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UW CSE’s Shyam Gollakota: powering the Internet of Things and making magic through collaboration

gshyam_newUW CSE professor Shyam Gollakota of the Networks & Mobile Systems Lab recently shared with Medium details about the development of Passive Wi-Fi—the breakthrough technology that could usher in a new era of mobile computing and power the Internet of Things—with industry blog Inside Frequency Control.

In the interview, Gollakota talked about how Passive Wi-Fi could eliminate power consumption as a barrier to creating a truly smart environment in which every device and every object can communicate. He also emphasized the importance of collaboration when asked what advice he would give to aspiring engineers, saying he draws inspiration from the perspectives of people outside of his own field.

It’s an interesting read about a truly cutting-edge project from an interdisciplinary team that includes UW Electrical Engineering Ph.D. students Bryce Kellogg and Vamsi Talla and joint UW CSE and EE professor Josh Smith. Check out the full interview on Medium here.

April 14, 2016

UW students set sail with Microsoft

Last night, Microsoft treated UW students who will join the company this year as either full-time employees or interns to a dinner cruise on Lake Union and Lake Washington. More than 60 of the more than 100 UW recruits heading to Microsoft this year—the majority from CSE—joined in the fun, including a spectacular Seattle sunset.

Thanks to Microsoft for its continuing support of UW CSE and our students! (And special thanks to our phenomenal Microsoft recruiter, Becky Tucker!)

UW students on a cruise








Seattle sunset










Group photo of UW recruits bound for Microsoft














April 13, 2016

UW Tech Policy Lab Distinguished Lecture: General Kevin Chilton on deterrence in the 21st century

General Kevin ChiltonThe UW Tech Policy Lab will welcome General Kevin Chilton, retired head of U.S. Strategic Command, to campus next week as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series. General Chilton will address the topic “Deterrence in the 21st Century: From Nuclear, to Space, to Cyberspace.”

General Chilton served for nearly 35 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force. As Commander of U.S. Strategic Command from 2007 until his retirement in 2011, he directed planning and operations for U.S. forces engaged in strategic deterrence and Department of Defense space and cyberspace operations. Before that, General Chilton was the head of Air Force Space Command and spent 11 years with NASA, where he served as a Command Astronaut Pilot and completed three Space Shuttle missions.

The lecture will be held on Tuesday, April 19 at 7:00 pm in the UW’s Kane Hall. Admission is free but advance registration is encouraged. Learn more and RSVP here.

April 13, 2016

UW CSE’s Austin Stromme wins Goldwater Scholarship

Austin StrommeUW sophomore Austin Stromme, who is pursuing a double major in computer science and mathematics, has been selected as a 2016 Goldwater Scholar.

Stromme worked with professor James Lee of UW CSE’s Theory group last year on graph theoretic methods in computational linear algebra. Currently, he is working with math professor Jim Morrow on the use of discrete harmonic cohomology modules to understand the geometry of boundary graphs, and with Ph.D. student Matthew Junge to analyze the frog model and related random models on graphs.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program supports outstanding undergraduate students who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. After he earns his bachelor’s degree, Stromme plans to obtain his Ph.D. in math and pursue a career in academic research and teaching at the intersection of algebra and geometry. He is one of 252 scholars chosen on the basis of academic merit from among more than 1,100 nominations.

Congratulations, Austin!

April 11, 2016

UW CSE’s Rajesh Rao wins 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship

Raj RaoUW CSE professor Rajesh Rao, an expert in brain-computer interfaces, has been recognized with a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Rao, who leads the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, was chosen based on his past achievements and exceptional potential to make future contributions in the field of neuroscience. He is the third UW CSE faculty member to receive this prestigious award.

The Guggenheim Fellowship is designed for mid-career scientists, scholars and artists who demonstrate the capacity to make a significant impact in their respective fields. The fellowship will support Rao’s work on a project titled “The Computational Brain: Understanding and Interfacing with Neuronal Networks.”  He and UW colleagues Katharyne Mitchell (geography) and Helen O’Toole (art) were among 178 winners selected from a pool of roughly 3,000 applicants across the U.S.A. and Canada.

Foundation president Edward Hirsch observed in announcing the awards, “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Read the full press release here and Rao’s fellowship profile here. Learn more about all three UW winners here.

Congratulations, Raj!

April 8, 2016

UW CSE’s Krittika D’Silva named Gates Cambridge Scholar

Krittika D'SilvaUW senior Krittika D’Silva has been named a 2016 Gates Cambridge Scholar, one of the most prestigious international scholarships in the world. D’Silva, who will graduate from the UW this June with a degree in computer engineering and bioengineering, will pursue her Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Cambridge’s Jesus College starting in the fall.

D’Silva currently works with UW CSE professor Luis Ceze in the Molecular Information Systems Lab, where she is assisting the development of a novel DNA-based system for long-term data storage. Previously, she collaborated with the late CSE professor Gaetano Borriello and CSE Ph.D. alum Nicki Dell on the development of mobile health apps for use in low-resource settings in the Information & Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) Lab. D’Silva also spent more than two years as a researcher in the Department of Bioengineering, where she focused on improving the design of prosthetic devices used by people living with lower limb amputations.

The Gates Cambridge scholarship program supports academically outstanding students who have demonstrated strong leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others. D’Silva is one of 55 scholars selected from a global pool of more than 3,700 highly competitive applicants. Check out her new Gates Cambridge scholar profile here.

Congratulations, Krittika!

April 7, 2016

UW and Microsoft researchers create system to store and retrieve digital images using DNA


The Molecular Information Systems Lab research team: Front (left to right): Bichlien Nguyen, Lee Organick, Hsing-Yeh Parker, Siena Dumas Ang, Chris Takahashi. Back (left to right): James Bornholt, Yuan-Jyue Chen, Georg Seelig, Randolph Lopez, Luis Ceze, Karin Strauss. Not pictured: Doug Carmean, Rob Carlson, Krittika d’Silva.

Researchers from the UW’s Molecular Information Systems Lab (MISL) have created one of the first systems that uses DNA molecules to store digital images —  and successfully demonstrated the ability to retrieve the encoded images intact.

UW CSE professor Luis Ceze, joint CSE and EE professor Georg Seelig, CSE affiliate faculty members Doug Carmean and Karin Strauss of Microsoft Research, CSE Ph.D. student James Bornholt, and BioE Ph.D. student Randolph Lopez are the authors of an ASPLOS paper describing the effort to advance the state of the art in digital storage. Taking their cues from nature, the researchers aim to create a system that will be able to accommodate the growing volume of data being generated around the world — predicted to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.

From the UW media release:

“The team of computer scientists and electrical engineers has detailed one of the first complete systems to encode, store and retrieve digital data using DNA molecules, which can store information millions of times more compactly than current archival technologies.

“In one experiment…the team successfully encoded digital data from four image files into the nucleotide sequences of synthetic DNA snippets.

Close-up of DNA

This smear of DNA stores 10,000 gigabytes of data

“More significantly, they were also able to reverse that process — retrieving the correct sequences from a larger pool of DNA and reconstructing the images without losing a single byte of information.”

According to Ceze, “Life has produced this fantastic molecule called DNA that efficiently stores all kinds of information about your genes and how a living system works — it’s very, very compact and very durable…We’re essentially repurposing it to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents — in a manageable way for hundreds or thousands of years.”

The MISL team became one of only two nationwide that have demonstrated the ability to achieve “random access” — that is, to retrieve the correct sequences of data from a large pool of random DNA molecules — by encoding the equivalent of street addresses in the DNA sequences and then employing a technique commonly used in molecular biology, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), to identify and reorder the data. They also applied error correction techniques typically used in computer memory to the DNA to address errors in the encoding process.

Luis Ceze and Lee Organick

Luis Ceze and research scientist Lee Organick in the lab

“This is an example where we’re borrowing something from nature — DNA — to store information. But we’re using something we know from computers — how to correct memory errors — and applying that back to nature,” Ceze said.

Read the full UW media release here and check out our previous blog post here. The team presented its findings at the ASPLOS 2016 conference earlier this month — read the research paper here. Check out coverage of the project by NewsweekGizmodo, Discover MagazineCNET, Motherboard, Crosscut, Geekwire and the Daily Mail.

Photos: Tara Brown Photography

April 7, 2016

Bill Howe explains the technology behind the Panama Papers leak

Bill HoweUW CSE affiliate professor Bill Howe, associate director of the UW’s eScience Institute, was interviewed for a USA Today story on the recent Panama Papers leak. Howe explained the way in which today’s data science tools—from low-cost cloud services to easily available translation and data mining software—made it possible to rapidly untangle and analyze the contents of more than 11 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

From the article:

“Dealing with a data drop like the Panama Papers has gotten much easier in the past decade, with the advent of cheap storage, cloud computing, easy-to-use and often free data mining software and faster computers.

“The first order of business after exfiltrating the files from the law firm’s computer network would be to find somewhere to look at it.

“‘This has gotten much easier with cloud computing. I swipe my credit card and I have as many machines as I need and it’s not expensive, so if I need 500 machines to work on this, I can get them up and running in a weekend,’ said Howe.

“Many of the documents appear to have been images, so the next task is extracting the text, something that’s also become significantly easier with time.

“‘There are off-the-shelf optical character recognition tools you can use. And crucially, if you scale this out over lots of computers, you can do hundreds [of pages] at a time….Every step along the way definitely requires some technical skills, but there’s nothing there that’s requiring a Ph.D. in computer science, quite frankly,’ Howe said.”

Read more about how technology enabled a data dump of global proportions in the full article here.

April 6, 2016

Justin Hsia to join UW CSE faculty

Justin HsiaJustin Hsia, currently a postdoc in UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences department, will join the UW CSE faculty as a lecturer in the fall. Hsia earned his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in EECS and B.S. degrees in EECS and Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, where his research focuses on synthetic biology and biological systems analysis as a member of the Networked Dynamical Systems Group.

Hsia will arrive at UW CSE with extensive experience in teaching both lower and upper division coursework, including classes in computer architecture, microelectronic circuits, and feedback control systems. He is currently a co-instructor of The Beauty & Joy of Computing, a course that introduces students without programming experience to computer science principles and the field’s impact on society.

Hsia was recognized with UC Berkeley’s Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award and was one of only a few graduate students invited to teach a summer course as an instructor. Hsia has demonstrated a strong commitment to mentorship, having worked with visiting high school students and undergraduates—so he will fit right in with UW CSE’s student-centric culture and focus on K-12 outreach.

We are looking forward to welcoming Justin to the UW CSE family! Stay tuned for updates as faculty recruiting season progresses.

April 5, 2016

UW CSE’s Su-In Lee wins NSF CAREER Award

Su-In LeeJoint UW CSE and Genome Sciences professor Su-In Lee, whose research focuses on the intersection of computer science and biology, has received an NSF CAREER Award. The award will support her efforts to develop a computational framework for identifying how the human genome interacts with hundreds of regulatory molecules—research that will answer fundamental questions to advance our understanding of how the human genome works.

Lee develops novel statistical and machine learning techniques to solve a variety of thorny problems in biology, from basic science to bedside applications. Her current projects include the development of computational methods to choose the best chemotherapy drug for individual cancer patients, to identify therapeutic targets to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, and to predict in real time whether a patient under anesthesia during surgery may develop a respiratory crisis. Lee’s group collaborates with various departments at UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and she has major research grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.

In this latest project, Lee will work with chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-Seq) data, which measures the location of each of the hundreds of regulators on three billion positions in the human genome. By developing novel computational methods to analyze these big data—involving thousands of available ChIP-Seq data sets—Lee aims to advance the research community’s knowledge of how these regulators interact with each other to control the human genome as well as how those interactions differ across various cell types and across species.

The CAREER Award program is the most prestigious category of awards given by the National Science Foundation in support of junior faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching and research. Lee is the 30th current UW CSE faculty member to be recognized through this program or its predecessors.

Learn more about this project on the NSF award page here, and check out Lee’s research page here.

Congratulations, Su-In!

April 4, 2016

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