most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 24, number 1, spring 2014

university of washington
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Big Data, Enormous Oppportunity Oceanography Astronomy Alumni awards Alum achievement Diamond winner Fitzpatrick Chair’s message Alumni entrepreneur profiles WibiData Usermind Two rising stars join CSE faculty Faculty awards and honors Student awards and honors News and events Bay Area alum meetup CSE annual luncheon Ben Taskar Datagrams
msb24.1 PDF

Make an impact: support CSE

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: Sandra Kaplan, Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney, S. Morris Rose
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Rod Prieto, Kay Beck-Benton

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:

Sign up for MSB email

MSB is now available via email. To sign up, send an email to

Pixar HQ

UW CSE Bay Area meetup: Join us at Pixar!

If you were not able to join us a couple of years ago, you are in luck! This year’s UW CSE Bay Area alumni meetup will once again be hosted by Pixar at their animation studios in Emeryville!

at Pixar

Please plan to join us on Thursday, July 10th, for a special behind-the-scenes look at Pixar… eat… drink… connect with CSE faculty, alumni, and friends…

For more information, please contact Kay Beck-Benton (kbeck@cs).

RSVP is required:

CSE Annual Donor-Scholar Luncheon


CSE’s annual donor-scholar luncheon brings together the generous individuals and corporations whose gifts make scholarships and fellowships available to our students, and the outstanding students who are the beneficiaries of this generosity. Scholarships enable great students to attend UW CSE regardless of means, allowing us to fulfill the traditional role of the nation’s great public universities as tuition rises to offset dramatic reductions in public support. Fellowships help attract the very best graduate students to UW CSE, and provide flexibility during their first year as they discover the research area that excites them the most.

At this year’s event, graduate student Laurel Orr and undergraduate student Karolina Pyszkiewicz spoke, representing their peers. Watch their talks here:

Many thanks to our donors, and congratulations to our students!

Learn more about our endowed scholarships and fellowships, the donors, and the recipients here:

Ben Taskar 1977-2013

The Taskar family

Our department, the entire university, and many in our field nationally were shocked and saddened by the loss of Ben Taskar, Boeing Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, who passed away on the early morning of November 18, 2013 of sudden and severe heart failure. Ben was unique — a superstar in multiple fields including machine learning, vision, and NLP. He leaves behind his wife, Anat Caspi, their two-year old daughter, Aviv Taskar, his mother, father, and sister, and an array of other family members, friends, and colleagues — all of whom miss him tremendously. Services were held in San Francisco on November 22; members and friends of the CSE community gathered in the Atrium at that time to remember him.

Additional information is available at:


UW startup SNUPI Technologies is Technology Alliance "Innovation Showcase Company of the Year"

At the annual Technology Alliance “State of Technology” luncheon on May 19th, UW startup SNUPI Technologies was recognized as “Innovation Showcase Company of the Year.” SNUPI’s first product, Wally, is an environmental sensor system for the home. The company was co-founded by UW CSE+EE professor Shwetak Patel, UW CSE+EE professor Matt Reynolds, UW CSE alum Jeremy Jaech, and UW EE PhD student Gabe Cohn. More info on Snupi Technologies and Wally available here:
CSE PhD alum Donald Chinn wins 2014 UW Distinguished Teaching Award
Donald Chinn

CSE PhD alum Donald Chinn, an Associate Professor in UW-Tacoma’s Institute of Technology, is one of seven winners of 2014 University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Awards. Donald was recognized at the Awards of Excellence ceremony on June 12th. Learn more about Donald here:
CSE+EE professor wins ONR Young Investigator Award
Georg Seelig

CSE+EE professor Georg Seelig is one of 24 “early-career academic researchers whose scientific pursuits show exceptional promise for supporting the Department of Defense” who were named recipients of 3-year Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Awards. Georg’s research focuses on understanding how biological organisms process information using complex biochemical networks and how such networks can be engineered to program cellular behavior. Circuit elements engineered from DNA and RNA components are being applied to problems in disease diagnostics and therapy. Learn more about his research here:
CSE’s Vincent Liu, EE’s Vasmi Talla win $100,000 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship
Vicent Liu
Vasmi Talla

CSE PhD student Vincent Liu and EE PhD student Vamsi Talla, working with CSE professor Shyam Gollakota and CSE+EE professor Josh Smith, are one of 9 teams to receive 2014 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowships. Of 137 submitted proposals (from 18 schools), Qualcomm first selected 34 finalists, then the 9 winning teams. Vincent and Vamsi are working on the Ambient Backscatter project. Another of the 9 winning teams: Georgia Tech PhD students Amir Yazdanbakhsh and Bradley Thwaites, advised by UW CSE PhD alum Hadi Esmaeilzadeh and UW CSE affiliate professor (and Microsoft Research Director of Client & Cloud Apps and Hadi’s PhD co-advisor with CSE’s Luis Ceze) Doug Burger. More about the Ambient Backscatter project here:
CSE visits the Living Computer Museum

On Thursday, April 3rd, 250 CSE alumni, friends, families, faculty, and staff gathered at Paul G. Allen’s Living Computer Museum for an evening of fellowship and nostalgia. If you have not yet visited the Living Computer Museum, it’s a treat. Everything works, and everything is hands-on! Awesome event photos by Bruce Hemingway here:
CSE’s Dan Grossman elected to Computing Research Association Board of Directors
D. Grossman

CSE professor Dan Grossman has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association (CRA). CRA’s members include more than 200 North American academic departments of computer science, computer engineering, and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government, and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies. Biographies of Dan and the other newly-elected CRA Board members here:

UW CSE has a long history of close involvement with CRA. See history at:
CSE PhD alum Stefan Savage wins 2013 SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award
Stefan Savage

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. In November, the 2013 award was presented to CSE’s PhD alum (and UCSD professor) Stefan Savage. Stefan is the fourth CSE PhD alum to receive the Weiser Award in its 13-year history. Earlier winners include: Brian Bershad (now with Google), recognized in 2004; Tom Anderson (UW CSE faculty member), recognized in 2005; and Jeff Dean (Google), recognized in 2012. Learn more about Stefan here:
CSE PhD alum Roxana Geambasu receives honorable mention for inaugural SIGOPS Dennis M. Ritchie Doctoral Dissertation Award
Roxana Geambasu

The Dennis M. Ritchie Doctoral Dissertation Award was created by the computer systems research community in 2013 to recognize research in software systems and to encourage the creativity that Dennis Ritchie embodied, providing a reminder of Ritchie’s legacy and what a difference one person can make in the field of software systems research. At the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles in November, CSE PhD alumna Roxana Geambasu, now faculty at Columbia University, was recognized as runner-up in the inaugural Ritchie Award competition for her dissertation, entitled Empowering Users with Control over Cloud and Mobile Data. Learn more about Roxana here:
Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering: then and now

On October 9, 2003 (roughly 10 years ago), we dedicated the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering. The Allen Center — still widely regarded as the finest computer science facility in the nation — has had a dramatic impact on UW CSE’s competitiveness… including our competitive desire for a Seahawks win! More information on our 10 year anniversary here:
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