Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taaz.com in the news

A Jacobs School algorithm for gloss removal from images led to the virtual makeover Web startup Taaz.com where anyone can upload their photo and apply makup and try out new hairstyles. The cutting-edge computer vision technologies developed at UC San Diego are at the heart of the technology.

The Rocky Mountain news just wrote about Taaz.com in a story that recently came out of the Colorado Software & Internet Association DEMOGala.

Also, Taaz.com co-founder and Jacobs School computer science professor David Kriegman recently won CONNECT’s Most Innovative New Product (MIP) award for software and information technology.

Watch the Jacobs School virtual makeover video I put together last spring for the Taaz.com launch below:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Citizen Engineer...a new book from Jacobs School alum

Citizen Engineer is a new book, co-written by Greg Papadopoulos, a Jacobs School alum and chief technology officer for Sun Microsystems.

According to a recent story about the book and its authors in the Mercury News
engineering isn't just engineering anymore. In the 21st century, members of the engineering profession must confront issues of environmental sustainability, intellectual property, economics and their own responsibilities as citizens of a global community.

"The book is part primer and part argument. The authors say they wrote it for engineering students, professors and working engineers who, in Papadopolous' words, 'have that idea that maybe they need to think more about what they're doing,'" according to the Mercury News story.

Papadopoulos is the chair of the Jacobs School of Engineering's Council of Advisors.

The Council of Advisors to the Dean of the Jacobs School is comprised of industry leaders who provide: advice and council to help the Jacobs School best serve the San Diego region, the State of California, and the nation; contacts with business, government, and community to advance the mission of the School; help in identifying and acquiring resources in support of the School's goals and programs. Meet the Council of Advisors here

"Citizen Engineer" was co-written by Greg Papadopoulos and David Douglas, both electrical engineers and computer scientists who are, respectively, chief technology officer and chief sustainability officer for Sun. Papadopoulos is responsible for Sun's research and development efforts, while Douglas coordinates environmental programs and heads the company's cloud computing and developer platforms division.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flow Cytomers on Chip(s) and Dip

Flow Cytometers on Chips merged with tasty chips and dip last week at the celebration for Jessica Godin, this year's winner of the R.B. Woolley Graduate Leadership Award.

One of my favorite parts of her story is the fact that Jessica, an electrical engineer, learned some cool bio-sample-loading tricks from the bioengineers she met while hanging out in the lab over at Calit2 where they all go to build their chips. It wasn't one-sided, Godin taught the bioengineers a whole lot about streamlining microfluidics fabrication.

And now she has won financial support to implement events that will increase this kind of inter-departmental interaction at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

below is a great video about Jessica Godin's accomplisments here at the Jacobs School. enjoy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

From "Hello World" to "Hello Real World"

Computer Programming Gets a Makeover at UC San Diego

From “Hello World” to “Hello Real World”

What: Revolutionary new way to teach (and learn) computer programming on display. Computer science undergrads from UC San Diego will show off the glossy images they created while they learned to write computer code.

When: November 18, 2008; 4:30PM to 5:30PM

Where: UC San Diego’s computer science building
Map here: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/about/map.shtml

More info:
What are “for loops” good for? New computer science students often ask this question when faced with writing their first computer programs, and many lose interest or become frustrated along the steep learning curve. In order to help students see the many opportunities available in computing and to make the learning curve more fun, computer science undergrads now learn to turn “for loops” into “for making really cool images loops.”

Welcome to UC San Diego’s reinvented intro-to-computer-programming course. The students still learn the fundamental programming concepts (like “for loops”), but instead of writing programs to calculate bank interest or spell out “hello world,” they write programs that manipulate digital images. The results of this “write-your-own-Photoshop” approach to learning computer programming will be on display tomorrow, November 18. More than 40 pairs of UCSD undergrads will show off large glossy prints of their manipulated images along with the computer code they wrote in order to create the images.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupational employment projections for 2016, over 800,000 of 1.4 million new professional jobs (57%) will be in computing. The new way of introducing programming is part of UC San Diego’s commitment to make computer science education as engaging and relevant to as wide and diverse a pool of students as possible. “The students are loving it!” said Beth Simon Ph.D., the computer science lecturer teaching the class.

Media Contact: Daniel Kane dbkane@ucsd.edu; 858-534-3262 (o)

Computer Science Contact: Beth Simon bsimon@cs.ucsd.edu

Bureau of Labor Statistics report here

Class Web Site

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shaking Up an Old Building

While residents across California prepared for the “big one” during the Great California Shakeout on Nov. 13, UC San Diego engineers simulated their own earthquake in order to devise better retrofit strategies for some of California’s oldest buildings.

The researchers simulated ground motions based on the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California, which measured 7.1 in magnitude. During the tests, the engineers subjected a 3-story, masonry-infilled, reinforced concrete frame representing structures built in California in the 1920s to a series of seismic events. This is the largest specimen of this type ever tested on a shake table.

Check out the full story here

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alumni Magazine online

The latest issue of Pulse, the alumni magazine of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering made is now online .

The issue is dedicated to highlighting some of the ways researchers at the Jacobs School are tackling the "grand challenges for engineering" set forth earlier this year by the National Academy of Engineering.

The Jacobs School communications team began with a blog that serves to collect the ways the Jacobs School and UC San Diego are working on the NAE's Grand Challenges. This issue of Pulse is a further refinement on the theme.

What is especially nice is that Jacobs School professors were addressing these challenges long before they were officially described by the NAE.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NanoEngineering / Structural Engineering Groundbreaking

Pretty much everything is better when you involve a home-made robot...and groundbreaking ceremonies at university engineering schools are no exception. Check out the robot-version of UC San Diego's informal mascot doing the heavy lifting at the groundbreaking for the Structural and Materials Engineering Building. The building will be the home of two Jacobs School of Engineering departments—Structural Engineering and NanoEngineering—and provide studios and additional facilities for UC San Diego’s Department of Visual Arts.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Field Medic on a Chip hits Technology Review

Joseph Wang, a nanoengineering professor from the Jacobs School, recently won a $1.6M grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for a technology described as a "field hospital on a chip."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Clean Tech Awards Ceremony

Last night was clean-tech night in San Diego. The Jacobs School's von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurship put on a great event to honor the three local clean tech research projects that are receiving seed funding from the Clean Tech Innovation Challenge--a partnership between the City of San Diego, UC San Diego’s William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and San Diego State University (SDSU).

The program is designed to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies out of university labs as part of the city’s goal to promote the growth of the local clean tech industry. Program participants include faculty from UC San Diego, SDSU, University of San Diego and Alliant International University. Qualcomm, Inc. co-sponsored the first grant awards.

In the photo at the top of the blog post (left to right): Frieder Seible Dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; and Terry Moore, Executive Director, Morrison & Foerster Venture Network. (Morrison & Foerster sponsored the party...thanks!)

Two of the three university-based clean tech research projects that are receiving Innovation Challenge funding are from UC San Diego:

Paul Yu, Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
project: Multiple Quantum Wells for Solar Spectral Concentrator and Optical Energy Transport Technology

Yu Qiao,
Structural Engineering professor, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering:
project: Developing Ultrahigh-Efficiency Thermal-Energy Harvesting Materials

John J. Love, Professor,
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, San Diego State University

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Clock that Breeds

Bioengineering professor Jeff Hasty recently published a Nature paper describing the first fast, robust genetic clock that works inside living E. coli cells.

Technology Review's Emily Singer also covered this Nature paper here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

San Diego Wireless History

Going through piles of paper on my desk just now, I uncovered this great story from the Union Tribune from January 2008 by Jonathan Sidener and Kathryn Balint entitled,

Well-connected from the start
San Diego's bustling wireless industry can trace its roots to one local company
It's a great read.

BTW, Balint is no longer at the San Diego Union Tribune. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is President and CEO of CropMom Corporation, a digital scrapbooking site.

Bad Times a Good Time for Tech?

Microsoft's Craig Mundie visited UC San Diego on Friday Oct 10, in order to connect with Jacobs School students and faculty as well as univeristy administrators.

After Mundie's tech demo, he sat down with Alex Pham from the Los Angeles Times, which resulted in a Q&A. Read the full Q&A here. The final question is below.

Do you see a problem with the quality of American computer science graduates?

It is a serious problem, especially in the U.S. For us, our raw materials are smart people. Our culture for the last few decades does little to celebrate engineers and scientists and a lot to celebrate entertainers and athletes.

Parents in the U.S. also are just more decoupled from the academic interests of their kids. They are less demanding of their kids academically and perhaps even encouraging their kids into whatever the parents see as the quickest way to make a lot of money. Taken together, that is creating a somewhat acute shortage of American kids growing up with any passion for math and science.

There is a silver lining in this economic turmoil. Perhaps fewer of our best students will now go to Wall Street. Maybe some will even stay and build things. We need smart people to tackle the hard, long-term problems society faces. It can't be done by politicians and entertainers. It's going to be done by engineers and scientists.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Proteins...Putting them Back Together (Algorithmically)

UC San Diego computer scientists just received an NIH grant to help clean up "the mass spec data mess". (San Diego Untion Tribune clip here)

It's easy to blast apart proteins with mass spectrometers and generate huge amounts of data comprised of all the little protein pieces. It is much harder to put those pieces back together in order to figure out what proteins (and protein modifications) are present in biological samples such as blood and tumors.) UCSD engineers are doing just that...using computational tools, and they just secured an almost $5M NIH grant to keep up the good work and create the software and cyberinfrastructure to enable scientists around the world to take advantage of their algorithmic breakthroughs. More info below and at the links provided.

UC San Diego engineers and scientists have received a five-year $4.94M grant from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a part of NIH, to develop algorithms and software for deciphering all the proteins that are present in biological samples. This “proteomics” work promises to revolutionize routine blood tests, vaccine development, cancer diagnostics, and many other
important biomedical challenges, says Pavel Pevzner, the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering computer science professor leading the project. (Read the UCSD release here and the NIH press release here)

"Unanalyzed data from mass spectrometers is piling up in laboratories around the world. Our algorithms can turn much of these ‘dark’ data into the lists of modified proteins that researchers are looking for,” says Nuno Bandeira, the first executive director of the Center for Computational Mass Spectrometry at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

Key collaborators on the new grant are Jacobs School of Engineering computer science professors Vineet Bafna and Ingolf Krueger as well as Steven Briggs, a professor of biology at UCSD’s Division of Biological Sciences.

Genetic Engineering News also picked up the story.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nano-Bio-Electronics at the Jacobs School

Joseph Wang, an extremely prolific and influential engineer and chemist joined the Jacobs School faculty this summer. He joined our NanoEngineering Department which got its start in 2007.

Joseph Wang, was the most cited engineer from 1991 to 2001 and consistently one of the world’s most cited engineers and chemists.

Check out his lab webpage, or jump here for an idea of what nanobioelectronics is all about.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Structural Engineering Startup Grabs Venture Funding

AgileNano, a Jacobs School of Engineering structural engineering startup that is commercializing technology from the laboratories of Yu Qiao recently received funding from the Tech Coast Angels. Professor Qiao is the CTO and Jacobs School PhD Candidate Nicole Justis Truitt is the VP of Research and Development at Agile Nano.

I picked up this story from Xconomy San Diego. Thanks Bruce!

Nicole Justis Truitt was one of the co-founders of UCSD's Triton Innovation Network $50k Entrepreneurship Competition, which is currently called the UC San Diego Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Microsoft's Craig Mundie Came to UC San Diego

The students who came to see Craig Mundie were captivated by Microsoft Surface, a tabletop computing surface that allows several users to work independently or together without a mouse or a keyboard.

The grad students who showed off their posters and then participated in a roundtable with Mundie got to see into the inner workings of Microsoft Research that doesn't get covered in the fun demos.

Watch Calit2's Webcast here. See more photos from the event on Calit2's Flikr photostream.

Read the story on the Jacobs School Web site here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fat Study. Bioinformatics Core.

The bioengineers at UCSD are hard core. They consistently rank at the very very top of the national rankingings. The new chair of the department, Shankar Subramaniam, is putting that hard-core ethic into the "bioinformatics core" of a UCSD-led inititative to study how the role that fat plays in diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and many other ailments.

The Union Tribune ran a great story on the project, which just received an additional $38M in funding.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Upside-down Undwerwater Slime-Supported Transport

Upside-down Undwerwater Slime-Supported Transport...the newest ride at the biggest amusement park less than a day's drive from your house? Nope. More like, a series of academic papers from Jacobs School mechanical engineering professor Eric Lauga.

The latest paper, called “Crawling Beneath the Free Surface: Water Snail Locomotion” appears in the journal Physics of Fluid.

Check out the press release and video here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Root Beer Floats Your Boat

Jacobs School undergrads are dishing out rootbeer floats today and publicizing the first general meeting of the Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC) at the same time.
The meeting is Weds Oct 1 at 7:30 PM in Room 1202 of the computer science building. Ice cream served at 7:00 PM.
After the meeting, you'll have a chance to meet folks from all the different engineering student organizations.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ultrafast & Nanoscale Optics Group in New Scientist Tech

In a New Scientist column covering exciting new patents, Justin Mullins highlighted work from the electrical engineers in Shaya Fainmfan's group here at the Jacobs School. (Fainman is in the photo).

The patent is for a "universal detector" that will use plasmonics to test for contimation on any type of surface.

Read the New Scientist column here.

Read the full patent application here.

Fainman directs the Ultrafast & Nanoscale Optics Group at the Jacobs School. Read about his work in a recent issue of the Jacobs School alumni magazine, Pulse.

The researchers listed as inventors on the patent application are:
Kevin TETZ

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Computer science students talk "Android"

San Diego Channel 6 came to campus on Tuesday afternoon to find out what our tech-savvy student body thought about the new Google phones unveiled in New York. Channel 6's Jenny Hamel picked a good day to come to campus:

New computer science students, including Jeanne Wang, were streaming out of an orientation with plates full of free food and Calit2's Summer Scholars had just finished presenting the fruits of their summer research.

One scholar, Benjamin Lotan, and some friends were still hanging out in front of the big flat screen TV that Benjamin used to show off his exploration into digital video.

Check out the students and their thoughts on the new Google phone here.

This is up on the Calit2Life blog too...which a cool photo

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UC San Diego Startup Genomatica turns sugar into industrial chemicals

Genomatica, a UC San Diego startup founded by a UC San Diego Jacobs School bioengineering PhD student Christopher Schilling and his professor Bernhard Palsson made big news recently when it announced a process to use sugar, rather than petroleum, to produce a common industrial chemical.

CNET has a good story here.

The Forbes story "Making Plastic from Sugar" is a good read as well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge

UC San Diego's entrepreneurial spirit continues to grow. On Oct 1, 2008, you can experience the startup vibe at the fall kickoff event which features a keynote from Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Co-Founder and Chairman, QUALCOMM, Inc.

RSVP at: http://challenge.ucsd.edu

Friday, September 19, 2008

UC San Diego Honored by Buildings Magazine

According to Buildings Magazine, UC San Diego Ranked #3 in the nation within the "building market" for it's efforts to become the greenest university.

San Diego students in the photo above are part of a project to collect weather and climate information across the UC San Diego campus in order to find ways to save energy. On example: identify the sunniest rooftops on which to expand the solar-electric system and determine just how much sun we can expect on our coastal campus.

A snippet of the story in Buildings magazine is pasted below.
Although UC San Diego is fortunate to have the support and expertise of its forward-thinking administration, continuous-improvement practices are only possible when students and faculty are asked—and empowered—to think outside the box while learning the "art" of collaboration. Imagine how these future leaders will influence corporate and political America in the next decade.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jacobs School Startup in New York Times

Quanlight, the LED startup company that emerged from the laboratories of Charles Tu, an electrical engineering professor (and Associate Dean) at the Jacobs School (photo above left), made its way to the New York Times today.

Quanlight's chief technical officer is Vladimir Odnoblyudov (photo above right), who earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering in 2006.

Below is a bit of the New York Times story by James Flanigan whose column about small-business trends in California and the West appears on the third Thursday of every month.

Blackbird invested $1 million two years ago in Quanlight, essentially backing the invention of Vladimir Odnoblyudov, an electrical engineer from Russia who came to the University of California, San Diego, for his doctorate.

Mr. Odnoblyudov, working with an engineering professor at the university, Charles Tu, developed a semiconductor for light-emitting diodes that provided greater stability for red light, a major need in liquid-crystal displays. Quanlight, with Mr. Senturia as chief executive and Mr. Odnoblyudov as technology officer, raised $3 million last year to develop the invention under license from the university. The process is less expensive than current technology, Mr. Senturia said, “but for red light, stable is more important than cheap. Quanlight’s red is wonderful for backlight on L.C.D. television.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Electrical Engineers in Popular Science

Electrical engineering graduate student Eric Tremblay is featured in the recent issue of Popular Science for his origami optics project.

Read the full story here

Read the original press release here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

App2You Got Scobalized!

App2You the computer science startup from Jacobs School professor and database guru Yannis Papakonstantinou set up the online submission and review system for the approximately 1,000 companies that are submitting themselves for a spot on the next TechCrunch 50 List.

Robert Scoble highlighted this fact on his Twitter stream this week:

"App2You made the site that 1,000 companies entered their data into and managed the process behind the scenes of TC50.

03:41 PM September 10, 2008 from web"

Scoble rose to prominence as a revolutionary blogger for Microsoft. He is currently a video blogger for Fast Company and runs the popular Scobalizer blog.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Animated Hair is Blowing in the Wind

Though the song says that "the answer my friend is blowing in the wind," UC San Diego computer scientists and graphics researchers are part of a group that has found the answer for getting hair on animated characters to blow in the wind.

They presented their findings last week at SIGGRAPH 2008, the most prestigous academic computer graphics conference. The work is a collaboration between researchers at UC San Diego, Adobe Inc, and MIT.

Discover Magazine ran a nice story about this work.

Here is the caption for the image at the top of this post:
The left two images demonstrate different aspects of a real hairstyle that the computer scientists captured. The third image from left is the reference photograph of the real hairstyle. The new algorithms created the image on the right, which has photorealistic highlights and texture, even through there are no photographs that were taken at that angle.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Computer Science Collaborator

Pieter Dorrestein, one of computer science professor Pavel Pevzner's collaborators here at UC San Diego, was featured in a short profile in The Scientist. Dorrestein and Pevzner devised a way to cut the time it takes to determine the structure of peptides derived from natural compounds from six months or a year to as little as one day. This advance may assist drug discovery researchers – who need to know as much as possible as quickly as possible about the natural products with antibiotic, antiviral and other pharmacologically interesting properties that they are probing.

They presented the work RECOMB 2008 (Research in Computational Molecular Biology) on March 31 in Singapore.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Taaz.com video from CBS

San Diego's CBS affiliate KFMB Channel 8 created a great two minute video on, Taaz.com, the virtual makeover Web site started by computer science professor David Kriegman.

Check out the entertaining video here or

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Flash Server and Nature paper

The press release for a Nature paper from the bioengineering lab of Jeff Hasty includes an embedded video of growing yeast cells (cooler than it sounds) that is streaming on our new flash server. This is the first press release video to stream from our flashy new flash server. We are hoping this is going to be a cross-platform solution to our video needs. Check it out!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Remote Control Face in Voice of San Diego

The Voice of San Diego ran a great story on Jacob Whitehill's computer science research. Whitehill is the guy who can turn his face into a remote control, thanks to a Web cam and some serious computer science can do. The story is by Darryn Bennett.

Voice of San Diego, July 29 -- A third year computer science graduate student at UCSD, Jacob Whitehill and his colleagues are working to make a new generation of robots that would be effective and responsive teachers. They believe the key is to train them to recognize and respond to facial expressions, the way humans do naturally. Whitehill described the demonstration, part of his research at UCSD's Machine Perception Laboratory, as "almost like having a remote control built into your face."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Label Reading with a Purpose

The Calit2 Life blog ran a great story from Jacobs School computer science professor Serge Belongie. The post is republished below. This is an update on a story that I wrote about last fall, when Belongie and his collaborators presented their ideas at a conference.

Soylent Grid Is People!

One of the big challenges in solving large scale object recognition problems is the need to obtain vast amounts of labeled training data. Such data is essential for training computer vision systems based on statistical pattern recognition techniques, for which a single example image of an object is unfortunately not enough.

For my research group, this has been especially evident in our work on the Calit2 GroZi project, which has the goal of developing assistive technology for the visually impaired. This includes tasks such as recognizing products on grocery shelves and reading text in natural scenes. (Check out this YouTube video for a bit of background on the project.)
In the past, this type of labor-intensive data labeling task would fall on hapless grad students or undergrad volunteers. (As an example, last winter my TIES group and CSE graduate student Shiaokai Wang manually labeled all the text on hundreds of product packages, all for the meager reward of pizza and soda.)
Recently, however, a movement has emerged that harnesses Human Computation to solve such labeling tasks using a highly distributed network of human volunteers. As an example, CMU's recaptcha system applies this principle to the task of transcribing old scanned documents, wherein the image quality is low enough to throw off conventional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.
Think of it like this. Every time you solve a CAPTCHA, i.e., those distorted words you have to type in at websites like myspace and hotmail to prove that you're not a spambot, you're using your powerful human intelligence to solve a small puzzle. Systems like recaptcha, the Mechanical Turk, and the Soylent Grid (currently under development by Calit2 affiliate Stephan Steinbach, CSE graduate student and CISA3 project member Vincent Rabaud, visiting scholar Valentin Leonardi, and TIES summer scholar and ECE undergraduate Hourieh Fakourfar) seek to redirect this human problem-solving ability toward useful tasks.
Hourieh's summer project has as its aim to adapt our fledgling Soylent Grid prototype to the above-mentioned text annotation task. A critical requirement for such a system to work is a steady traffic of web visitors looking for content.

Some day, when the Soylent Grid is a household name, we'll have strategic partnerships set up with big-name websites that serve up 1000s of CAPTCHAs per hour. Until then, we've got our work cut out for us to find some traffic to get our experiment started. As a humble starting point, we're going to outfit the pdf links on my group's publications page so that people who click on the link get served a labeling task before they can download the pdf. From there, we plan to move on to bigger and better websites with increased levels of traffic.
Now you may ask, how do we prevent visitors from inputting nonsense instead of providing useful annotation? As with recaptcha, the solution is to use a pair of images, one with known (ground truth) annotation, the other unknown. In this way, the visitor's response on the known example can be used to validate the response on the other example. Moreover, the response of multiple visitors on the same image can be pooled to form confidence levels, and when this level is high enough, an image can be moved from the "unknown" stack to the "known" stack.
Naturally, many questions remain. How do we make these labeling tasks sufficiently atomic and easy to complete so that the web visitor doesn't get frustrated? How much ground truth labeling is needed in a given image database to "prime the pump"? How do we deal with ambiguity in the labeling task or in the user input? Some initial thoughts on these and other questions are put forward in Stephan and Vincent's position paper from ICV'07, but there's nothing like a messy real-world experiment to get real-world answers to these questions!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Swurl of UC San Diego Alumni Activity

A pair of computer science BS/MS students from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering are abuzz in a Swurl of activity...literally.

Ryan Sit and Jonathan Neddenriep have a new startup called Swurl that promises to "Bring your web life together."

Check out the Swurl story on TechCrunch. According to the TechCrunch story, Ryan Sit explained that Swurl isn’t so much about keeping your friends constantly updated on your current activities (à la Friendfeed). Instead, Swurl is more like an automatically generated blog and scrapbook that you’ve created for your friends and family.

Ryan Sit's "diaper changing and server tuning" Swurl is here.

Ryan Sit is no stranger to startups. He is one of the founders of DropShots, a pioneering service that allows family and friends to share their photos and video online. Read the DropShots story in Pulse, the Jacobs School of Engineering alumni magazine.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Machine Perception Lab at UCSD in ABC News

Lee Dye from ABC wrote a great story about UC San Diego computer science PhD student Jacob Whitehill's automated facial recognition research. The first couple graphs are below. Read the full story here.

A Computer That Can Read Your Mind
Facial Recognition Program Makes For Better Virtual Teachers

July 7, 2008 —

One of these days your computer will probably know what you are thinking before you know it yourself. The human face conveys emotions ranging from fear to confusion to lying, sometimes involuntarily, and scientists are figuring out how to make use of those expressions.

At the University of California at San Diego, for example, a graduate student has developed a program that will slow down or speed up a video based entirely on changes in his facial expressions, like a slight frown, or a smile. The purpose of this particular program is to make robotic instructors more responsive to their student's needs, but there are many other potential applications for the work.

"The project I'm working on is how can we use machine perception, including things like facial expressions, to improve interactivity between students and teachers," said Jacob Whitehill, a computer science doctoral candidate. "That includes human teachers, and also robotic teachers, which is something our lab is increasingly interested in."

Whitehill has tested his

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Undergrads are Bioinformatics Pioneers

UC San Diego bioinformatics undergrads published their pioneering work on "comparative proteogenomics" in the July 2008 issue of the prestigious journal Genome Research. Abstract here.

You can watch a video of two of the students here on YouTube:

Right now, you can read the release and watch the video on the Jacobs School news site.

Also, Howard Hughes Medical Institute has a nice story about the same project. Much of the funding that enabled Pevzner to put UC San Diego undergrads right at the cutting edge of bioinformatics research came from Howard Huges. Read the grant announcement story here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Calit2 Life

Calit2 just launched Calit2.Life -- a super cool group blog. Here is the press release. The initial roster of contributors includes roughly one dozen senior Calit2 personnel, communications staff and directors of affiliated research centers. Over time, more contributors will be added to ensure that Calit2.Life remains representative of people and activities on both campuses.

Check it out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

He turned his face into a remote control

Computer science PhD student Jacob Whitehill turned his face into a remote control. The proof-of-concept demonstration is part of a larger project to use automated facial expression recognition to make robots more effective teachers.

One of the news blogs from the journal Nature picked up the story.

Discover Magazine blogged about the research today too.

Jake got Slashdotted as well, via NetworkWorld.

The LA Times linked to the NetworkWorld story from their Tech blog.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took a slightly different angle on the story.

Watch Jacob Whitehill turn his face into a remote control in a three minute video.

View a one minute video Jacob Whitehill created to communicate his research results.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ring Ceremony 2008 at the Jacobs School

Here are a few photos from the 2008 Ring Ceremony.

Jacobs School Oath:

As a graduate of the Jacobs School of Engineering, I pledge to use my knowledge for the public good, to innovate for the advancement of humanity, and to be accountable to future generations. As a member of the engineering community, I dedicate myself to lifelong learning and to the growth of my field. I promise to always conduct myself with honor and to uphold the strong ethical values instilled in me by the Jacobs School. I accept this ring as a symbol of this oath

Friday, June 13, 2008

Graphics Rendering Competition

It's June in San Diego and that means another graphics competition in the computer science department at UC San Diego. The competition marks the end of the Spring 2008 "CSE168 Rendering Algorithms" class with Henrik Wann Jensen.

The students in the class were asked to render a realistic object or scene of their own choosing, and the images were judged by an external panel of experts (the best student image would be rewarded with a trip to SIGGRAPH 2008). The winners and honorable mentions were selected based on the quality of their rendered images and the technical difficulty.

Bin Chen won the grand prize for his "Magical Lotus" graphic.

Bin created a realistic scene depicting two lotus flowers in a pond. He implemented a number of techniques including translucency using photon mapping, depth of field, ray marching, tone mapping, and bloom.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

how sweet is this UC San Diego photo?

Have a favorite UCSD photo? Link to it in the comments section.

Photo credit? Well, I don't know who took the picture, but I found it in the Flikr photostream run by the UCSD chapter of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi (TBP). They won the most outstanding chapter award last year.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Jacobs School was THIS close!!!

We were THIS close to grabbing some prize money in the 2nd Annual UCSD $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.

Bioengineers working on better multidrug combinations and electrical engineers working toward solar-powered personal electronics were the two Jacobs School finalists in the business plan competition that was held at Calit2’s Atkinson Hall on Saturday May 31 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

But alas, the three other finalists placed above our finalists.

It's all good though. Before the competition, both teams told me that even if they didn't win any money, just getting to the finals was a big success because it forced them to fully think through their business plans. They also had the benefit of meeting with lots of seasoned entrepreneurs and venture capital folks.

Read all about the two great Jacobs School finalists here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Junkyard Derby

It always amazes me how creative some of the Junkyard Derby cars are. Check out the wrap up story here, and the preview story here, and the great video news coverage from Channel 10. Thanks to UCSD alum Ray Schumacher for the chicken-car photo above.

When you watch the video, check out the super cool Packman-themed car!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nanowires as electron super highways

Just off an asphalt superhighway (the 5), engineers developed experimental solar cells with superhighways for electrons. Once the electrons hop on the superhighway, they go directly to the electrode. Why do we care if electrons make it to the electrode? Because if they don't make it, then no current is produced. And for many thin-film solar cells made of polymers, electrons have a hard time making to the electrode. Before they get there, they often recombine with a hole.
You can read the full press release here.

If you are wondering about a caption for the image above, read below:
Schematic of the nanowire-polymer hybrid device created by UC San Diego engineers and described in the journal NanoLetters. (Top to bottom): top yellow layer is the gold (Au) electrode that attracts the holes; blue gradient is the polymer material (P3HT) that absorbs the sunlight; the yellow wires are the InP nanowires that grow directly on the green metal substrate made of indium tin oxide (ITO).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Space is the Current Frontier

In the process of interviewing Bhaskar Rao, the electrical engineer just named named the inaugural holder of the Ericsson Endowed Chair in Wireless Access Networks in the Jacobs School, I learned that in the world of wireless networks, space is the new fronteir.

It's not about going into outerspace with your shiny new PDA. It's about using space as well as time to send information across wireless networks. To enter the wireless world's space dimension, you need to be working with at least two antennae at both the sending and receiving end. Welcome to MIMO: multiple inputs multiple outputs.

When you have mutliple transmitters and recievers, signal processing gets more complicated because you are manipulating space and not just time.

This is super cool because when you're dealing with just one antenna on the transmitter side and one antenna on the receiver side, it is very hard to inrease the data rate. To double the data rate, you have to increase the power of the signal by a factor of 100. That's a lot of work just to double the data rate.

But when you start working with two antennae on both the transmitting and receiving end, the rules change. You can increase data rate without having to raise the power of the signal you are sending or having to increase your bandwidth usage.

The WiMax wireless networks you might have heard about are incorporating MIMO technologies. MIMO is on its way.

For MIMO technologies to function well, the reciever and transmitter have to keep up a regular conversation in which the receiver says, "Hey transmitter! Listen up, this is what I think you said." And based on that information, the transmitter can do a better job of getting its message across the wireless channel to the receiver.

This is called "learning the wireless channel."

Some of Bhaskar Rao's recent work has been in the feedback that the receiver sends the transmitter. You want to be able to send all the relevant information, but nothing more. Also, the wireless channel can change at anytime, so the receiver has to keep sending information to the transmitter.

Who knows when exactly, but pretty soon our laptops and other electronics will have multiple wireless antennae using MIMO to carry data wirelessly at blazing fast speeds. Stay tuned. Space is the current frontier.

You can read more about Bhaskar Rao here.

Here is a link to his laboratory Web page.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Environmental Monitoring Team Engineering Project is Complete!

Jacobs School students are working on many different team engineering projects for nonprofit community clients in San Diego. One project that recently wrapped up is a solar powered environmental monitoring system. It floats in a reclaimed water body (is it a pond or a lake or a wetland? any thoughts?) that is part of Lakeside's River Park Conservancy's project to restore the San Diego River. The floating solar panel contraption in the photo above the monitor. It has sensors down in the water that collects all kinds of information. This info gets sent wirelessly to a the conservancy's computer system on dry land, where staff and volunteers can monitor the quality of the water as time goes on.

You can check out the student's final presentation here (it's a PPT file).

You can check out their Web site here.
This is part of TIES (Teams in Engineering Service) program in which undergrads work together on real projects. It's great experience. It's good for the community. It's service learning. And it can help you snag a job. I ran into one of the TIES members at the big undergrad job fair here at the Jacobs School (DECaF). He'd just had an interview with an environmental monitoring company that was interested in him, especially because of his real-world experience with the TIES environmental monitoring program.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

InP Nanowire / Polymer Hybrid Photodiode

I'm working on a press release for a recent NanoLetters paper from electrical engineers here at the Jacobs School. They created a photodiode (think photovoltaic) in which nanowires grown directly on a metal are submerged by a conducting polymer. When light hits the polymer, electrons and holes are split. The electrons make their way to the nanowires, and the nanowires shuttle the electrons down to the electrode. This design is more efficient than polymer photodiodes that don't contain nanowires.

More soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Undergrads Publishing in Genome Research

Liz Kain and Ian Kerman are two of the UCSD undergrads from the bioinformatics program who have a paper accepted in Genome Research. The paper is embargoed and I'm working on a press release now, but if you want the inside scoop, contact me. It's a hot paper and a great example of undergrads doing cutting edge research along side world-renowned professors and top-notch grad students.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

UCSD cloud computing project named 1 of "25 radical network research projects you should know about"

NetworkWorld just came out with a "25 radical network research projects you should know about" list. The bandwidth control in the clouds research project from UC San Diego's computer science department made the list.

UPDATE APRIL 21: this story made it to Slashdot:

Coolest University Tech Lab Projects in the Works
from the tuition-begets-intuition dept.
posted by timothy on Sunday April 20, @01:10 (Education)

Here is the main idea of the award winning paper:

If half your company’s bandwidth is allocated to your mirror in New York, and it’s the middle of the night there, and your sites in London and Tokyo are slammed, that New York bandwidth is going to waste. UC San Diego computer scientists have designed, implemented, and evaluated a new bandwidth management system for cloud-based applications capable of solving this problem.

The UCSD algorithm enables distributed rate limiters to work together to enforce global bandwidth rate limits, and dynamically shift bandwidth allocations across multiple sites or networks, according to current network demand. "

The UCSD computer scientists presented this work at the premeir networking conference last year, SIGCOMM 2007, where it won the 2007 SIGCOMM best student paper award – the top prize at the conference. (Congrats to Barath Raghavan)

Read the full press release here.

Paper citation: "Cloud Control with Distributed Rate Limiting," by B. Raghavan, K. Vishwanath, S. Rambhadran, K. Yocum, and A. C. Snoeren," in Proceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM Conference(SIGCOMM '07), Kyoto, Japan, August 2007.

Funder: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Here is a picture of Barath Raghavan, the UCSD computer science PhD student "looking to the computing clouds."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Computer graphics fog and smoke machine

The light piercing the fog in the top image is smooth, realistic and computationally light-weight. Why? Because UC San Diego computer scientists have figured out a way to take the super-realistic-but-computationally-taxing "photon mapping" approach and put it on a computational diet. The result? A more efficient way to get extremely life like computer generated images, especially of scenes where light is passing through fog, smoke, dust or other "participating media."

The bottom image was created using the conventional photon mapping approach, but given the same computational "budget." You can get the same high quality image using the conventional approach, but it's going to take you a long time. Why? Because you have to sample the light at many many many points along the ray from the camera to the objects in the scene. If you don't do tons of sampling, then you'll miss light that is hanging out between the camera and the objects in the scene. And when you start missing a bunch of light, your image starts to get noisy, which is what you're seeing in the bottom image. Since there was not much room for heavy computation, the conventional approach to photon mapping had to make do with an inadequate number of light collection points along the ray.

Read the full press release here.

Check out the paper here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Computer Science Startup Taaz.com on front page of Union Tribune on Sunday 13 April

Scott LaFee from the San Diego Union Tribune wrote a great Taaz.com story that ran on the Sunday 13 April 2008 issue, above the fold. Congratulations to computer science professor David Kriegman, and Satya Mallick, the freshly minted Jacobs School Ph.D. This pair came up with the "lipstick algorithms" that made way for Taaz.com which is the most realistic virtual makeover site on the Web. And it's free.
The promo video we made for the company launch was mentioned in the story. If you haven't watched the video, check it out here on YouTube.
UPDATE APRIL 21: The YouTube video now has more than 7,000 hits

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Drug Development Bottleneck Eliminated

Determining the structure of unknown natural compounds is a slow and expensive part of drug screening and development – but this may now change thanks to a new combination of experimental and computational protocols developed at the University of California, San Diego and presented at RECOMB 2008 (Research in Computational Molecular Biology) on March 31 in Singapore.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sweet New Online Makeover Tool

TechCruch broke the story on Tuesday...UCSD engineers had unveiled the most realistic virtual makeover tool on the Web. You can watch a video that I shot and produced on YouTube, read the press release, or just go to Taaz.com and upload a photo of your face and give it a try. It's fun, easy and free to use.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grand Challenges in Engineering from the NAE

The National Academy of Engineering issues its Grand Challenges in Engineering last month at the AAAS annual meeting. Researchers at UC San Diego are working on various aspects of all 14 of the challengs. We have put together a blog in order to get information about the various projects all in one place.

And the challenges are...

Make solar energy economical
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration methods
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Reverse-engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

San Diego is Amazing

San Diego is famous for its beaches and sunshine and proximity to both Mexico and LA. But there is much more. And if you end up coming to UCSD to study or work, you'll have the chance to explore San Diego county. You hear people say that you can hike in the mountains, hang out in the desert and watch the sun set over the ocean all in one day, without leaving San Diego county. It's true. And it's cooler than it sounds. And when we get our winter rains, the wildflowers are amazing.