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UW CSE’s Melissa Galloway blazes her own trail, honoring the spirit of Grace Hopper

Melissa Galloway holding her teaching assistant awardThis fall, we launched a new feature, the CSE Undergrad Spotlight, to shine a light on the diverse ways in which our students are contributing to our campus and our community. For our second installment, CSE talked to Melissa Galloway, a senior from Vancouver, Washington who is pursuing a double degree in Computer Science and Human Centered Design & Engineering. Galloway has been involved in undergraduate research, working with professor Zach Tatlock in CSE’s Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group, and was selected as a 2016-2017 Washington Research Foundation Fellow.

Galloway also dedicates her time to mentoring students as a Teaching Assistant for CSE’s popular introductory programming courses — a commitment which last spring earned her the Bob Bandes Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching in recognition of her outstanding performance as a TA. This quarter, Galloway serves as the head TA for CSE 143 and as a TA for CSE’s Women in Computing Seminar. CSE caught up with Galloway just in time to mark the occasion of Grace Hopper’s birthday — a fitting tribute to someone who blazed a trail for women in computing, by one who is setting an example for a new generation.

CSE: How did you discover your passion for CSE?

MG: Similar to a surprising number of students in the department, I discovered computer science after arriving at UW. Entering college, I planned to pursue medical school, drawn to working in a fast-paced and challenging environment that presented new problems to solve every day. My particular interests were in diagnostics and genetic research. After taking my first CSE course, I realized that my interests in biology and medical school were much more strongly aligned with what an education in computer science could offer. As I have progressed through my CSE studies, I have found many connections to my earlier interests in biology, including the study of data structures and algorithms, compilers, parallel computing, and program optimization. I look forward to pursuing future research in computer science where I can combine CS with genomics and proteomics research, and potentially even integrate my interests in educational technology on a tool like FoldIt, which was developed here at UW.

CSE: What is your favorite thing about being a CSE student?

MG: It’s difficult to pick a “favorite,” but perhaps top of the list would be the variety of opportunities I have access to as a CSE student. Prior to joining the major, I participated in the CSE 14X program as a Teaching Assistant for CSE 143. Since becoming part of this community, I have discovered an unexpected passion for teaching and mentorship. I have found a number of opportunities to TA for different CSE courses and recently contribute more through head TA roles. This experience has introduced me to a community of similar-minded individuals who thrive on solving challenging problems and who also share a passion for introducing students to the field of computer science.

I have additionally found research in the department a unique experience that helps reinforce my understanding of what I learn in classes through real-world applications. It also allows me to expand my knowledge base in new topics in the field. I have had the chance to work on research in different sub-fields, including programming languages and computer science education, and I have found research to be a very fulfilling way to learn while contributing to real-world applications. The experience has led me to my present goal of continuing my CS education through a Masters and/or Ph.D. program, and to ultimately find a combined role in teaching and research at a similarly research-focused university.

CS: What made you decide to become a TA, and how has that helped you shape your long-term goals?

MG: I decided to pursue this opportunity because my transition from pre-med to computer science was inspired by the instructors and TA’s I had in CSE 14X and 154, and I wanted to similarly inspire others to study computer science or related fields. As a TA, I have the opportunity to help students discover how exciting and fulfilling CS can be as a course of study — and help them to realize the potential CS has in real-world applications. I strive to provide students the tools and knowledge to succeed in their coursework as well as start their own programming projects on the side to reinforce their understanding of the material in a way that is most interesting to them. I also hope to serve as a role model for fellow TA’s and students who are thinking of pursuing teaching roles in CSE.

Teaching gives me the opportunity to foster interest in the field among students regardless of their background or experience level. I find the “puzzle” of helping students understand material in different ways very rewarding. Since starting as a CSE 143 TA, I have continued TA-ing each quarter in different courses. This experience has influenced my current goal of pursuing computer science education. I have thoroughly enjoyed the many responsibilities I have had as a TA, including teaching a section, writing exam and section material, developing resources, providing individualized feedback on assignments, and inspiring other students to pursue CSE or related fields. Each quarter I teach I have found ways to contribute more to the course, and in my role as a head TA these past two quarters I have enjoyed learning more about the course curriculum and organization. Following my undergraduate education I plan to pursue a lecturer or professor role, which would enable me to have an even greater impact.

CSE: You attended the Grace Hopper Conference for women in computing as part of a delegation from CSE. What was that experience like?

MG: The Grace Hopper conference was an amazing opportunity — it showed me just how many women are involved in the tech field. While I had heard from past attendees that it would be an eye-opening experience to see so many female engineers at once, I was not prepared for the impact that it actually would have. At the conference, I discovered many opportunities for women to get more involved in diversity efforts as well as find roles at different tech companies. As a student pursuing research and academia, I found it very rewarding to see representation in these areas among the popular tech companies.

I have realized that there are relatively few women pursuing teaching or research in CS, and meeting female leaders in these roles helped reinforce my goals of pursuing graduate school. Reflecting back on the experience, I believe that the Grace Hopper Conference will be one of the most valuable experiences I will have as a CSE student. I highly recommend other female CSE students to apply for the conference next year!

Thanks to Melissa for being a great ambassador for CSE — and happy birthday, Grace Hopper!

December 9, 2016

Shwetak Patel named a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery

Shwetak PatelShwetak Patel, the Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Endowed Professor in Computer Science & Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, today was named a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. Patel is among 53 computer scientists from a dozen countries selected for recognition as a 2016 Fellow based on their outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences and practices of computing and impact on the broader community.

Selection as an ACM Fellow is one of the highest honors accorded to a computer science or computer engineer. Fellows are chosen by their peers and represent the top one percent of the ACM’s nearly 100,000-strong membership. Patel’s peers have chosen to recognize him at a relatively early point in his career for his “contributions to sustainability sensing, low-power wireless sensing and mobile health.”

“I’m humbled by this great honor,” said Patel. “Many of my mentors that I’ve looked up to throughout my career have been honored as ACM Fellows in the past, and it’s unreal for me to believe that I have been elected to that great group.”

Patel has directed UW CSE’s UbiComp Lab since he joined the University’s faculty in 2008. He first garnered attention in engineering and entrepreneurial circles for his work on low-power sensor systems for monitoring home energy and water usage at the appliance level, a line of research he initiated while a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech. Patel started a company, Zensi, to commercialize this research after his arrival at the UW. When Belkin acquired Zensi in 2010, he became Belkin’s Chief Scientist — a role he still occupies today — and helped the company to establish its WeMo Labs in Seattle four years later. In 2012, Patel co-founded SNUPI, a UW spin-out focused on the development of a low-power, whole-home wireless sensing platform whose product, Wally Home, was later acquired by Sears.

As mobile phones increased in popularity — with sensing capabilities that were becoming increasingly sophisticated — Patel recognized an opportunity to repurpose a technology used for communication and entertainment into a life-saving medical tool. He and his students set about developing applications that make use of a phone’s built-in microphone, camera, and other features — features that enabled Patel’s team to turn a typical smartphone into a powerful yet portable medical device that could transform health care delivery in low-resource settings.

To date, Patel and his collaborators in the UbiComp Lab, UW Medicine and other partner organizations have introduced apps to detect newborn jaundice in vulnerable infants, measure lung function in patients living with chronic respiratory illness, screen for blood diseases such as anemia, monitor blood pressure, and more.

“I’ve had a long interest in the applications of computing to areas like health — in fact, I’m just flying back from a Computing Community Consortium workshop on smart health,” Patel said. “It’s great to see my students get excited about the possibility of having real world impact with their work.”

Patel is the 20th UW CSE faculty member to be named a Fellow of the ACM, but he is not the only newly-minted Fellow with a UW CSE connection: affiliate professors Tony Hey, Senior Data Science Fellow at the UW eScience Institute, and Radia Perlman, Dell EMC Fellow, are also among the Class of 2016. Hey was honored for his leadership in high-performance computing and data science, while Perlman was recognized for her many contributions to the theory and practice of internet routing and bridging protocols. Former UW CSE professor James Landay, now a member of the computer science faculty at Stanford University, also was selected, for his contributions in human-computer interaction, with a focus on user-interface design and ubiquitous computing.

Patel’s ACM Fellowship caps off a banner year in which he also collected the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award (PECASE) from U.S. President Barack Obama, received an Outstanding Collaborator Award from Microsoft Research, and earned international attention for his groundbreaking mobile health work. His courses in embedded systems, ubiquitous computing, and hardware often feature among the top-rated classes in the College of Engineering, based on student feedback. He is a past recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, TR-35 Award, Sloan Research Fellowship, and MacArthur “Genius” Award, and has graced the cover of Wired and Seattle Business magazines.

Shwetak is an exemplary teacher, researcher, and member of the CSE family. He continually wows us with his many achievements and contributions to CSE, to the University, and to communities around the globe.

Congratulations to Shwetak and to all of the newly-elected ACM Fellows!

Learn more about the ACM Fellows program here, and read the ACM press release here.

December 8, 2016

Enter The Matrix: UW researchers enable virtual reality interaction through direct brain stimulation

Research subject navigating a maze through direct brain stimulationWhen it comes to opening new frontiers in the world of virtual reality, it’s “game on” thanks to a team of researchers led by UW CSE professor Rajesh Rao, who also directs the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. In a paper published in the online journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Rao and his colleagues describe their first-ever demonstration of a human playing a computer game using input from direct brain stimulation. Targeting specific areas of the brain to create a virtual reality may sound like a science fiction story straight out of Hollywood, but Rao and his team provided a real-world demonstration using a non-invasive method called transcranial magnetic stimulation.

In the computer game experiment, five subjects were asked to navigate a variety of computer mazes by responding to visual cues transmitted through a magnetic coil placed near their skulls. Players correctly interpreted the cues to make the correction directional move 92 percent of the time with direct brain stimulation, compared to 15 percent without it.

In a UW News release Rao explained, “The way virtual reality is done these days is through displays, headsets and goggles, but ultimately your brain is what creates your reality.”

“The fundamental question we wanted to answer was: Can the brain make use of artificial information that it’s never seen before that is delivered directly to the brain to navigate a virtual world or do useful tasks without other sensory input?” he said. “And the answer is yes.”

UW CSE and Neurobiology alum Darby Losey (B.S., ’16), now a staff researcher in the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), is lead author of the paper. “We’re essentially trying to give humans a sixth sense,” he said. “So much effort in this field of neural engineering has focused on decoding information from the brain. We’re interested in how you can encode information into the brain.”

UW Psychology professor and I-LABS research scientist Andrea Stocco and I-LABS research assistant Justin Abernethy worked with Rao and Losey on the project.

While the maze experiment involved navigating a two-dimensional world, using binary information delivered by technology that can’t leave the lab, researchers are looking ahead to the day that the bulky brain hardware gives way to a more portable solution. By placing a variety of sensors on a person’s body, more information about a person’s surroundings could be collected and transmitted to a person’s brain to help guide his/her actions — with applications that go beyond entertainment. Members of the team have started a company, Neubay, to help turn their ideas into reality.

“Over the long term, this could have profound implications for assisting people with sensory deficits while also paving the way for more realistic virtual reality experiences,” Rao said.

We think that’s pretty a-maze-ing.

Read the UW News release here and the journal article here. Also check out coverage in New Atlas, CNET, Futurism, and Digital Trends.

December 7, 2016

UW CSE’s 2016 Shops Appreciation Luncheon

img_7606It’s the men and women of UW Facilities Services who keep the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering looking great and working great. This year 150 of them turned out for our annual holiday “Shops Appreciation Luncheon” – 130 from the day crew at noon, and 20 from the night crew at 5:30.

Many thanks to all the great folks at UW Facilities Services who make it possible for those of us in CSE to focus on computer science!

December 6, 2016

UW CSE student researchers shine at FSE 2016

PLSE logoUW CSE undergraduate and graduate students captured four of the six awards given out during the ACM Student Research Competition at the ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (FSE 2016) in Seattle last month. The students, all of whom who work with CSE professor Michael Ernst in our Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group, captured first and third place in both the graduate and undergraduate student research categories.

Top honors in the undergraduate competition went to first-year CSE Ph.D. student Martin Kellogg for “Combining Bug Detection and Test Case Generation.” The paper, which is based on work Kellogg began while he was an undergraduate at University of Virginia, presents N-prog, a new tool for detecting software bugs. Automated bug-finding tools or test generators can waste developers’ time by producing false positives or using incorrect oracles. N-prog minimized this problem by combining the two approaches to find interesting, untested behavior while reducing wasted effort.

CSE undergraduate Christopher Mackie earned third place for “Preventing Signedness Errors in Numerical Computations in Java.” The paper presents a new verification tool, the Signedness Checker, which is built on a type system that segregates signed from unsigned integers. The system enables developers to detect errors regarding unsigned integers at compile time, thus avoiding such errors at run time.

In the graduate competition, CSE Ph.D. student Calvin Loncaric captured first place with “Cozy: Synthesizing Collection Data Structures.” Cozy is a novel tool for implementing new data structures using counter-example guided inductive synthesis as an alternative to the tedious and error-prone process of handwritten implementation. Loncaric and his colleagues evaluated Cozy’s synthesized implementations across four real-world programs to show that its performance can match that of handwritten implementations while avoiding human error.

Last but not least, CSE Ph.D. student Spencer Pearson placed third in the graduate competition for “Evaluation of Fault Localization Techniques.” The paper presents the results of a study evaluating the effectiveness of artificial faults for identifying the best real-world fault localization tools. Pearson demonstrated that a commonly-held assumption — that the best tools for localizing artificial faults will be best for localizing real-world faults — is false, thus turning the prevailing wisdom on its head. Based on these results, he and his colleagues developed a set of new fault localization techniques, several of which are shown to outperform existing techniques.

Read more about the winning projects in Ernst’s blog post here. Congratulations to all!

December 6, 2016

UW CSE joins the White House, Code.org in celebrating CS Education Week and promoting #CSforAll

Students and robot at the 2016 Computing Open HouseIt’s the most wonderful time of the year: Computer Science Education Week, when we bring the joy of computing to people of all ages through community outreach, events and hands-on activities. Last year, we featured an Hour of Code with UW President Ana Mari Cauce; this year, we are joining the White House and organizations across the country in pursuing a variety of strategies to make computer science education available to all.

We kicked off the festivities with our annual Computing Open House on Saturday. More than 400 middle and high school students, parents and teachers descended upon the Paul G. Allen Center to explore computer science and computer engineering through interactive demos and lab tours arranged through our K-12 outreach program, DawgBytes. Participants also had the opportunity to learn about computing careers by talking with industry representatives about what they do and why they love doing it.

We are following that up today with several sessions of the Hour of Code organized by Code.org. First, the students in Principal Lecturer Stuart Reges’ introductory CS courses — and there are more than 1,000 students enrolled this quarter — invited friends and family who have never tried programming before to join them in Kane Hall to do the Hour of Code. Later, CSE student ambassadors will join representatives of Google at the Girls in Science Hour of Code event hosted by the UW’s Burke Museum to talk with the students about what it’s like to study and work in computer science.

These activities are part of a wider effort by UW CSE to amplify our outreach — particularly to diverse communities — to encourage participation in computer science and increase access for underrepresented students. For example, the aforementioned CSE Ambassadors program is an expansion of our old tour guide program. The new ambassadors, all current CSE majors, will play a more active role in our outreach efforts by designing and leading workshops and other activities on the UW campus and in K-12 classrooms around the state to encourage students of all backgrounds to pursue computer science.

We are also partnering with the Washington State Academic RedShirt (STARS) program through the UW College of Engineering to prepare more high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds to succeed in CSE. As part of that effort, we are developing a series of courses to complement our introductory programming classes, which will help STARS students hit the ground running as they begin to explore CSE. We are also working with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program to encourage more students of low- and middle-income backgrounds to apply to CSE through application workshops and other strategies.

Calling 2016 “a year of action in support of computer science,” the White House is highlighting our efforts — and many other initiatives around the nation — as part of its CS Education Week celebration.

Learn more about the great work being done to expand CS for all in the White House fact sheet here. Learn about the UW’s Girls in Science event here, and try the Hour of Code for yourself here. Check out photos from our Computing Open House below and on the DawgBytes Facebook page here.

Happy Computer Science Education Week to all!

Students try an interactive demo at the 2016 Computing Open HouseStudents try an interactive demo at the 2016 Computing Open House









A student tries an interactive demo at the 2016 Computing Open House

Industry representatives talked to students about computer science careers at the 2016 Computing Open House










December 5, 2016

Microsoft JobsBlog features CSE undergrad TA alum Kasey Champion

kasey-2“In his 25 years at Microsoft, Bjorn Rettig has never felt compelled to offer someone a job during an informational interview. But that all changed after he met Kasey Champion …

“For Champion, who just celebrated her fourth anniversary with the company, joining Rettig’s team has been the fulfillment of everything she’s worked toward at Microsoft. She’s able to combine her passion for teaching and her enthusiasm for computer science. In fact, Champion’s talk at this year’s Grace Hopper conference was entitled ‘Technology and Education: Combining Your Two Passions into One Career.'”

(Kasey was recently back at UW CSE participating in a reunion of undergraduate teaching assistants.)

Read more here.

December 4, 2016

UW researchers hit the right note with new machine learning tool for music

MusicNet demoA team of UW CSE and UW Statistics researchers have released MusicNet, a collection of 330 classical music recordings accompanied by more than one million annotated labels indicating the precise timing, instrument and position of every note. As the first large-scale public dataset of its kind, MusicNet could be music to the ears of machine learning researchers and composers alike.

From the UW News release:

“The composer Johann Sebastian Bach left behind an incomplete fugue upon his death, either as an unfinished work or perhaps as a puzzle for future composers to solve.

“A classical music dataset released Wednesday by University of Washington researchers — which enables machine learning algorithms to learn the features of classical music from scratch — raises the likelihood that a computer could expertly finish the job.

“MusicNet is…designed to allow machine learning researchers and algorithms to tackle a wide range of open challenges — from note prediction to automated music transcription to offering listening recommendations based on the structure of a song a person likes, instead of relying on generic tags or what other customers have purchased.”

The researchers who orchestrated this novel tool — CSE Ph.D. student Jonathan Thickstun, CSE and Statistics professor Sham Kakade, and Statistics professor Zaid Harchaoui — hope that MusicNet will do for music-related machine learning what ImageNet did for computer vision.

“An enormous amount of the excitement around artificial intelligence in the last five years has been driven by supervised learning with really big datasets, but it hasn’t been obvious how to label music,” Thickstun said.

To create MusicNet, the researchers had to be able to track what instruments were playing what notes down to the millisecond. They employed a technique called dynamic time warping, which enabled them to synch real performances to synthesized files containing musical notations and digital scoring of the same pieces of music. They then mapped the digital scoring onto the original performances — turning 34 hours of chamber music into a tool for supervising and evaluating machine learning methods.

“At a high level, we’re interested in what makes music appealing to the ears, how we can better understand composition, or the essence of what makes Bach sound like Bach,” said Kakade. “No one’s really been able to extract the properties of music in this way…We hope MusicNet can spur creativity and practical advances in the fields of machine learning and music composition in many ways.”

Read the full news release here, and visit the MusicNet project page to learn more.

November 30, 2016

UW CSE undergraduate TA’s reunite and celebrate!

14x_enrollmentUW CSE’s introductory courses have seen extraordinary growth in size and in quality – growth that’s powered by an amazing corps of undergraduate teaching assistants.

More than 150 current and former CSE142 and CSE143 undergraduate TAs participated in a reunion event in the Paul G. Allen Center on November 22nd. A timeline created for the event highlighted how much the program has changed in the last ten years.

In the fall of 2006, CSE142 had 425 students and CSE143 had 209 students, supported by 30 undergraduate TAs. For the current fall quarter, CSE142 has 1,081 students and CSE143 has 537 students supported by 76 undergraduate TAs. The growth in enrollment by women has been even more impressive: in fall 2006, 27% of the students in CSE142 and 18% in CSE143 were women, versus 35% in CSE142 and 25% in CSE143 today.

Speakers at the reunion event included Stuart Reges, who created the undergraduate TA program at UW, Victoria Kirst, who was a TA and student instructor at UW and is now teaching at Stanford, and current 14X TA coordinators Shannon Ren and Karanbir Singh, who put in incredible effort to create a fun activity for members of the community – both past and present – to come together. Former 14X TA coordinators Alex Miller, Hillary Prather, Kasey Champion, Michael Schmitz, Riley Porter, Tyler Rigsby, and Whitaker Brand also joined the event.

utasReges highlighted how special the UW undergrad TA program is because most universities do not offer such a rich opportunity for undergraduates to become partners in the teaching of introductory computer science. Singh reminded attendees of how attractive the undergraduate TA program has become with over 200 applicants for fewer than 30 new spots in the most recent round of hiring.

Reges also pointed out the impressive list of former undergraduate 14X TAs who have gone on to be hired as college faculty including:

  • Kurtis Heimerl – assistant professor in UW CSE
  • Peter Michael Osera – assistant professor at Grinnell College
  • Helene Martin – former lecturer in UW CSE
  • Victoria Kirst – lecturer at Stanford
  • Allison Obourn – former lecturer in UW CSE, now at the University of Arizona
  • Whitaker Brand – teacher of multiple UW CSE courses
  • Zorah Fung – lecturer in UW CSE
  • Riley Porter- lecturer in UW CSE
  • Ryan Parsons – faculty at Whatcom Community College

One of the main reasons the program has produced so many college level instructors is that UW encourages undergraduates who have been TAs to complete the fifth year Masters program and teach one of the courses in the summer. Few major computer science programs have pathways like this that encourage students to prepare for and consider a career in teaching.

Former UW CSE lecturer Marty Stepp was unable to attend the program, but several speakers mentioned his many contributions. Stepp came out of a similar undergraduate TA program at the University of Arizona and helped Reges create the program at UW. He also put in substantial effort to shape the 14X courses, creating tools known as GradeIt and PracticeIt. Stepp now teaches at Stanford University.

The timeline for the program appropriately lists course administrator Pim Lustig as appearing at the beginning of time as he has been a crucial source of support before anyone else on the list even came to UW.



November 23, 2016

UW CSE alum Peter Brook and Snap Spectacles


Not UW CSE alum Peter Brook …

Peter Brook spent his undergraduate days in Joshua Smith’s Sensor Systems Laboratory and at Facebook. In 2013 he took his newly-minted Computer Engineering bachelors degree to Vergence Labs, where he was lead software engineer on Epiphany Eyewear – fashion-conscious eyewear that captures video snippets with the touch of a button. Vergence was acquired by Snapchat, where Peter has led the software side of Snap Spectacles from early prototypes through mass production.

Snap Spectacles have now hit the big time – sold through popup vending machines in Southern California, and soon near you! Read a Wired article here.

Congratulations Peter!

November 16, 2016

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