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Ph.D. alumnus Adrian Sampson receives Young Computer Architect Award for his impact in approximate computing and programming languages in hardware

Adrian Sampson in front of a water fall

Allen School alumnus Adrian Sampson (Ph.D., ‘15) has been recognized by the IEEE Computer Society’s Technical Committee on Computer Architecture with the 2021 Young Computer Architect Award for “contributions to approximate computing and hardware synthesis from high-level representations.” This award honors an outstanding researcher who has completed their doctoral degree within the past six years and who has made innovative contributions to the field of computer architecture. Sampson, who completed his Ph.D. working with Allen School professor Luis Ceze and Allen School professor and vice director Dan Grossman, is now a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University in the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.

“Adrian’s work on programming language-hardware co-design for approximate computing led to a new research area with lots of follow-on research by the community,” said Ceze. “His research impact is complemented by him being an amazingly creative, caring and fun human being. I could not be more proud of him.”

Sampson devoted his early career to new abstractions in approximate computing, with a focus on rethinking modern computer architecture — specifically reducing the energy consumption of computer systems. For instance, Sampson, along with Ceze and Grossman, created EnerJ, a language for principled approximate computing that allows programmers to indicate where it is safe to permit occasional errors in order to save energy. While power consumption of computers is often strained by correctness, guarantees like EnerJ, an extension to Java, exposes hardware faults in a safe, principled manner allowing power-saving techniques like lower voltage. Sampson’s research shows that approximate computing is a promising way of saving energy in large classes of applications running on a wide range of systems, including embedded systems, mobile phones and servers. 

“Modern architecture gives everyone a license to try ideas that are weird and ambitious and potentially transformative,” Sampson said about his work. “It would be silly not to take up that opportunity.”

At Cornell, Sampson and his research group, Capra, are focused on programming languages and compilers for generating hardware accelerators. One area in particular is field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which allow the co-design of applications with hardware accelerators. These are still hard to program, so Sampson and his team created Dahlia, a programming language that leverages an affine type system to constrain programs to only represent valid hardware designs. Dahlia aims to compile high-level programming languages into performant hardware designs and offer open source tools to help programming language and architecture.

“What Adrian has leveraged in clever and impactful ways throughout his career is that many potential amazing performance advantages at the hardware level are possible only if given extra information or assurance from the software as to where the techniques are safe to use,” Grossman said.

In addition to his Computer Architecture Award, Sampson previously was recognized with an NSF CAREER Award in 2019 and a Google Faculty Research Award in 2016, just to name a few, and has published more than 40 papers

Sampson is not the only person with an Allen School connection to earn the Young Computer Architect Award since its inception in 2011: Ceze himself received the award in 2013, and he was also the advisor to Hadi Esmaeilzadeh, who received the award in 2018, and Brandon Lucia, who received the award in 2019.

Congratulations, Adrian!

July 15, 2021

Allen School professor Emina Torlak receives Robin Milner Young Researcher Award for her groundbreaking work in automating reasoning for programmers

Emina Torlak photo

Allen School professor Emina Torlak, co-founder of the UNSAT group and a member of the Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group, earned the 2021 Robin Milner Young Researcher Award from the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Programming Languages (ACM SIGPLAN) for her research contributions in automated reasoning to make computer programming easier. The award was named in honor of Milner, the legendary British computer scientist who was a leader in programming language research and had a passion for mentoring his younger colleagues. Torlak is the 10th recipient of the award, which is given to a researcher within 20 years of their start of graduate school.

“This prestigious award is explicit recognition of what is well-known in the programming-languages research community: Emina builds beautifully engineered systems that are ready for serious use not just by her group but by other researchers, and she does so by extending the elegant logical foundations of our field in sophisticated ways,” said Dan Grossman, professor and vice director of the Allen School. “Her tools don’t just work; they do things nobody else knows how to do.”

In her work, Torlak combines new language abstractions, algorithmic insights, robust design, and thorough implementation. From the start of her career as a doctoral student at MIT, she has been building tools and applications that find and solve problems in programming languages.

“Automatic verification of programs ensures that programs are free of bugs that hackers could exploit to break into the system. Unfortunately, verifying program correctness is a specialized task that programmers are not trained to perform,” said Allen School professor Rastislav Bodik. “Emina’s research goal has been to make automatic verification of programs accessible to programmers who lack expertise in verification. She has accomplished this vision by automating a lot of the verification process, in a clever way. Her key insight was that it was impossible to construct a super-verifier that would automatically verify all kinds of programs, and that to automate the process, verifiers would need to be tailored to narrower classes of programs. She designed a tool that allowed programmers to automatically construct such automatic verifiers for their programs.”

An example is Torlak’s Rosette framework, which allows users to quickly develop their own domain-specific program synthesis algorithms.

“Rosette is an ingenious design that combines advances from programming languages such as meta-programming, compilation as in partial evaluation and formal methods such as symbolic computation,” Bodik said. “Using Rosette, programmers were able to construct verifiers in a few days where it would take months to do so with traditional methods. Rosette was also used to construct synthesizers of programs, which are tools that automatically write programs. Using Rosette, researchers have built synthesizers that reached parity with human programming experts on a range of advanced programming tasks. This success owes both to Emina’s design skills and the leadership in supporting the open-source community around Rosette.”

Leveraging Rosette, Torlak helped to create Serval, a framework for creating automated verifiers for systems software. It overcomes several obstacles in scaling automated verification, including the developer effort required to write verifiers, the difficulty of finding and fixing performance bottlenecks, and limitations on their applicability to existing systems. From there, she contributed to the development of Jitterbug, a tool for writing and proving the correctness of just-in-time (JIT) compilers for computers using the extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF) technology. It produces a formal correctness guarantee for eBPF JITs, a security-critical component of the Linux operating system, through a precise specification of JIT correctness and an automated verification strategy that scales to practical implementations.

“Emina Torlak is a leader in the area of automated verification. She has made both conceptual contributions and built tools that are state-of-the-art and widely used,” said the Milner Award selection committee. “On the conceptual side, the notion of a solver-aided programming language is hers and has quickly become standard terminology.”

Torlak’s research has been published at some of the most prestigious and highly competitive conferences in the field, including ACM SIGPLAN’s Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL), Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI), International Conference on Functional Programming (ICFP), International Conference on Computer Aided Verification (CAV), the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) and much more. Torlak joined the University of Washington in 2014 and has since been named a Sloan Research Fellow and won an NSF CAREER Award, an Amazon Research Award, two Best Paper Awards, two Distinguished Paper Awards and a Distinguished Artifact Award.

Read more about Torlak’s Young Researcher Award here

Congratulations, Emina! 

June 30, 2021

Allen School’s Yasaman Sefidgar earns Facebook Fellowship for her work in building supportive social systems

Yasaman Sefidgar

Yasaman Sefidgar, a Ph.D. student working with Allen School professor James Fogarty, has been named a 2021 Facebook Fellow for her research developing computational and data-driven systems that inform and support social and health interventions. Sefidgar’s work currently is focused on studying the powerful effects of social support and how to make it more accessible with online platforms, especially during difficult times.

Sefidgar aims to use her Fellowship to understand the emotional needs of people online — specifically among minority populations who experience particular incidents like microaggressions. Her findings will help her design systems that can aid people coping with distress. In her previous work with students struggling with microaggression, she found that those who successfully worked through it bounced back quickly after seeking support from others who had similar experiences and could offer guidance. The earlier they found this support, the better their recovery. Sefidgar wants to connect people based on their experiences and the impact the connection makes, then guide the social interaction dynamics to make the connection a positive one. 

After studying insights from interviews and a large dataset, and building a framework to analyze the collected stories and encounters, Sefidgar will curate algorithms to build a platform that can support more specific needs to promote well-being. 

“We need additional knowledge of mechanisms of effective social support in situations of interest. My mixed-method research addresses both fronts,” said Sefidgar. “Qualitative accounts of how individuals currently seek support would highlight the challenges and barriers that technology solutions might address. They can also inform quantitative analysis that not only confirms the qualitative insights but also brings to light the mechanistic elements of effective support.” 

Sefidgar said that Facebook has the relevant resources to improve social support for well-being by leveraging the day-to-day experiences shared on its platforms to new recommendation policies and content curation. The company can also implement interventions that improve conversations. 

“I hope findings from my work can inform the design of interfaces, interactions, and algorithms on Facebook and Instagram with the potential to benefit millions of users,” she said.

Before coming to the Allen School, Sefidgar obtained her B.S. in computer engineering from the Sharif University of Technology and M.S. degrees in human-computer interaction from the University of British Columbia and in computer vision from Simon Fraser University. She has co-authored 10 publications, including a Best Paper Honorable Mention for “Situated Tangible Robot Programming” from the 2017 International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.    

Sefidgar is one of only 21 doctoral students worldwide chosen to receive Facebook Fellowships this year based on their innovative research. Past Allen School recipients of the Facebook Fellowship include Minjoon Seo (2019), James Bornholt and Eunsol Choi (2018), and Aditya Vashistha (2016). 

Congratulations, Yasaman! 

June 18, 2021

UW researchers ride a wave of innovation at the 2021 ACM CHI Conference

CHI 2021 logo

Researchers at the University of Washington contributed to four Best Papers and 11 Best Paper Honorable Mentions at the recent Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2021) organized by the Association for Computing Machinery. The virtual conference offered UW researchers the opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of their expertise in human-computer interaction (HCI) and design as well as the strength of interdisciplinary collaborations such as DUB. Members of the Allen School co-authored two of the Best Papers and eight of the papers recognized with Honorable Mentions. 

In addition to the papers, Allen School professor Jeffrey Heer, director of the Interactive Data Lab, was inducted into the CHI Academy for his substantial, cumulative contributions to the field of human-computer interaction, social computing and data visualization. He is one of only eight new members elected to the Academy this year. 

Wang, Bodik and Ko
Authors of the Best Paper: “Falx: Synthesis-Powered Visualization Authoring,” from left to right, Wang, Bodik and Ko.

Allen School Ph.D. student Chenglong Wang and professor Rastislav Bodik of the Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group and iSchool professor and Allen School adjunct professor Amy J. Ko, co-authored the award-winning paper, “Falx: Synthesis-Powered Visualization Authoring,” with professors Yu Feng  at the University of California Santa Barbara and Isil Dilig at the University of Texas, Austin and former Allen School professor Alvin Cheung, now a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley. In the publication, the team introduces Falx, a tool that enables data analysts to create data visualizations more easily through demonstrations. While modern visualization tools make data visualization design easier, when it comes to exploratory visualization, there can often be a mismatch of data layout and design that requires significant effort. Falx addresses the issue by automatically inferring the visualization specification and transforming the data to match the design from user demonstrations. 

Karusala and Anderson
Allen School authors of the Best Paper:”‘That Courage to Encourage’: Participation and Aspiration in Chat-Based Peer Support for Youth Living with HIV,” Karusala and Anderson.

Allen School Ph.D. student Naveena Karusala and professor Richard Anderson of the Information and Communication for Technology Development (ICTD) Lab  co-authored ‘‘’That courage to encourage’: Participation and Aspirations in Chat-based Peer Support for Youth Living with HIV” with UW Global Health professors Brandon Guthrie, Grace John-Stewart and Keshet Ronen; professor Megan A. Moreno at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Kenyatta National Hospital researchers David Odhiambo Seeh, who is also a research assistant at UW, Cyrus Mugo and Irene Inwani. For their award-winning paper, the team conducted a qualitative study of WhatsApp-based facilitated peer support groups for youth living with HIV in Nairobi, Kenya. While chat apps can make patient-provider communication and peer support more accessible outside of clinical settings, the experience of participants in such group chats in areas where phone sharing and intermittent data access are common is understudied. Using a combination of chat records and interviews with participants, the researchers found that the youth in the chat groups were motivated by newfound aspirations and a sense of community to manage their health despite the complexities of group dynamics, intermittent participation, and concerns about privacy. The paper offers takeaways for participation and privacy in chat-based health communities and how the role of aspirations can be factored into the design of health interventions. 

In addition to the two award-winning papers, Allen School researchers contributed to eight papers that earned Honorable Mentions for addressing topics such as medical making during a pandemic, remote collaboration and communication, the impact of prison surveillance, and more:

Do Cross-Cultural Differences in Visual Attention Patterns Affect Search Efficiency on Websites?” by Allen School Ph.D. students Amanda Baughan and Tal August, professor Katharina Reinecke, postdoctoral researcher Nigini Oliveira and researcher Naomi Yamashita of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation explored the differences between the way Westerners and people in East Asian societies — U.S. and Japanese citizens, specifically — absorb contextual information online and the implications of their findings for website design.  

Medical Maker Response to COVID-19: Distributed Manufacturing Infrastructure for Stop Gap Protective Equipment,” co-authored by professor Jennifer Mankoff and Ph.D. student Kelly Mack of the Allen School’s Make4All Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Rosa Arriaga and Ph.D. student Udaya Lakshmi, and Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott Hudson and graduate student Megan Hofmann, assesses the efforts of medical makers to organize stopgap manufacturing capabilities to address acute and chronic shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic to inform future infrastructure design that will enable community production of safe devices at scale.

The same team also contributed to “The Right to Help and the Right Help: Fostering and Regulating Collective Action in a Medical Making Reaction to COVID-19,” which explores the tension between the medical field’s “do no harm” ethos and maker communities’ desire to rapidly innovate in response to shortages of PPE. To address this tension and strike a balance between action-oriented and regulated practices, the researchers recommend that regulatory bodies build coalitions with makers, online platforms give communities more control over the presentation of information, and repositories to balance the need to distribute information while limiting the spread of misinformation.

Scraps: Enabling Contextual Mobile Capture, Contextualization, and Use of Document Resources,” co-authored by Allen School alumna  Amanda Swearngin (Ph.D., ‘19), now an engineer at Apple, and Microsoft researchers Shamsi Iqbal, Victor Poznanski, Mark Encarnación, Paul Bennett and Jaime Teevan, presents an app that makes it easy for people to capture and add context to information from their phone and later link that information to a document on their desktop.  

Allen School Ph.D. student Chunjong Park is one of the researchers behind another app “Significant Otter: Understanding the Role of Biosignals in Communication,” co-authored by Carnegie Mellon University professors Laura Dabbish and Geoff Kaufman and Snap, Inc. researchers Fannie Liu, Yu Jiang Tham and Tsung-Yu Tsai. Significant Otter is an Apple Watch/iPhone app with animated otter avatars that enables romantic partners to share and respond to each other’s biosignals to create a more authentic communication that fosters social connection.

Allen School Ph.D. student Ruotong Wang co-authored “Tabletop Games in the Age of Remote Collaboration: Design Opportunities for a Socially Connected Game Experience” with University of Minnesota professor Svetlana Yarosh and Ph.D. student Irene Ye Yuan and Northwestern Ph.D. student Jan Cao. The paper examines how people adapted existing technologies and their offline practices in pursuit of a shared tabletop gaming experience in the context of the pandemic. The team also reflects on challenges and opportunities for designing a better communal gaming experience in the age of remote collaboration.  

What Do We Mean by ‘Accessibility Research’? A Systematic Review of Accessibility Papers in CHI and ASSETS from 1994 to 2019,” by Kelly Mack, professor Jon Froehlich and Ph.D. student Dhruv Jain in the Allen School’s Makeability Lab; UW Human Centered Design & Engineering professor Leah Findlater and graduate student Emma McDonnell and Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence researcher Lucy Lu Wang, reflects on gaps in accessibility research presented at CHI and the International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS) over a 25-year period and offers guidance for future work in the field.

You Gotta Watch What You Say”: Surveillance of Communication with Incarcerated People, by Allen School Ph.D. student Kentrell Owens, alumna Camille Cobb (Ph.D., ‘19), now a postdoc at Carnegie Mellon University, and CMU professor Lorrie Cranor examines the impact of third-party surveillance of communications between families and relatives who are in prison. Using semi-structured interviews, the team explored the implications of family members’ inaccurate understanding of surveillance and the misalignment of incentives between end-users and vendors to enhance ongoing conversations around carceral justice and the need for more privacy-sensitive communication tools.

All told, UW authors contributed a total of 50 papers presented at this year’s conference. See the complete list of UW CHI papers here.

June 10, 2021

Allen School’s Tim Althoff, Ashish Sharma and Inna Lin win Best Paper Award at WWW for their work to improve online mental health support

Collage of Althoff, Sharma and Lin
From left to right: Althoff, Sharma, Lin

Allen School Ph.D. student Ashish Sharma, professor Tim Althoff and incoming Ph.D. student Inna Lin won the Best Paper Award at the The Web Conference 2021 (WWW) for “Towards Facilitating Empathic Conversations in Online Mental Health Support: A Reinforcement Learning Approach.” In the paper, the group presented computational methods for improving empathy in online mental health support conversations. Their work was chosen from among 1,736 submissions to the conference, which focuses on advancements in the technologies supporting the World Wide Web and their impact on society and culture. 

“We felt the work is going to have a significant impact on the community based on the algorithmic approach and the very thorough experiments that were done in the paper itself,” said Kira Radinsky, the Best Paper Award chair. “This is the direction we felt is going to bring the most value to the community.” 

The paper, which was co-authored with UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences professor David Atkins and Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences instructor Adam Miner, addresses improving web-based mental health conversations in online peer-to-peer support platforms, which could help improve access to treatment and reduce the global disease burden.

“We describe a system that can give feedback to help someone express empathy more effectively when supporting others based on natural language processing and machine learning innovations — reinforcement learning for dialogue,” said Althoff, who directs the Allen School’s Behavioral Data Science Group. “This is hugely exciting as this work has been a big step towards one of the biggest and most meaningful goals in my research for a long time.”

The team, which was based on a collaboration with the UW and Stanford Medical Schools and the largest online peer-to-peer support platform worldwide, Talklife, found that online mental health conversations could have significantly more empathy than what is currently expressed. To facilitate conversations with higher empathy levels, which is key for providing successful support, they introduced a new task of empathic rewriting. Their approach employs artificial intelligence (AI) tools for identifying and improving empathy to effectively increase the level of empathy in the chat posts. 

As part of this work, the researchers introduced PARTNER, a new deep reinforcement learning agent that learns to make edits to text to increase empathy in a conversation. Through a combination of automatic and human evaluation, the team demonstrated that PARTNER is capable of generating more empathetic, specific and diverse responses than what is currently being shared on Talklife or what current machine learning models can provide. 

“Rarely does mental health research have the practical application and potential for impact that we believe this research will have,” said Jamie Druitt, CEO of Talklife. “This proposed research directly addresses real challenges and can be implemented to create measurable change on mental health platforms.”

This research has been supported in part by a Microsoft AI for Accessibility grant, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, NSF grant IIS-1901386, NIH grant R01MH125179, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (INV-004841).

Congratulations Ashish, Tim, Inna and the rest of the team! 

June 8, 2021

Allen School’s Della Welch, Linda Shapiro and Jon Froehlich win College of Engineering Awards

Each year, the University of Washington College of Engineering recognizes the dedication and drive of its students, teaching and research assistants, staff and faculty by honoring a select few with a College of Engineering Award. This year, the Allen School has three recipients: web computing specialist Della Welch won the Professional Staff Award, professor Linda Shapiro earned the College of Engineering Faculty Research Award and professor and alumnus Jon Froelich (Ph.D., 11) received the College of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Member Award.  

Della Welch

Della Welch

The College recognized Welch for her excellent customer service, resourcefulness, innovation and creativity as a member of the Computer Science Laboratory group, which oversees all information technology assets and services across the Allen School. Welch first joined the Allen School in 2016 as an undergraduate working as a student lab assistant while studying information systems in the Foster School of Business. Impressed by her reliability and dedication to her job, the team hired her full-time after graduation as an education tools specialist. According to Dan Boren, the Allen School’s applications systems engineer, Welch surprised them with her work ethic while still a student.

“By her last year before graduation, Della had formed a detailed and comprehensive image of our business processes and challenges. She took the initiative to root out wasted effort and energy, and began to design processes and tools to boost the efficiency of our employees and the convenience of our customers,” he said. “It began with a simple, self-service touch screen application to let people check out loaner equipment. This clever tool that she built in her spare time proved that she had a wise and insightful perspective, and the decision was made to try to attract her as a full-time developer when she graduated.”


Shortly thereafter, construction on the Allen School’s second building, the Bill & Melinda Gates Center, finished up and Welch joined a team of her peers to undertake a monumental project: orchestrating the move of people, labs and equipment into the new space. According to Boren, Welch was everywhere they needed her, pulling cables from behind desks, using her systems administration skills, and educating herself in key areas such as user-interface design, modern software engineering methodologies and the latest application frameworks — all of which proved to be quite useful in early 2020 when the pandemic hit.

With the rapid move to remote work, Welch and her team had to rework admissions processes. She dived into what Boren said was an incredibly complex piece of software to modernize and streamline it, taking good user design and testability to new levels to get through the admissions season. What she created in an emergency ended up being more useful and maintainable than what was already in place. Welch also volunteered to write a software registry to be shared with and used by IT teams across the entire university. 

“Through all of this, her systems administration skills have been invaluable, and somehow she finds the time to reprise her role as the cheerful help-desk person,” Boren said. “When you post an opening for a new hire, Della is the person you’re hoping will apply.”

Linda Shapiro

Linda Shapiro

The College honored Shapiro, who holds a joint appointment in the Allen School and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and is also an adjunct professor of biomedical informatics and medical education, for her extraordinary and innovative contributions to research and support of diverse students in research. Since she first arrived at the UW in 1986, Shapiro has cultivated a reputation as a highly regarded researcher in multiple technical fields, a creative and open collaborator across many disciplines and an accomplished, caring mentor. She has been working in these fields for 48 years, has written nearly 300 research papers and has supervised the Ph.D. theses of 48 doctoral students

Shapiro’s research is in computer vision with related interests in image and multimedia database systems, artificial intelligence — search, reasoning, knowledge representation and learning — and applications in medicine and robotics. Her contributions in graph-based matching, computer-aided-design model-based vision, image retrieval, and medical image analysis have been fundamental, leading up to her recent work in facial expression recognition, cancer biopsy analysis, 3D face and head analysis and reconstruction, and object segmentation in videos. Her research has led to collaborations with medical doctors and engineers in a variety of fields from many institutions of higher education.

While Shapiro’s research career itself is highly impressive, her connection with her students is equally profound.

“Linda puts her students and their interests first. She is committed to helping them think broadly about research and personal goals and to strategically choose projects that further those goals,” said Magdalena Balazinska, professor and director of the Allen School. “This is demonstrated by her ability to define and promote new collaborations across groups, departments, and  institutions, which help her students gain needed domain knowledge and technical expertise.”

In fields with few women pursuing Ph.D.’s, Shapiro has recruited and advised 22 female students. She is committed to increasing diversity in the College and has mentored undergraduates via the Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates  (DREU) program, a highly selective national program whose goal is to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups that go to graduate school in the fields of computer science and engineering, for 15 years.

Shapiro earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Illinois (‘70), and an M.S. (‘72) and Ph.D. (‘74) in computer science from the University of Iowa, before joining the computer science faculty at Kansas State University in 1974. In 1979 she served on the CS faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for five years, then spent two years as the director of Intelligent Systems at Machine Vision International in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before joining the UW faculty in what was then known as the Department of Electrical Engineering. She joined the  Allen School four years later. 

Shapiro is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Association of Pattern Recognition. She is the recipient of several Best Paper Awards and Honorable Mentions from the International Association of Pattern Recognition and received a Best Paper Award at the 2012 International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention on medical content-based image retrieval.

Jon Froehlich

Jon Froehlich

The College honored Froehlich for his innovative and creative approaches to supporting remote learning and research during the pandemic — and for going above and beyond, in big and small ways, to support his community during this time.

Froehlich is the director of the Allen School’s Makeability Lab, where faculty and students design, build and study interactive tools and techniques to address pressing societal challenges. He also serves as the associate director of the Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology (CREATE), an interdisciplinary center at the UW focused on making technology accessible and making the world more accessible through technology. 

The courses Froehlich teaches and the research he conducts fundamentally depend on physical resources and learning experiences; even so, he did not let the pandemic stop him from offering the same quality of education to his students wherever they happened to be. Froehlich transformed his physical computing courses to virtual platforms and, along with Ph.D. student Liang He, assembled and mailed hardware kits for the courses to his students’ homes. He created a fully interactive website with tutorials and videos using a green screen in his home office, which he turned into a virtual teaching studio. Froehlich’s passion for teaching and dedication to making the experience better for his students were appreciated and noted by his students in their course evaluations. 

In addition to his commitment to effectively teach his students regardless of their location, Froehlich also served as a strong mentor to them in a time when many felt isolated from family and friends. 

“During this time, Jon has prioritized mental and physical health in his group and purchased additional resources to equip his graduate students’ homes with the equipment they require, including 3D printers, soldering irons, chairs, and computers,” said Balazinska. “Moreover, to enable students to continue their research agendas, he helped secure multiple remote internships for his students and has weekly one-on-ones with each student and “game hours” with his group to help his students relax, socially interact, and continue to bond during the pandemic.”

Froehlich has also been committed to helping colleagues improve their virtual classrooms. He co-created an international working group, “Teaching physical computing remotely,” which meets to discuss challenges and solutions for teaching physical and other computational craft courses online. He’s also co-chairing the 2022 International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility and is committed to making the future of the conference a place not only for those with physical or sensory disabilities but for those with chronic illnesses, caretaking responsibilities or other commitments that prevent physical travel.

Froehlich joined the Allen School, his alma mater, as a professor in 2017. Before that, he was a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He previously earned his M.S. in Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine.  

Froehlich has earned a Sloan Research Fellowship and an NSF CAREER Award and has published more than 70 scientific peer-reviewed publications, including seven Best Papers and eight Best Paper Honorable Mentions. His team’s paper on Tohme earned a place on ACM Computing Reviews’ “Best of Computing 2014” list. 

Congratulations to Della, Linda and Jon! 

June 7, 2021

UW recognizes three Allen School undergraduates in the Husky 100

Husky 100 banner

Allen School undergraduates Nayha Auradkar, Melissa Birchfield and Raida Karim have been selected for the 2021 class of the Husky 100. Each year the program honors 100 University of Washington students across its three campuses who are making the most of their time as Huskies to have a positive impact on the UW community. 

Nayha Auradkar

Nayha Auradkar

Nayha Auradkar is a junior from Sammamish, Washington, majoring in computer science with a minor in neural computation and engineering. She aims to create technology that supports accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. Her work with Jennifer Mankoff in the Make4all Lab in human-computer interaction (HCI) and accessible technology complements her goals. Outside of the lab, Auradkar is the chair of the UW chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery for Women (ACM-W), working to cultivate a strong, supportive community of women in the Allen School, and is president of Huskies Who Stutter. She previously served as the outreach director of the Society of Women Engineers

“Technology can benefit the world in limitless and profound ways — even more so when everyone’s voice is heard,” Auradkar said. “Throughout my time as a Husky I have worked towards advocating for more equitable communities in tech and beyond.”

Melissa Birchfield

Melissa Birchfield

Melissa Birchfield is a senior also from Sammamish, Washington, majoring in computer science with UW Interdisciplinary Honors. Birchfield worked as a teaching assistant for several CS and Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) courses and has led outreach projects through Alternative Spring Break. She has contributed to research as part of the Programming Languages & Software Engineering (PLSE) group and worked with Ph.D. student Eunice Jun  in the Interactive Data Lab to facilitate statistical analysis for end-users. She has also explored the intersection of HCI and machine learning in HCDE’s Inclusive Design Lab. She is an anti-human trafficking advocate and author of “Data for Dignity: Leveraging Technology in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” examining the role of data in cross-sector collaboration to combat human trafficking.

“My time at UW has challenged me to embrace new experiences while clarifying my heart for outreach and innovation,” Birchfield said. “As an educator, researcher, author and anti-trafficking advocate, I pursue ways to bridge gaps in communities by leveraging technology to open unexplored opportunities.”

Raida Karim

Raida Karim

Raida Karim is a fourth year computer science major from Dhaka, Bangladesh. She’s a researcher working with Allen School professor Maya Cakmak in the Human-Centered Robotics Lab. Karim is focused on meeting critical human needs and achieving social good, which has inspired her to create technologies like a robot that measures stress levels in teens and develops some therapeutic, intervening techniques to help them. She served as a program lead in Mentor Power for Success in the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, a student leader in the UW chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, and worked as a teaching assistant in the Allen School’s direct admit seminar. Off campus, she was an intern at Cisco and is currently an X-Force Fellow sponsored by the National Security Innovation Network. 

“My personal background as a woman of color and an immigrant allows me to embrace all differences in humanity,” Karim said. “I hope my visibility and persistence demonstrates that hard work, determination and self-worth are keys to tackling odds in engineering, when there are no familiar faces or legacies.”

View the 2021 Class of the Husky 100 here.

Congratulations, Nayha, Melissa and Raida! 

May 25, 2021

Allen School alumni and friends honored with College of Engineering Diamond Awards

Dadgar, Hashimoto, Israel
Left to right: Dadgar, Hashimoto, Israel

Allen School alumni Armon Dadgar (B.S. ‘11) and Mitchell Hashimoto (B.S. ‘11) and long-time Allen School friend and University of Washington alumnus Allen Israel (B.S. ‘68 Mechanical Engineering, MBA ‘71, J.D. ‘78) have been honored with 2020 Diamond Awards from the College of Engineering. Dadgar and Hashimoto were recognized with the Early Career Achievement Award, given to outstanding graduates who have made exceptional professional contributions to engineering through research, teaching or service within the first 10 years of their careers. Israel earned the Dean’s Award for extraordinary contributions to the advancement of engineering.

Dadgar and Hashimoto are the co-founders of HashiCorp, which helps companies to address fundamental challenges related to infrastructure, applications, networking and security in the cloud. The company’s software offerings, including Consul, Terraform and Vault, have become hugely popular tools for automating processes that are used by organizations worldwide. The early vision for HashiCorp — now a $5.2 billion company — was originally hatched when the two were Allen School undergraduates.

Dadgar and Hashimoto initially met while collaborating on a research project. Afterward, Dadgar reached out to Hashimoto to see if he wanted to work on something fun outside of the classroom.

“We were passionate about creating something people needed,” Hashimoto said. “What makes our company unique is that it’s open-source and free. But we never expected to make a career out of it, let alone start a successful company. We are still surprised at how far we’ve come.”

Hashimoto said they loved the idea of automating repetitive tasks. Their plan was to build a program based around cloud infrastructure that would enable developers to eliminate some of the more tedious manual processes needed in cloud computing through a self-service automation tool.

“When Mitchell and I started HashiCorp, our mission was really focused on building great products that we ourselves would enjoy using,” Dadgar said. “It was about solving an immediate problem that we had personally experienced, and we didn’t have a clear business plan going into it. It has been an incredible journey at HashiCorp, especially figuring out how to transition from making tools people like into being a company that organizations depend on.”

Their creation grew from two students working in a basement on campus in their spare time, to young college graduates working from IKEA desks in Dadgar’s living room, to a business with more than 1,300 employees that serves some of the biggest companies in the world. The duo had agreed to give the business a year to take off before selling the desks and taking traditional jobs as software engineers. There was no need to sell the desks.

“I think it’s safe to say it has exceeded our wildest imaginations. From an adjustment phase, I like to joke that every quarter I need to figure out what my job is again,” Dadgar said. “Given our growth, our roles continue to evolve dramatically. In the beginning, Mitchell and I would write code full time – we personally authored many of our initial products. I don’t think I’ve written any software for at least three years now, but instead spend much more time on hiring, customers, partners, and running the business.”

The developers-turned-business-leaders took a lot of risks in the beginning to see their vision for HashiCorp come to fruition.

“It wasn’t a smooth transition, we had a lot of ups and downs,” Hashimoto acknowledged. “We had stages where the company was doing well and not doing well. Personally, we’ve had to adapt and learn to recognize where we’re operating smoothly and providing value, and where we don’t enjoy and don’t provide any value.”

Hashimoto said he still enjoys the work and he’s driven by a desire to identify other areas where automated tools will make people’s lives easier and to continue building new products. Dadgar is also still 100%  committed to HashiCorp; with the company’s continued success, he and his husband, Josh Kalla, are interested in pursuing more philanthropic endeavors. They’ve already given more than $3.5 million to the UW’s Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity for student support.

“With any big success like HashiCorp, there is always a mix of hard work, opportunity, and luck that is necessary. We’ve been so fortunate in our lives, that now it is our turn to help create opportunities for others,” Dadgar said. “The OMA&D really was a great fit for our interests, because they focus on first-generation, underrepresented, and financially challenged students. Those are the groups we feel need to have more luck and opportunities, and so working with OMA&D to create a scholarship was a great fit.”

Dan Grossman, professor and vice director of the Allen School, said the combination of business and technical skills from such young alumni is especially notable. “Mitchell and Armon have demonstrated a unique combination of applying deep computer science, customer focus, and business skills to create a series of technologies, spanning a wide range of distributed systems solutions, that are pragmatic and loved by customers,” Grossman said. “And they’ve managed in a very short time to create a successful business based on these developments.”

While Dadgar and Hashimoto are in the early stages of their professional and philanthropic journeys, their fellow Diamond Award honoree, Allen Israel, has had a lifetime of impact on the lives of others.

After completing his UW undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, Israel worked as an engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplanes before returning to his alma mater to earn his MBA followed by his J.D. After law school, Israel joined Foster Garvey PC, where he has spent more than 40 years practicing law, primarily in business and mergers and acquisitions. In 2013, he was named “Lawyer of the Year” in Seattle by Best Lawyers M&A.

In the course of his work, Israel represented nonprofit and individual clients in corporate, business, real estate and contract law. One of those individuals was Paul G. Allen, who Israel served as personal attorney from the early 1980s until Mr. Allen’s death in 2018. Among many other activities, Israel represented Mr. Allen in making many transformative gifts to the University of Washington — including the naming gift for the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, and the gift that enabled the creation of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

“Allen has been instrumental in helping us to expand our leadership in the field and our impact around the world,” said Magda Balazinska, Professor and Director of the Allen School. “He played a central role in the construction of the Allen Center, our first permanent home, and in the creation of the Allen School on the occasion of our 50th anniversary. He also represents the Allen School on the University of Washington Foundation Board.”

Throughout his career, Israel has made time to champion and provide leadership in many areas of his alma mater. For nearly 25 years he served as a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Visiting Committee, providing strategic counsel to four successive leaders. He also has served on the UW Law School Dean’s Advisory Committee and the Law School Foundation Board.

“Allen Israel has been a tremendous friend of the Allen School, the College of Engineering, and the University of Washington for many decades,” said Ed Lazowska, Professor and Bill & Melinda Gates Chair Emeritus in the Allen School. “He is an engineer, an MBA, a lawyer, and a role model.”

The College formally honored the 2020 Diamond Award recipients in a virtual celebration last week after having postponed the event due to the pandemic.

Congratulations to Allen, Mitchell and Armon, and thank you for your continued friendship to the Allen School and our students!

May 24, 2021

Allen School and bioengineering senior Parker Ruth awarded College of Engineering Dean’s Medal

Parker Ruth

Parker Ruth, a senior who will graduate this spring with bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering and bioengineering, has been awarded the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence. Each year, the college selects two students to receive this award in recognition of their academic achievement, leadership, and engagement in research and extra-curricular activities. Ruth exemplifies these qualities with departmental honors in both of his majors, his contributions to multiple research projects, his leadership roles and his work as an instructor. 

“Parker is a gifted student with remarkable compassion and intellect,” said Magdalena Balazinska, professor and director of the Allen School. “Parker shines inside and outside of the classroom and is without a doubt one of the finest students that the Allen School has ever seen, and he is incredibly selfless and humble.”

In addition to pursuing a dual degree, Ruth is a student in the University Honors Program and the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program. The combination of his two majors has enabled him to build skills in biosignal processing, embedded systems, circuit design and fabrication. He seeks to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare and has already been doing so as an undergraduate, working in the UbiComp Lab with Allen School professor Shwetak Patel

“Parker’s research has looked at developing new health sensing solutions that are easy to deploy outside of the clinical setting including new ways to measure pulse transit time, stroke screening, osteoporosis screening, and supporting rehab — to name just a few,” Patel said. “His background and training in bioengineering coupled with computer science gives him both a strong intuition on the biological underpinnings of these projects while having exceptional computational, software, and hardware knowledge to research, build and deploy these unique solutions. Parker has demonstrated unprecedented work ethic, creativity, rigor, and a strong ability to present his work to a general audience.”

Ruth has supported research on more than 15 projects in the UbiComp Lab, multiple projects with bioengineering professor Barry Lutz, synthetic biology lab automation with electrical & computer engineering professor and chair Eric Klavins, and several other projects outside of either lab. From a mobile heart monitor prototype that takes electrocardiograms, to VaderNet, a deep neural network that can classify Star Wars characters, Ruth’s side projects are impressive on their own, but with Patel and Lutz, his research exceeds what is expected of most undergraduates.

In the Ubicomp Lab, Ruth built a smartphone app called OsteoApp that can screen for osteoporosis. The app, which works with Android, infers bone density from the resonant frequency of the tibia as measured by the smartphone’s accelerometer. With Lutz, Ruth built image processing algorithms to quantify results from rapid diagnostic tests. He first implemented his work to help improve rapid HIV diagnosis with 99% accuracy. He then switched gears during the pandemic and adapted his algorithm to quantify fluorescence results from point-of-care SARS-CoV-2 assays — expanding access to testing in low-resources settings.

Outside of research, Ruth created the Quantum Spot Academy for people interested in exploring physics. For several years he also worked as a teaching assistant in Allen School and Bioengineering courses and has served on Bioengineering’s curriculum committee since the fall of 2018. 

Ruth’s work ethic, talent, and initiative illustrates his willingness to work hard as a leader. He founded the Bioengineering Journal Club, where students share their passions for cutting-edge research in bioengineering. From there, he evolved that club into Bioexplore, an outgrowth of the club that increased its scope and scale of events as well as the diversity of the community it serves. He’s also a volunteer with the Pacific Northwest Brain Bee, which inspires high school students to study neuroscience. 

In addition to the Dean’s Medal, Ruth has earned multiple university and external honors. Earlier this year, he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and was named a finalist in the Computing Research Association Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award competition for the second year in a row. Parker also earned a 2021 graduate fellowship from Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He previously was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar and a member of the Husky 100, which recognizes students who are making the most of their time at the University of Washington.

Ruth will enter the computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford University in the fall, where he will join his sister Kimberly, who graduated from the Allen School last year. Kimberly was a Dean’s Medalist, received a National Research Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, received a Computing Research Association Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award, was named a Barry Goldwater Scholar, and was a member of the Husky 100.

Congratulations, Parker! 

May 19, 2021

Allen School professors Emina Torlak and Xi Wang receive Amazon Research Award for their advancements in critical infrastructure software

Photos of Wang and Torlak
Wang and Torlak

Allen School professors Emina Torlak and Xi Wang, co-founders of the UNSAT group, have received an Amazon Research Award for their work in automated verification for critical infrastructure software. 

The award will support Torlak and Wang’s continued work in applying cutting edge verification and synthesis technology to critical infrastructure software. Their most recent project, Jitterbug, is a tool for writing and proving the correctness of just-in-time (JIT) compilers for computers using the extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF) technology. It provides a formal correctness guarantee for eBPF JITs, a security-critical component of the Linux operating system, through a precise specification of JIT correctness and an automated verification strategy that scales to practical implementations. 

“Compiler bugs can be very costly in this setting,” Torlak said, “so it’s important to catch them early.” 

Jitterbug builds on two of UNSAT’s existing projects: Serval, a framework for creating automated verifiers for systems software, and Rosette, a solver-aided programming language for synthesis and verification. The team has used the tool to find more than 30 new bugs in a number of deployed eBPF JITs and to develop new optimizations. With support from the Amazon award, the group aims to improve the usability of Jitterbug and make the integration with development better.

The UNSAT group was formed when Torlak and Wang joined the Allen School in 2014, with Wang’s expertise in operating systems complementing Torlak’s in programming languages and automated reasoning.

“It’s hard for people to get everything right when building software systems,” Wang said. “How do you build correct systems without too much effort? We created UNSAT to pull our resources together to develop solutions that make this process easier.”

Read more about Jitterbug and explore more of the group’s research here. Learn more about the Amazon Research Award program here.

Congratulations, Emina and Xi! 

May 11, 2021

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