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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

NationSwell: “All colleges should take notice of how these schools are reducing the gender gap”

Slide1NationSwell picks up on recent coverage in the New York Times of steps taken by the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University, and Harvey Mudd College to increase the proportion of women pursuing computer science:

“At Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, 40 percent of incoming freshmen are women, and almost a third of computer science graduates this year were women at the University of Washington. And that’s not all. Harvey Mudd College in California boasts that 40 percent of their computer science program enrollees are female and this year, more than half of their engineering school graduates were women – a first for the school …

“If other schools picked up some tips from this trend-setting trio, America could be well on its way to unlocking a whole new set of minds for computer science.”

Read the NationSwell post here.  Read the original New York Times article and see background material here.

July 24, 2014

EFF acknowledges UW CSE’s Franzi Roesner for contributions to “Privacy Badger”

bfThe Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a beta version of Privacy Badger, a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that detects and blocks online advertising and other embedded content that tracks you without your permission.

Privacy Badger includes UW CSE’s ShareMeNot, a browser extension that prevents third-party buttons (such as Facebook’s “Like” or Twitter’s “tweet” button) from tracking you, while still allowing you to use them.

UW CSE’s Franzi Roesner is acknowledged in the EFF press release “for exceptional work in enhancing Privacy Badger’s widget-handling algorithms.”  (Franzi completed her Ph.D. at UW earlier this summer and will join our faculty in the fall.)

Read more here.

July 22, 2014

UW CSE @ CRA Conference at Snowbird

Maria2When Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe needed to demonstrate how to handle a know-it-all male student during her Tuesday keynote “Broadening the Computing Research Community” at the Computing Research Association’s semi-annual Conference at Snowbird (a gathering of the leaders of North America’s Ph.D.-granting academic programs, industry labs, and government labs in computing), who’d she pick as her victim?  UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska.

UW CSE was highlighted multiple times during the meeting: by Peter Swire (Georgia Institute of Technology) in his Monday keynote “A Policy Wonk’s Plea for More and Better Policy Research and Engagement from Computer Scientists” for CSE’s leadership in advocacy for the field and advocacy for broadening the field; in the session “The Growing Enrollments in Computing Courses” led by Jim Kurose (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Ed; in Maria’s keynote for CSE’s leadership in gender diversity; in a panel on “Refining the Computer Science Postdoc Experience” that included CSE’s Gaetano Borriello; and in a panel on “CS Research on MOOCs and Online Education” where Marti Hearst (UC Berkeley) highlighted work by CSE’s Zoran Popovic and his Center for Game Science.

UW CSE’s Snowbird attendees included Gaetano Borriello, Dan Grossman, Ed Lazowska, and Hank Levy.

Our Ph.D. alums were also well represented:  Anne Condon (Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia), Janet Davis (professor at Grinnell College), Soha Hassoun (Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University), Kevin Jeffay (Chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina), and Thu Nguyen (Associate Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Rutgers University). Plus adjunct professor Batya Friedman (UW Information School), affiliate professor Eric Horvitz (Managing Director of Microsoft Research Redmond), and former faculty member Ken Sloan (Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham).

July 22, 2014

NY Times: “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Is the Tech World’s Envoy”

21MicrosoftSUB2-master675A wonderful New York Times profile of Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel:

“Mr. Smith is one of the most influential voices inside Microsoft …

“But Mr. Smith’s weight extends to the wider tech industry as well, partly because of his understanding of Washington. Mr. Smith worked for years as a lawyer there before moving to Microsoft’s headquarters here outside Seattle. While much of the tech industry looks upon government with a strong sense of skepticism, if not disdain, he has cultivated relationships there for years.

“‘He brings a much more Washington sensibility to the West Coast than many of his peers,’ said Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department official who now runs the New America Foundation and attended Princeton University with Mr. Smith. ‘He recognizes the necessity of government engagement’ …

“Ed Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, said Mr. Smith has also used his bully pulpit at Microsoft to advocate investments in education and changes in immigration policy, both important issues for Microsoft and the technology industry.

“‘There are very few people for whom I have as much admiration,’ Mr. Lazowska wrote in email. ‘Imagine me saying this about a lawyer!’”

Read the New York Times profile here.

Re-printed in the Seattle Times a week later here.

July 20, 2014

“The Creative Mind”: Conversations with Brown University computer scientists Andy van Dam and Chad Jenkins

AvDBrown University has produced video interviews with one dozen of its leading faculty members in a series titled “The Creative Mind.”  Included in the series are computer science faculty members Andy van Dam – who mentored UW CSE faculty members Ed Lazowska, David Notkin, Zoran Popovic, David Salesin (now at Adobe), and John Zahorjan, plus countless UW CSE graduate students, as undergraduates – and Chad Jenkins.

The full set of interviews is here.  Andy’s interview is here.  Chad’s interview is here.

July 20, 2014

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