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Microsoft’s Brad Smith receives 2017 UW College of Engineering “Dean’s Award”

Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, received the UW College of Engineering “Dean’s Award” at the 2017 Diamond Awards celebration on Friday.

Brad was nominated by the Allen School as “a national and international leader in the establishment of visionary technology policies … a tireless and hugely effective advocate for STEM education (and particularly engineering education) in our state and across the nation … [and] an extraordinary friend of the University of Washington.”

Congratulations Brad, and thank you for all you have done!

Read more about Brad and the other 2017 Diamond Award recipients here.

May 20, 2017

Perfect weather for Allen School ACM Student Chapter spring picnic!

Allen School faculty Adam Blank and Justin Hsia debate who is worse at dodging cream pies

Memo to self: Next year, avoid sticking head in cotton candy machine

The weather gods once again cooperated, giving us a spectacular Friday afternoon for the 2017 Allen School ACM Student Chapter spring picnic. Classes end on June 2; the Allen School graduation celebration is June 9.

May 20, 2017

Allen School capstone film “Short Changed” to appear at the Seattle International Film Festival

Stills from "Short Changed" and SIFF Official Selection laurelShort Changed,” a film created by a team of students as part of the Allen School’s Animation Capstone, has been designated an Official Selection of the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). The festival, which runs from May 18 to June 11, is the largest of its kind in the United States and will feature more than 400 works from filmmakers in over 70 countries. “Short Changed” was produced in the UW’s Animation Research Labs and directed by Allen School faculty member Barbara Mones.

“Short Changed” will be screened during The Family Picture Show, a collection of animated and live action shorts curated by festival organizers for “the young and the young at heart” as part of SIFF’s ShortsFest Weekend. The film tells the story of a greedy thief who comes up with a devious plan to profit from people’s hopes and dreams. The thief dons a disguise that enables him to gather the coins that people cast into a fountain as they make their wishes. However, one of the fountain’s regular inhabitants decides that there is something fishy about the newcomer — and our thief quickly discovers that when it comes to stealing a little girl’s wish, crime doesn’t pay.

SIFF is a qualifying festival for “Best Short Film” at the Academy Awards in the animation, narrative, and documentary categories. Earning designation as an Official Selection at SIFF is a terrific achievement for Mones and her students in the 2014 Animation Capstone course: the Allen School’s Chelsea Dallas, Anton Holmberg, Ashley Nguyen, Brian Park, Tina Pi, Simon Schaffer, and Benjamin Schiffler; Informatics majors Theodore Chin, Alex Constant, and Mikey Wong; Interaction Design majors Nicholas Stoermer, Randy Huynh, Noble Woods, and Hsuan-Ting Wu; Interdisciplinary Visual Arts majors Erin Caswell (who has since joined the staff of the Animation Research Labs), Amanda Cook, and Amanda Nelson; and Painting and Drawing majors Zixing Guo, Si Tao Li, and Rebecca Van-Den-Ende.

Short Changed” will be screened on Saturday, May 27 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown. This is the third Allen School capstone film to appear at SIFF, following the selection of “Catch and Release” in 2012 and “Kings” in 2010.

Check out the “Short Changed” SIFF page here and view the trailer here. Learn more about the Animation Capstone here.

Congratulations to Barbara, Erin, and the entire crew!

May 18, 2017

May 15 – a good day for Allen School graduate program alums!

Mike Cafarella, Raphael Hoffmann, Chris Re

Machine learning startup Lattice Data, co-founded by Allen School Ph.D. alums Mike Cafarella (2009, advised by Oren Etzioni and Dan Suciu), Raphael Hoffmann (2012, advised by Dan Weld and Luke Zettlemoyer), and Chris Re (2009, advised by Dan Suciu), was acquired by Apple.

Frits Habermann

And Allen School Masters alum Frits Habermann (1990, advised by David Notkin, who had been advised by Frits’ father Nico on his 1983 CMU Ph.D.) was promoted to CEO of PicMonkey, where he was formerly CTO and CPO.

Congratulations one and all!

May 15, 2017

Allen School student Fereshteh Sadeghi wins NVIDIA Graduate Fellowship

Fereshteh SadeghiFereshteh Sadeghi, a Ph.D. student in the Allen School’s Graphics & Imaging Laboratory (GRAIL), has been named a 2017 NVIDIA Graduate Fellow. Sadeghi, whose research combines robotics, deep reinforcement learning, and computer vision, is one of only 10 student researchers across the United States selected to receive the fellowship.

The NVIDIA Graduate Fellowship program supports research that spans all areas of computing innovation, with particular interest in projects that will drive advances in artificial intelligence, deep neural networks, autonomous vehicles, and related areas. Sadeghi earned a fellowship for her work on autonomous robot controllers with Larry Zitnick, Allen School affiliate professor and research manager at Facebook AI Research (FAIR), and professor Sergey Levine of the EECS department at University of California, Berkeley, where Sadeghi is currently a visiting student. Her research combines recent developments in 3D graphics simulation and deep reinforcement learning to produce robot controllers capable of performing a variety of tasks in real-world settings.

Previously, Sadeghi worked with Zitnick and Allen School professor Ali Farhadi on advancing the state of the art in computer vision, including common-sense visual understanding, visual analogy, knowledge extraction, and scene recognition.

Congratulations, Fereshteh!

May 15, 2017

Paul G. Allen School hosts PoCSci 2017

Max Willsey presents (“tuple”), a new computing substrate destined to bury Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Camille Cobb looks on in disbelief – “I have to follow this guy?!?!” The bare foot of a potential VC intrudes from the left.

On Friday May 12, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering once again hosted the annual Symposium of Potentially Computer Science (PoCSci). Quoting from General/Program Chair John Toman:

We invite you, your friends, loved ones, and pets to submit your best potential computer science research for presentation at this prestigious venue.

Potential areas of potential computer science include:

  • Pun Based Research
  • Barnyard Data Science
  • Cross-disciplinary research combining CS and French Existentialism
  • Bad Docker Jokes
  • Political-Figure Inspired Languages
  • … and more!

I am also very happy to announce a brand new Tech Transfer Track. This is your chance to pitch your potential computer science to potential Venture Capitalists looking to invest in potential startups. Come prepared to answer questions and use the word “disrupt” a lot.

This year we will be using a new 0-round review process. No abstract submission, or any submission at all is required to present.

James Mickens was unable to make it this year; he has a real job now, working for a hedge fund guy.

May 12, 2017

Allen School alum Frank McSherry wins Gödel Prize in Theoretical Computer Science

Frank McSherryAllen School alum Frank McSherry (Ph.D., ’04) has earned the prestigious Gödel Prize co-sponsored by the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science (EATCS) and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation Theory (SIGACT). The annual prize recognizes outstanding papers in theoretical computer science and is named in honor of the 20th century mathematician Kurt Gödel, who made significant contributions to mathematical logic and the theoretical foundations of computer science.

McSherry and co-authors Cynthia Dwork, Kobbi Nissim, and Adam Smith share the 2017 prize for their paper “Calibrating Noise to Sensitivity in Private Data Analysis” published in the Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality. The paper builds upon the team’s groundbreaking work initiated in 2006 that introduced a new framework, differential privacy, to protect private data contained in a statistical database.

McSherry and his colleagues showed that by applying random noise to the query results, calibrated to the sensitivity of the intended function, they could protect individual contributors and their data from attempts at deanonymization while still returning accurate results. As part of this work, they developed a set of tools for designing and combining differentially private algorithms to enable the construction of complex differentially private analytical tools from simple differentially private primitives. The team also demonstrated that privacy-preserving approximations could be extended to holistic functions operating on an entire database — broadening the application of differential privacy beyond a purely statistical context to enable privacy-preserving data analysis.

Differential privacy has also begun to influence the practice of sensitive data analysis. Examples include Google’s RAPPOR, Apple’s iOS data collection, and the US Census Bureau’s On The Map product.

McSherry, who completed his Ph.D. working with Allen School professor Anna Karlin, is a computer scientist whose research spans graph computation, differential privacy, and distributed and data-parallel computation. He spent 12 years as a research scientist at Microsoft Research’s Silicon Valley lab before its closure in 2014.

McSherry and his co-authors will collect the Gödel Prize at the 49th annual ACM Symposium on the Theory of Computing (STOC 2017) to be held in Montreal, Canada in June.

Congratulations, Frank!

May 9, 2017

Allen School faculty and alumni honored at the 2017 GeekWire Awards

Geek of the Year trophyLast night was the annual GeekWire Awards bash, where everyone who’s anyone in local tech assembles to celebrate the best of the Northwest in entrepreneurship and innovation. A number of people and companies with connections to the Allen School were nominated for awards, which are decided by popular vote. At the end of the evening, Allen School professor Ed Lazowska emerged from an impressive field of nominees to take home the Geek of the Year trophy, while alum Andrew Putnam (Ph.D., ’09) and affiliate professor Doug Burger of Microsoft Research helped lead the team behind Project Catapult to victory in the Innovation of the Year category.

Lazowska earned his Geek of the Year title for being the driving force behind the campaigns to create the Allen School and to construct a second computer science and engineering building that will enable the program to expand in response to growing student and employer demand. Microsoft’s Project Catapult combines a field programmable gate array (FPGA) integrated into almost every new Microsoft datacenter server with a unique distributed architecture that creates an “acceleration fabric” throughout the datacenter; this elastic reconfigurable acceleration fabric provides the flexibility to harness an individual FPGA or up to thousands of them for a single service. (UW is well represented on the core Catapult team in addition to Andrew Putnam and Doug Burger: Adrian Caulfield is an Allen School bachelors alum and received his Ph.D. from UCSD working with Allen School Ph.D. alum Steve Swanson; Michael Haselman received his Ph.D. from UW EE working with Allen School Ph.D. alum and Adjunct Professor Scott Hauck; and Jack Lavier received his Masters from UW EE.)

Nominees – five in each award category – were selected by an expert panel; it’s a tremendous honor just to be nominated for a GeekWire Award. Other nominees with Allen School connections:

The field for App of the Year included Senosis Health, a UW spin-out co-founded by Allen School and EE professor Shwetak Patel to commercialize the mobile health apps that he and his students develop in the UbiComp Lab. The apps, which effectively turn an off-the-shelf smartphone into a hand-held medical device using the phone’s built-in sensors, include BiliCam, which detects newborn jaundice; SpiroSmart/SpiroCall, for monitoring lung function; and HemaApp, a non-invasive way to measure blood hemoglobin.

Two Allen School startups were among the nominees for Deal of the Year: RFID pioneer Impinj, which was co-founded by professor Chris Diorio, was lauded for its successful IPO last summer, and Turi, the machine learning startup founded by professor Carlos Guestrin that was acquired by Apple. Impinj and Turi are among the more than 15 Allen School startups funded by our friends at Madrona Venture Group.

Allen School alum Tim Prouty (B.S., ’06) was nominated in the Hire of the Year category after joining shipping technology company Convoy as head of engineering. It was a major coup for the startup, which has been referred to as the “Uber of trucking” — not least because Prouty grew the actual Uber’s Seattle engineering office from zero to 150 employees in the span of 18 months before changing direction to focus on freight.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Ben Gilbert, recognized as Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his work at Pioneer Square Labs, which he co-founded with Greg Gottesman, who teaches the Allen School’s entrepreneurship course annually.

See the complete list of winners here, and check out photos and videos of the event here. Read a terrific GeekWire Q&A with Lazowska here.

Congratulations to Ed, Andrew, Doug, and all of last night’s winners and nominees! And thanks to GeekWire for its amazing role as a catalyst for Seattle’s tech community!

May 5, 2017

Allen School’s Jeffrey Heer wins ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award

Jeffrey Heer Allen School professor Jeffrey Heer has been named the recipient of the Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This prestigious award recognizes an outstanding early-career professional who has made a significant technical or service contribution to the field of computing. Heer, who leads the Allen School’s Interactive Data Lab, was chosen as this year’s winner for his work on visualization tools that have transformed how people interact with data — tools that are currently used by thousands of researchers, data enthusiasts, and media companies around the world.

“With the meteoric increase of data collection in recent years, tools are urgently needed to understand and see patterns within data,” says the ACM in its award announcement. “Jeffrey Heer, a Professor at the University of Washington, has been a leader in developing computer languages to create charts, graphs and other visualizations that help people explore and understand data.”

Heer’s contributions to the field of data visualization began as a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, when he collaborated with Stuart Card at the Palo Alto Research Center and then-professor James Landay of the Allen School to develop Prefuse, one of the first software packages to enable developers to quickly and easily create and customize dynamic visualizations from structured or unstructured data. As a member of the Stanford University faculty, Heer worked with Mike Bostock on the development of the Protovis and D3.js graphical systems for constructing interactive visualizations for the web. The latter, as the ACM notes, was rapidly adopted as a primary tool for web developers worldwide.

At the Allen School, Heer and his team in the Interactive Data Lab launched the Vega project to advance an ecosystem of interoperable tools for data analysis and visualization design that is underpinned by Vega, a convenient but powerful tool for writing programs that generate visualizations. Heer and his team subsequently built upon the Vega foundation with higher-level tools such as Vega-Lite, a high-level grammar that enables the rapid and concise specification of interactive data visualizations which earned the Best Paper Award at InfoVis 2016, and Lyra, a graphical interface for designing custom visualizations for online publication without the need to write code.

The Grace Murray Hopper Award is one of four technical awards announced today by the ACM. Heer and his fellow recipients were selected by their peers for significant technical contributions “that have had a far-reaching impact on how we live and work.” The winners will collect their awards at the annual ACM Awards Banquet next month in San Francisco, California.

Learn more about the ACM awards here.

Congratulations, Jeff!

May 3, 2017

Allen School capstone film “Fish Out of Water” wins Global Shorts Award of Merit

Still shot from "Fish Out of Water"Fish Out of Water,” an animated film created by students in the Allen School’s interdisciplinary Animation Capstone, has won an Award of Merit in the 2017 Global Shorts competition. Global Shorts is an international competition based in Los Angeles that recognizes outstanding films with run-times of 50 minutes or less. It attracts works from filmmakers around the world, some of whom go on to earn nominations and awards in such prestigious competitions as the Golden Globes, Cannes Film Festival, BAFTAs, and British Independent Film Awards.

“Fish Out of Water” tells the story of Roy, an office worker who struggles with a demanding job and an even more demanding boss. His situation is not helped by his office-mate, whose relentlessly cheery attitude even as the paperwork piles up just compounds Roy’s misery. He gets through his days by fantasizing about the past — but when he comes to the realization that life is too short for such soul-destroying drudgery, he decides to chart a new course.

Each year, the Allen School’s Animation Capstone offers students an opportunity to put into practice what they learned in their digital animation classes by producing a short animated film. Participants work on all aspects of production, including scene planning, modeling, digital cinematography, character animation, and rendering.

“Fish Out of Water” is the latest in a line of award-winning films to emerge from the course. It was directed by Barbara Mones, Director for Animation Production at the UW’s Animation Research Labs, and produced by a multi-disciplinary team of 22 students enrolled in the 2015 capstone: the Allen School’s Bing Gan, Stanley Janicki, Aria Li, Vincent Liu, Alexa McLaughlin, Zhuonan Eric Sun, Ian Wagner Smith, Sarah Wai, and Cherry Chenwei Zhou; Electrical Engineering’s Kristine Lee and Riley O’Callaghan; Human Centered Design & Engineering’s Lucia ShinYoung Choi; Industrial Design’s Sindre Punsvik; Informatics’ Ying Dang, Jenna Han, and Vivyan Woods; Interdisciplinary Visual Arts’ Esmeralda Duenas, Brianna Fecarotta, Elizabeth Ong, Andrew Shin, and Lac Tranvu; and Medical Anthropology & Global Health student Marisa Katagiri.

View the trailer for “Fish Out of Water” here, and learn more about the Animation Capstone here.

Congratulations to Barbara, her students, and the entire production team!

May 1, 2017

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