most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 21, number 1, spring 2011
university of washington
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 home CSE Home    MSB archive Spring 2011 MSB    MSB Archive   Contact Info Contact Info 
CSE Security & Privacy Research Chair's message Reges wins UW teaching award News Warren Jessop retires Datagrams Awards Alumni Achievement Awards Hank Levy elected to NAE Anokwa wins UW grad medal Two win Borg Scholarships Mark Bun wins Goldwater Dodge to competitive workshops CHI Best Paper to HS student Capstone courses Digital design capstone Audio capstone
msb21.1 PDF

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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, Alexei Czeskis, Hannah Hickey
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Mary Levin, S. Morris Rose

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Second Annual CSE Alumni Achievement Awards

CSE honored Anne Condon and Jeremy Jaech during its June 11th graduation ceremony and at a dinner the prior evening. These awards reaffirm to CSE graduates (past, current, and future) that each contributes to a long, successful line with impact far and wide.

Anne Condon: Computer science theoretician, leader, and mentor

Anne Condon
Anne Condon (PhD '87)

"The Unbounded Power of Randomness" is the intriguing title of a blog article one of Condon's research colleagues wrote about their theoretical work on the power of randomness and nondeterminism in finite state machines. Condon is a computer science theoretician whose research has moved in a purposeful direction from complexity theory to DNA computing and algorithms for biology.

Condon becomes head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia on July 1, the next step in a career of nonrandom, unbounded opportunity. Her journey began in 1978 at University College Cork in Ireland, where she was among a pioneering group of students, about 35 percent women, who double majored in mathematics and computer science. "The women were a strong group academically who could have gone into any field, but we chose a nontraditional path at that time," Condon said.

She says she was "very lucky" to be accepted into the UW CSE doctoral program. "I had no idea where Seattle was until I bought my plane ticket. Then I was blown away by the beauty and the unbelievable mountains. The department was so friendly, and I felt immediately at home." CSE, of course, is equally lucky to count her as an alumna.

Condon had little experience in the applications and systems side of computer science, but was excited by the questions raised and intellectual challenges of tackling problems that are difficult to solve on a computer and then finding a way no one had considered. Her doctoral work, advised by professor Richard Ladner, was recognized in the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award competition.

After joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Condon began research on DNA and RNA computing and earned a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. She returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1999 to join the faculty at UBC, where she held a chair endowed by NSERC/General Motors. She has also served the university as associate dean for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives.

Condon's current research uses thermodynamic energy models to predict the secondary structure of nucleic acids from the base sequence, and prediction tools to design biomolecules. She's also collaborating with researchers at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, on alignment of next-generation sequencing data. "I'm really enjoying this research. Our aligners are the first step in an analysis pipeline that is yielding important insights as to how cancer evolves and can lead to new approaches for detection, treatment, and prevention," she said.

Condon's other passion is creating research experiences for undergraduate women so they will become excited about the potential for careers in this arena. The Computing Research Association honored her with the 2010 A. Nico Habermann Award for her "long-standing and impactful service toward the goal of increasing the participation of women in computer science research." In receiving the Habermann Award, she follows in the footsteps of her PhD advisor Richard Ladner, who was honored in 2008.

UW CSE celebrates a star academician rising high in our field.

Jeremy Jaech: Entrepreneur, technology disrupter, paradigm changer

Jeremy Jaech
Jeremy Jaech (MS '80)

Each year UW CSE spins graduating students out into the world to launch their careers. It's hard to imagine achieving greater success than Jeremy Jaech, who, following his UW CSE Masters degree (advised by Alan Shaw) became a cofounder of three software companies that have earned him status as a serial entrepreneur and leadership in the community as chair the Washington Technology Alliance.

Early career stops were a Boeing computer-aided design research group and Atex, a maker of industry-changing computer systems for newspaper and magazine production. Jaech has made his greatest impact through graphics software that has "disrupted" the technology status quo. In 1984 Jaech and four Atex colleagues dove into entrepreneurship by founding Aldus Corporation, which invented desktop publishing (in the form of its PageMaker software) for the new Apple MacIntosh platform, then the most sophisticated graphical interface of any personal computer.

"Good timing and luck play an important role in entrepreneurial success, and I've been very lucky," Jaech said at a talk to CSE students in May. "Apple had just developed a $7,000 laser printer with a graphical interface, but had no software to attract potential users. When Apple learned about PageMaker, they bundled our $500 software with $15,000 worth of hardware and both PageMaker and MacIntosh took off and revolutionized the publishing and printing industry."

"I believe success is all about being disruptive and creating opportunities," Jaech said. "The best new products have no competition because they do things that are not possible with existing technology."

After five years at Aldus, Jaech retired for the first time at age 35, but soon eager for a new challenge, he and two former Aldus colleagues founded Visio in 1990 and scored another spectacular success with paradigm-changing technical drawing, flow chart, and diagramming software that filled a big need in the business world. Microsoft purchased Visio for $1.3 billion in 2000 and marketed the software worldwide as a stand-alone MS Office application. Jaech entered retirement number two, focusing his energies on service to community organizations and corporate boards.

The pleasure of collaborating with creative people and the entrepreneurial itch led to the founding of Trumba in 2003, a small but successful company that provides web services to organizations promoting events on their websites. Jaech added yet another challenge to his portfolio in late 2008 when he became CEO of Verdiem, a young IT company developing energy-saving power management software for PC networks. After turning the company around financially, Jaech embarked on "retirement" number three in March, which includes spending time at the UW, the alma mater he admires for its groundbreaking research, friendly culture, and excellent basketball team. CSE has given him a fifth floor office in the Allen Center as a base for exploring the early-stage innovations emerging from CSE labs.

"The UW is such a rich environment, and I enjoy talking with faculty and students about what they are up to. Spending time here is an experiment. I don't have an agenda, but am just opening my mind to whatever may happen next."

If history repeats, that "whatever" is bound to disrupt his retirement and the technological status quo.

Hank Levy Elected to NAE

Hank Levy
Hank Levy

CSE's Hank Levy is the newest member of the National Academy of Engineering. Levy, who holds the Wissner-Slivka Chair of Computer Science & Engineering, has been department chair since 2006. He was among 68 new members and nine foreign associates elected this year for the highest professional distinction accorded an engineer. NAE honored Levy for his contributions to design, implementation, and evaluation of operating and distributed systems, and processor architectures.

In February, CSE colleagues surprised Levy with the news at what he thought was an "emergency" conference in Gates Commons with COE's Dean O'Donnell and the department executive committee. Instead he was greeted with the sound of champagne bottles being uncorked.

Levy has authored two books and over 100 papers on computer systems design and has supervised 23 doctoral students and 17 masters students. He has also co-founded two companies, Performant, and Skytap, and serves on the advisory boards of Isilon Systems,, Corensic, and Madrona Venture Group. He joins Susan Eggers and Ed Lazowska as CSE's members of NAE.

Yaw Anowka named UW Graduate School Medalist

Yaw Anokwa
Yaw Anokwa

CSE PhD student Yaw Anokwa has been named the 2011 recipient of the University of Washington Graduate School Medal. Awarded annually to a PhD, DMA, AuD, DNP, DPT, or EdD candidate who displays an exemplary commitment to both the University and its larger community, the Graduate School Medal recognizes "scholar-citizens" whose academic expertise and social awareness are integrated in a way that demonstrates active civic engagement and a capacity to promote political, cultural, and social change.

Yaw, advised by Gaetano Borriello and Tapan Parikh, builds technologies for low income regions and runs the Change group at UW. His current project is Open Data Kit (ODK). He has been working on ODK Clinic, a tool that helps clinicians in sub-Saharan Africa get a better sense of how a patient is doing by summarizing and analyzing all available patient data and presenting it in a clear user interface. This summer, he will study how ODK Clinic could impact clinical care at USAID-AMPATH — a hospital network in Kenya with over 100,000 active HIV patients.

Information about ODK Clinic may be viewed here:

Yaw is the third CSE recipient of the Graduate School Medal: the 2010 medal was won by Anna Cavender (now at Google) and the 2004 medal by Vibha Sazawal (now at U. of Maryland).

Two grad students win Anita Borg Scholarships

Janara Christensen
Janara Christensen

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship was launched in 2004 when a group of Googlers decided to establish a program that would honor the work of their friend and colleague Dr. Anita Borg. UW CSE graduate students Janara Christensen and Katie Kuksenok have been named 2011 recipients.

Janara's advisor is research assistant professor Mausam. Her current research focuses on identifying entities for relationships in Web text. This summer, she will intern at Google where she will work with Marius Pasca on building ontologies from natural language.

Katie Kuksenok
Katie Kuksenok

Katie works with James Fogarty and is interested in the intersection of human computer interaction and natural language processing, particularly in the domain of machine translation. This summer she will work with Srinivas Bangalore at AT&T Labs on building and studying a novel interactive machine translation system to explore avenues for translation in the absence of parallel corpora and expert bilingual speakers. In addition to being an Anita Borg Scholar, Katie also is an AT&T Labs Fellow, a Microsoft Research Graduate Women Scholar, and a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship award.

Mark Bun awarded a Goldwater Scholarship

Mark Bun
Mark Bun

CSE's Mark Bun, a junior who entered the UW through the early entrance program, has been awarded a 2011 Goldwater Scholarship. Goldwater Scholarships are the premier award for undergraduates majoring in engineering and the sciences. Bun has been a student researcher since 2009 and has also worked as a teaching assistant and tutor in the Mathematics Department. He has received a Mary Gates Research Scholarship, a Washington NASA Space Grant award, and a National Science Foundation Research Training Grant. He plans to pursue a PhD in theoretical computer science, with a career in research at a university or a technology company.

Jesse Dodge wins slots in competitive workshops

Jesse Dodge
Jesse Dodge

Jesse Dodge, a double major in computer science and statistics, has been awarded two slots in nationally competitive summer research workshop programs. The first is the Explorations in Statistics workshop, held at Columbia University and jointly hosted by Columbia University and UC Berkeley. The second is an eight-week program at Johns Hopkins Center for Language and Speech Processing, which is well known for producing researchers in natural language processing. He was one of six students selected (from more than 120 applicants).

Jesse is the recipient of the InfoSpace Endowed scholarship for this year. He will apply to PhD programs this fall, for entry in fall 2012.

High school student wins "Best Paper" at CHI 2011

Akash Badshah
Akash Badshah

Akash Badshah has scored a triple first! Akash is the first high school student in the nearly 30-year history of the CHI conference (human factors in computing) to serve as lead author, present a paper, or win a "Best of CHI" award.

Akash presented his paper on a self-powered haptic feedback device to a huge crowd at CHI 2011 in Vancouver BC in mid-May. The session was standing-room-only, and the organizers even had to set up an overflow room and pipe video to it. The talk was fantastic. Akash, a high school junior from Bellevue, worked with CSE professor Shwetak Patel last summer as a part of Shwetak's summer high school research program, where high school students carry out intense 10-week long research projects. Akash is now completing his senior year at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

More information about Akash's research may be viewed here:

2011 Competitive Graduate Fellowships and Award Winners

CSE's PhD students have scored some prestigious fellowships and awards for the 2011-12 year. Congratulations to our exceptional students!

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: Katelin Bailey, Waylon Brunette, Katie Kuksenok, Yun-En Liu, and David Rosenbaum
  • National Defense Science & Engineering (NDSEG) Graduate Fellowship: David Rosenbaum
  • Microsoft Research Fellowship: Morgan Dixon
  • Intel Graduate Fellowship: Joe Devietti
  • Google Anita Borg Scholar: Janara Christensen, Katie Kuksenok
  • AT&T Research Fellowship: Katie Kuksenok
  • Yahoo Key Scientific Challenges Award: Elisa Celis, Emad Soroush, and Michael Toomim
  • Ford Motor Company Fellowship: Karl Koscher
  • Bhasin Fellowship: Sidhant Gupta
  • Osberg Fellowship: Kristi Morton
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