most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 22, number 2, autumn 2012
university of washington
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Industry Affiliates Startup Fair Chair’s message New CSE Faculty New hires in UW CSE Taskar joins UW CSE World Lab 6th Summer Academy for Deaf News Datagrams CSE ugrad alum survey Distinguished Lectures
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Supporting UW CSE is a left-brain decision. Your gift provides the department with resources for scholarships, fellowships, research support, and funds to building the CSE community we hope you value. Small gifts might not seem significant by themselves, but when pooled together they make great things possible. As you think about giving, please consider making a gift to CSE. Go to our website ( and select “Support CSE.” You will find a variety of funds that can benefit from your support.

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, James Landay, S. Morris Rose
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Timothy Yu

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Wen-Hann Wang
David Wetherall
Wen-Hann Wang, David Wetherall named IEEE Fellows

CSE Ph.D. alum Wen-Hann Wang and CSE professor David Wetherall have been named to the 2013 class of Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Wen-Hann, Vice President of Intel’s Software and Solutions Group, was recognized “for contributions to multi-level cache hierarchy and multiprocessor systems.” Wen-Hann was a 2012 CSE Alumni Achievement Award winner.

David, an expert in computer networking, was recognized “for contributions to the design of flexible, robust, and secure networks.” David is the 13th UW CSE faculty member to be elected a Fellow of IEEE. Congratulations to Wen-Hann and David!

UW CSE research featured on David Pogue’s PBS NOVA Science NOW

This fall David Pogue’s PBS NOVA Science NOW featured some of the amazing work that happens in CSE. In October, the show featured the work of CSE’s Yoshi Kohno and the CSE Security and Privacy Research Lab as the final segment of the episode “Can Science Stop Crime?” To watch this episode, please see:

In November, the show featured CSE Ph.D. alum Adrien Treuille (now a faculty member at CMU) as the final segment of the episode “What Will the Future Be Like?” Work on Foldit, the topic of the interview, continues here in the Center for Game Science. To watch this episode, please see:

Anna Karlin
Anna Karlin named Fellow of the ACM

Anna Karlin, Microsoft Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, was named a Fellow of the ACM “for contributions to algorithms and to the boundary with systems, networking, data mining, and microeconomics.” Anna is known for contributions in the area of algorithms, especially online and randomized algorithms, and for high-impact work at the boundary between algorithms and other areas of computer science. Areas of focus have included competitive analysis of online algorithms; probabilistic algorithms and probabilistic analysis of algorithms; topics at the intersection of theory with systems, networking, and data mining; and, most recently, problems at the intersection of game theory, economics, and algorithms. Anna is the 18th UW CSE faculty member to be elected a Fellow of the ACM. Congratulations, Anna!

Larry Snyder
Larry Snyder named University of Iowa 2012 Alumni Fellow

CSE emeritus professor Larry Snyder was named a 2012 Alumni Fellow by the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, where he received his B.A. in 1968 in Mathematics and Economics. His award citation reads, in part: “Larry Snyder, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the University of Washington, is best known for his work to promote the discipline of computer science and expand computer science education, particularly during the 1990s – a time of critical transition for the discipline … Still, he describes the most important and rewarding accomplishment of his 46-year career as having mentored 21 doctoral students.”

Darpa Robotics Challenge
UW team participates in the DARPA Robotics Challenge

The DARPA Robotics Challenge kicked off in mid-October by announcing that eighteen teams (eight from universities and ten from industry) will be funded by DARPA to participate in the DRC. Over the next two years, these teams will compete to develop and put to the test hardware and software designed to enable robots to assist humans in emergency response when a disaster strikes.

A UW CSE team led by Emo Todorov and including Dieter Fox, Zoran Popovic, and Steve Seitz is among the competitors selected by DARPA. The team will spend the next eight months creating software for a simulated robot and then compete for the chance to use the real Boston Dynamics-designed Atlas robot. If the team receives a robot, there will be a room in the CSE building remodeled specifically for practicing with the robot. Stay tuned!

“PassChords” wins best paper award at ASSETS 2012

CSE Ph.D. students Shiri Azenkot and Kyle Rector, and CSE professor Richard Ladner and iSchool (and CSE adjunct) professor Jake Wobbrock won the ASSETS 2012 Best Paper Award at the 14th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility for their paper “PassChords: Secure multi-touch authentication for blind people.” The paper presents a new non-visual technique, PassChords, for user authentication on a touch screen using multi-finger taps, rather than entering a traditional PIN on a virtual keypad. Congratulations, Shiri, Kyle, Richard, and Jake!

Living Voters Guide logo
Living Voters Guide wins award; launches in WA & CA

In early October, the Living Voters Guide was honored as the winner of the Evergreen Apps Challenge. Announced in May, the challenge, encouraged geeks around the state to create apps that could benefit those living here by using government data from,, and Following this win, the guide was expanded to include a California edition, and the Washington guide updated to include fact-checking of selected points by Seattle Public Library staff. Living Voters Guide may be viewed here:

Tamara Denning
Tamara Denning wins 2012 Intel Ph.D. Fellowship

CSE Ph.D. student Tamara Denning, who works with professor Yoshi Kohno in the Security and Privacy Research Lab, has been named one of 18 recipients of 2012 Intel Ph.D. Fellowships. This award recognizes winning students as being tops in their areas of research.

Tamara was one of three of the eighteen to win special recognition of her research at a technical poster session for the awardees.

Congratulations, Tamara!

“Control-Alt-Hack” game among “25 of today’s coolest network and computing research projects”

NetworkWorld recently identified “Control-Alt-Hack” as one of today’s coolest research projects. “Control-Alt-Hack,” a computer security-themed card game, gives teenage and young-adult players a taste of what it means to be a computersecurity professional defending against an ever-expanding range of digital threats. Created by CSE Ph.D. student Tamara Denning, professor Yoshi Kohno, and Adam Shostack (an honorary member of the Computer Security and Privacy Lab), the game is designed to be entertaining, give a glimpse into white hat hacking, and highlight some of the more surprising aspects of computer security. The game was introduced at Black Hat 2012, an annual information security meeting. Learn about “Control-Alt-Hack” at:

Jeff Dean
Jeff Dean wins 2012 SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award

In October, the 2012 SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award was presented jointly to UW CSE Ph.D. alum Jeff Dean and MIT CSAIL Ph.D. alum (and colleague) Sanjay Ghemawat. The Mark Weiser Award was created in 2001 by the computer systems research community, to be given annually to an individual who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in computer systems research. The award is named in honor of Mark Weiser, a computing visionary recognized for his research accomplishments during his career at Xerox PARC.

To quote the nomination: “Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat were among the first twenty employees at Google. Together, they led the conception, design, and implementation of much of Google’s revolutionary software infrastructure. ... Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat are brilliant and visionary engineers who truly have changed the world.” Congratulations to Jeff and Sanjay!

Anne Condon
Anne Condon elected Fellow of Royal Society of Canada

The Royal Society of Canada, founded in 1882, celebrates the nation’s leading scholars in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences through election as Fellows. CSE Ph.D. alum Anne Condon, Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia and a leading figure in computational biology, was one of the two computer scientist in the 2012 class. Anne’s citation reads: “Anne Condon, a researcher in computational complexity theory and algorithms, has advanced understanding of the computing time and memory needed to solve classical computational problems. She has also developed creative means for programming at the nanometer scale with DNA molecules. Her algorithms for predicting and designing nucleic acid secondary structures have had significant practical impact.” Anne was a 2011 CSE Alumni Achievement Award winner. Congratulations, Anne!

UW CSE undergrad alumni survey

We need your help!

Would you please take ten-fifteen minutes to fill out our undergrad alumni survey? Your answers are crucial to our assessment of how well we are preparing students for the “real world,” and your feedback will also help us prepare our report for our upcoming accreditation process. We would particularly like to hear from you if you graduated from our program in the last ten years and/or have worked with recent alums from our program.

A link to the alumni survey may be viewed here:

Please note that your responses are anonymous unless you choose to share your contact information with us in the survey.

Highlight: G-Give Campaign

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What’s a G-Give?

How do you harness the energy of Google employees — and couple it with area non-profits that need support? As only engineers can do: two UW CSE alums, Jessan Hutchison-Quillan BS ’07 and Krista Davis BS ’05, set out to find a solution. Their efforts resulted in an initial marketing strategy “Google Cares Northwest” and evolved into an active campaign entitled “G-Give.”

The idea was to create a vehicle to move Googlers from awareness to active giving. Using a Groupon-like model, G-Give highlights local non- profits during the month of December. Employees are encouraged to make a gift to the organization of their choice, and to add the company’s matching dollars to double the impact of their giving. Additionally, the employee gift is matched by one or more Googlers who serve as “sponsors” of that non-profit. From this model, Jessan and Krista built a software platform that enables an employee to easily make a donation. In two clicks, the organization is selected, and the designated amount committed via payroll deduction.

G-Give 2011 successfully showcased nine organizations over a seven-weekday period to Googlers at the Seattle and Kirkland campuses. Organizations were selected via employee nominations mailed to a discussion list. The G-Give team narrowed the number of featured organizations based on the passionate advocacy of the employee sponsors. The end result was a wide representation of deserving organizations and an almost doubling of Seattle/Kirkland Google employee giving. This successful initiative, bringing Google employees’ passions together with their philanthropy, will be replicated this year at Seattle, Kirkland, and San Francisco. UW Computer Science & Engineering is honored to be a featured non-profit in 2012 as well as in 2011, and to be the recipient of strong support from its many alums at Google. By supporting the UW CSE Google Endowed Scholarship through G-Give, Googlers will impact students now and in the future.

It all goes to show what can happen when a few individuals take a great idea and apply engineering skills to execute a solution!

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