Research Excellence Award

Established in 2002, the BU Computer Science Research Excellence Award (REA) is presented annually to the PhD student or students who have produced outstanding research results over the course of their studies in the department. To be considered for this award, BU/CS PhD students must first be nominated by their advisor. The winners are then recommended by a faculty REA selection committee and approved by the entire BU/CS faculty.

The following are commendations by the REA selection committee for distinguished winners  from past academic years.

2012/13 Research Excellence Award Winners

  • Gonca Gürsun, PhD ’13
    Gonca’s research focuses on identifying hidden features of the Internet. Her Ph.D. thesis applied machine learning and data mining methods to large-scale Internet measurements in order to demonstrate the feasibility of inferring important properties that are not directly measurable. In particular, she has studied the problem of inferring traffic volumes that are not directly measurable (“traffic matrix completion”) and estimating the effects of routing decisions that are not directly observable (“inferring visibility”). In a series of papers in top conferences, she showed significant progress on both problems. In papers in CoNEXT 2010 and IMC 2012, she showed that Internet traffic matrices are low rank (a necessary condition for matrix completion) and she studied which operators have the best vantage point from which to infer unmeasurable traffic. In papers in SIGCOMM 2012 and in another IMC 2012 paper, she showed how to infer the effects of distant routing decisions; in support of this goal she developed a new metric for analyzing Internet routing. This metric (RSD) has independent value as a tool for visualization and analysis of Internet routing, and was recognized with an IETF/IRTF Applied Networking Research Prize.
  • Vatche Ishakian, PhD ’13
    Vatche’s research encompasses a large number of collaborators and spans a broad set of disciplines across networking, including application-level scheduling, network economics, data placement, and network architecture. His dissertation research focused on improving performance of the cloud, as perceived by networked applications. In his work on MORPHOSYS, Vatche developed new packing and scheduling methods to map workloads with complex quality-of-service constraints into regions of the cloud, work published at the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Cluster, Cloud and Grid Computing. Continuing on this line, his first-authored work at the ACM/IFIP/USENIX Middleware Conference received the Best Paper award. Here he demonstrated new methods for workload placement in the cloud using pricing mechanisms based on the Shapley value to map flexible workloads onto the more resource-elastic regions of the cloud. In a different domain, he devised new optimization techniques for content and filter placement problems published in VLDB 2012 and the ACM SIGKDD Conference in 2013, respectively.

2011/12 Research Excellence Award Winner

  • Zheng Wu, PhD ’12
    Zheng’s PhD dissertation significantly advances the state of knowledge on video-based multi-object tracking.  His dissertation is based on several first-authored research publications in the top conferences of the field of computer vision: CVPR 2011, ICCV 2009, WMVC 2009, and ECCV 2008. He was also co-author of papers published in ICPR 2010, PRIS 2010, MMBIA 2009, and NASB 2008.  With his steady stream of publications, he has established himself as an expert in designing single and multi-camera methods for tracking large numbers of tightly-spaced objects that rapidly move in two or three dimensions.  He has worked on developing algorithms for detection, segmentation, registration, and tracking of objects in visible-light, infrared, and phase-contrast microscopy.  His across-time and across-space multidimensional assignment algorithms employ iterative techniques from nonlinear optimization theory in creative ways.  His algorithmic contributions to computer vision range from designing greedy approximation algorithms, contour matching methods, network-flow techniques and set-cover techniques to handle challenging issues like occlusions, detection ambiguities, explosion of track hypotheses, and tracklet stitching. Zheng carefully tested the practicality of each of his algorithmic contributions in numerous experiments.  He validated that his methods can accurately reconstruct the 3D trajectories of flying bats and birds or walking pedestrians, the 2D tracks of living fibroblast cells, or the outlines of the fingers of a gesturing hand.  As part of his multi-disciplinary research, Zheng has participated in imaging field work in Texas, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  He implemented a comprehensive video analysis system, an impressive piece of software engineering, that enables the data analysis of collaborating biologists.  Zheng has served as an invaluable research mentor to more junior students in the IVC group.

2010/11 Research Excellence Award Winners

  • Michalis Potamias, PhD’11
    Michalis’s research has been on analyzing and querying large and complex graph structures with applications in biological and social networks. He
    proposed new distance functions between nodes in probabilistic graphs and
    he designed and implemented efficient algorithms to answer nearest
    neighbor queries on very large probabilistic graphs. In addition, he
    proposed and implemented a scalable and effective algorithm to cluster
    massive probabilistic graphs using graph edit distance. Furthermore, he
    proposed a model to quantify and explain information propagation in social
    networks based on both endogenous and exogenous criteria. Finally, he has
    worked on a number of other diverse areas including query optimization on
    the cloud, indexing deterministic graphs, and indexing multimedia data.
    His work has been published in top database venues including VLDB, ACM
    SIGMOD, IEEE ICDE, and ACM CIKM. His work on shortest path distance estimation in large networks received the Best Student Paper Award in ACM CIKM 2009.
  • Georgios Zervas, PhD’11
    Georgios’s research agenda is broad, and spans a wide spectrum of
    technologies in the online economy, from sponsored search advertising and
    second-price auctions, to modeling incentives in the link economy and the
    blogosphere, to quantifying tradeoffs between the value of private
    information and the ability to audit an untrusted third party. In his
    research he combines mathematical modeling with data analysis of large and
    original sources of data. An indicative example of Georgios’s work is his
    recent paper published in the ACM Symposium on Electronic Commerce (EC’10). The paper presents a large-scale study of the leading pay-per-bid
    auctioneer, Swoopo. This paper is the first to model information
    asymmetries across players and capture the large margins made by Swoopo
    and other sites. The mathematical models that capture such asymmetries are
    combined with a large-scale data-analysis study on traces of tens of
    thousands of auctions. The experiments validate findings from the models
    and also study the effectiveness of behavioral strategies by participants,
    such as the impact of aggressive bidding.

2009/10 Research Excellence Award Winner

  • Bhavana Kanukurthi, PhD’11
    Bhavana’s research has been on cryptographic key agreement protocols that do not rely on any computational assumptions but instead utilize minimal amounts of shared knowledge that the communicating parties possess. She has constructed the first such protocol to run in polynomial time (Eurocrypt 2009). She then further improved it, using techniques from error-correcting codes, to develop the first protocol in which the amount of initial shared knowledge required is only linear in the desired security (STOC 2010). With the help of undergraduates under her supervision, she developed an implementation of the protocol that demonstrated its applicability in practice. She has given several excellent talks on her work at top computer science departments around the world.

2008/09 Research Excellence Award Winners

  • Kyle Burke, PhD’09
    Kyle Burke’s research has been on games built upon mathematical theorems that are fundamental to Economics. Specifically, he designed two games, Atropos and Dictator. Atropos is based on Sperner’s lemma, one of the most important Fixed Point Theorems. The Dictator is based on Arrow’s theorem. The design of both games show great creativity. These games can be valuable for computer science and mathematics education. Kyle also obtained solid complexity results for both games.
  • Jorge Londono, PhD’10
    Jorge Londono’s research focuses on optimization and game-theoretic approaches for embedding multiple overlay (virtual) networks into a single shared (physical) host network. This “network embedding” problem is central to emerging cloud computing and virtualization paradigms. From a system-centric perspective, Jorge devised solutions that aim to maximize the efficiency of the hosting network. From a user-centric perspective, Jorge devised solutions that recognize the selfish nature of the users and host. In both settings, Jorge’s contributions, which appeared in a number of papers, include theoretical results and empirical evaluation.

2007/08 Research Excellence Award Winner

  • Gabe Parmer, PhD’09
    Gabe Parmer’s research has focused on both mechanisms and policies that are central to the design of dependable and predictable software systems. In 2006, he co-authored a best-paper at IEEE RTAS, on the design of kernel- and user-level solutions for sandboxing application-specific real-time services. This was followed by the development of the “Hijack” infrastructure for Linux, that supported interposition of user-defined services on system calls and interrupts. In effect, this allowed users to define application-specific services to over-ride those of the underlying kernel, where appropriate, while ensuring the integrity of the core OS was not compromised. More recently, the work on Hijack has been used to implement a component-based system, called “Composite”, that features the notion of “mutable protection domains” (MPDs). MPDs essentially form adaptable isolation boundaries around software components, thereby influencing the communication cost between one component and another. This enables a system to adapt itself to the highest degree of isolation between components, thereby maximizing dependability, while ensuring timely execution. In 2007, Gabe had several notable first-author publications and presentations including at RTAS, RTSS, PDPTA and VMworld.

2006/07 Research Excellence Award Winner

  • Jingbin Wang, PhD’07
    Jingbin has shown excellent taste in selecting or defining the tough problems that are central in his field. His algorithms are not only theoretically interesting, but also solve important practical tasks. For example, his results on tracking and recognizing non-rigid hand motions are so far among the best in the world. His work in the area of image segmentation and object recognition appears in the proceedings of some highly competitive conferences and a journal. Some problems he worked on: 1. Recognizing objects with varying shape in images. Parts of such objects can appear in many different ways in an image and can even be occluded altogether. With his co-authors, he developed a probabilistic tool, “Hidden State Shape Models”, then (by himself) applied it to localize hands, fingers and other objects in heavily cluttered test images. 2. Combination of grouping image regions with shape-based object recognition; the resulting first-authored paper became very visible. 3. For the problem of locating the major lung fissures on CT (computer tomography), he discovered an elegant, probabilistic method to combine prior shape information with data. 4. He designed and independently wrote the code for an extensively used human-computer interaction system for visualization and processing of chest CT images.

2005/06 Research Excellence Award Winner

  • Anukool Lakhina, PhD’06
    Anukool has shown that analyzing traffic measurements from many points in the network simultaneously yields enormous leverage on a number of practical problems in networking. He has been the first to develop methods to do this. The work attracted attention at a series of top conferences, and results in an outstanding publication record that would be the envy of any junior faculty member (and a good start on a strong tenure case at a top-ranked school). While being theoretically grounded, it has immense practical value, since it is useful for identifying unusual operating conditions in networks, for predicting future traffic patterns, for estimating unavailable traffic measurements, and for diagnosing network intrusion and network abuse. The methods that Anukool has developed are quickly being adopted by other researchers; papers are already appearing that are applying his methods to other problems.

2003/04 Research Excellence Award Winners

  • Vassilis Athitsos, PhD’06
    As a senior graduate student in the Image and Video Computing group at Boston University, Vassilis has been productive in a wide range of areas — computer vision, machine learning, pattern recognition, databases, and human-computer interfaces. His most recent first-authored paper on a method for constructing embeddings for similarity indexing and nearest-neighbor classification was accepted as