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UW CSE & Mathematics professor Thomas Rothvoss wins Packard Fellowship

Thomas RothvossThomas Rothvoss, who holds a joint appointment in the UW Department of Computer Science & Engineering and the Department of Mathematics, has been named a 2016 Packard Fellow in Science and Engineering. This prestigious fellowship administered by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation recognizes and supports the most innovative early-career scientists and engineers in the nation.

Rothvoss’ research focuses on the intersection of mathematics and computer science and the development of techniques to find approximate solutions to computationally hard problems. He is one of only two researchers recognized by the Packard Foundation this year in the Computer/Information Sciences category—and one of 18 fellows in total.

Rothvoss joined UW CSE in 2015—the same year another rising talent in theoretical computer science, Shayan Oveis Gharan, arrived at the department. The Packard Fellowship is the latest in an impressive list of recent honors earned by members of UW CSE’s Theory group, including Oveis Gharan’s selection as one of Science News’ 10 Scientists to Watch and Anna Karlin’s election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The group continues to grow in both size and stature as we look forward to welcoming new faculty member Yin Tat Lee, an expert in designing fast algorithms, next year.

The Packard Fellowship program was inspired by Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard’s recognition that his company’s success derived in large part from university research and development. Each year, the honorees are selected from among 100 faculty members nominated by universities across the United States. A panel of internationally recognized scientists evaluates the nominees and forwards its recommendations to the foundation’s board of trustees. The winners each receive a grant worth $875,000 over five years, which is intended to provide them with the freedom to explore new frontiers in their respective fields.

Rothvoss is one of two current faculty members to have received this coveted award, the other being 2002 fellow Raj Rao. Learn more about the Packard Fellowships here, and read Rothvoss’ citation here.

This is a tremendous honor not just for Thomas, but for UW CSE, UW Mathematics, and the whole of the University.

Congratulations, Thomas!

October 14, 2016

UW CSE researchers win Best Paper Award at EMNLP 2016

Kenton Lee, Mike Lewis, and Luke Zettlemoyer

A team from UW CSE’s Natural Language Processing group has earned Best Paper accolades at EMNLP 2016, the conference on empirical methods in natural language processing. CSE Ph.D. student Kenton Lee, postdoc Mike Lewis, and professor Luke Zettlemoyer won for their paper Global Neural CCG Parsing with Optimality Guarantees.

The winning paper describes an approach for learning a recursive neural network for CCG parsing — a core subproblem in broad coverage semantic analysis of text. The model is not only state of the art in terms of accuracy but also provides optimality certificates, nearly always proving a proof that the best parse was found under the learned model. It is the first neural parser of any kind to provide such guarantees.

The paper is one of only two selected for Best Paper recognition from more than 900 submissions. The team will present its findings at the EMNLP conference in Austin, Texas early next month. This is the second year in a row that the UW NLP group has won at EMNLP, with Lee and Zettlemoyer repeating their feat from 2015.

Go team!

October 14, 2016

Been there, done that: UW CSE alums and friends offer career advice to students

A crowded lecture hall

More than 200 students attended our career panel

Each fall, UW CSE organizes a series of events aimed at current undergraduates hoping to snag an internship to gain practical experience or to line up their first job looking ahead to graduation. To help them put their best foot forward and get the most out of the recruitment process, we ask UW CSE alums to pass on the wisdom they have gained from years in gainful employment, and local recruiters to share their insights and advice for students experiencing the process for the first time.

Last week, three alums – Victoria Wagner (B.S., ’14), Allison Wilbur (B.S., ’12), and Albert Wong (B.S., ’04) – joined Facebook recruiter Vince Sison in front of a packed house of more than 200 students for a panel discussion on how to land the job or internship of their dreams. Wagner completed internships at LinkedIn and Facebook while a student at UW CSE and has spent the past two and half years as a software engineer at Tableau. Wilbur began her career with the Fulfillment by Amazon team before moving on to positions at Zulily and Madrona Venture Labs; this past summer, she joined local startup ReplyYes as a software engineer. Wong began his career as a software developer at Amazon before joining Google. There, he spent 10 years working with various teams in the Kirkland, Beijing and Seattle offices, mentoring several engineers along the way. In 2014, Wong made the move from private to public sector, becoming a consultant for the United States Digital Service. All three offered a wealth of insights to students who are about to embark on their own career paths.

Students in the Allen Center atrium

Students speak with volunteers at our résumé review workshop.

This week, 27 volunteers, including another proud UW CSE alum, Babak Dabagh (B.S., ’14), took over the atrium of the Allen Center for our résumé review workshop. Roughly 200 students went through the process — some of them multiple times! — to obtain feedback from recruiters and tech leaders from more than a dozen local companies, including Amazon, Ericsson, Facebook, Google, Indeed, Marchex, Microsoft, Qualtrics, Qumulo, RealSelf, Redfin, RetailMeNot, Whitepages, and Zillow.

Both events are designed to prepare our students to put their best foot forward at our fall recruiting fairs next week — one for startups and one for established companies — that are among the highlights of our annual Industry Affiliates meeting.

Sandwiched between the two fairs is UW CSE’s annual research day and open house on Wednesday, October 19th. That day, we invite members of the community to learn more about the people and projects that make UW CSE great. If you haven’t marked your calendars to join us next Wednesday, please do! You can RSVP to the open house here.

Thank you to our terrific alumni and volunteers who have spent time with our students the past two weeks!

October 13, 2016

UW CSE Ph.D. alum Brian Pinkerton becomes CTO of Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

bpMark Zuckerberg writes (on Facebook, naturally):

“Priscilla and I are excited to share that Brian Pinkerton is joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as Chief Technology Officer... Bringing engineering to social change is the basic idea of our work, and one of the unique capabilities we can provide.”

Brian was most recently the Vice President & General Manager of A9, Amazon’s product search and advertising technology subsidiary, located in Palo Alto.

He received his UW CSE Ph.D. in 2000 – working with Ed Lazowska and John Zahorjan – for the design and evolution of WebCrawler, the first successful full-text web search engine.

Recode article here.

October 13, 2016

Join us for the 2016 UW CSE Open House – Wednesday October 19, 5:00-7:45

industry-affiliates-2016-visalogyUW CSE alumni and friends are encouraged to register and join us for the 2016 UW CSE Open House, held in conjunction with our annual Industry Affiliates Meeting. Food, drink, lab tours, posters, demos, the Madrona Prize, the People’s Choice Award, and a preview of the CSE2 project – a second building that will provide the space for us to double our enrollment.

Information here! We hope to see you on Wednesday October 19, 5:00-7:45 p.m., in the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering!industry-affiliates-2016-insitu

October 10, 2016

Wall Street Journal highlights UW system for transmitting passwords through the human body

On-body transmission opens a smart lock using a phone's fingerprint sensorThe Wall Street Journal reports today on the latest project to emerge from UW CSE’s Networks & Mobile Systems Lab: the ability to transmit passwords through the human body instead of over the air, where they are vulnerable to hacking. Such on-body transmissions would make it possible to open electronic smart locks or securely connect to wearable medical devices, such as glucose monitors, using the fingerprint sensors and touchpads commonly found on smartphones and laptops.

From the article:

“Like an errant pass from an NFL quarterback, passwords sent through the air via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth can be intercepted, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Passwords are also a hassle to remember, which is why we tend to opt for simpler ones—but that, too, creates big security risks.

“Now researchers at the University of Washington have found a way to eliminate the airtime and the hassle—by using the human body as a conduit for passing security codes from one device to another….

“The technology involves no physical keys or cards that could be lost, stolen or copied—and unlike some biometric systems, it doesn’t require a digital fingerprint stored at the door (from which it might be stolen). Passwords for each door could be unique yet easily shared with a roommate or spouse. Since these passwords would rely on your device’s memory, not your own, they could be very complex and strong.”

UW EE Ph.D. students Mehrdad Hessar and Vikram Iyer developed the system working with UW CSE professor Shyam Gollakota. The team presented its results in a research paper at the UbiComp 2016 conference in Heidelberg, Germany last month.

As Gollakota explained in the UW News release, “Fingerprint sensors have so far been used as an input device. What is cool is that we’ve shown for the first time that fingerprint sensors can be re-purposed to send out information that is confined to the body.”

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here, and the UW News release here. See additional coverage by The AtlanticIEEE Spectrum, Yahoo! News, Quartz, Engadget, New AtlasVocativSlashGear, and Inverse, and watch the KING 5 News story here.

October 7, 2016

Amazon supports UW CSE expansion with $10 million gift

Image of CSE2Amazon and the University of Washington announced today that the company has committed $10 million to support the construction of a second building for UW CSE. The new facility, affectionately dubbed “CSE2,” will provide sufficient space for UW CSE to double annual degree production.

“The University of Washington is a world-class institution, and we are lucky to have thousands of UW graduates inventing and pioneering in Seattle – including right here at Amazon,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.

“We’re proud to support UW as they expand their computer science program, which will benefit the whole community.”

In recognition of Amazon’s generosity, UW CSE will name the 250-person auditorium and gallery on the ground floor of the building after the company.

The gift is the latest in a history of strategic investment by the company in the UW—and CSE in particular—including funding the Amazon Professorships in Machine Learning to recruit two highly sought-after faculty members to Seattle: CSE professor Carlos Guestrin and Statistics professor and CSE adjunct Emily Fox.

David Zapolsky, senior vice president and general counsel at Amazon, wrote on the company blog today about the need to expand our capacity to educate more of tomorrow’s innovators.

“We want to make sure that UW continues to educate inventors of tomorrow, and one of the best ways to do that is making sure more young people have access to high quality STEM education….we’re proud to help with a $10 million donation towards development of a new, state of the art Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) building that will double the number of graduates each year.”

The new building will be located across the street from the existing Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering on the UW’s Seattle campus. In addition to Amazon’s gift, major commitments to the project include $10 million from Microsoft, $32.5 million from the Washington State Legislature, and $9 million from the UW. LMN Architects, which designed the Allen Center, is nearing completion of the design for CSE2. Together, the two facilities will enable UW CSE to provide an unparalleled education and research experience.

UW CSE professor Ed Lazowska observed, “Over the past 20 years, Amazon has grown into one of the leading and most innovative companies in the world, UW CSE has grown into one of the leading and most innovative computer science programs in the world, and Seattle has grown into one of the one of the leading and most innovative technology hubs in the world. Amazon’s gift will help make it possible for UW CSE to prepare more of Washington’s students for careers in Washington’s booming technology sector. It’s an investment in our collective future.”

Read the UW News release here and Amazon’s blog post here. Learn more about the campaign to build CSE2 here, and view the CSE2 image gallery here. Also check out this video featuring UW CSE alum Lisa Boucher, now a senior software engineer at Amazon.com, Lazowska, and CSE chair Hank Levy talking about the company’s impact on UW and the region.

Read more about the announcement in GeekWire’s initial report and follow-up storySeattle Times, XconomyTechFlash, KUOWCrosscut and The Daily.

Thank you to Jeff, David and Amazon for your generosity and continuing partnership with UW CSE!

October 6, 2016

Seattle: Forbes’s “best city for people with a degree in computer science”

4-computer-science-seattle-wa-1Well, duh …

Check it out here.

October 4, 2016

UW Professor Emeritus David J. Thouless wins Nobel Prize in Physics

thouless_1995-375x554The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday that David Thouless, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, will share the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics with two of his colleagues.

Thouless splits the prize with Professor F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” according to the prize announcement from the Academy. Half the prize goes to Thouless while Haldane and Kosterlitz divide the remaining half. Thouless is the UW’s seventh Nobel laureate, and second in physics after Hans Dehmelt in 1989.

Congratulations David! Read more here.

October 4, 2016

UW CSE welcomes computational biologist Yuliang Wang to the faculty

Yuliang WangUW CSE recently welcomed Yuliang Wang as a research professor working with our Computational & Synthetic Biology group. Wang brings a wealth of computational expertise imbued with a deep knowledge of relevant biology that, as CSE professor Larry Ruzzo notes, is really rare in “computational” people.

Wang obtained his B.S. in Bioengineering from Tianjin University in China. He earned his M.S. in Applied Statistics and a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign—a top-10 program in its field. He was a student of Dr. Nathan Price, who is now at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle and a CSE affiliate professor. As part of his Ph.D. thesis, Wang developed breakthrough computational tools for modeling metabolic networks. Before his arrival at UW CSE, Wang held a postdoctoral fellowship at Sage Bionetworks in Seattle and was a Senior Research Associate in the Computational Biology Program at Oregon Health & Science University.

Wang is spending approximately half of his time in CSE and the other half at the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, a world-class research group in a cutting-edge area of biomedicine mostly located at the university’s South Lake Union campus. He will bring value-added to both groups—forwarding the efforts of stem cell biologists, while also bringing knowledge and skills that complement CSE’s computational biology group and building additional bridges to our artificial intelligence and machine learning groups. We have no doubt that he will help us to identify new and important problem areas where CSE can make a tangible difference—and advance computational methods that will benefit not only UW CSE research, but the field at large.

Welcome to UW CSE, Yuliang!

October 3, 2016

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