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UW’s “WiFi Backscatter” featured in MIT Technology Review

WiFi_BackscatterMIT Technology Review has a super article on research by professors Shyam Gollakota, Josh Smith, and David Wetherall and graduate students Bryce Kellogg and Aaron Parks:

“Engineers have worked for decades on ways to generate power by harvesting radio signals from the air, a ubiquitous resource thanks to radio, TV, and cellular network transmitters. But although enough energy can be collected that way to run low-powered circuits, the power required to actively transmit data is significantly higher. Harvesting ambient radio waves can collect on the order of tens of microwatts of power. But sending data over Wi-Fi requires at least tens of thousands of times more power—hundreds of milliwatts at best and typically around one watt of power, says Gollakota.

“The Washington researchers got around that challenge by finding a way to have the devices communicate without having to actively transmit. Their devices send messages by scattering signals from other sources—they recycle existing radio waves instead of expending energy to generate their own.”

Read the MIT Technology Review article here.  Learn more about the WiFi Backscatter project here.

August 1, 2014

Yuriy Brun, Thu Nguyen win 2014 Microsoft Research “Awards for the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation”


Yuriy Brun receives his MSR SEIF Award from Microsoft’s Tony Hey

The Microsoft Research Awards for the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF) support academic research in software engineering technologies, tools, practices, and teaching methods.

In 2014, MSR received more than 100 proposals for research grants in foundational software engineering, application of software engineering to Internet of Things, and infrastructure for cloud-scale software. After a thorough review process within Microsoft Research, 12 projects were selected for support.  Among the 12:

UW CSE postdoc alum Yuriy Brun, now a faculty member at UMass Amherst, was supported for the project “Augmenting Testing with Performance-Aware Behavioral Models.”

UW CSE Ph.D. alum Thu Nguyen, now a faculty member at Rutgers University, was supported for the project “CoolProvision: Provisioning of Cooling Systems for Datacenters.”

Congratulations Yuriy and Thu!


Thu Nguyen

Read more here.

July 31, 2014

Oracle kicks off cloud computing technology center in Seattle

29bits-seattle-tmagArticleFrom the New York Times:

“Score another one for Seattle.

“On Tuesday, Oracle kicked off its new cloud computing technology center in Seattle …

“Amazon, of course, is based in Seattle, and has the headquarters of Amazon Web Services there. Across Lake Washington, Microsoft’s cloud business, Azure, is a centerpiece of chief executive Satya Nadella’s plans to spur Microsoft’s growth. Google has also located its cloud business in Seattle, and Century Link increased its cloud presence there when it purchased Tier 3 last year.”

Read more here.

July 29, 2014

“New learning technologies enable school choice”

zoranpopovic-300x211Zoran Popovic becomes the first UW CSE faculty member to be endorsed by the Heritage Foundation:

“A computer scientist may have come up with a solution for customizing math instruction for different students in the same classroom, something education has been seeking for years.

“University of Washington Professor Zoran Popovic has developed computer games that adapt to the skills of individual players to help them more efficiently learn math.”

Read more here. Learn about Zoran here. UW Center for Game Science here. Non-profit startup EnLearn here.

July 29, 2014

Xconomy: “GraphLab Off to Fast Start with System for Building Predictive Apps”

GraphLab-teamXconomy reports on UW CSE startup GraphLab:

“In the course of a mere 14 months, Seattle startup GraphLab Inc. has gone from a computer science professor and a few colleagues creating open source software to analyze graph datasets to a 25-person company with a new, full-fledged system for building predictive applications that draw on a range of data types. Their customers include Exxon and Pandora.

GraphLab, which grew from the machine learning work of co-founder and CEO Carlos Guestrin …, raised $6.75 million from Madrona Venture Group and New Enterprise Associates last May. Business and technology luminaries from around Seattle, including Jeff Bezos, joined together to recruit Guestrin to the University of Washington in 2012 …

Read more here.

July 29, 2014

CSE’s Yejin Choi in Popular Mechanics

popularmechanics“Sports scores, quarterly earnings, and the vicissitudes of a financial portfolio are easy enough to arrange into tables of numbers, says Yejin Choi, an expert in natural language processing at the University of Washington. Opinions, however, are bit more challenging to quantify. In addition, software programs have a hard time imitating the rhetoric of a serious op-ed writer.

“‘One is the content challenge; the other is the style challenge,’ she says.

“On the content side, many AI researchers are now looking into how a computer might recognize when an argument supports or opposes a particular position. Likewise, computer scientists have been working on qualitative reasoning or understanding the relationship between two variables (for example, ‘If I throw the ball harder, it will travel further’).”

Read more here.


July 28, 2014

Update: Responding to the Explosion of Student Interest in Computer Science

NCWITsmA presentation on the explosion of student interest in computer science, prepared by UW’s Ed Lazowska and Stanford’s Eric Roberts for the 2014 NCWIT Summit on Women and Information Technology, was updated by Ed Lazowska and UMass Amherst’s Jim Kurose for the 2014 Computing Research Association Conference at Snowbird.

Additional data is presented, as well as suggestions from audiences and discussions at NCWIT, the NSF CISE Advisory Committee, and the CRA Conference at Snowbird:

  • Observations
  • Best Practices: how to respond?
  • What’s different this time around, and how can we document it?
  • A proactive agenda: what can we and our disciplinary organizations (CRA, CCC, ACM, NSF, CSTB, …) do?

See the presentation here.

At the University of Washington, the explosion of student interest manifests itself in many ways – most disturbingly to us, in our inability to accommodate many truly outstanding students who seek to major in Computer Science and Computer Engineering – students who would thrive in our majors and contribute greatly to the vibrancy of our region and nation. Learn more about this here.

July 27, 2014

“In Silicon Valley diversity conversations, age is left out”

800px-San_Francisco_Chronicle_logo.svgThe San Francisco Chronicle discusses an oft-neglected aspect of tech workforce diversity: age.

“‘Walk into any hot tech company and you’ll find disproportionate representation of young Caucasian and Asian males,’ said Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. ‘All forms of diversity are important, for the same reasons: workforce demand, equality of opportunity and quality of end product.’”

That’s of course only a tiny fraction of what was said.  Read the full argument (which does not focus on age) here and here.

Read the Chronicle article here.

July 27, 2014

UW CSE unable to accommodate hundreds of highly qualified applicants in most recent round of admissions

UW introAcross the nation and in our state, student interest in computer science is booming.  This is visible in enrollment in introductory courses, demand for the major, and non-major demand for upper-division courses.  Extensive data on these trends is available here.

At the University of Washington, students apply to majors after successfully fulfilling prerequisite courses – either at UW or at one of the state’s community and technical colleges.  The capacity of various majors – the number of students who can be accommodated – is determined by factors such as the availability of faculty, staff, and laboratory facilities.  Because UW tuition is far less than the cost of educating a student in computer science and other engineering fields, these majors can be expanded only with state support.  As a result, the capacity of UW Computer Science & Engineering is far less than the demand from highly qualified students – or the demand from our state’s rapidly expanding technology industry.

UW CSE admits students to the major twice each year – during the winter (for spring quarter) and during the summer (for autumn quarter).  On Friday we concluded the summer admission process.  Despite a 60% increase in the size of our undergraduate program over the last few years,  we are falling further behind the enormous increase in demand: we were able to accommodate only 25% of the students who successfully fulfilled the prerequisites and applied to the program.  Those who could not be accommodated included a large number of very highly qualified students – students who would thrive in our major and contribute greatly to the vibrancy of our region and nation.

We will have another admission cycle in winter 2015, with an application deadline of February 1.  We hope that we will be able to continue to expand our capacity.  However, given the continued dramatic growth in student demand (as exhibited, for example, by the growth in enrollment in our introductory courses, illustrated here), we expect admissions to remain highly competitive independent of any plausibly imaginable investment by the state.

Our advisors can provide further information on the application and admission process.

July 26, 2014


IMG_2395René Just and Michael Ernst of UW CSE, along with their colleague Gordon Fraser of the University of Sheffield, have been awarded an ACM Distinguished Paper award for their paper “Efficient mutation analysis by propagating and partitioning infected execution states,” presented on July 25 at ISSTA, the premier conference in software testing and analysis.  The paper speeds up mutation analysis by 40% over the previous state of the art.  Mutation analysis is widely used in testing research, because it is the most precise known approach to measure the quality of a test suite.  (This is Ernst’s 6th ACM Distinguished Paper award, not to mention other best paper awards he has received.  The photo shows Ernst and Just flanking the conference chairs Corina Pasareanu and Darko Marinov.)

UW CSE was well represented elsewhere in the conference, with 2 other technical papers and 3 tool demos.  One other paper is “Empirically revisiting the test independence assumption” by Sai Zhang, Darioush Jalali, Jochen Wuttke, Kıvanç Muşlu, Wing Lam, Michael D. Ernst, and David Notkin, which shows how and when tests cases depend on one another, so that a test fails depending on what other test cases are run before it.  The other paper is “A type system for format strings” by Konstantin Weitz, Gene Kim, Siwakorn Srisakaokul, and Michael D. Ernst, which shows how to verify correct use of format routines such as printf.

July 25, 2014

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