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  • Big Pixel Hackathon Set for May 23

    Three "hackers" will each win $500 cash awards if they are in the winners' circle at the conclusion of the Hackathon  organized by the Big Pixel Initiative at UC San Diego. Beyond the top three spots, however, the Hackathon to Discover the Planet could open up opportunities for UC San Diego students to eventually secure mini-grants ranging in size from $1,000 to $3,000 to continue research involving geospatial big data.

    Date: May 23
    Time: 10am - 5pm
    Location: Calit2 Theater, Atkinson Hall

    What will your discovery be? UC San Diego has recently been given unprecedented access to the  largest volume of the ultra-highest resolution satellite imagery of our planet. Imagine being able to count every car in every city, monitor illegal elephant poaching from your couch, or measure the total area of solar panels on the planet. This is an emerging industry, with nearly a billion dollars in cash flowing into satellite imagery and geospatial big data analytics startups in the last three years. The question on everyone's mind is: What will will we see? The organizers are calling on students from CSE and other disciplines to bring their thoughts to this exciting new field.

    The Big Pixel Initiative is looking for smart, early-stage multidisciplinary ideas. While coding is not required, early proof-of-concept work will increase competitiveness. Students are encouraged to bring their own laptops and to use the software platform of their choosing. Support stations will be provided for students to tap into industry standard GIS software (ArcGIS, etc.).    

    The Big Pixel Initiative is developing geospatial capacity to address our world’s greatest challenges at scale. Founded in partnership by UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute and the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), the Initiative has partnered with the Digital Globe Foundation to grow a living, learning laboratory related to everything spatial, to investigate and design best practices in geospatial data visualization user experience interfaces, and design techniques for scientific discovery and decision-making.     

  • Alumnus Looks Back at Inaugural Introduction to Robotics Course

    Recent CSE alumnus Chris Barngrover (MS '10, PhD '14) developed a new CSE 190 course, Introduction to Robotics, which he first taught during the Winter 2015 quarter, juggling lectures to undergraduates with his full-time job in SPAWAR's Unmanned Systems group (where he works on computer vision for robotics). He also arranged to provide low-cost robotics kits to each team to integrate into a more complex system, including at least two peripherals. During the second half of the quarter, students broke into teams to work on robot projects that accounted for 50 percent of their final grades in the class.

    This week Barngrover (at right) posted a video created by one of the CSE 190 teams involving "Autonomous Tracking and Following of Indoor RC Helicopter." Undergraduate students (below, l-r) Frank Bogart, Mike Lara, James Lee and Kenny Yokoyama completed the BLLY project (pronounced Billy, and derived from the first letters of the students' last names). Three of the students are computer engineering majors: fifth-year student Bogart worked on the vision for the robot; senior Lara handled the embedded systems; and Lee, a second-year transfer student, worked on the navigation and hardware. The fourth team member, Yokoyama, is a third-year computer science major who worked on the Linux setup and networking.

    BLLY combined a do-it-yourself personal robot (based on the TurtleBot robotics kit) and open-source software with a Kinect and a netbook. Students also used Qualcomm DragonBoards to gain hands-on experience with Robot Operating System. The Kinect was used to detect the helicopter in 3D space using its RGB camera in conjunction with its depth-sensing capabilities. The students also implemented an LED array to display the relative position of the RC helicopter in the frame of the Kinect's camera in real time. The resulting autonomous robot follows around a tiny, remote-controlled quadcopter, and if the copter starts moving away, the robot accelerates in its direction to maintain an ideal distance between the two.

    For the Spring 2015 quarter, Barngrover switched to teaching a course in the Master of Advanced Studies program in Wireless Embedded Systems of the Jacobs School, titled Introduction to Embedded Systems Design (WES 237A). The part-time MAS program is designed for working professionals, and it involves a full day of lectures and labs every other Friday.

  • CSE Students Prepare to Stand and Deliver at Undergraduate Research Conference

    The 28th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference takes places this Saturday, April 25. It will run from 8am to 4pm at the Faculty Club. Many of the CSE students set to speak at the conference were 2014-15 participants in the department's Early Research Scholars Program.

    Among the CSE students set to present their research during the 2015 conference is Jordan Yoshihara (at right), who was nominated by CSE Prof. Mia Minnes. Yoshihara will talk about "Fostering Improved Learning in Math: A Case Study in an Elementary Classroom." Yoshihara did her undergraduate research project (CSE 199) in the winter quarter. She used the educational technology tool ALEKS to explore which technologies work, and which don't, in the elementary classroom of her case study. Her goal is to use the findings of her study in a future effort to develop new educational software.

    One of the most popular panels for CSE undergraduates this year is "Computer Networks", with CSE Prof. Christine Alvarado and faculty-affiliate Kimberly Claffy nominating all of the speakers between them. Huayin Zhou and Luis Sanchez will talk about "Characterizing the Performance of Cloud Computing Services." Other two-person teams include Tiffany Allen and Aaron Hurtado as well as Andrew Jabasa and Kelsey Ma, with both teams presenting a two-part study on "Network Traffic Analysis." Their faculty advisors were Geoffrey Voelker and Stefan Savage.  Edgar Lopez-Garcia and Mingshan Wang team to talk about their joint research on the optical circuit switching-based "REACToR Network." 

    Two individual student researchers will also present their research findings. They include Ilse Tse (advised by CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner), on "Making Structure from Motion More Efficient," and Jennifer Tran (at left), who was advised by CSE Prof. Steven Swanson while undertaking her project on "Automating the Process of Synthesizing Electronic Gadgets."

    Evidence of the growing role that computer science plays in the development of health and medical innovations is evident in the number of CSE speakers participating in the Technology & Medicine panel (#18). CSE's Alvarado nominated three of the four teams that will be speaking on Saturday afternoon. Mayrani Abajian, Rachel Lee and Emma Roth have worked on "Research in Heart Rate Variability," while two other teams split the work on "Adapting the Top Trading Cycles Algorithm for Live Kidney Exchange": Rachel Kelrouz and Steven Stone for part one of the project, and Raina Ahuja with Asha Camper Singh for part two. The latter four students were advised by CSE Prof. Mohan Paturi.

    Panel #19 (Space & Applied Computer Science) will include two solo presentations. Antonella Wilby worked on a "Stereo Camera Rig for Nautical Cyber-Archaeology," which grew out of her involvement with the Engineers for Exploration program (whose co-director, CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner, nominated Wilby to speak at the conference). Kastner also nominated Zachary Blair, who will talk about "Mapping Powerful Graphics Processing Algorithms to Low-Power Embedded Devices."

  • Student Startups Among Finalists in Social Innovation Challenge

    Two CSE student startups have reached the finals of the San Diego Social Innovation Challenge. The companies -- Evocado, and Bystanders to Upstanders -- will participate in a final round of  judging on April 28 along with three other teams from UC San Diego that are among the eight finalists in the San Diego-wide track of the competition (while eight teams from the University of San Diego are in a separate but parallel competition, because USD is organizing the Social Innovation Challenge).

    Sneha Jayaprakash (left) is the CEO of Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U), to which she recruited six of her friends (all computer science majors) shortly after founding the company in 2013. Now a junior in computer science specializing in bioinformatics, Jayaprakash says her passion is social change. Her startup aims to revolutionize the way people view community service. The company is designing and developing the app to apply game design and social networking to community service, and she has found backers, including the Microsoft Imagine Fund (with a $10,000 award). Since founding B2U in 2013, Jayaprakash has shifted from a non-profit to a for-profit model focused on encouraging volunteer work in corporate settings, and the size of her team has doubled to more than a dozen people, most of them CSE undergraduates. The company aims to "start finalizing contracts with companies who want to license the app" by the end of 2015.

    Daniel Kao (right) founded Evocado in December 2014 to create an online platform to intelligently connect grant seekers with foundations, and to simplify the grant application, review and management process. It's also a for-profit venture that is nevertheless focused on "funding and raising awareness for the social solutions the world needs," according to the team's overview impact statement. Kao is a computer science senior who leads product design and development for the company. Other team members include Edgardo Leija, a recent UCSD alumnus (BS '14) in cognitive science with a minor in computer science. Since graduation, he has gone to work as an interaction designer for Hewlett-Packard, but still leads user experience design for Evocado in his spare time. Leija was part of the founding team of UXSD, the student branch of the new Design Lab at UC San Diego.

    Kao, Jayaprakash and other team leaders will deliver 6-minute pitches in the final judging. The pitch has to appeal to a broad audience, according to B2U's Jayaprakash. "It needs to make sense to the social good side, the business and marketing side," she told the Jacobs School blog. "Each sector has different things that they want to see, and crafting a pitch that apseaks to each sector is the challenge."

    The recipients of the prizes (seed funding for winning startups) will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 1. At that ceremony, all of the finalists will present the 90-second "fast pitch" for their projects to the social innovation community members attending the event.

  • Nominations for Campus-Wide Outstanding Senior, Graduate Student

    CSE faculty, students, staff and alumni, along with those from across campus, are eligible to nominate candidates for the most outstanding senior and/or the most outstanding graduate or professional student. In both categories, only students who are graduating this year can be nominated. The annual awards will honor two students who "have earned the admiration of the UC San Diego community for exceptional contributions to university life and who have generously served the university," according to the announcement from the vice chancellor of student affairs Juan González and the dean of the graduate division, Kim Barrett. Nominees must have earned recognition in the UC San Diego community for their outstanding academic and leadership performance, as well as for enhancing the student experience on campus.

    The award recipients will each receive $1,000, a special gift from UCSD Alumni, and public recognition at the All-Campus Graduation Celebration on Friday, June 12, 2015. Applications can be downloaded here, and the hard deadline for submitting nominations is Friday, May 1.

  • Center for Visual Computing Makes Debut at 2015 Research Expo

    The new Center for Visual Computing, an 'agile' research center based in the CSE department, had its official unveiling April 16 during the 2015 Research Expo of the Jacobs School of Engineering. Making it official, CSE Prof. Ravi Ramamoorthi (pictured) presented an outline of the center's current and future activities. He also confirmed that VisComp has lined up Sony as its lead sponsor, with additional partners Qualcomm, Pixar and Adobe. Ramamoorthi said the center hopes to grow membership to at least six companies from a variety of industries, including communication, entertainment, health, 3D printing and more. On the faculty side, VisComp includes Ramamoorthi as director, as well as CSE professors David Kriegman and Henrik Jensen, Qualcomm Institute research scientist Jurgen Schulze, and Zhuowen Tu, an expert in computer vision from Cognitive Science. "The motivation for this agile research center is that computer vision, graphics and imaging are still at a formative stage," said Ramamoorthi, "and they affect all areas of the computing stack from hardware to software to output, and they will have a major impact on our everyday lives."

    Under the banner of "visualizing the way we capture, image and display the visual world," Ramamoorthi spelled out a three-part research agenda for the center: mobile visual computing and digital imaging; interactive digital (augmented) reality (to blend real and virtual scenes seamlessly in real time); and computer vision to understand people and their surroundings, from the individual- to the city-level. "We're witnessing the coming of age of computer vision, where every mobile phone has a camera and is doing fairly complicated processing based on a face detector," said Ramamoorthi. "Every mobile phone will also have access to Internet-scale visual databases, so we can enable semantic understanding of people's gestures, habits and similarities." He showed evidence that computer vision can be used to scan a crowd to detect "tribes" of people with like interests, such as bikers or surfers.

    The VisComp director spelled out some of the innovations that are rapidly changing photography and imaging, notably with virtual-reality devices such as the Oculus Rift, and perhaps more importantly, in the current commercialization of full 4D lightfield cameras, passive devices that capture the entire field of light, so that a photographer can capture an entire scene and choose later which angle, or what part of the image to refocus on. Light-field can also potentially be used to reconstruct three-dimensional (3D) scenes, one of the hottest new areas of interest that is pushing 3D from Hollywood down to the level of the mobile phone. "This enables a number of 3D applications," explained Ramamoorthi. "You can reconstruct 3D surfaces and couple it with the 3D printing industry to create an entire pipeline of 3D capture - just from the capture of a single shot image."

    "I believe the progress we will make in these three themes," he concluded, "have the potential to transform the way we interact with computers and, indeed, how we live our lives."

  • At Research Expo, M.S. Student Selected for Best CSE Poster

    Twenty CSE graduate students presented their research to an estimated 650 people attending the Jacobs School's Research Expo on April 16.

    Among all CSE entries, the computer science best poster award went to Narendran Thangarajan (pictured at left), a Master's student advised by CSE research scientist Nadir Weibel. The poster focused on Thangarajan's work analyzing social media to characterize HIV at-risk populations in San Diego. The researcher went beyond existing research on the feasibility of using Twitter to study HIV spread in the United States.  He took the approach further, "identifying and characterizing HIV at-risk populations locally in the San Diego are at a more granular scale in terms of both demographics and communities." He used dynamic visualizations, social network analysis, graph algorithms and machine-learning techniques to combine information from Twitter and data on HIV-infected patients provided by UC San Diego's AntiViral Research Center. The goal: to "learn how actual HIV-infected users behave on Twitter and build a computational model that can then be applied to other users to investigate similarities in their behaviors." Thangarajan expects to graduate with his M.S. degree this June. [Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications]

    The jury also selected three other CSE posters deserving of Honorable Mentions:

    • Automated Annotation of Coral Reef Survey Images, by Oscar O. Beijbom (advised by David Kriegman and Serge Belongie)
    • Design Guidelines and Optimization of DRAM Interconnect, by Mulong Luo (advised by Andrew B. Kahng)
    • Gadgetron: Synthesizing Electronic Gadgets, by Devon James Merrill (advised by Steven Swanson)
  • CSE Lecturer Wins Campus Academic Integrity Award

    CSE Prof. Gary Gillespie says it was an honor just to be nominated this year for the Academic Integrity Faculty Award, but this year it was much more than that: He is one of two UC San Diego faculty members to win the 2015 Integrity Award. It was announced on April 14 along with staff and student honors at the 5th Annual Integrity Awards Ceremony in the Student Services Center. The award is presented to a faculty member who has contributed significantly to creating a culture of academic integrity through research, teaching and/or service. Gillespie is the second CSE lecturer and teaching professor selected for the honor, after Paul Kube won the same award two years ago.

    [Pictured at right: Gillespie receiving his award from Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Suresh Subramani; below, he gets moral support from fellow teaching professors Leo Porter and Rick Ord.]

    Gillespie considers himself a strong supporter of academic integrity for many years, having sent many students through the process. "I talk with them in my office and try to help them make better decisions for the betterment of their future," he adds. "It's not always a pleasant process, but if students can better consider their decisions, they'll be better ambassadors from UC San Diego when they eventually graduate."

    It may have been a sign of his diligence and attention to his students that Gillespie ended up arriving late to the award ceremony itself, because he had to finish teaching his Software Engineering class. "All year I've been spending all my time teaching classes," said Gillespie. "It's really an all-consuming task with hundreds of students, a large staff of tutors, and much to orchestrate."

    Gillespie is now looking forward to summer when school isn't in session. He will head back to iboss Network Solutions, the company founded and led by CSE alumnus Paul Martini (BS '01), where he will work as a consultant over the summer, before returning to the classroom in the fall.

  • Alumna and Incoming Student Cross Paths in B-Ball and Computer Science

    There must be something about hoops, Tritons and computer science. Meet Marissa Hing. The 18-year-old high school senior was on campus last weekend to attend Triton Day, when over 20,000 accepted students and their families converged on UC San Diego to get a taste of everything the university offers to its students-to-be. Despite her 5.1-inch height, Hing is also coming to play basketball on an athletic scholarship for the NCAA Division II team, after starring since her freshman year at Pinewood High School in Los Altos, CA. She has started for four years as a guard on the Pinewood team, and was just selected by the San Jose Mercury-News as its girls basketball player of the year for northern California. The paper noted that she played a leadership role in helping Pinewood reach the CCS Open Division championship game this season. 

    The newspaper was also impressed with what she plans to study at UC San Diego: Hing says she wants to major in computer science, even while juggling a career on the basketball court. “As of right now my major is cognitive science because the computer science major was too full,” says Hing. “But I will be trying to change my major to computer science when I can.”

    Hing says she is attracted to computer science because she likes to know how things work. “It also lets you be creative while also being logical at the same time, which is something that not a lot of other fields offer,” says Hing. “It helps you understand how things work instead of just assuming they do.”

    Given the demands of both b-ball and CS, it may seem an unusual pick on both counts. But someone has proved that it can be done.

    Indeed, Hing is not the first girls basketball star from Pinewood to major in computer science at UC San Diego. Former Pinewood player Rachel Marty arrived in 2010 and went on to play NCAA varsity basketball on the UCSD team while pursuing a degree in CSE with a specialization in bioinformatics. She graduated magna cum laude in four years, despite also playing ball.

    Marty says she played on the UCSD squad with fellow Pinewood graduate Miranda Seto, and she knows Marissa Hing well through the "Pinewood connection." "After I came to UCSD, our Pinewood coach formed a good relationship with the UCSD coaches," explains Marty. "But I have to admit that I didn't know Marissa was planning to study computer science. I can claim the basketball recruitment, not the computer science recruitment, but I'm really excited about it!"

    Now a Ph.D. student in CSE since 2014, Marty says she did recruit one of her fellow basketball team members, Taylor Tanita, to switch to computer science. "I'm a big fan of the program," she observes.

    Marty (pictured at right as an undergraduate varsity basketball player) continues to be a strong career example for young women, athletes and computer scientists (whether from Pinewood High School or not). Last week, she was one of only three UC San Diego computer science graduate students selected in 2015 to receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, a three-year award carrying a stipend of $34,000 per year (plus a $12,000 annual cost-of-education allowance that goes directly to the campus). Some 16,500 students nationwide competed for roughly 2,000 fellowships. 

    The CSE alumna is pursuing her Ph.D. in bioinformatics, and her research interests include cancer genomics, genomic algorithms and population genetics. Marty has done bioinformatics internships at Thermo Fisher Scientific (and Life Technologies, which it acquired) as well as at Illumina, where she developed an "application to centralize the experience of gene exploration for researchers." She has also done research with both CSE Prof. Vineet Bafna (in the field of genomic algorithms) and with Hannah Carter at the UC San Diego School of Medicine's Division of Medical Genetics (on cancer genomics). "I will likely choose one of them to be my advisor at the end of the year," she says. That's when the rotation period of her doctoral program ends. 

    But Marty has also won fans off the court and away from bioinformatics. CSE Prof. Andrew Kahng recommended her for the fellowship. She took an algorithms class with him as an undergraduate, and Kahng also supervised an independent study project when she interned at Life Technologies. "He has played a prominent role in getting me where I am," says Marty. She plans to finish her Ph.D. in 2019.

  • Marriage of Big Data and Medicine Yields Top New Faculty for UC San Diego

    According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego is quickly becoming the focal point of a nationwide effort to use high-speed computers and smart software to sift through mountains of biomedical data for clues about why people develop everything from cancer to Alzheimer's disease." Science reporter Gary Robbins ask CSE Chair Rajesh Gupta what is driving the recent recruitment of top big-data researchers to UC San Diego and the nearby J. Craig Venter Institute. "Computers are the new microscopes," said Gupta, "and data is the new blood draw."

    While not yet official, the paper confirmed that the School of Medicine has recruited the chief informatics officer at MIT/Harvard's Broad Institute. Jill Mesirov (at left) will join the school in July if her appointment is approved by the Academic Senate. Given her background in high-performance computing, and current interactions with CSE professors Pavel Pevzner and Vineet Bafna, Gupta anticipates that the CSE faculty will apply to grant Mesirov faculty-affiliate status in the CSE department once she has arrived in San Diego. The same happened earlier this year, the CSE awarded faculty-affiliate status to Rob Knight (pictured at right), after he joined the department of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, where he works in bioinformatics as "one of the most respected microbiome experts in the world," according to the Union-Tribune article. Talking about hiring Knight and Mesirov, School of Medicine dean David Brenner said he wants the campus to lead in the field of precision medicine and computational biology. "We're going to leverage all of the strengths of this campus," said Brenner, "from Calit2 to the San Diego Supercomputer Center to Moores Cancer Center to computer science and bioengineering. That means we need to be able to handle large data sets." CSE's Gupta told the newspaper that in bioinformatics, the term 'big data' has become an understatement. "New discoveries show that the genome is but a small part of the overall makeup that spans epigenetic data as well as 100 times more individual-specific microbiome data," Gupta said. "The 'big data' is a tsunami now."

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