Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bioengineering Undergrad Wins Library Award

Sara Richardson, a bioengineering undergraduate at the Jacobs School of Engineering is one of four undergraduate students at UC San Diego to received a 2009 Undergraduate Library Research Prize for their exemplary research skills.

Sara Richardson won first place in the life and physical sciences category, an award which comes with a $1000 cash award.

Richardson received first prize for her work on “Simulation of EVA Suite Effects During Lunar and Martian Analog Exercise.” Richardson’s research explored the effects of lower body negative pressure versus lower body positive pressure as a way to simulate human exercise on the moon. She was nominated by her faculty advisor Alan Hargens, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the UCSD School of Medicine. She completed her research at the Clinical Orthopedic Lab at the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.

"The research resources available from the UC San Diego Libraries have been extremely valuable in my project," said Richardson. “I have made extensive use of the UCSD Library resources listed in Sage and the E-journal subscriptions, which were necessary to view the results of my searches on PubMed and have been essential to my ability to access relevant papers. The research strategies I have picked up in this project have carried over into other aspects of my academic life—both for class and research."

Richardson is extremely involved at UC San Diego outside the library as well. She is the past president of the Jacobs School of Engineering's Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC).

Watch Richardson on YouTube (below) giving a tour of E-Games 2008.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cybersecurity researcher / computer science professor profiled in Voice of San Diego

Computer science professor Stefan Savage is profiled today in the Voice of San Diego. The story by David Washburn highlights the systems security research lead by Savage and fellow Jacobs School computer science professor Geoff Voelker.
From the Voice of San Diego story:
Long considered a top cyber-security expert, Savage leads a team at the Collaborative Center for Internet Epidemiology and Defenses that last year infiltrated the infamous Storm botnet, which victimized millions of people through internet spam scams. And last month the center, which is a joint UCSD and UC-Berkeley effort, was awarded a five-year, $7 million grant from the U.S. Navy's research arm to study botnets and the threats they pose to national security.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Herd It leaps out of Alfpha Mode

Herd It, the music discovery Facebook game created by Jacobs School engineers just moved from alpha to full production mode. Herd It was created by the same group of researchers who are developing a new kind of music search engine that is capable of actually listening to songs and returning songs that contain the musical characteristics that person is looking for--based on their text-based search strings--moved from alpha to offical release mode today.
Screen shots I posted on the Jacobs School blog last spring are here.

With Stiff Gel, Get From Adult Stem Cells to Muscle Cells

Stiff gels are important for coaxing adult stem cells to differentiate into muscle cells. Making muscle cells from adult stem cells in the lab would provide important new sources of high quality cells for a wide range of cell-based regenerative therapies to treat a diverse set of muscle diseases, from muscular dystrophy to heart attacks.

Adam Engler, a bioengineering professor at UC San Diego, is using stiff gels as part of his work to create more realistic stem cell niches that will provide the right cues (in both time and space) for adult stem cells to turn to muscle cells.

This week, Engler received a $1.5 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop these stem cell niches over the next five years.

The images above highlight the progress Engler has already made. Both images above are adult mesenchymal stem cells (or MSCs). The adult stem cells on the left were grown on gels with stiffness of 1kPa (i.e. soft). The same type of stem cells (right) were grown on intermediately stiff gels (11kPa). The 11kPa gel recapitulates muscle stiffness, hence the adult mesenchymal stem cells on the right expressed MyoD, the protein labeled in the green color. MyoD plays a key role in regulating muscle differentiation. The 1kPa gel (left) is too soft, so those cells do not make the MyoD protein and most but not all lack green staining. The new project, funded by Adam Engler’s five-year $1.5 million NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, will integrate the cue of matrix stiffness with matrix topography and growth factors in a time and spatially-dependent way in order to make a more complete stem cell niche.

Learn about all the NIH New Innovator Award Recipients for 2009 here.

Scott LaFee mentioned Adam Engler in a San Diego Union Tribune story about other recent NIH grants to UC San Diego and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Netflix Prize Organizers Turned to Computer Science Professor at UC San Diego

Charles Elkan is a data mining expert, a computer science professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, and a consultant/judge for the Netflix Prize. The $1 million prize went today to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos.

Professor Elkan attended the prize ceremony in his capactiy as a judge for the competition. Below are a few insights from Elkan regarding the winning team's approach to movie recommendations. A short news story about Elkan's participation in the Netflix Prize is on the news section of the Jacobs School of Engineering news site.

"The success of the winning team [BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos] is based on groundbreaking basic research stimulated by the contest. One important idea is to use hundreds of variations of multiple methods, and then to take a sophisticated average of their predictions. This way, the errors of the different methods can partially cancel out. A second important idea is to discover from the data factors that are relevant both in describing movies and in determining the preferences of viewers. These factors are mined from the data to be maximally predictive, as opposed to being programmed in by human experts. It turns out that mined factors are more useful than any human intuitions for this task. A third important idea is to model the subtle ways in which ratings from users change both day to day and over the long term," said Charles Elkan, computer science professor from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

Journalists: Charles Elkan is available for comment regarding the Netflix Prize. He can provide clear insights and explanations regarding the winning strategies and how this work ties into larger data mining trends in both business and academia. Contact me (dbkane AT ucsd DOT edt) and I'll put you in touch with professor Charles Elkan.

The official Netflix press release is here.

Insightful story from Communications of the ACM by Marina Krakovsky. This story quotes Charles Elkan.

The Wall Street Journal story by Marisa Taylor mentions Charles Elkan as a judge.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

UC San Diego as Energy Innovator: Profile in Union Tribune

Onell R. Soto, a journalist with the San Diego Union Tribune, wrote about some of the ways UCSD is becoming a national leader in energy innovation. Excerpt below.

While the solar panels on the roof are good, they're not enough, says
Washom, the university's director of strategic energy initiatives.

He's part of UCSD's effort to become a national model for finding, testing and
implementing new power technologies by having the people who run its facilities
working together with the scientists on the cutting edge.

“It's not enough anymore to install solar panels, change lightbulbs or recycle,” said Jan Kleissl, an assistant professor of engineering.

The university “is moving from today's version of sustainability and changing to tomorrow's version,” said Steve Relyea, vice chancellor of business affairs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quantum Dot Update in Nanotechnology

Electrical engineers from UC San Diego are part of a team that published work this week in the journal Nanotechnology highlighting an efficient way for creating the desired spin orientation in "quantum dots" and related structures made of InAS (indium arsenide).

"Quantum dots (QDs) are often considered as promising candidates for applications in a variety of novel devices with spin-enabling functionality, e.g. in spin light-emitting devices, for spin filtering, as well as in quantum information technology," the authors write.

The researchers showed that independent (free) carriers are more efficient than electron-hole pairs (excitons) for creating specific spin orientations in InAs quantum dots.

Nanotechweb.org is running a very nice description of this work, which is a collaboration between Linköping University, Sweden and UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering.

According to the nanotechweb.org story,

This finding is relevant for future quantum communication and quantum information storage because it points out that separate carrier injection can be advantageous for next-generation spintronic devices based on QD spins.

The paper, "Spin injection in lateral InAs quantum dot structures by optical orientation spectroscopy," appeared in print in the journal Nanotechnology. Researchers at Linköping University performed the characterization work. Suwaree Suraprapapich performed the sample growth when she was a visiting electrical engineering Ph.D. student in the group of electrical engineering professor Charles W Tu at UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering. Professor Tu also serves as Associate Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering.

"Suwaree grew indium arsenide (InAs) single-quantum-dot, double-quantum-dot, and quantum-ring samples by gas-source molecular beam epitaxy in my lab during her time at the Jacobs School," said Tu.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

UC San Diego Cyberlink

Below is the latest "UC San Diego Cyberlink"

UC San Diego CyberLink is a monthly digest of news and events related to cyberinfrastructure from San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego Libraries, Administrative Computing & Telecommunications (ACT) and Center for Research in Biological Structures (CRBS). If you have news to share about cyberinfrastructure-related research, applications or activities on the UC San Diego campus, please send them to cyberlink@ucsd.edu.
Blink 2.0 Launched September 10
On September 10, 2009, Administrative Computing & Telecommunications (ACT) launched Blink 2.0. The new UC San Diego site page uses the Hannon Hill Cascade Server content management system and has direct links to research, instruction, business, and personal tools, a new calendar feature, a live shuttle map, and more.
Calit2 is leading an effort to develop and construct the science-driven, networked cyberinfrastructure to underpin the U.S. Ocean Observatories Initiative, with UC San Diego slated to receive approximately $32 million of newly-announced funding for the effort.
Leveraging lightning-fast technology already familiar to many from the micro storage world of digital cameras, thumb drives and laptop computers, SDSC has unveiled a “super-sized” version – the first “flash” memory-based resource of its kind among major HPC systems designed to accelerate investigation of a wide range of data-intensive science problems.
UC San Diego students working on cyberinfrastructure projects this summer in India, Malaysia, Australia, Japan and Taiwan talk about how they are balancing research at foreign institutions and the excitement – and challenges – of living and working abroad.
A UC San Diego-led team of computer scientists and optical interconnection systems technologists in the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN) is developing Scalable Energy Efficient Data Centers (SEED, for short). It consists of novel optical interconnection technologies for a multi-stage network topology that could offer tomorrow's data centers greater scalability, bisectional bandwidth, fault tolerance and energy efficiency.
Computer scientists have developed an inexpensive solution for diagnosing router delays in data center networks as short as tens of millionths of seconds. These delays can slow parallel processing in high performance cluster computing applications. They can also lead to multimillion-dollar losses for investment banks running automatic stock trading systems.
Software created by UC San Diego computer scientists may lead to data centers that logically function as single, plug-and-play networks that will scale to today's massive data center networks.
The new self-registration wireless network, UCSD-GUEST, is now available to campus visitors and guests, who no longer need to obtain guest usernames and passwords in advance to use the wireless network. Administrative Computing & Telecommunications implemented this new feature in August.
Visualization researchers at Calit2 have unveiled a 3D display system made of nine modified, overlapping LCD flat screens. The NexCAVE device is a relatively economical solution for viewing 3D imagery at distributed end-points in larger cyberinfrastructures.
The High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) and UC San Diego are supporting Dr. Toby Whitley from the University of Bath, England, in setting up a data logger and magnetic field sensors at Piñon Flat Observatory in southern California. The long term measurement campaign at Piñon Flat will enable the study of sprites, a type of transient luminous event seen above large thunderstorms.
A powerful new programming approach that generates malicious behavior by combining short snippets of good code can be used to take over voting machines, computer scientists demonstrate.
SDSC has officially launched the Triton Resource, an integrated, data-intensive computing system primarily designed to support UC San Diego and UC researchers. It has some of the most extensive data analysis power available commercially or at any research institution in the country because of its unique large-memory nodes.
HPWREN assisted the National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in planning and installing a wireless connection and web camera to monitor fires which typically begin inland and race towards the ocean in Malibu. Images and video will provide data for input to a fire behavior model currently under development.
Four new videos featuring some of HPWREN's most recent network applications – collaborations with Native Americans, high-end astronomy research, hydrology sensors, and research on energy efficient wireless sensor networks – are now available on the HPWREN website. They are encoded in MPEG-4, which may require a video player such as MPlayer, VLC or QuickTime.
Calit2 and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts as well as international partners staged the first movie premiere to be streamed in real time on three continents over high-speed optical networks in a super-high-bandwidth format that offers four times the resolution of high-def TV.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR…… for these upcoming cyberinfrastructure-connected events and training sessions. All events will be held at UC San Diego (except where noted otherwise).
Sept. 22, 2009 – 1:30-3pm – First Floor Lobby, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego
Visualization and cyberinfrastructure are just two of the topics on display when two dozen undergraduates from a dozen UCSD departments convey the findings of their summer research, at the conclusion of the ninth annual Calit2 summer program to encourage more research opportunities. Computer engineering freshman Robert Turner, working with computer science advisor Beth Simon, worked on interconnecting the Web, iPhone and iClicker with the Ubiquitous Presenter classroom technology system .

Sept. 27 - 30, 2009 – Falls Church , Virginia
Featured workshop topics include knowledge reuse, software verification, software ecosystems, and software reuse and safety.

Oct. 12 - 16, 2009 – SDSC Auditorium, UC San Diego
The Jacobs School's Gordon Engineering Leadership Center is hosting the first SAASE event and summer school, co-chaired by Gordon Center director Ingolf Krueger (also of Calit2 and the Jacobs School), Manfred Broy (Universität München), and Ford Motor's K. Venkatesh. Papers will address research advances in aerospace and automotive software and systems engineering, architecture, components, systems and systems-of-systems – from and across all associated engineering disciplines.

Jan. 25 - 28, 2010 – Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego
The C5 conference focuses on ways to transform computer-based human activities for creating and collaborating as a knowledge society emerges from now-pervasive computers, networks and other technologies. Talks will focus on visualization; collaboration and communication; technology-human interaction; virtual worlds; social networks; learning and much more. Paper submission deadline: Oct. 23.

Astrophysical and Magnetic Fusion Theorists!

Under a new $5.8 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), UC San Diego will host and lead the new Center for Momentum Transport and Flow Organization in Plasmas and Magnetofluids, which will bring together astrophysical and magnetic fusion theorists, experimentalists and computationalists from multiple institutions.

The big-picture goal is to turn fusion into a reliable green energy source.

“We are interested in identifying and understanding the common elements between fusion experiments, rotating stars and accretion disks. How do these systems develop organized flows and how do they dissipate or get rid of the energy associated with the flows?” said George Tynan, a UCSD Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor and researcher for the UCSD Center for Energy Research. “Answering these questions can allow us to gain a better understanding of the overall behavior of these systems. For example, in order for stars and planets to for the disk has to get rid of some of the rotational energy.”

Sunny Southern Califonia Increases Focus on the Sun

Southern Californians are all about the sun...and so are a group of Jacobs School of Engineering researchers who are working to bring the sun's fusion processes back to earth. The goal is to provide a much-needed renewable energy to southern California and beyond.

At the heart of the sun, fusion takes place at a temperature of 15 million degrees. Since it's impossible to reproduce these conditions on Earth, terrestrial fusion reactors must operate at lower pressures and higher temperatures -- at about 100 million degrees. The best way to control the plasma is to “bottle” it, enclosing the electrically charged gas in powerful magnetic fields. So far, the most successful magnetic “bottle” is a doughnut-shaped device called a tokamak, where a helical magnetic field is used to confine the plasma.

A team of researchers from UC San Diego, MIT and UC Berkeley recently received a $7 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for fundamental multiscale studies of plasma-material interactions.

Russ Doerner is a research scientist in the UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering’s Center for Energy Research and co-PI on the DOE contract. “There’s no deep understanding of this interaction between the plasma and its ‘wall’ and the other materials in a confined environment. If you can build these ‘walls’, or layers, to be more effective it will save time, money and energy in the long run.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ian Galton in invent@UCSD

Electrical engineering professor Ian Galton juggles the challenges of teaching, researching and advising...and out of that juggling act comes innovation, inventions and startup companies.
Read about Ian Galton's story in the profile put together by the folks in the UCSD Technology Transfer Office.
I put the story up on the Jacobs School news site. Read it here.
One of the prominent characters in the story is Andrea Panigada, who recently earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering. He was/is a member of the Integrated Signal Processing Group, which Galton leads. (Galton served at Panigada's Ph.D. advisor.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Create Critters. Learn Java.

I am working on a 2 minute video that tries to capture the energy and excitement generated in an introductory computer programming class at UC San Diego.

Beth Simon taught the clase, CSE8B, last winter quarter. I shot video on the final lecture, when the students held a tournament in which their "critters" battled each other. To create critters, the students had to understand "inheritance" in the computer science/Java sense of the word. Each student extend the critter class in a unique way, and then the various critters battled.

A near-final version of the video is below...I'll update this with the final version when it's ready.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

iPhone game developed by UCSD computer scientists gains steam

The online momentum for TowerMadness, the iPhone game developed by three computer scientists who studied in the computer science department at UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering continues to pick up steam.

On the heels of the Wired.com review of TowerMadness, the latest review I've seen is in MobileTechReview.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Toward a Better Understanding of Nuclear Ignition

As the nation’s nuclear weapons age, the U.S. government is turning to researchers and scientists at universities such as UC San Diego to figure out safe and reliable ways to estimate their longevity and to understand the physics of thermonuclear reactions in the absence of underground testing currently prohibited under law. (Read the full story by Andrea Siedsma here.)

Hoanh Vu--a research scientist in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering--and colleagues won a three-year, $510,000 grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)to use computer simulation tools to figure out how to successfully achieve controlled, miniaturized nuclear ignition of spherical fuel pellets in laboratory environments using lasers as energy drivers.

The Jacobs School researchers are collaborating with Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM), Lodestar Research Corporation and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester in New York.

“The way nuclear weapons work is that there is a spherical core of deuterium-tritium that is driven by a radiation source to nuclear ignition; we know that these bombs work because they have worked underground,” Vu said. “But the nuclear materials inside these fuel cores, primarily deuterium-tritium, and the radiation sources that drive these cores to nuclear ignition, have a relatively short shelf life. We don’t know with any certainty if these weapons still work. Since we can’t test them on a full scale, what do we do? We actually look at the physics and scale down the problem so we can test the viability of these weapons in a safer and more controlled environment.

“These weapons are massive so we try to scale it down to pellets that are millimeter-size,” Vu continued. “The method of choice for compressing these fuel pellets is using a laser, which provides a radiation source.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taaz.com Update on Virtual Makeovers

About 18 months ago, computer science professor David Kriegman, and Jacobs School alumnus Satya Mallick launched a virtual makeover Web site, Taaz.com. The site, and associated startup company Photometria, Inc, grew out of their invention of an algorithm for separating gloss from non-gloss in digital images. It turned out that the algorithm is great for makeovers even if it was first developed for face recognition. Read the original Jacobs School press release here and watch the three minute video I made here.

At Taaz.com, anyone can apply thousands of makeup products, and try out new hairstyles, with the click of a mouse.

Estee Lauder recently incorporated Taaz.com's technology to their Web site with a "let's play makeover" widget.

People Espanol also offers visitors to its site the chance to change your look with their "Cambia tu Look" site, also based on Taaz.com technology.

Last April, Taaz.com put out a press release highlighting the winners of their celebrity look-a-like contest. Who knew celebrity hairstyles were attainable with a few mouse clicks...