most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 23, number 1, spring 2013
university of washington
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 home CSE Home    MSB archive Spring 2013 MSB    MSB Archive   Contact Info Contact Info 
David Notkin Chair’s message Alumni entrepreneur: Awards and honors Two win Dean’s Medals Three CRA Undergrad Awards Alum achievement awards Diamond award winner Ross News Datagrams New dean of engineering Grossman named Bowen Prof. CSE annual luncheon
msb23.1 PDF

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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, S. Morris Rose
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Dan LaMont

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Awards and honors

CSE’s Raymond Zhang & Sam Hopkins win Dean’s Medals

The Dean’s Medal recognizes the top student in the College of Engineering and each of the College of Arts & Science’s four divisions — arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences — based on grade point average, difficulty of courses taken, and recommendations from the student’s department. This year two CSE students received this honor, the fourteenth and fifteenth CSE students to do so.

Raymond Zhang
Raymond Zhang

Computer engineering senior Raymond Zhang has been named as one of two recipients of the 2013 University of Washington Engineering Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence.

Since his sophomore year, Raymond has participated in the computational biology group led by Ram Samudrala, associate professor in the department of microbiology. Under Professor Samudrala’s guidance, Raymond is developing a program to predict the structure of how a protein and nucleic acid strand interact. Raymond says he “wanted to come to the UW because of its excellent departments of CSE and Biology.”

After graduating in June with double degrees in computer engineering and biology, Raymond will explore working in industry for a few years by joining Google as a software developer in October.

Sam Hopkins
Sam Hopkins

Sam Hopkins, a senior majoring in computer science and in mathematics, has been selected to receive the 2013 University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Medal for the Natural Sciences.

Sam’s research is in theoretical computer science. He seeks to apply techniques and insights from logic, algebra, analysis, and geometry to problems in computer science. He has worked on foundational questions related to randomness and the complexity of computation executed by many cooperating parties, with researchers at Rutgers University and at UW CSE under the advisement of Professor Paul Beame. As an intern at Google, he designed prototype extensions to the Dart programming language.

He plans to spend the summer after graduating wandering around somewhere very far away. In Fall 2013 he will join the Theory of Computation and Programming Languages groups at Cornell University as a PhD student, supported by an NSF graduate research fellowship. In between bouts of math, Sam likes to bike fast, ski fast, and cook fast, although his success in these endeavors is often limited.

Congratulations to Raymond, to Sam, and to all of CSE’s superb students!

CSE Dean’s Medal Winners
Samuel Hopkins 2013 Dean's Medalist in the Natural Sciences (Computer Science & Mathematics)
Raymond Zhang 2013 Dean's Medalist in Engineering (Computer Engineering & Biology)
William Johnson 2011 Dean's Medalist in the Natural Sciences (Computer Science & Math)
Eric Arendt 2010 Dean's Medalist in Engineering (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science)
Kathy Wei 2009 Dean's Medalist in Engineering (Bioengineering & Computer Science)
Pavan Vaswani 2009 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science, Neurobiology & Biochemistry)
Chester Chan 2007 Dean's Medalist in Engineering (Computer Engineering)
Jonathan Su 2006 Dean's Medalist in Engineering (Computer Engineering)
Terri Moore 2004 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science & Math)
Erin Earl 2003 Dean's Medalist in the Arts (Computer Science & Music)
Thomas Carlson 2002 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science, Math & English)
Corin Anderson 1996 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science & Math)
Vitaly Schmatikov 1994 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science & Math)
Eka Ginting 1991 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences (Computer Science & Economics)
Samuel Broda 1986 Dean's Medalist in the Sciences

Three CSE undergrads recognized in CRA awards competition

The Computing Research Association Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award competition recognizes undergraduates in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research. In the 2013 competition, three UW CSE students were recognized: 2013 national winner Matt Bryan, and honorable mentions Kevin Clark and Grace Muzny.

Matt Bryan

Matt's research focuses on creating brain-computer interfaces — machines that read brain activity to discern a user's intention without the need for physical movement. His contributions employ various machine learning techniques to allow the devices to work for a wider variety of people, to be more robust to noise, and to adapt to the users' changing needs over time. He has led several research teams in Raj Rao's Neural Systems Lab, has published and presented papers at various venues around the world, and recently received a grant from the Center for Sensorimotor and Neural Engineering. This seed grant funds a spin-off project from his work, which will be continued over the next two years. After graduating this quarter, he will work on distributed file systems as a senior software development engineer at EMC Isilon, located in downtown Seattle.

Grace Muzny

Grace's current research identifies idioms at scale in natural language processing. It leverages Wiktionary to create a scalable machine-learning approach for differentiating between literal and idiomatic senses of a given phrase. This research works to make Wiktionary a more complete resource by identifying idioms that are not yet marked as such. She plans to spend the summer bicycling across the country with the open road and the wind to guide her.

Kevin Clark

Kevin's research has primarily been on sentiment analysis, automatically identifying subjective information in text. He worked on a project called RevMiner, a system that extracts information about restaurants from reviews. The extractions are then used to concisely summarize and provide quality search of restaurants. Recently he has worked on building personalized recommender systems that exploit mined opinions to improve recommendation accuracy. After graduating, he plans to take a year off to travel and then start a computer science Ph.D. at Stanford.

This year's recognition extends UW CSE's record of having the largest number of students recognized in the most recent ten years of this competition! A list of all winners may be viewed with our CSE undergrad student recognition:

Fourth Annual CSE Alumni Achievement Awards

CSE honored two extraordinarily accomplished alumni — Anne Dinning and Ed Felten — during its June 15th graduation ceremony. These awards affirm to CSE graduates and students that each contributes to a long, successful line with impact that drives deep and extends far.

Anne Dinning

Anne Dinning (BS '84)
Finance industry leader, community benefactor

Anne Dinning was finishing her doctorate in computer science and considering faculty positions when she fielded an out-of-the blue invitation to interview at a fledgling hedge fund, D.E. Shaw & Co. Founder David Shaw, a former computer science professor at Columbia University, was staffing the firm with scientists and mathematicians to develop a business strategy based on computational finance and quantitative investment management.

Dinning's award-winning dissertation research (PhD '89) at New York's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences caught his eye. She signed on as a researcher when the company had just 20 employees, drawn by the opportunity to help create something from scratch. Today the global investment firm has more than 1,000 employees in North America, Europe, and Asia, and manages $26 billion in investment capital. And Dinning runs the company as “first among equals” on a five- member executive committee.

Respected in industry and government, Dinning served for several years on the Asset Management Committee of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets. In 2006 she received the Industry Leadership Award presented by 100 Women in Hedge Funds.

Dinning is a second-generation UW Engineering alum. Her father was an electrical engineer and missile systems specialist at Boeing. She gravitated into computer science because she enjoyed solving puzzles and wanted a portable skill so she could consult and travel, but faculty convinced her she could do more than programming.

“Professor Richard Ladner, my senior thesis advisor, assigned me to work with the grad students on the text editor for a braille device. Giving me a meaningful project showed he had respect for me, and it was so cool to work on something that would get built,” she says.

Dinning is passionate about supporting current CSE students and faculty. She and her husband, Michael Wolf, established an endowed regental fellowship, awarded annually to a first- year graduate student. They also established three endowed professorships in honor of Professor Ladner, Professor Emeritus Jean-Loup Baer, and Anne's father, Bob Dinning. She also has given back to the university through service on the UW Foundation board and the UW Futures Committee chaired by Bill Gates, Sr.

“This committee is encouraging the university to look at new ideas and metrics and how to measure success. We must figure out how to adapt to the funding challenges in higher education. I'm very grateful to the UW, and it's been nice to engage,” Dinning says.

In New York, Dinning serves on the leadership boards of Math for America, which advocates for teachers and improving math and science education in public schools, and of the Robin Hood Foundation, which funds efforts to alleviate poverty.

“I appreciate how New Yorkers engage with the city, even in the physical way of taking the subway and walking. In my neighborhood, people know you and say hello,” she says. “But I do miss Seattle's beauty and closeness to nature.”

Luckily, she returns for summers with Wolf and their two children and enjoys getting back to nature.

Edward Felten (PhD '93)
Computer security researcher, public policy and consumer advocate

Ed Felten

Two decades ago Ed Felten decided to focus his career in computer security because it was “newer ground not well plowed,” and he wanted to affect policy through research. Now, in an era of massive data mining, cyber attacks, and personal privacy concerns, Felten is a leader in a tumultuous field and an advocate for the rights of the public, technology users, and researchers. The National Academy of Engineering elected Felten to membership this year for his work and its impact on public policy.

“It’s great to be recognized in the field and by my peers and CSE. I’m looking forward to coming back to campus and seeing old friends,” Felten says.

At Princeton University, Felten is a professor of computer science and public affairs and directs the Center for Information Technology and Policy. Its interdisciplinary research spans security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines, browser security and privacy, secure cloud-based Web collaboration, technology and public policy in global intellectual property rights, government transparency, and other issues.

In his blog Freedom to Tinker, Felten has sided squarely with consumers in the outcry over locked cell phones, noting how copyright protections limit the freedom to take apart or modify the devices we own. In 2001 the recording industry threatened him and others with a lawsuit related to research on CDs protected from copying under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Felten’s article in the March 29, 2013 edition of Slate describes how the outdated copyright law hurts consumers and cripples researchers.

From January 2011 to August 2012, Felten held an appointment as the first chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, whose mandate is to prevent business practices that are anti competitive and unfair to consumers.

“It was a great opportunity to learn how things work in D.C. and see how policy meets the political process. So little of this is visible to the outside,” Felten says.

A growing concern is pervasive big data collection and the increasingly sophisticated ways that government, retailers, and those with a criminal bent, can amass and analyze personal information.

“Our laws are out of sync with advances in technology. We need to think more about what privacy means and how to safeguard personal information going forward,” he says. “Another issue is how government agencies can be more transparent about how they use data for decision making, so we know the procedures are fairly applied.”

Felten’s impact and contributions to the public good affirm his decision to switch to computer science after earning his BS in physics at Cal Tech. Seattle’s expanding technology sector and the quality of the UW CSE program drew him here. He counts his dissertation advisors, Ed Lazowska and John Zahoran, and general advisor Hank Levy, as prime influencers.

“John urged careful thinking about the core problem and how to narrow it down. Ed knew everyone and everything going on and urged me to get out and get the big picture. Hank’s advice was don’t be afraid to make mistakes — make them quickly, learn, and race forward into the unknown,” Felten says.

CSE’s Kevin Ross honored for inspiring K-12 students

Kevin Ross

A passion for exciting K-12 students about math and science, and a mission to inspire them to become science and technology leaders, has earned Kevin Ross (BS ’88) the 2013 Diamond Award for Distinguished Service. Ross first volunteered as mentor for a high school robotics team in 1999 while working as a senior design engineer at Microsoft. By 2002 the excitement and passion he saw in students impelled him to take his volunteer mission statewide by founding Washington FIRST Robotics.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) now works with more than 7,500 students and 2,000 volunteers across the state. Mentors encourage students to explore, understand, and become excited about science and engineering by working in teams to build robots and compete statewide and nationally. Now retired from Microsoft, Ross volunteers full-time for FIRST.

His mission is a big one — close to 400 teams are spread over about 30 percent of the state’s high schools and 20 percent of elementary and middle schools. The ultimate vision is to have a FIRST robotics team available for every student in Washington.

“We changed the educational and career choices for a significant number of our students. It is a truly profound moment to realize that a student has found a long-term passion as a result of your work,” Ross says.

The UW Engineering Diamond Award is the most recent recognition of his work with students. GeekWire named him the March 2012 “Geeks Who Give Back” honoree, with a page in its GeekWire 2012 Calendar. He was a 2011 nominee for the Microsoft Alumni Foundation Integral Fellows Awards Program, which recognizes alumni who are making significant differences in the lives of others. And by popular demand, a former FIRST student recently created a Facebook page honoring Ross, explaining that he “asks for nothing yet gives everything.” The site allows students to list him as an “Inspirational Person” on their own Facebook pages.

Read about the 2013 Diamond Award honorees at:

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