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Livestream of Allen School graduation ceremony – Friday June 9, 6:00 p.m.

The 2017 graduation ceremony of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering will be livestreamed – 6:00 p.m. on Friday June 9, beginning with an address to the graduates by Zillow Group co-founder and Executive Chairman Rich Barton. Other highlights include presentation of the 2017 Alumni Achievement Awards to A.J. Brush (Ph.D. ’02) and Hakim Weatherspoon (B.S., ’99), various other awards, the procession of Bachelors and Masters graduates, and the hooding of Bachelors graduates.

Watch at!



June 8, 2017

Allen School researchers shine brightly at SIGMOD

Group photo of UW Allen School at SIGMOD 2017

Allen School students and faculty at SIGMOD in Chicago

A delegation of Allen School researchers recently returned from the annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD 2017). Several faculty and students from the Database and Programming Languages & Software Engineering groups were recognized for their work to advance the state of the art in data management.

Ph.D. student Shumo Chu earned the Best Demo Award for his presentation of the Cosette Automated SQL Prover, a project developed by Chu, his fellow Ph.D. student Chenglong Wang, undergraduate researcher Daniel Li, and professors Alvin Cheung and Dan Suciu. Cosette is the first automated prover for determining the equivalence of two SQL queries. The team has demonstrated its usefulness by proving a number of real-world SQL rewrite rules ​that have not been shown correct before, along with disproving well-known bugs ​in SQL query optimizers, ​all in a matter of seconds. The team ​will  release the tool in the next few weeks.

Shumo Chu demonstrating Cosette

Two other students received Honorable Mentions for their demos. Brandon Haynes earned accolades for demonstrating VisualCloud, a database management system for efficient storage and delivery of virtual reality content at scale that he developed with 5th year master’s student Artem Minyaylov and professors Cheung, Magdalena Balazinska, and Luis Ceze. Maaz Bin Safeer Ahmad was recognized for his demo of Casper, a tool he developed with Cheung that automatically rewrites sequential Java applications to leverage parallel data processing frameworks such as Spark and Hadoop using verified lifting.

In the ACM Student Research Competition, Ph.D. student Jennifer Ortiz was named First Runner-Up in the graduate student category for her poster and research talk on PerfEnforce, a dynamic scaling engine for analytics with performance guarantees. Ortiz developed PerfEnforce in collaboration with Balazinska, master’s alum Brendan Lee, Microsoft Technical Fellow Johannes Gehrke, and Senior Data Science Fellow Joseph Hellerstein of the UW eScience Institute.

A team of Allen School researchers also earned one of three Reproducibility Awards, which recognize papers from the previous year’s conference that are deemed to be most reproducible, verifiable, flexible, and portable. The winning paper, “SQLShare: Results from a Multi-Year SQL-as-a-Service Experiment,” presented the results of a four-year deployment of a database-as-a-service platform aimed at scientists with minimal database experience and was co-authored by Ph.D. students Shrainik Jain and Dominik Moritz, Ph.D. alum Daniel Halperin, iSchool professor and Allen School adjunct faculty member Bill Howe, and Allen School professor Ed Lazowska.

ACM Student Research Competition honorees

Professor Alvin Cheung (left) with ACM Student Research Competition honorees Utku Sriin, Jennifer Ortiz, and Lingjiao Chen

Last but certainly not least, Balazinska collected SIGMOD’s Test of Time Award for her 2005 paper “Fault Tolerance in the Borealis Distributes Stream Processing System,” which pioneered a new approach for increasing the fault tolerance of stream processing applications. The award, which Balazinska shares with co-authors Hari Balakrishnan, Samuel Madden, and Michael Stonebraker of MIT, signals the enduring influence her work has had on the field of data management in the dozen years since its initial publication. Read more in our previous blog post here.

View more photos of the Allen School in action at SIGMOD here.

Great work, everyone!

June 7, 2017

Emily Fox recognized by Seattle chapter of Association for Women in Science

This evening, Amazon Professor of Machine Learning Emily Fox was recognized by the Seattle chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) with their 2017 Award for Scientific Achievement in STEM.

AWIS writes: “Emily is an expert in machine learning and a leading researcher in redefining the scope and nature of applied statistics. She is a leader in developing computationally realistic modeling tools for complex data sets. In addition to teaching and advising at the University of Washington, she co-created an online course about machine learning. She was recently recognized by President Obama with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Emily fosters the development of other women in science through her visible success and being approachable and available as a mentor and counselor.”

Congratulations Emily!

June 6, 2017

Allen School researchers earn Best Robotic Vision Paper at ICRA 2017

Tanner Schmidt talks to ICRA attendees

Tanner Schmidt (left) speaks to attendees at ICRA

A team of researchers in the Allen School’s Robotics and State Estimation Lab earned the award for Best Robotic Vision Paper at the recent IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2017). The winning paper, “Self-supervised Visual Descriptor Learning for Dense Correspondence,” represents a significant step forward in robot learning by providing a framework for enabling robots to understand their local environments without human intervention.

In order for robots to operate safely and effectively in dynamic environments, they must be able to recognize objects and scenes they have encountered on previous occasions and apply that knowledge to their current situation. The process by which robots develop this human-like perception of their environment is known as correspondence estimation, which typically requires image descriptors that have been engineered by hand or the expensive collection of vast quantities of training data to take advantage of deep learning techniques.

The team from the RSE-Lab — Allen School Ph.D. student Tanner Schmidt, former postdoc and current affiliate professor Richard Newcombe of Oculus, and professor Dieter Fox — came up with an alternative that automates the generation of training data and enable robots to learn the visual features of a scene in a self-supervised way. Leveraging dense mapping techniques such as KinectFusion and DynamicFusion, the researchers were able to generate correspondence labels from raw RGB-D video data. The researchers then used the resulting labels and a contrastive loss to train a fully convolutional network to produce dense visual descriptors from novel images that are consistent despite variations in pose, viewpoint, or lighting conditions. This work, which represents the state of the art in descriptor learning, will be useful for researchers tackling a number of important problems in robot vision, including tracking, mapping, and object recognition.

Another Allen School paper, “SE3-Nets: Learning Rigid Body Motion using Deep Neural Networks” by Ph.D. student Arunkumar Byravan and Fox, was a finalist for the same award. That paper describes SE3-Nets, which are deep neural networks for modeling and predicting the motion of objects subject to applied force. Byravan and Fox demonstrated that SE3-Nets are able to learn scene dynamics from limited real-world data, generalize across different scenes, and more consistently predict object motion compared to traditional flow networks.

As Fox points out, vision is becoming an increasingly important area of robotics — and our showing at ICRA demonstrates that we are at the forefront of this exciting line of research. Way to go, team!

June 6, 2017

Honoring Richard Ladner

Richard Ladner and some of his students who joined the dinner in his honor. Back row: Sangyun Hahn, Kevin Zatloukal, Albert Greenberg, Richard Ladner, Shiri Azenkot, Catherine Baker, Danielle Bragg, Jeff Bigham, Soma Chaudhuri. Middle row: Lauren Milne, Anna Cavender, Cynthia Bennett. Front row: Anne Condon, Shaun Kane, Jessica Tran.

Richard Ladner joined the Computer Science Group at the University of Washington in 1971 – 45 years ago this past fall.

Richard was first a leader in theoretical computer science and then a leader in accessibility. He has supervised or co-supervised 27 Ph.D. students with 4 more in the pipeline. He has also supervised the research of more than 100 undergraduate students, 23 of whom won Mary Gates Research Scholarships, and 2 who won CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards. He served as Chair of the ACM Special Interest Group in Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT) from 2005-2009. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet University from 2007-2016. He is a recipient of the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) and the 2008 A. Nico Habermann Award. He is the winner of the 2014 SIGCHI Social Impact Award and 2016 SIGACCESS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computing and Accessibility. He is an ACM Fellow and an IEEE Fellow. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1986 and Fulbright Scholar in 1993. At the University of Washington he received the Boeing Professorship in Computer Science & Engineering (2004-2012), the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award (2010), the Samuel E. Kelly Distinguished Faculty Lecture Award (2010), and the University of Washington Outstanding Service Award (2009).

On Friday we celebrated his career on the occasion of his retirement, first with a valedictory lecture, and then with a dinner in his honor.

Richard’s former students are establishing the Richard Ladner Endowed Graduate Fellowship in his honor: “to support students studying accessible technology in the Allen School, the Information School or the College of Engineering, or students with disabilities in those schools and colleges whose research focus is a field within computer science.” If you would like to support the Ladner Fellowship, you can find information here.

A profile of Richard, excerpted from the Summer 2017 issue of CSE’s newsletter Most Significant Bits, is here.

The slides from Richard’s valedictory lecture, “My 45+ Years at UW,” are available in pptx and pdf. The talk announcement (with a link to the video) is here.

June 3, 2017

Allen School’s Shyam Gollakota is GeekWire’s “Geek of the Week”

“Shyam Gollakota envisions a future in which his research and technological breakthroughs will transform computing as we know it. It’s a powerful prediction, and it’s based on the consumption of less power.

“Gollakota, a co-founder of Jeeva Wireless and an assistant professor in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, is a leader in the field of wireless networking. He was named one of MIT Technology Review’s innovators under 35 in 2014; part of the Popular Science “Brilliant 10” in 2016; and was among the Forbes “30 under 30” in 2015 and 2017.

“While those all sound pretty fancy, we’re here to name him GeekWire’s latest Geek of the Week.”

Shyam joins previous Allen School “Geeks of the Week” Irene Zhang, Karan Goel, Carlos Guestrin, Julie Kientz, Melissa Winstanley, Lauren Bricker, Yaw Anokwa, Wendy Chisholm, and Marty Stepp, as well as 2012 “Geek of the Year” Oren Etzioni and 2017 “Geek of the Year” Ed Lazowska.

We got geek! Read more here.

June 3, 2017

Allen School student Colin Summers is ready to reach new heights

Colin SummersOur latest installment of the Allen School’s Undergrad Spotlight features Colin Summers, a senior majoring in computer engineering with significant experience in chemical and mechanical engineering. The Seattle native, who is pursuing a minor in aeronautics and astronautics, will spend the summer as an intern at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL) in California.

Before taking off on his new adventure, Summers took time out from his busy schedule to share with us what inspires him as a student, what he learned while working on the award-winning UW Hyperloop project, and what’s next.

Allen School: What is your favorite thing about being an Allen School student?

Colin Summers: The excitement of the students. Of every academic program that I have been a part of — and there have been quite a few — I have not seen students more self-motivated and passionate than CSE students. Everywhere you look, students are chasing their interests whether it be robotics, video games, travel, theory, or any one of the wild things people pursue in this school.

Allen School: Who has inspired you the most as a student?

CS: There’s almost too many to list! Some recent inspirations might include fellow students Johan Michalove for sharing a giddy excitement over robotics, Meredith Lampe for helping to convince me to give CSE 142 a shot, and John Kaltenbach for continually stoking my love of travel; professor Dieter Fox, for sharing a glimpse of the future of robotics; Adam Blank, for demonstrating how to be yourself in the pursuit of what you love; Jonathan Lee, for getting me excited about computational theory and mathematics all over again…As I said, too many to list!

Allen School: What hobbies and interests do you have outside of school?

CS: I’m an avid skier and climber and have recently started to merge the two in the pursuit of mountaineering. I love travel and have spent a bit over a year living in South America, plus a bit of time in Indonesia.

Allen School: What is one of your favorite student memories so far?

CS: Flying to Texas last year with the UW Hyperloop team for the Design and Build competition was one of the most incredible experiences that I’ve had in college. There was about 15-20 of us that went down to pitch our design to a panel of over 100 judges from industry and academia, in the hopes of securing a spot in the final round of the competition. Of over 1,200 teams that applied, only 120 were selected to present — and fewer than 30 teams made it out with approval to build out their designs and race.

The competition is now over, and UW Hyperloop placed 4th in the US and 6th in the world. Hyperloop presented the opportunity to work on a radical new concept that had never been done before, alongside some of the most excellent engineers I’ve ever worked with. It challenged me to think outside the box and to recognize the importance of team dynamics and vision in leading an engineering project.

Allen School: How do you follow up an amazing experience like that — what’s next for you?

CS: Recently, Johan Michalove and I began a robotics project, Dub Car, as part of a new undergraduate program titled Cyber-Physical Systems Group (CPSG). What first started as a side project has since matured into a full-blown honors research project under professor Dieter Fox. Our task is to design, build, and program a 1/10th scale autonomous race car from commercial parts that can be used as a future platform for research in control theory, computer vision, systems development, and autonomy.

Through sponsorship, donations, and our own pockets we’ve managed to scrape together all of the parts needed for our platform and are in the final stages of assembly. A lot of work remains (especially if I keep blowing up the motor controller!), but we’re in it for the long haul and have loved every minute of it thus far. Luckily, we somehow both managed to land internships at NASA JPL for this summer, and we are excited to keep the progress going year-round!


We’re happy to have a star like Colin as part of the Allen School community. Good luck in your internship, Colin!

June 2, 2017

Allen School privacy researchers shed light on secret surveillance with SeaGlass

Peter Ney and Ian Smith

Researchers Peter Ney (left) and Ian Smith

A team of researchers in the Allen School’s Privacy & Security Research Lab have developed a new system, SeaGlass, which could bring more transparency and accountability to cell-phone surveillance. SeaGlass is capable of detecting anomalies in the cellular network that may indicate the presence of surveillance devices called IMSI-catchers (also known as cell-site simulators or Stingrays), which track individuals through their International Mobile Subscriber Identity by posing as a legitimate cell tower.

WIRED magazine recently talked to the researchers about SeaGlass and their hope that the findings contribute to the public discourse. From the article:

“Law enforcement’s use of the surveillance devices known as stingrays, fake cell towers that can intercept communications and track phones, remains as murky as it is controversial, hidden in non-disclosure agreements and cloak-and-dagger secrecy. But a group of Seattle researchers has found a new method to track those trackers: by recruiting ridesharing vehicles as surveillance devices of their own.

“For two months last year, researchers at the University of Washington paid drivers of an unidentified ridesharing service to keep custom-made sensors in the trunks of their cars, converting those vehicles into mobile cellular data collectors.”

GIF of SeaGlass

Data collected from a single cell tower in Seattle over two months

The article explains how the information gathered by those mobile data collectors was analyzed to identify irregularities in the network compared to normal cell tower behavior, which could indicate that a surveillance device is active in the area. By using off-the-shelf parts and deploying the system on fleet vehicles that cover a lot of ground during their normal course of business, the researchers demonstrated SeaGlass to be an inexpensive and unobtrusive way to map the cellular landscape.

During the pilot, the system detected three anomalies in the greater Seattle area that piqued the team’s interest. Although the results do not offer conclusive proof of an IMSI-catcher, they do provide a good starting point for further exploration — and for an overdue conversation about surveillance practices.

“Up until now the use of IMSI-catchers around the world has been shrouded in mystery, and this lack of concrete information is a barrier to informed public discussion,” Ph.D. student Peter Ney said in a UW News release. “Having additional, independent and credible sources of information on cell-site simulators is critical to understanding how — and how responsibly — they are being used.”

The team, which also includes Allen School research scientist Ian Smith, Ph.D. student Gabriel Cadamuro, and professor Tadayoshi Kohno, hopes that its work will contribute to a more robust public debate over cell-phone surveillance. They describe in detail the SeaGlass technology and results of the pilot in a paper that will be published this month in the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies.

“SeaGlass is a promising technology that — with wider deployment — can be used to help empower citizens and communities to monitor this type of surveillance,” said Smith.  “This issue is bigger than one team of researchers. We’re eager to push this out into the community and find partners who can crowdsource more data collection and begin to connect the dots in meaningful ways.”

Read the WIRED story here, the UW News release here, and additional coverage by TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and Engadget. Learn more at the SeaGlass website here.

June 2, 2017

Allen School’s Aditya Vashistha wins Graduate Student Research Award

Aditya VashisthaAllen School Ph.D. student Aditya Vashistha has earned the 2017 Graduate Student Research Award from the UW College of Engineering. Vashistha, who is advised by professor Richard Anderson in the Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Lab, earned the award for his work on social media technologies for the developing world.

Vashistha’s research aims to extend the benefits of social computing to the roughly four billion people around the globe who have constrained internet access. One of his early projects was IVR Junction, a system that used interactive voice response technology to enable people with basic phones to participate in voice-based social networks. IVR Junction, which Vashistha developed while working with Bill Thies of Microsoft Research India, has been deployed in remote regions of Somalia, Mali, and India to share news, call attention to rights violations, and report lack of services. Vashistha built on this research with Sangeet Swara, a voice forum that enables low-income people in rural areas to curate and share content on voice-based social networks which earned a Best Paper Award at CHI 2015. One of his more recent projects, Respeak, is a voice-based speech transcription crowd-sourcing app to provide additional earning opportunities for low-income people that earned an Honorable Mention at the CHI 2017 conference.

Previously, Vashistha earned a Best Student Paper Award at ASSETS 2015 for his analysis of social media use by low-income blind people in India — an outgrowth of the Sangeet Swara project — and was awarded the prestigious Facebook Graduate Fellowship in 2016. In his letter of nomination for the College of Engineering award, Anderson cited Vashistha’s commitment to service and to producing research with important social impact as being particularly worthy of recognition.

“Aditya is a remarkable researcher who is already having tremendous impact in developing technology to reach under-served and marginalized communities,” Anderson wrote. “I am proud to have the opportunity to work with exceptional students like Aditya in the College of Engineering, and look forward to his future accomplishments.”

“My research experience so far has been exhilarating,” Vashistha said. “It’s all thanks to the amazing faculty, staff and students at the Allen School for creating a conducive environment for research.”

Each year, the College of Engineering Awards recognizes the extraordinary efforts of student researchers, teaching assistants, faculty, and staff members. Allen School nominees for this year’s awards included professors Carlos Guestrin and Josh Smith in Faculty Teaching and Research, respectively; Raven Alexander, Assistant Director for Diversity & Outreach, and software engineer Jason Howe of the Computer Science Lab, in the Professional Staff category; and Fiscal Specialist Chiemi Yamaoka in the Classified Staff category.

Vashistha and his fellow recipients from across the college will be honored at a campus reception for students, faculty and staff later today.

Congratulations to Aditya, and to all of this year’s winners and nominees for your commitment to excellence!

May 25, 2017

Allen School undergraduate Hannah Werbel marches into the spotlight

Hannah Werbel with trees and mountains in the backgroundFor this edition of the Allen School’s Undergrad Spotlight, we check in with sophomore Hannah Werbel, a computer science major from Sammamish, Washington. Werbel was named the Freshman Medalist in the UW President’s Medalist awards in recognition of her academic performance and extra-curricular involvement on campus. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant for our introductory programming courses, Werbel is a student assistant at the UW’s DO-IT Center, a member of the Husky Marching Band, and president of the Washington Association of Blind Students.

Allen School: First off, congratulations on being selected as a UW President’s Medalist!

Hannah Werbel: I was extremely surprised when I found out that I won this award. I was in class when I got the call to inform me that I had won. Checking the voicemail afterwards, I honestly thought that it was a prank call. It wasn’t until I got an e-mail and a letter that I realized that this was not a joke. I am incredibly honored and humbled to have received the Freshman Medal. It is extremely rewarding to have all the time and hard work I’ve put into my classes and extra-curricular activities recognized. My family and friends have all supported me throughout my time in college, and I cannot thank them enough for all that they’ve done to help me succeed.

Allen School: Why did you choose to major in computer science?

HW: I chose computer science because of all the creative problem-solving involved. In high school, I would tell people that I wanted to study something that “allowed me to be both creative and logical at the same time.” Computer science was actually the last thing I had on my mind when I would say this.

My dad works in technology, and believed that no matter what major I chose, I should know at least a little bit of computer programming. So, in the spring quarter of my freshman year, I enrolled in CSE 142 to satisfy my father’s requirement. I haven’t looked back since. I was surprised by the amount of creativity involved in computer science. I thought that programming was monotonously typing commands into the computer. In reality though, logical problem solving skills and creative thinking are both integral parts of this subject. Computer science encompasses exactly what I said I wanted to do in high school, and I am very happy that I have found something to study that I am passionate about.

Allen School: What do you find most enjoyable about being an Allen School student?

HW: My favorite thing is the amazing community. The professors, students, and advisers are all extremely supportive and genuinely care about our success as people, not just students. Knowing that I can go to the labs at any time and most likely find at least one person from my classes is really nice. I appreciate the collaborative nature of the major, and that we are encouraged to work together to solve problems. I’ve met so many new people this year from being in study groups and going to office hours. Everyone is motivated and passionate about what they do, and I love that I am constantly learning new things from both my professors and my peers.

Allen School: What activities and interests do you have outside of your studies?

HW: I play the piccolo in the Husky Marching Band. I perform at all of the home football games and occasionally travel for away games. I also played in the basketball pep band this year. Technically, since the band is in the athletic department, I can say that I’m a Division 1 college athlete! I find this amusing, although I believe wholeheartedly that marching band should be considered a sport. I am also a TA for CSE 142/143 and the president of the Washington Association of Blind Students. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, baking, reading, yoga, and hiking.

Allen School: Is there a unique perspective you’d like to share with the Allen School community?

HW: Well, I am blind, so the term “unique perspective” definitely applies here. I literally see the world differently from everyone else — that cliché actually works for me. In all seriousness though, I do believe that my vision has allowed me to “see” and understand things that my fully-sighted peers often miss.

Allen School: How so?

HW: I cannot see anything that is written or projected onto the board, but I can still take notes by listening. So I have come to view lecture as a giant puzzle game. I cannot simply look up to see the equation I didn’t quite catch, or the definition that the professor didn’t say out loud, but I can still fill in the information by finding “the missing piece” that fits with everything else. If I miss an equation, but know that A and B are related as such, and that now we are talking about C which relies on A and B, then I can usually make a pretty good guess at my missing equation and keep up with the rest of the class.

I cannot zone out during lecture and have to be completely engaged in the material in order for me to make the most of my time there. This is how my vision helps me. I have to work harder during class, and often have to put in more time and effort outside of class to make up for the information I missed during lecture, but overall I learn everything at a deeper level than I would otherwise. I also believe that often being viewed as “disabled” has exposed me to many misguided assumptions. This has helped me to personally maintain a more holistic perspective of people and their abilities, and allows me to interact with all types of people and situations more adeptly.

Allen School: Who or what in your Allen School experience so far have you found most inspiring?

HW: Thus far, the most inspiring thing for me is the challenge and rigor of the courses. I find the subject of computer science fascinating, and am constantly amazed at how much of it I don’t know. The subject expands far past basic Java programming, and it is inspiring to me to see all of the potential and possibilities that lie ahead. There is so much about computer science that is still to be discovered and implemented. Tackling challenging problems and attempting to comprehend abstract ideas inspires me to engage with the topics even more. I’ve always enjoyed puzzles, and I view computer science as a giant mystery that I am coming closer and closer to understanding.


Hannah embodies the UW’s commitment to excellence and engagement, and we’re proud to have her as a member of the Allen School community!

May 24, 2017

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