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Allen School students excel in NSF Graduate Research Fellowship competition

Photos of Allen School students recognized by NSFEvery year, the National Science Foundation highlights outstanding graduate student research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through its Graduate Research Fellowship Program — and every year, our students’ performance in this competition confirms the Allen School as one of the nation’s top destinations for promising young researchers in the computing fields. In the latest round, nine Allen School students were recognized by NSF, including seven graduate students and two undergraduates.

The competition for these fellowships is intense: More than 13,000 students from 449 baccalaureate-granting institutions applied for a total of 2,000 awards. Five Allen School students were among the recipients in the “Comp/IS/Eng” category:

Ellis Michael, a Ph.D. student working in the Computer Systems Lab with professors Tom Anderson and Dan Ports, received an award for computer systems and embedded systems research.

Leah Perlmutter, a Ph.D. student advised by professor Maya Cakmak in the Human-Centered Robotics Lab, received an award in human-robot interaction.

Anne Spencer Ross, a Ph.D. student working with professor James Fogarty on making mobile applications accessible to people with disabilities, received an award in human computer interaction.

John Thickstun, a Ph.D. student co-advised by Allen School professor Sham Kakade and Statistics professor Zaid Harchaoui, received an award for machine learning research.

Darby Losey, who worked with Allen School professor Raj Rao in the Neural Systems Lab while earning his bachelor’s in computer science and neurobiology, received an award for research in brain-computer interfaces. He is currently a researcher at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-Labs).

In addition to the fellows, four more Allen School students were recognized by NSF with honorable mentions: Ph.D. students Martin Kellogg, Rahul Nadkarni and Isaac Tian, and undergraduate Nate Yazdani. Kellogg is a member of the Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group, working with professor Michael Ernst; Nadkarni works with professor Emily Fox on machine learning research; and Tian works with professor Brian Curless in the Graphics & Imaging Laboratory (GRAIL). Yazdani, who is double-majoring in computer science and mathematics, works with Allen School professor Ras Bodik of PLSE.

NSF has been very good to Allen School students through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Over the past three years alone, the agency has recognized 33 of our most promising student researchers with awards or honorable mentions — an impressive achievement and one of which we are extremely proud.

Read the 2017 announcement here, and learn more about the program here.

Congratulations to all!

March 22, 2017

UW CSE: The Case for Continued Growth

UW CSE – the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering – seeks legislative support for additional enrollment growth. The case is overwhelmingly strong:

  • Student demand is extraordinary
  • Employer demand is extraordinary
  • CSE’s track record of delivering on its commitments is exemplary
  • $70 million in private fundraising for a second building to accommodate recent and future CSE growth is complete

Read more here!

March 19, 2017

University of Washington establishes the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

Hank Levy, Paul Allen, and Ed Lazowska

Hank Levy, Paul Allen, and Ed Lazowska

Dear Friends of CSE,

A few minutes ago – in an extraordinary launch to our 50th Anniversary year – the University of Washington Board of Regents approved the establishment of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. The elevation of UW CSE’s status from a department to a school signifies our increasing prominence on the campus, in the region, and around the world. Becoming a school also positions us to have even greater impact through our leadership in computer science education and research, supported by a new $50 million endowment established by Paul Allen in support of our school (including a contribution from Microsoft in his honor).

The establishment of the Allen School recognizes Paul Allen’s many contributions to science and society, and honors his lifelong friendship and generosity to CSE and the University. It also honors our shared vision of the role of scientific discovery and innovation in the quest for solutions to humankind’s greatest challenges. This is the second time Paul has made a gift that promises to change the trajectory of our program. Since he opened the doors to the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, CSE has emerged as one of the pre-eminent computer science programs in the nation and generated game-changing innovations in mobile health, sustainability, global development, neural engineering, synthetic biology, machine learning, and more.

As the Paul G. Allen School, we will enjoy more autonomy and flexibility, as well as a higher profile within the computing community. We will also be more nimble when it comes to setting new directions in our research, generating new approaches to education and outreach, and recruiting the very best faculty and students. But even more importantly, becoming the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering associates us, in perpetuity, with an internationally revered innovator and visionary who has left an indelible mark on science, on technology, on the Pacific Northwest, and on the world. The aspirational value of this gift is incalculable, and it will inspire us to reach higher every day.

Warm regards,

Hank Levy
Director and Wissner-Slivka Chair
Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
University of Washington

March 9, 2017

Wilma Bradley Matching Challenge will amplify UW CSE alumni giving

Wilma BradleyWilma Bradley, a longtime friend and generous supporter of UW CSE, has established a $1 million matching fund aimed at promoting alumni giving toward construction of a second computer science building on the UW campus. The new fund will match, dollar for dollar, multi-year pledges by recent alumni that total between $5,000 and $50,000 — enabling young alumni to double (or more, if a corporate match is applied) the impact of their personal gifts to CSE2.

For more than 20 years, Bradley has been passionate about expanding educational opportunities to more students at UW CSE. In that time, she has maintained close ties to the program and created an endowed fellowship and an endowed chair. Now, she is keen to support CSE2 while demonstrating the power of philanthropy by encouraging a new generation to become active partners in their alma mater’s future growth.

The Wilma Bradley Matching Challenge is open to UW CSE alums who received their bachelor’s degrees between 2006 and 2016. The match will be applied to pledges received by June 30, 2017 or until the fund is depleted, whichever comes first. To date, nearly $130,000 in donations from CSE alums have been matched through Bradley’s generosity. Learn more about this exciting new opportunity to support CSE’s expansion here.

Thank you, Wilma, for your generous support of our program and our students. You are an inspiration!

March 2, 2017

UW CSE’s Tom Anderson, James Fogarty and Dan Ports win Google Faculty Research Awards

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson

UW CSE professors Tom Anderson, James Fogarty, and Dan R. K. Ports have been selected to receive Google Faculty Research Awards, a competition designed to support world-class faculty conducting cutting-edge research that advances core and emerging areas of computer science.

Anderson, who earned an award in the networking category, focuses on the construction of robust, secure, and efficient computer systems. His recent work concerns the development of next-generation peer-to-peer systems and approaches to dramatically improve internet availability and denial-of-service resilience.

Fogarty received an award in the human-computer interaction category. His research focuses on developing, deploying, and evaluating new approaches to address human obstacles hindering widespread adoption of ubiquitous sensing and intelligent computing technologies. Anat Caspi, director of UW CSE’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology, is a co-principal investigator on the award.

Anat Caspi

Anat Caspi

James Fogarty

James Fogarty

Ports, who received an award in the systems category, focuses on building distributed systems for modern data-center-scale applications that are faster, more reliable, easier to program, and more secure.

Six members of the extended UW CSE family also earned awards: Ph.D. alums Jon Froehlich (University of Maryland College Park, physical interfaces and immersive experiences), Martha Kim (Columbia University, systems), Karen Liu (Georgia Institute of Technology, other), Adrian Sampson (Cornell University, other), and Michael Swift (University of Wisconsin – Madison, systems), and former postdoc David Choffnes (Northeastern University, networking).

Dan R. K. Ports

Dan R. K. Ports

Google received 876 submissions from researchers at more than 300 universities in 44 countries in response to its call for proposals. The company selected 143 projects to receive funding.

Learn more about the awards here, and read the full list of recipients here.

Way to go, team CSE — and thanks to Google for supporting outstanding faculty research!

February 28, 2017

UW CSE professor Ali Farhadi and Ph.D. alum Jon Froehlich win Sloan Research Fellowships

Ali Farhadi

Ali Farhadi

UW CSE professor Ali Farhadi and Ph.D. alum Jon Froehlich have been recognized with 2017 Sloan Research Fellowships. The fellowships are granted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support outstanding early-career researchers who represent the next generation of scientific leaders. Fellows are nominated by their peers and selected to receive one of these prestigious awards by an independent panel of senior scholars based on their demonstrated potential to make significant contributions in their respective fields.

“The Sloan Research Fellows are the rising stars of the academic community,” said foundation president Paul L. Joskow in a press release. “Through their achievements and ambition, these young scholars are transforming their fields and opening up entirely new research horizons. We are proud to support them at this crucial stage of their careers.”

Farhadi and Froehlich are among only 16 researchers recognized in the computer science category — and only 126 recipients in all, representing 60 colleges and universities and eight different fields: chemistry, computer science, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics.

Farhadi’s research focuses on artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing. He is particularly interested in enabling computers to perform visual tasks that humans can do seamlessly, such as intuiting why an “abnormal” image looks strange or understanding the actions and behaviors in a scene. In addition to his role on the UW CSE faculty, Farhadi is the senior research manager for the Computer Vision Group at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. There, he leads Project Plato, which aims to advance visual knowledge extraction and reasoning and go beyond standard image classification and object recognition to achieve visual “common sense.”

Jon Froehlich

Jon Froehlich

Froehlich is on the faculty of University of Maryland-College Park. His research focuses on human-computer interaction with an emphasis on interactive technologies that address social issues such as accessibility, environmental sustainability, and personalized health and wellness. He completed his Ph.D. in 2011 working with UW CSE professor James Landay and CSE and Electrical Engineering professor Shwetak Patel. His dissertation, “Sensing and Feedback of Everyday Activities to Promote Environmentally Sustainable Behaviors,” earned him CSE’s William Chan Memorial Dissertation Award as well as the UW Graduate School Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Farhadi is the 22nd current UW CSE faculty member to have earned a Sloan Fellowship, joining recent winners Emina Torlak (2016) and Emily Fox, Shyam Gollakota, and Thomas Rothvoss (2015). In addition to Farhadi, two other members of the UW faculty — Emily Levesque in astronomy and John Tuthill of physiology and biophysics — were named fellows in 2017.

Read the Sloan Foundation press release here and the UW News release here. Check out the full list of 2017 fellows here.

Congratulations, Ali and Jon!

February 27, 2017

UW CSE establishes the Guestrin Endowed Professorship in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Carlos Guestrin in the Allen CenterUW CSE announced today the creation of the Guestrin Endowed Professorship in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to support efforts to recruit and retain outstanding faculty in these leading-edge areas of the field. The $1 million endowment, which is named after CSE professor and machine learning expert Carlos Guestrin, was made possible by Apple’s acquisition of CSE spin-out Turi last year.

Guestrin has been a member of the UW CSE since 2012, when he was named the Amazon Professor of Machine Learning. He later founded Turi to commercialize large-scale machine learning tools he developed as part of his open-source research project, GraphLab. When Apple acquired Turi in 2016, it appointed Guestrin as its new director of machine learning. In this role, he will help the Cupertino, California-based company to establish a new hub for its artificial intelligence and machine learning research in Seattle and strengthen its ties with UW.

“Seattle and UW are near and dear to my heart, and it was incredibly important to me and our team that we continue supporting this world-class institution and the amazing talent coming out of the CSE program,” Guestrin told UW News. “We look forward to strong collaboration between Apple, CSE and the broader AI and machine learning community for many years to come.”

Read the UW News release here, and coverage by Geekwire, The Seattle TimesCNBC, and The Verge. Also be sure to check out today’s GeekWire exclusive on Apple’s plans to expand its operations in Seattle.

This is terrific news for UW CSE, and terrific news for our region!

February 23, 2017

UW CSE receives $5 million gift from philanthropists, technologists and entrepreneurs Charles and Lisa Simonyi

Charles and Lisa Simonyi

Charles and Lisa Simonyi

The campaign to expand UW CSE received a major boost today through a $5 million gift from longtime philanthropists Charles and Lisa Simonyi. The couple’s gift, which will help fund construction of a second building that will enable UW CSE to double annual degree production, is the largest personal donation received toward the project.

“The need for more computer scientists and computer engineers in the Puget Sound region to build on the legacy of innovation here is well known, and this new building will help the UW meet that need,” the Simonyis told UW News.

Charles Simonyi is an innovator and philanthropist who was the chief architect of core Microsoft programs such as Word and Excel and founded local productivity software company Intentional Software. Lisa Simonyi is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who holds degrees in corporate communication and international management and serves on the boards of multiple civic and cultural organizations. In recognition of the couple’s generosity, UW CSE will name one of the highlights of the new building — a “home away from home” for CSE majors — the Charles & Lisa Simonyi Undergraduate Commons. The space will enrich the student experience by providing a place for undergraduates to study and collaborate, and also help nurture a strong sense of belonging and purpose.

“We are pleased to support this expansion of the UW’s CSE program and are excited to see what new ideas and opportunities for collaboration will be inspired by the commons space,” the Simonyis said.

The Charles & Lisa Simonyi Undergraduate Commons

The Charles & Lisa Simonyi Undergraduate Commons (LMN Architects)

“Expanding access to computer science capacity is not only important to students looking to take part in the digital economy, but to every single employer in this state,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith, who leads the CSE campaign committee. “We hope that commitments such as the Simonyis’ gift will continue to inspire others to support this project, which is so vital to the future of Washington state.”

Read more in the UW News release here and the GeekWire article here.

Many, many thanks to Charles and Lisa for their tremendous support of UW CSE and our students!

February 16, 2017

UW CSE + EE professor Shwetak Patel to deliver NSF CISE Distinguished Lecture on mobile health

Shwetak PatelTune in Wednesday, February 15th, when UW CSE and Electrical Engineering professor Shwetak Patel will deliver a talk on the emerging role of mobile phones in health as part of the National Science Foundation’s Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Distinguished Lecture Series.

In his presentation, Patel will describe how he and his students in the UbiComp Lab have leveraged the increasingly sophisticated sensing capabilities of mobile phones to create palm-sized, yet powerful, health diagnostics and disease management tools. He will also share his thoughts on the critical role that computer science plays in enabling mobile health innovation and what he envisions for the future of this rapidly growing field.

Patel’s talk will begin at 11:00 am PST (2:00 pm EST). Learn more and register to watch the live stream here.

February 14, 2017

UW CSE undergrad Nate Yazdani’s love of research “PLSE-es” through his veins

Nathaniel YazdaniIn the latest edition of our Undergrad Spotlight, we catch up with Nate Yazdani, a senior computer science major who works as an undergraduate research assistant with professor Ras Bodik of UW CSE’s Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group. Yazdani, who hails from Battle Ground, Washington, chose to study computer science because of his keen interest in math, logic and programming — a choice he hopes will lead to graduate school and a career in academic research.

He appears to be well on his way to realizing his goal: he was named a Washington Research Foundation Fellow for 2016-17, and the Computing Research Association recognized him as part of its 2017 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher competition. Yazdani takes inspiration from his own time in the lab to encourage his peers to seek out similar opportunities — as one of UW’s Undergraduate Research Leaders, he contributes to classroom presentations and panel discussions that promote the value of research as part of the overall university experience.

Yazdani recently accepted a summer research internship at the IMDEA Software Institute in Madrid. Before he could become too distracted by the excitement of planning his next adventure, he shared his thoughts on what makes CSE a special place in which to learn and grow as a student researcher.

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

NY: This is such a welcoming, close-knit community — CSE actively embraces and supports the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its students. I myself am a first-generation Iranian-American. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, my father immigrated to the United States at age 17. Even though he passed away when I was young, his experience has always served as an inspiration for me growing up. Since then, my family has struggled financially, and I am immensely grateful for the scholarships and grants from the university, the department, and outside organizations that have made it possible for me to pursue higher education. I’ve found the students here to be friendly and supportive of each other, and the faculty and staff are always willing to go the extra mile to help me succeed.

CSE: In what ways do they help you to succeed?

NY: In my research group, PLSE, the faculty and students have gone above and beyond when it comes to encouraging and supporting my research interests. They’ve allowed me to participate in all their group functions, meetings, and seminars and have made themselves resources to help me navigate complex research topics. Whenever I pick an especially hard paper to present in a seminar, the senior Ph.D. students offer to help me understand and present the material. That kind of environment is really conducive to intellectual growth, and I’ve gained a lot from it.

CSE: How did you come to work with Ras Bodik?

NY: After getting into functional programming, I started reading more about research in programming languages and became interested in doing research myself. The summer before I started at UW, I had the opportunity to attend the ACM International Conference on Functional Programming on a scholarship. The experience solidified my desire to pursue a career in research. Coincidentally, Ras Bodik — whom I had never met at this point — gave the keynote talk at that conference. I connected with him afterwards, and by the time classes started, I was officially working for him as a research assistant!

CSE: What do you do in this role?

NY: Mostly, I write lots — and lots! — of code. More specifically, I read research papers, design domain-specific programming languages, implement those languages with compilers and interpreters, and design algorithms for program synthesis. I am currently writing a paper that I hope will be published.

CSE: What is the potential impact of this work?

NY: My research will address one of the challenge problems of the PLSE group’s SandCat project, which is funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In the long term, this work will enable interactive data visualizations to scale to much larger data sets — without losing responsiveness or dropping too much quality.

CSE: Describe your favorite moment as a researcher so far.

NY: At one point, I was stuck on some particularly difficult problem, so my adviser, Ras, and I worked it out on the whiteboard. We spent four hours on it, in what was scheduled to be only an hour-long meeting. That was a great mentorship experience. My second-favorite moment was going to Houston over the summer for a DARPA principal investigators meeting, where I got to present a research poster about my work on SandCat. That was a pretty cool moment for someone who aspires to make a career out of research.


Thanks, Nate, for being an inspiration to aspiring young researchers everywhere—and kudos to Ras and all the members of PLSE for giving our undergrads an opportunity to shine!

February 10, 2017

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