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‘The architects of our digital spaces’: How researchers in the Allen School’s Social Futures Lab are making social media better by design

Pile of colorful 3-D printed tiles with social media platform logos, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat Misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media, fueled in part by platforms’ tendency to prioritize engagement over accuracy. This puts the onus on individual users to determine the veracity of posts they see and share on their feed. Likewise, when it comes to violence, profanity and other potentially harmful content, users are often left to fend for themselves in the face of indifferent or inadequate moderation. The current state can make social media platforms a harrowing place — particularly for members of marginalized communities. Researchers in the University of Washington’s Social Futures Lab led by Allen School professor Amy X. Zhang hope to change that by designing social media tools that empower users while minimizing the burden of managing their online experiences. Read more →
November 30, 2023

‘There’s so much great research here’: The case for open language models and other food for thought from the Allen School’s 2023 Research Showcase

A crowd of people cluster around posters on easels on a building landing. The camera focuses on one person explaining a poster's contents to another person viewing it. The poster's content is not visible in the photo. New approaches to finetuning large language models that decrease computational burden while enhancing performance. A robotic arm that safely delivers a forkful of food to someone's mouth. A system that combines wireless earbuds and algorithms into a low-cost hearing screening tool. These are just a sample of the nearly 60 projects that were on display during the Allen School’s Research Showcase and Open House last week. The display capped off a day-long celebration of computing innovations that are advancing the field and benefiting society. Nearly 300 Industry Affiliate partners, alumni and friends participated in the event, which included sessions devoted to computer science ethics, intelligent transportation, computing for sustainability, computing for health, natural language processing and more. Read more →
November 21, 2023

I Am First-Gen: Allen School students reflect on their trials, triumphs and what it means to be the first

Slogan I AM FIRST GEN in white lettering bordered at top and bottom with gold lines against a purple background It can feel lonely being the first in your family to pursue a four-year degree. How do you apply? How will you pay for it? What major should you choose? How will you navigate your new surroundings, not to mention make new friends? If you run into difficulty, where do you turn for help? And what are “office hours,” anyway? To mark the National First-Generation College Celebration, which is held annually on November 8th, we asked a diverse group of Allen School students to share what it means to them to “be the first.” Read more →
November 8, 2023

Allen School’s Miranda Wei and Mitchell Wortsman earn Google Ph.D. Fellowships for advancing user security and privacy and large-scale machine learning research

Side-by-side portraits of Miranda Wei and Mitchell Wortsman Each year, Google recognizes approximately 75 exceptional graduate students from around the world through its Google Ph.D. Fellowship Program. The students, who come from a variety of backgrounds, are selected based on their potential to influence the future of technology through their research in computer science and related fields. As part of its 2023 class of Fellows, the company selected two future leaders from the Allen School: Miranda Wei in the Security and Privacy category and Mitchell WortsmanRead more →
October 23, 2023

Back to the future: Celebrating 20 years of the Paul G. Allen Center at the University of Washington

The facade of the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering at dusk. The six-story building is mainly reddish-orange brick with metal and concrete accents and a lot of windows. A multi-story banner with the slogan Opening the Doors to Our Future hangs on the front of the building. In the late 1990’s, members of the Allen School faculty experimented with a new way to mark the conclusion of Visit Days, the annual pilgrimage made by prospective graduate students to computer science programs around the country. To commemorate the visitors’ time in Seattle, professors would send them on their way with a surprise parting gift: a palm-sized chunk of concrete. The concrete had become dislodged from the crumbling facade of Sieg Hall — home to what was then the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. In 1999, the department stepped up its campaign for a new, permanent home; on October 9, 2003, it celebrated the dedication of the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, which set off a chain of events that made the Allen School into the powerhouse it is today. Read more →
October 9, 2023

Bon voyage! Allen School Ph.D. student Gus Smith awarded 2023 Bonderman Fellowship for independent travel

Portrait of Gus Smith wearing a pale aqua button-down shirt and seated in a teal upholstered chair against a textured concrete wall. After a two-year hiatus, the University of Washington's Bonderman Travel Fellows are back, independently traveling the world and benefitting from the monumental growth that comes with immersing oneself in unfamiliar spaces. Since its inception in 1995, the fellowship has supported over 300 UW students on their travels based on their curiosity, openness, resilience and creativity. Soon, it will be Allen School Ph.D. student Gus Smith’s turn to hit the road, along with seven other graduate students who were named 2023 Bonderman Fellows. Read more →
September 26, 2023

Battery-free origami microfliers from UW researchers offer a new bio-inspired future of flying machines

A microflier in its folded position is set on a gray background and surrounded by maple and elm leaves. The device is golden with orange and black veins and four black squares spreading from the center. The maple and elm leaves are green and show their venation. On a cool afternoon at the heart of the University of Washington’s campus, autumn, for a few fleeting moments, appears to have arrived early. Tiny golden squares resembling leaves flutter then fall, switching from a frenzied tumble to a graceful descent with a snap. Aptly named “microfliers” and inspired by Miura-fold origami, these small robotic devices can fold closed during their descent after being dropped from a drone. This “snapping” action changes the way they disperse and may, in the future, help change the way scientists study agriculture, meteorology, climate change and more. Read more →
September 13, 2023

We come in PEACE: Allen School researchers offer a vision for addressing potential unintended consequences of technology

A partially open laptop with the screen illuminated in shades of blue, orange and red, which reflects off the keyboard and surrounding table. The laptop screen is the only source of light, with the background shrouded in darkness. Technology can have unforeseen, and ostensibly unintended, negative consequences in the real world. Allen School Ph.D. student Rock Yuren Pang and professors Katharina Reinecke, Dan Grossman and Tadayoshi Kohno are advancing a vision for PEACE — short for “Proactively Exploring and Addressing Consequences and Ethics” — that will empower researchers to anticipate those consequences “early, often, and across computer science.” The team’s work is supported by a five-year institutional transformation grant through the National Science Foundation’s Ethical and Responsible Research (ER2) program. Read more →
September 12, 2023

Robotics and reasoning: Allen School professor Dieter Fox receives IJCAI 2023 John McCarthy Award for pioneering work in building intelligent systems

Dieter Fox, wearing glasses and a blue shirt, smiles in front of a blurred background of trees. Allen School professor Dieter Fox will be honored at the 32nd International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) with the 2023 John McCarthy Award. The award is named for the eponymous scientist, widely regarded as one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence (AI), and recognizes established researchers who have built up a distinguished track record of research excellence in AI. Fox will receive his award this week and give a presentation on his work at the conference held in Macao, S.A.R. Read more →
August 22, 2023

Wiki Win: Allen School’s Yulia Tsvetkov and collaborators win 2023 Wikimedia Foundation Research Award of the Year for novel approach to revealing biases in Wikipedia biographies

A photo shows a portion of a computer screen with the Wikipedia home page on the Safari browser. Behind the computer to the left is a table and the blurred background of a room with plants in pots on a stand and several windows behind it. With nearly a billion unique monthly users, Wikipedia has become one of the most trusted sources of information worldwide. But while it’s considered more reliable than other internet sources, it’s not immune to bias. Last year, a team led by Allen School professor Yulia Tsvetkov developed a new methodology for studying bias in English Wikipedia biographies, and this spring won the 2023 Wikimedia Foundation Research Award of the Year for its efforts. The team first presented its findings at The Web Conference 2022. Read more →
August 21, 2023

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