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Washington Post: “Paul Allen’s $500 million quest to dissect the mind and code a new one from scratch”

billionaires-brain09-1024x633A phenomenal Washington Post article on Paul Allen’s attempt to understand the human mind, working from two directions: the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (led by UW CSE’s Oren Etzioni).

“Paul Allen has been waiting for the emergence of intelligent machines for a very long time. As a young boy, Allen spent much of his time in the library reading science-fiction novels in which robots manage our homes, perform surgery and fly around saving lives like superheroes. In his imagination, these beings would live among us, serving as our advisers, companions and friends.

billionaires-brain11-1024x633“Now 62 and worth an estimated $17.7 billion, the Microsoft co-founder is using his wealth to back two separate philanthropic research efforts at the intersection of neuroscience and artificial intelligence that he hopes will hasten that future.

“The first project is to build an artificial brain from scratch that can pass a high school science test. It sounds simple enough, but trying to teach a machine not only to respond but also to reason is one of the hardest software-engineering endeavors attempted — far more complex than building his former company’s breakthrough Windows operating system, said to have 50 million lines of code.

“The second project aims to understand intelligence by coming at it from the opposite direction — by starting with nature and deconstructing and analyzing the pieces. It’s an attempt to reverse-engineer the human brain by slicing it up — literally — modeling it and running simulations.”

Tons of insights in this article! Read it here.

October 1, 2015

UW CSE’s Martin Tompa publishes the definitive guide to winning at Schnapsen

Winning Schnapsen book coverWhen it comes to Schnapsen – the national card game of Austria – UW CSE professor Martin Tompa’s got game. And now the rest of us can, too, with the help of his new book, Winning Schnapsen. Like the title suggests, it is the definitive guide to mastering the 300+ year-old game that enjoys a popular following in continental Europe.

Schnapsen is a two-person card game that has some similarities with another well-known game, Bridge. It is the perfect pastime for computer scientists, and Martin’s winning strategies employ a number of concepts that will sound familiar, such as expected value and other aspects of probability theory. In fact, Martin uses Schnapsen in his CSE 312 course on the foundations of computing – which inspired a group of students who took the course to establish a UW Schnapsen club.

Martin’s interest in Schnapsen was rekindled in 2012, when he worked with two former UW CSE Ph.D. students, Dick Garner and Jeff Scofield, to create an iPhone app against which users could play the game.

“The fact that their app beat me pretty consistently is what got me interested in figuring out how to play as well as it does,” Martin explained.

Now, thanks to Martin, everyone can win at Schnapsen. Learn more here.

September 30, 2015

“UW 360” program highlights the need to expand UW CSE

“UW 360,” a magazine-style television show produced by UW TV that profiles people and programs that define the university, recently aired a segment on the need to significantly expand UW Computer Science & Engineering. The segment, which includes interviews with undergraduate students Awet Alazar and Jessica Tsang, professor Ed Lazowska, and Microsoft recruiter Becky Tucker, highlights the growing demand on the part of students and employers for UW CSE.

As the segment explains, “Awet and Jessica are part of a UW program that is in extremely high demand. With each passing year, admission becomes increasingly competitive. That makes sense when you consider the program contributes by far the most computer science graduates to the workforce in the state of Washington.”

And Becky from Microsoft, where both students recently had internships, told UWTV, “Students we hire here from UW CSE are top quality candidates….What’s nice about these students is that they are original, very individual thinkers [and] great contributors.”

Watch the video, which makes a great case for expanding UW CSE (and does so in under three minutes), here.

September 29, 2015

UW CSE Ph.D. alum Chris Re wins MacArthur “Genius” Award

headshot_chris2009 UW CSE Ph.D. alum Chris Ré is one of 24 recipients of 2015 MacArthur Fellowships – colloquially referred to as “genius awards.”

Chris – a student of Dan Suciu – is a star in data management/analysis, currently on the computer science faculty at Stanford. Quoting from the MacArthur Foundation:

“Christopher Ré is a computer scientist democratizing big data analytics through theoretical advances in statistics and logic and groundbreaking data-processing applications for solving practical problems. Ré has leveraged his training in databases and deep knowledge of machine learning to create an inference engine, DeepDive, that can analyze data of a kind and at a scale that is beyond the current capabilities of traditional databases.”

Read more at the MacArthur Foundation website here. UW News post here.

Congratulations Chris!!!!!

September 28, 2015

UW CSE alum Mark DeLoura trades one Washington for another in support of K-12 computer science education

Mark DeLouraLast week, UW CSE alum Mark DeLoura (B.S., ’92) joined CSE principal lecturer Stuart Reges as part of a group of stakeholders from across Washington state who are defining new standards for certification of K-12 teachers in computer science – a critical effort aimed at increasing student access to high quality computer science education in our schools.

Mark has held leadership positions at Sony, Nintendo, Google and Ubisoft, to name only a few, and he was instrumental in the development of several gaming platforms. More recently, Mark put his considerable talents to work in service to the public, spending nearly two years as Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

At OSTP, Mark focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to promote computer science literacy and gaming for education and engagement. Among his many contributions during his tenure in our nation’s capital were the development of speeches and events to promote computer science during Computer Science Education Week and staging the first-ever White House Education Game Jam in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education. (And because once an engineer, always an engineer, Mark also did a little coding with his co-workers and helped build some Arduino-based dog-bots to liven up the White House Christmas decorations.)

In addition to contributing to Washington’s new teacher certification standards, Mark is collaborating with Intel on its tech diversity initiative and working to strengthen informal technology education opportunities for local students with a team of education technologists via the Seattle Learning Network. He also runs a weekly newsletter focused on informal learning through games, coding and making, which you can read here.

Great to have you back in this Washington, Mark! Thanks for all you have done and are doing to engage more K-12 students and teachers in computer science. And thanks to Stuart Reges for the tip – and for also contributing to this important effort!

September 28, 2015

Donald Tsang, again remembered


A small portion of the UW CSE family in attendance at Donald Tsang’s memorial service: Ed Lazowska (faculty), Elizabeth Walkup (Ph.D. 1995), Sean Sandys (Ph.D. 2002), Lauren Bricker (Ph.D. 1998), Erik Selberg (Ph.D. 1999)

The many intersecting circles of Donald Tsang’s life celebrated that life today at UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture – including a large number of Donald’s UW CSE graduate student classmates from the early 1990s.

Donald – one of the earliest developers at Amazon.com after his time at UW – passed away unexpectedly on September 2 at age 47, leaving behind his wife Daisy, his two daughters Daniella and Constantina, a large extended family, and an enormous network of friends.

Learn more here.

September 27, 2015

Seattle Times: “Supporters of interim president Ana Mari Cauce say look no further for UW’s next leader”

Ana Mari Cauce, interim president, University of Washington.  UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON INTERIM PRESIDENT - ANA MARI CAUCE - 148948 - 081115

“Can this most casual of women be a strong president of a major university? Lazowska, the computer-science professor, thinks she can.

“The day after she was named interim president, Cauce gave a town hall address to the faculty, one that had been scheduled months in advance. She was still speaking as the provost, but she was soon to wear the mantle of president.

“Here’s what Lazowska heard that day in February:

“‘Every bit of it was a president speaking. She flipped a switch. She was still genuine, she still spoke from experience, she still related to us, but, without being the least bit stuffy, she was 100 percent presidential.'”

Read more here.

September 27, 2015

UW CSE Ph.D. alum Gail Murphy elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

GCM21996 UW CSE Ph.D. alum Gail Murphy – Professor of  Computer Science and Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia, and co-founder and Chief Scientist at Tasktop Technologies Incorporated, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in the Class of 2015.

Gail’s research interests are in software engineering with a particular interest in improving the productivity of knowledge workers, including software developers. Her UW CSE Ph.D. advisor was the late David Notkin. She has received wide-ranging recognition, including the 2014 UW CSE Alumni Achievement Award (along with her fellow 1996 UW CSE Ph.D. alum Jeff Dean), the 2011 ACM SIGSOFT Retrospective Impact Paper Award, and the 2008 UW College of Engineering Diamond Award for Early Career Achievement.

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Gail joins fellow UW CSE Ph.D. alum and fellow UBC Computer Science faculty member Anne Condon.

Quoting from the Royal Society announcement: “Gail Murphy, une chercheuse en génie logiciel, a contribué à accroître la connaissance des aspects pratiques du développement du logiciel et a développé des approches novatrices pour améliorer l’efficacité du travail des ingénieurs logiciels. Ses travaux sur les systèmes de recommandation pour le génie logiciel ont un impact significatif à la fois sur la recherche et sur la pratique.”

Whatever … Congratulations Gail!

September 26, 2015

“Great with math; spelling, not so much”

wbJY0nT-e1443117354695-878x494York University (near Toronto) plasters commuter trains with advertisements stating “THIS IS ENGINERING.”

Unfortunately, yes, it is …

September 26, 2015

NY Times: “Complex Car Software Becomes the Weak Spot Under the Hood”

27-CAR-master675Nick Wingfield writes in the New York Times:

“Shwetak N. Patel looked over the 2013 Mercedes C300 and saw not a sporty all-wheel-drive sedan, but a bundle of technology.

“There were the obvious features, like a roadside assistance service that communicates to a satellite. But Dr. Patel, a computer science professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, flipped up the hood to show the real brains of the operation: the engine control unit, a computer attached to the side of the motor that governs performance, fuel efficiency and emissions.

“To most car owners, this is an impregnable black box. But to Dr. Patel, it is the entry point for the modern car tinkerer — the gateway to the code.

“‘If you look at all the code in this car,’ Dr. Patel said, ‘it’s easily as much as a smartphone if not more.’

“New high-end cars are among the most sophisticated machines on the planet, containing 100 million or more lines of code. Compare that with about 60 million lines of code in all of Facebook or 50 million in the Large Hadron Collider.”

Read more here.

Research conducted 5+ years ago by a team lead by UW CSE’s Yoshi Kohno and UCSD’s Stefan Savage (a UW CSE Ph.D. alumnus) is widely credited with launching the field of automotive security; read more here.

September 26, 2015

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