News

Ling-Qi Yan helps to improve computer rendering of animal fur

CS graduate student Ling-Qi Yan (advisors: Ravi Ramamoorthi/Ren Ng) and researchers at U.C. San Diego are the subject of an article in TechXplore titled "Scientists improve computer rendering of animal fur."  He is part of a team that developed a method for dramatically improving the way computers simulate fur, and more specifically, the way light bounces within an animal's pelt.  The researchers are using a neural network to apply the properties of a concept called subsurface scattering to quickly approximate how light bounces around fur fibers.  The neural network only needs to be trained with one scene before it can apply subsurface scattering to all the different scenes with which it is presented. This results in simulations running 10 times faster than current state of the art.  "We are converting the properties of subsurface scattering to fur fibers," said Yan. "There is no explicit physical or mathematical way to make this conversion. So we needed to use a neural network to connect these two different worlds."  The researchers recently presented their findings at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Thailand.

Dan Wallach to testify about election security and voting machines in Texas

EECS alumnus Dan Wallach (B.S. '93) will testify before the Texas Senate Select Committee on Election Security at a hearing about recent election irregularities in Texas, a review of voting security protocols and the responsibilities and duties of members of the Electoral College.  Specifically, the hearing will examine the use of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections, and the voting requirements of presidential electors.  Wallach is widely regarded as an expert on voting machine security.  He is currently an EECS professor at Rice University and a scholar at Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy. 

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa win Sloan Research Fellowships

Assistant Profs. Anca Dragan and Raluca Ada Popa have been awarded 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships.  They are among 126 early-career scholars who represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Winners receive $65,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.  Popa and Dragan were both selected in the Compter Science category.   Popa is a co-founder of the RISELab where she is trying to develop a learning and analytics framework that can run on encrypted data.  Dragan runs the InterACT lab and is a PI for the Center for Human-Compatible AI.  Her goal is to enable robots to work with, around and in support of people, autonomously generating behavior in a way that formally accounts for their interactions with humans. “The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said foundation president Adam Falk. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – fellows are quite literally the future of 21st century science.”

Jiawang Nie wins the 2018 SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra Best Paper Prize

Alumnus Jiawang Nie (Ph.D. '06, co-advisors: James Demmel and Bernd Sturmfels) has won the 2018 Best Paper Prize from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Linear Algebra (SIAG/LA).  His paper, Generating Polynomials and Symmetric Tensor Decompositions, Foundations of Computational Mathematics, was deemd the most outstanding paper, as determined by the prize committee, on a topic in applicable linear algebra published in English in a peer-reviewed journal.  8 out of 11 of the previous awards, which are  chosen every 3 years, have gone to EECS faculty, postdocs, and graduate students.  Nie is now a Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego.  He will present his work in Hong Kong on May 4-8 at the SIAM Conference on Applied Linear Algebra (SIAM-ALA18).

Laura Waller wins 2018 SPIE Early Career Achievement Award

Associate Prof. Laura Waller has won the 2018 Early Career Achievement Award--Academic focus--from the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The award, which is paired with an industry-focused award, is presented annually in recognition of significant and innovative technical contributions in the engineering or scientific fields of relevance to SPIE.  Waller, who heads the Computational Imagaing Lab, was recognized for "her contributions to biomedical and industrial science through development of computational imaging hardware and software for phase retrieval, 3D imaging and partially coherent systems."  The award was presented at the Opto Symposium, co-chaired by colleague Prof. Connie Chang-Hasnain, on January 29th,

Dawn Song participates in 'first US-China' Blockchain conference

CS Prof. Dawn Song participated in a panel discussion at the Blockchain Connect conference in San Francisco last week, an event designed to unite the U.S. and China Blockchain communities. Song leads the BitBlaze: Binary Analysis for Computer Security project, an analysis platform that will incorporate various AI and Blockchain applications, including in healthcare and smart building with IoT technologies.  She is also teaching CS 294-144. Blockchain, CryptoEconomics, and the Future Directions of Technology, Business, and Law, a “first of its kind” interdisciplinary course on Blockchain. "It’s extremely popular, " she said.  "We’re limited by room capacity, so it’s 70+ students. But it’s a 4:1 ratio, so basically for every four students applying, we can only select one."

Dutta, Niknejad, and Salahuddin lead new research centers to help usher in future of microelectronics

Associate Prof. Prabal Dutta, Prof. Ali Niknejad, and Prof. Sayeef Salahuddin are leading partners in three new multi-university research centers that aim to jump-start the future technologies for the microelectronics industry, with a particular focus on energy-efficient computing as well as communications and sensing.  Dutta is the associate director of Computing on Network Infrastructure for Pervasive Perception, Cognition and Action (CONIX), an SRC center that will also involve Profs David Culler, Jan Rabaey, Claire Tomlin and John Wawrzynek.  Niknejad will be associate director of the Center for Converged TeraHertz Communications and Sensing (ComSenTer), a $27.5 million SRC center that will also involve Profs. Elad Alon, Borivoje Nikolic and Vladimir Stojanovic. Salahuddin will serve as associate director of ASCENT, which focuses on next-generation, energy-efficient computing that overcomes bottlenecks in data transfer.  Prof. Jeffrey Bokor will also participate in ASCENT.

AI@The House built to support AI-related startups

Profs. Dawn Song, Ion Stoica, Kurt Keutzer, Michael Jordan, Pieter Abbeel, and Trevor Darrell have teamed up with EECS alumnus Cameron Baradar (B.S. '15) and startup institute The House to run a new "global center-of-gravity of AI activity" called AI@The House. The new program will offer technical guidance, mentorship, free graphic processing units and financial support, among other resources, to startups focused on AI.  Their first core initiative is an accelerator for startups who are leveraging AI to build industry-defining products.

Prasad Raghavendra wins inaugural NAS Michael and Sheila Held Prize

CS Associate Prof. Prasad Raghavendra has won the inaugural Michael and Sheila Held Prize.  The award, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), honors  outstanding, innovative, creative, and influential research in the areas of combinatorial and discrete optimization, or related parts of computer science, such as the design and analysis of algorithms and complexity theory.  Raghavendra and co-recipient David Steurer are being recognized "For a body of work which revolutionizes our understanding of optimization and complexity. It better explains the exact limits to efficient approximation of NP-hard problems. It provides better understanding of the computational assumptions underlying hardness of approximation. And it develops a structure theory of linear and semi-definite programming and their hierarchies, which leads to new algorithms and new lower bounds."  The prize comes with $100,000 and will be presented at the NAS annual meeting in April.

Cartoon by © Arend van Dam

GEESE: A new cross-disciplinary student initiative to reflect on issues of society & technology

A new initiative, Graduates for Engaged and Extended Scholarship around Computing & Engineering (GEESE), aims to address growing concerns about the rapid advancement and integration of technologies in the global arena by building a coalition of engineers and social science scholars across campus to engage in issues vital to society and technology.  GEESE, launched this semester as one of CITRIS's Tech for Good initiatives,  plans to build a campus community of grad students and postdocs who will bring together disciplines and perspectives from fields like law, public policy, economics, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy, to promote cross-disciplinary scholarship on issues that cannot be wholly addressed from the silos of individual fields.  They will hold roundtables on relevant issues to gauge students' interests, and organize seminars with thought leaders to reflect and redefine their mission and acitivities.