most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 24, number 2, winter 2015

university of washington
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Internet of Things Research highlights Age progression software Brain-to-brain communication Chair’s message Alumni profile: Captricity 2014 faculty additions Faculty awards and honors TR35 winners Anderson's USENIX awards Domingos' KDD Award Fox IEEE Fellow News and events Taskar Center launches Upcoming events Datagrams
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About MSB

MSB is a twice-yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industry Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton.
Contributors: Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney, Kristin Osborne, S. Morris Rose
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Mary Levin, Jose Mandojana

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Another banner year for CSE faculty recruitment

Reinforcing CSE’s position among the best programs in the nation, this year’s hires complement our recent game-changing hires in machine learning, “big data,” computer vision, and other areas. In the spring issue of MSB, we announced our first two hires of 2014: a rising star in natural language processing and a rising star in security and privacy.

Yejin Choi

Yejin Choi joined the department this fall. She received her Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University and her B.S. in computer science and engineering from Seoul National University.

Choi is a rising star in natural language processing (NLP), with a focus on studying nonliteral and contextual language understanding. She is a leader in combining NLP and computer vision (studying the automatic captioning of photographs) and was a co-recipient the 2013 David Marr Prize for this work. For more information about Choi and her research, please visit her homepage:

Franzi Roesner

Franzi Roesner, a researcher in security and privacy with a strong focus on system design, also joined CSE this fall. She received her Ph.D. from UW CSE in June and her B.S. in computer science at UT Austin.

Roesner’s research has included the creation of novel defenses against third-party personal tracking on the Web, new approaches to permission granting in modern operating systems (particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones), and security for emerging augmented reality technologies. For more information about Roesner’s research, please visit her website:

UW CSE is delighted to introduce our additional faculty hires made during 2014. These talented individuals are contributing to our leadership in key areas of the field, from building a world-class natural language processing group, to expanding our expertise in core areas such as systems, security, data management, programming languages, and software engineering.

Alvin Cheung

Alvin Cheung joins CSE in January 2015. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from MIT this fall and his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Cheung’s research focuses on co-optimizing dataintensive applications by examining the database and the runtime system and environment together, which can enable order-of-magnitude speedups in applications. He demonstrated how to convert application functions written as imperative code into SQL queries so that they can be optimized by the data management system, for which he received a Best Paper Award from the Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research (CIDR); his paper describing the programming language methods used to achieve that result was a Best Paper nominee at Programming Languages Design and Implementation (PLDI).

Cheung is a recipient of an Intel Ph.D. Fellowship, an NDSEG Graduate Fellowship, and an NSF Graduate Fellowship. To learn more about him, please see:

Noah Smith

Noah Smith will join the department in autumn 2015. Currently, he is the Finmeccanica Associate Professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. His Ph.D. is from Johns Hopkins University, where he was a Hertz Foundation Fellow, and his undergraduate degrees in computer science and linguistics are from the University of Maryland.

Smith’s research interests include statistical natural language processing, especially unsupervised methods, machine learning for structured data, and applications of natural language processing. He is widely regarded as a leading researcher in NLP and known for significant contributions in both core algorithms and innovative applications. His honors include an ACL Best Paper Award for work in syntactic parsing and a WMT Five-Year Award for his work on feature-rich machine translation.

Smith publishes regularly in the top computational linguistics and machine learning journals and conferences. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Scientist, Time, and on NPR, CBC, and BBC. For more information about Smith and his research, please see:

Emina Torlak

Emina Torlak joined the department in fall 2014. A researcher in software engineering and programming languages, Torlak received her B.S. (’03), M.S. (’04), and Ph.D. (’09) degrees from MIT. She came to UW CSE from UC Berkeley, where she worked as a research scientist. Previously, she was a senior computer scientist at LogicBlox and a research staff member at IBM Research.

Torlak’s research focuses on automating and improving the programming process. She is developing new programming models that utilize practical advances in automated reasoning to enable programmers to quickly design, develop and validate software. She has studied how automated tools can impact programming in languages such as Java and how they can be used to test big data applications.

Torlak developed Rosette, a solver-aided programming language with applications ranging from low-power computing to end-user programming, and Kodkod, an SAT-based constraint solver that has been used in over 70 academic and industrial programming tools. Torlak’s homepage may be viewed here:

Xi Wang

Xi Wang also joined CSE this fall. A researcher in computer systems whose work intersects operating systems, computer security, and programming languages to improve security for all levels of computing, Wang received his Ph.D. in computer science from MIT and his B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Tsinghua University.

Wang’s research focuses on securing operating systems and applications and has led to the discovery and fix of more than 300 defects and vulnerabilities in mobile devices, desktops, and web services. His research has already had significant real-world impact. His static analysis tools are used by companies such as Dropbox, Cloudera and Intel; his debugging systems are used in the production pipeline of Bing; and his work on unde?ned compiler behavior is being adopted by the C++ standards committee.

Wang’s paper on the analysis and impact of security compromises resulting from compiler optimizations won a Best Paper Award at the 2013 ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles. To learn more about Wang and his research, visit his homepage:

New faculty holiday skit
Fitting right in: New faculty “volunteer” for the 2014 faculty
holiday skit. Pictured above: Franzi Roesner, Yejin Choi, Emina
Torlak, and Ed "Gru" Lazowska. Other faculty skit participants:
Magda Balazinska, Maya Cakmak, Luis Ceze, Dieter Fox, Barbara
Mones, Zach Tatlock, Luke Zettlemoyer, and author and narrator Hank Levy.
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