activities, including the recently formed Data Science Student Society, Women in Computing, as well as the Virtual Reality Club and Video Game Club.

    Later in the afternoon, students heard from a Google expert on machine learning, a field of growing interest to the tech world, and an area that is enhanced by CSE's collaboration with UC San Diego's Cognitive Science department. It started at 4pm, and was followed by a panel bringing together CSE alumni working at Facebook, ViaSat and other employers, to answer student questions about their own experiences following graduation.

    An industry dinner (catered by Buca di Beppo) provided a networking forum for students to socialize one-on-one with executives from industry. The dinner was followed by a popular CSE Day staple: a game of Jeopardy that pits students versus faculty members. Industry sponsors of CSE Day 2016 include Microsoft, Google, ViaSat, Facebook, Cubic, iBoss Cybersecurity, and Visa.

  • February 16 Cutoff for Undergrads to Apply for Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship

    The Center for Networked Systems (CNS) has announced a deadline of February 16,  2016, for interested students to apply for  the research center's $10,000 Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship program was established in 2015 through a philanthropic partnership between CNS and outside donors. The scholarship was named in honor of the British mathematician (at left) who is widely considered a key founder of the fields of both computer science and artificial intelligence. The inaugural, one-year scholarship will be awarded this spring.

    CNS created the scholarship to "affirm the importance of future LGBT computer scientists and engineers". Turing's codebreaking work contributed substantially to the Allied victory in World War II, but after the war, he was persecuted for being gay and later died by his own hand in 1954.

    Applications for the CNS-created scholarship are welcome from UC San Diego undergraduates majoring in computer science or computer engineering, as well as other programs related to networked systems, including electrical engineering, public policy, communication, and others. Applicants must be active in supporting the LGBT community, with preference given to students with demonstrated financial need.

    All applications must be submitted online through the UC San Diego Academic Works website.

  • Deadlines Loom for Undergraduate Scholarship Applications for 2016-2017

    The deadlines for CSE and other continuing undergraduate students to put in online applications are fast approaching. (Pictured: Recent CSE graduate Allen Nguyen on summer research internship in Osaka, Japan.)

    The application cycle for 2016 Summer Undergraduate Research Scholarships is now open. The deadline for all applications seeking the $5,000 research stipend is February 1, 2016 at 11:59pm. The online application is at

    Separately, the deadline to apply for continuing UC San Diego undergraduate scholarships in 2016-2017 is 11:59pm, February 16, 2016 (including the Alan Turing Memorial Scholarship mentioned above). Some scholarships are based exclusively on merit (academic achievement), but most other scholarships are “restricted”, i.e., based on academic merit and other possible criteria (financial need, leadership, field of interest and so on). Many of the scholarships are open to all majors, while others are more specific. For example, there is a Ken Bowles Scholarship for CSE, open only to computer-science seniors who have cumulative 3.0 GPA and can demonstrate financial need – but who also “may have knowledge or experience with the UCSD Pascal application.” (UCSD Pascal was developed by a large team of CSE students under Prof. Kenneth Bowles at the dawn of the personal computing era.)

    Other scholarships (which typically range from $1,000 to $2,000 for the academic year) are restricted to students from several disciplines. A scholarship set up by CSE Prof. CK Cheng and his wife Jenny is open exclusively to computer science, computer engineering or electrical engineering majors, while the James W. Barnes Scholarship is open to undergrads from the CSE, ECE, or Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering departments.

    Interested undergrads are invited to fill out an easy-to-complete online application after reading about each scholarship’s guidelines and other information here.  

    For more about all undergraduate scholarships for CSE students, click here.