most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 22, number 1, spring 2012
university of washington
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 home CSE Home    MSB archive Spring 2012 MSB    MSB Archive   Contact Info Contact Info 
DawgBytes: A Taste of CSE Chair’s message New CSE Faculty Carlos Guestrin & Emily Fox Jeff Heer & Daniela Rosner Awards ’12 Alumni Achievement award ’12 Diamond Awards Cooper wins ACM dissertation award Borg scholars ’12 UW Presidential medalist ’12 UW Freshman medalist Goldwater Scholar News CSE cyber defense team repeats Tom Lehmann: top crew athlete Datagrams Events UW CSE returns to the Bay Area Inspirational Teachers
msb22.1 PDF

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Editor: Kay Beck-Benton.
Contributors: Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney, Hélène Martin.
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Hélène Martin.

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UW CSE cyber defense team wins top national prize

UW CSE Cyber Defense Team
Team members with the championship cup (l-r):
Karl Koscher, Cullen Walsh, Henry Baba-Weiss,
Melody Kadenko (team advisor), Lars Zornes,
Miles Sackler, Landon Meernik, Ian Finder,
Mick Ayzenberg

Since 2008 — the inception of the Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition — UW CSE has fielded a team to compete for a position at the national competition. Every year, UW CSE’s team has taken first place in the regional competition. (This year the team finished with more than a 3500 point lead over the competition!) And, until last year when the underdog team pulled off a surprising victory, the UW CSE team historically had fallen just shy of placing at the national competition.

With a large number of new members this year, the team did not have high hopes of winning. After all, last year’s win could have been a fluke. But this year, the UW CSE Cyber Defense Team again claimed the top spot in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), showing they are serious contenders in computer security. The eight team members were graduate student Karl Koscher, fifth-year masters student Cullen Walsh, and undergraduate students Mick Ayzenberg, Henry Baba-Weiss, Ian Finder, Landon Meernik, Lars Zornes, with Miles Sackler as the team captain. Melody Kadenko served as team coach, with Jake Appelbaum as assistant team coach.

The competition

The NCCDC competition is a 3-day event during which teams must defend, administer, and maintain the computer systems of a fictional small company in the face of real attacks. The company network has all the typical small business components: a web server, email systems, network switch and firewall, a DNS server, customer data and personally identifiable information, intellectual property, workstations, servers, and so on. The types of systems vary (from multiple versions of Windows to different distributions of Linux and Solaris), and the teams do not know what they will face prior to the start of the competition. For a final twist, every system provided to the teams has countless security holes in nearly every piece of software. From weak passwords to unpatched software, it takes hours to successfully lock down the entire network.

As teams enter the competition area and sit behind their monitors, the red team (professional hackers from the Air Force, Navy, SPAWAR, and various consulting firms) begins attacking each company’s network. To add pressure, competing teams have to perform standard business operations in the midst of these attacks: setting up VPNs, adding user accounts, performing password audits, and more.

There are no breaks or down-time. Tensions run high. Services go down. Websites get defaced. Customer data gets lost. There is always too much to do and too little time. If a team unplugs its network in order to patch, it loses a massive number of points and, ultimately, the competition.

The UW CSE team

The UW CSE team trained on recommissioned hardware in a makeshift lab in Sieg Hall (which, as alums know well, has seen better days). This year the team was fortunate to have iSEC Partners and Amazon Web Services as sponsors. Building on experience from their CSE education, one of the team’s strengths was its ability to innovate, react quickly, and create ad hoc solutions on the spot. For example, one team member’s investigation of their systems discovered which servers the red team was using and came up with a quick and effective method to block all traffic that communicated to those servers.

Competition rules did not allow tampering with other teams or attacking the red team, but the rules did not prevent practical jokes. After receiving a red team taunt to “provide a sad pic,” the UW CSE team sprang into action. They quickly posted a picture on the red team’s twitter feed showing one member looking quite sad in front of a row of green status checks; a taunt to remind the red team that UW’s systems were online and doing fine.

When tensions ran high during the competition, the team used humor to bring the atmosphere back to normalcy. (The Angry Birds theme song was a common choice to keep each other laughing.)

The results

The UW CSE team felt that they would finish in the top three, but they didn’t expect to win this year. When another team was announced as the third place winner, UW CSE team members were surprised and hopeful. When yet another team was announced as the second place winner, the energy of the team spiked. The winning team was announced - UW CSE! The screaming team members were presented with a huge trophy, which again graces the Allen Center front office.

This year’s winning team from NCCDC will also have a spot in the Capture the Flag competition at DefCon, the premier hacking conference held in Las Vegas. In late July, the CSE team will try to fend off the world’s top security experts and hackers.

To learn more about the team or to read interviews given by the team to various media outlets, visit the CSE News page:

For more information, to sponsor the team, to donate hardware, or to join, contact team advisor Melody Kadenko, melody at

The team website is at

CSE’s Tom Lehmann: top crew athlete

Tom Lehmann
Tom Lehmann

Tom Lehmann, a senior majoring in computer science with a minor in math who hails from Rovershagen, Germany, is busy wrapping up his fourth and final year of collegiate rowing.

This past October, the UW men’s crew team placed third at the internationally renowned Head of the Charles regatta in Boston, finishing just behind Harvard and a boat of US National Team rowers. The 2012 season kicked off at the end of spring break with the Class Day regatta— a UW internal race where freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors compete against each other in eights. At the end of March, the UW crew swept all five races in the dual versus Brown. The next dual pitted the UW Huskies against UC Berkeley, long standing rivals, which the Husky men again swept. The varsity eight programs at Washington had no peers in winning their sixth straight Windermere Cup title. The 26th Annual Windermere Cup was held in early May and included crews from Stanford, OSU, Argentina, and others. Ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Washington men’s crew program won all four races at the inaugural Pac-12 Rowing Championships held May 13th. The final regatta is IRA Championship held in New Jersey at the end of May.

Following the busy crew season, Tom looks forward to interning at eBay in Redmond this summer. After graduating, he would like to stay in the US to work.


Willy Cheung wins Fulbright Scholarship

Willie Cheung
Willie Cheung

CSE bachelors alumnus Willy Cheung won a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholarship. He graduated with departmental honors in 2011 with a degree in CS. His honors thesis project involved developing brain-computer interfaces, which allows users to control devices directly with brain signals. On this project, he was able to combine two of his passions: understanding the human brain and making technology accessible to people. While working on research, he also found he loved the personal responsibility required, and being actively involved in an academic community where every day brings new knowledge. Willy’s Fulbright project involves developing a brain-computer interface framework based on reinforcing learning, so that the user and computer system can adapt to each other cooperatively. He will be conducting CS-related research and teaching English in Austria.

Stuart Reges
Stuart Reges

Stuart Reges joins CSTA Board of Directors

CSE’s Stuart Reges has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), as one of two “University Faculty Representatives.” CSTA is a national organization that supports and promotes the teaching of computer science in K-12. Stuart has a long record of engagement with both the national CSTA organization and the Puget Sound chapter, PS CSTA.

Peng Dai
Peng Dai

Peng Dai receives Honorable Mention in ICAPS 2012 Best Dissertation Award competition

Peng Dai, a 2011 PhD now working at Google, received Honorable Mention in the 2012 Best Dissertation Award competition of the International Conference on Automated Planning & Scheduling (ICAPS). The ICAPS Best Dissertation Awards honor outstanding PhD theses in any area of automated planning and scheduling. Peng’s dissertation, “Decision Making under Uncertainty: Scalability and Applications,” was supervised by Dan Weld and Mausam.

Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards, Hire of the Year: Kate Matsudaira,

Kate Matsudaira at Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards
Kate Matsudaira
at Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards

At the fourth annual Seattle 2.0 Startup Awards on May 3rd, Kate Matsudaira received the Hire of the Year award. From GeekWire’s coverage of the event: “Startup Decide [a UW CSE company] hired Kate Matsudaira as its vice president of engineering earlier this year, as she shifted from her previous position as vice president of engineering post at SEOmoz. The University of Washington computer science grad prevailed in the voting over a strong field of finalists — Daryn Nakhuda of Amazon, Dan Shapiro of Google, Wibe Wagemans of Big Fish Games and Mitch Hill of Opscode.” More info on the Startup Awards here:

David Notkin named Acting Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies

David Notkin
David Notkin

UW Dean of Engineering Matt O’Donnell has named CSE’s David Notkin as Acting Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the coming year. In announcing Notkin’s appointment, O’Donnell stated: “He has won numerous awards including most recently, the ACM SIGSOFT Influential Educator Award in 2012. ... In this role, David will foster multidisciplinary collaborations within and outside the college, work with new faculty to develop successful research programs, and strengthen programs to recruit and mentor top graduate students.” Congratulations to David for his long-standing commitment to graduate education!

Georg Seelig wins DARPA Young Faculty Award

Georg Seelig
Georg Seelig

UW CSE and EE professor Georg Seelig, an expert in quantitative biology and DNA nanotechnology, has been named a recipient of a 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award. Research in Seelig’s lab focuses on understanding how biological organisms process information using complex biochemical networks and how such networks can be engineered to program cellular behavior, and particularly on the identification of systematic design rules for the de novo construction of biological control circuits with DNA and RNA components. Congratulations, Georg!

Aldrich, Chambers, and Notkin win ICSE “Test of Time” Award

ICSE 2012

Many major computer science conferences have established the annual tradition of identifying the most influential paper from the conference a decade prior. UW CSE authors have received a number of these awards, a clear indication of the lasting impact of our research. “ArchJava: Connecting Software Architecture to Implementation” was named the “Most Influential Paper from ICSE 2002” (International Conference on Software Engineering). The ArchJava paper was co-authored by UW CSE PhD student Jonathan Aldrich (now a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon) and UW CSE professors Craig Chambers (now at Google Seattle) and David Notkin. The award will be presented at ICSE 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland in June. Congratulations to Jonathan, Craig, and David!

Carl Ebeling wins “Top 25 in 20” from FPGA

Carl Ebeling
Carl Ebeling

For the 20th anniversary of the International Symposium on Field-Programmable Gate Arrays in 2012, a program committee has assembled a special volume to highlight the most significant papers from the conferences— 25 papers across all years and all major FPGA topics that best exemplify the contributions from the conference. These 25 papers represent roughly 5% of the 400-500 papers that have appeared in the conference to date. The paper “PathFinder: A Negotiation-Based Performance-Driven Router for FPGAs” by CSE’s Larry McMurchie and Carl Ebeling was among the 25 papers selected. Congratulations Carl and Larry!

Tom Anderson wins "Top 20 in 20" from HPDC

Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson

The International ACM Symposium on High-Performance Parallel and Distributed Computing (HPDC) has identified 20 “most influential” papers from the past 20 years. Among them is the paper “WebOS: Operating System Services For Wide Area Applications” by Amin Vahdat, Tom Anderson, Mike Dahlin, Eshwar Belani, David Culler, Paul Eastham, and Chad Yoshikawa.

Says Tom: “Perhaps a lesson in this— this paper was serially rejected from every conference we submitted it to, except the last one (HPDC). After all, in 1996, why would anyone want to have a web service that spanned multiple data centers?” Congratulations to Tom and his coauthors!

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