most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 19, number 2, winter 2010
university of washington
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 home CSE Home     Winter 2010 MSB    MSB Archive    Contact Info 
Distinguished Lecturer Series   Simonyi in Space   Myhrvold in the Kitchen   More Familiar Terrain Chair's message New Faculty Additions   Su-In Lee   Anup Rao   Luke Zettlemoyer News   Girl Geek Dinner   Datagrams   CSE Alum in NYTimes Kindle DX Pilot Program Awards   TR35 Winners   CRA Undergrads
msb19.2 PDF

About MSB

MSB is a twice yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton
Contributors: Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Rod Prieto

We Want to Hear from You!

Do you have news you’d like to share with the CSE community? Comments or suggestions for future issues of MSB? Let us know! Email the editors at and be sure to visit us online at:


Celebrating UW CSE Innovators: TR35 Winners

Since 1999, the editors of Technology Review have honored the young innovators whose inventions and research they find most exciting. Today, that collection is the TR35, a list of technologists and scientists, all under the age of 35. Selected from more than 300 nominees by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, the TR35 is an elite group of accomplished young innovators. Spanning medicine, computing, communications, electronics, nanotechnology, and more, their work is changing our world.

UW CSE friends and family have again scored big in the TR35.

Shwetak Patel

Professor Shwetak Patel was recognized for using simple sensors to detect how residents move through their homes and how they use electricity, water, and gas. Patel has shown that each electrical appliance in a house produces a signature in the building’s wiring; plugged into any outlet, a single sensor that picks up electrical variations in the power lines can detect the signal made by every device as it’s turned on or off. This monitoring ability could be particularly useful for elder care or for residential or business power conservation, but there was previously no practical way to achieve it, because it would have required numerous expensive sensors. TR35 article may be viewed at:

Jeffrey Bigham

Recent Ph.D. alumnus Jeff Bigham, who joined the faculty at the University of Rochester in August 2009, was recognized for his work on WebAnywhere, a free screen reader for the sight-impaired that can be used with almost any web browser on any operating system, including locked-down public computers — no special software required. The system serves as a convenient, low-cost solution for blind users on-the-go, for blind users unable to afford a full screen reader, and for web developers targeting accessible design. Users start at From there, they can use keyboard commands to navigate to any web page. TR35 article may be viewed at:

Adrien Treuille

Recent Ph.D. alumnus Adrien Treuille, who joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in fall 2008, is recognized for his work on complex physics simulations for computer animation and games that can run on everyday PCs. While a grad student, he and fellow CSE grad student Seth Cooper worked with CSE professor Zoran Popovic and UW biochemist David Baker to design a web game called Foldit ( that allows players to compete in finding minimum-energy folds in proteins, aiding Baker’s world-renowned research. More than 90,000 users have registered and played since the game’s launch in May 2008. Treuille wonders if someone — most likely even an amateur, since teenage gamers are beating the pants off Ph.D. biochemists at the game — might someday use Foldit to help discover a protein that cures cancer. TR35 article at:

University of Massachusetts professor Kevin Fu was also recognized for work on the security and privacy of implantable medical devices, a collaboration with UW CSE professor Yoshi Kohno.

It’s been a great few years for UW CSE in the TR35. In 2008, the TR35 recognized CSE affiliate faculty members Tanzeem Choudhury (Dartmouth) and Merrie Morris (Microsoft Research) and close collaborator Blaise Aguera y Arcas (Microsoft LiveLabs). In 2007, the TR35 recognized CSE professor Yoshi Kohno, CSE graduate student Tapan Parikh (now a faculty member at UC Berkeley), CSE Ph.D. alumna Karen Liu (now a faculty member at Georgia Tech), and CSE affiliate faculty member Desney Tan (Microsoft Research).

Three UW CSE Students Recognized in CRA Awards Competition

Justine Sherry, Rita Sodt, Eric Kimbrel
UW CSE seniors (l-r): Justine Sherry,
Rita Sodt, Eric Kimbrel

Each year the Computing Research Association recognizes a small number of the nation’s undergraduates with the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards.

In 2010, Justine Sherry was selected as the national female winner. Justine’s research involves Internet measurement. She has worked on several applications of the IP timestamp option: improving its usage within the Reverse Traceroute project, developing a technique for discovering IP aliases, and measuring one-way link latency. Next year, she hopes to start graduate school in computer science.

Rita Sodt was selected as a finalist. Rita’s research involves enhancing a mathematical model that quantifies and predicts the growth of gliomas (a highly invasive type of brain tumor). She has been writing a program to simulate the anisotropic growth of gliomas in a 3D visual brain, which takes into account the observation that tumor cells migrate preferentially in the direction of white matter pathways. The simulations can be a critical tool for doctors trying to target treatment to cancerous regions of the brain. Rita is in the fifth year computer science masters program.

And Eric Kimbrel received an honorable mention. Eric has been working with the Seattle Network Testbed research group since winter 2009. He has focused on adding various types of network support to the testbed, such as designing a service to perform NAT forwarding and expand the reach of the testbed to more home users. His honors thesis research was to design a extensible networking API that offers a high level of abstraction and is capable of masking network heterogeneity from the application programmer. He plans to graduate from the department later this year and looks forward to working as a software developer in the Seattle area.

Justine, Rita, and Eric join 32 previous CSE undergraduates who have been recognized by CRA since the award’s inception in 1995. As of 2009, UW CSE ranked #1 in the nation in the number of undergraduates recognized with CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards in the preceding decade; that record should continue.

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