Newsletter for Winter 2011
In this issue…
- Message from the Chair
- Trustee Bahaa Hariri Pledges $15M for New Computing Institute
- Distinguished Alumnus Matt Boggie delivers 2010 convocation address
- Accolades for Research Achievements by Students and Faculty
- Faculty secure over $9M in new research grants to the CS Department
- How much sharing on social networks is too much?
- Distinguished Lecture by Eva Tardos on learning in network games
- A Traffic Cop on the Information Superhighway
- Nominations Sought for 2011 BU/CS Distinguished Alumni Award
- Noteworthy BU/CAS Events and Opportunities
- Join BUCAN on LinkedIn!
Join BU CAN on
Dear alumni, students, and friends,
It is a crisp snowy January day in Boston. At the moment, it is quiet on campus. But students will soon return from Winter Break next week to start the spring term.
We have quite a bit of news to share with you since our last newsletter!
BU alumnus and trustee, Bahaa Hariri has pledged a $15 million gift to endow a new interdisciplinary institute for computing research at BU. Azer Bestavros will serve as the Institute’s founding Director. This is an important moment in our department’s (and indeed our university’s) history. We are grateful to Bahaa Hariri for this very generous gift that will catalyze the future of interdisciplinary computational research at BU.
It has been a watershed year for new research funding in our department. Over $9 million in new grants were awarded to support a wide range of research, in secure cloud computing, mobile programmable devices, secure internet routing, high-performance computing, softphone security, computer vision, theory of computing, etc. A substantial part of this funding will support engagement of BU graduate and undergraduate students in cutting edge research.
As you will also see later in this newsletter, our students and faculty have received an impressive number of awards, prizes, and fellowships during the past year. For instance, Leonid Levin was awarded a Humboldt Research Award. The strength of our faculty, students, and alumni is also reflected in our department’s continued growth in stature. The National Research Council (NRC) assessment of PhD research programs showed dramatic improvement in our departmental ranking: BU CS moved up a whole quartile in the NRC rankings since the last assessment in 1993.
There has also been significant innovation in our CS curriculum during the past year. Sharon Goldberg taught a seminar on the latest issues in Network Security. Mark Crovella offered a revamped object oriented programming course that engaged students in programming mobile phones. This spring, Rich West will teach a course that involves “programming physical objects” with Arduino, and Jonathan Appavoo will launch a new course in distributed systems.
There was also one item of sad news. James (Jim) Devlin, who served as a lecturer in our department and the Core Curriculum, died in November. Jim developed and taught two programming courses in our department, CS 211 and 212. Students gave Jim’s CS courses rave reviews and continue to cite the importance these courses have had in launching their careers. Jim’s legacy lives on.
With best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2011,
Stan Sclaroff, Chair
Department of Computer Science
When applied to almost every discipline, computational thinking promises a profound impact on our society’s ability to generate and apply new knowledge. Computational approaches are already producing paradigm shifts in our understanding of a wide range of science and engineering phenomena, and are resulting in socio-technical innovations that create new wealth and enhance society’s quality of life. Recognizing its transformative potential, Boston University trustee Bahaa Hariri (SMG’90) has pledged $15 million for an institute that will help create and sustain a community of scholars who believe in the transformative potential of computational perspectives in research and education. The center’s affiliated faculty will collaborate on research and educational initiatives targeting four broad application-centric clusters: biology and medicine; physical science and engineering; social and management sciences; and the arts, communication, and education.
“The institute, to be operating by next fall, will not only propel discovery and innovation through the use of state-of-the-art computational approaches, but also it will catalyze advances in the science of computing inspired by challenges from a multitude of disciplines,” says Professor Azer Bestavros, the institute’s founding director. “The point here is to put together highly motivated, like-minded teams of scientists from different disciplines who believe in the transformative potential of adopting computational perspectives in research and education, so that they can leverage each other’s expertise to make progress in solving a major complex problem.”
“I am excited about the impact that the institute can make on neuroscience research at BU” says Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, Professor of Biomedical Engineering. “New advances in understanding how the tens of billions of neurons making up the human brain encode information will require interdisciplinary research teams that include computer scientists, mathematicians, and modelers to work hand in hand alongside neuroscientists.”
In a BU Today article announcing the gift, President Robert A. Brown said”We are extremely grateful for Bahaa Hariri’s visionary commitment in creating this institute at the nexus of modern computing and a range of critical applications,” adding that “Boston University has tremendous faculty and research activities in these areas and the creation of the institute will build the foundation for new interdisciplinary collaborations across these boundaries.”
“Supporting great research universities is an act of faith and a resilient commitment to contribute positively to the well-being of societies,” says Hariri, who has been a trustee of Boston University since 2004.
Matthew Boggie (CAS’99) accepted his 2010 BU/CS Distinguished Alumnus Award on May 16, 2010, after delivering a inspiring convocation address entitled “One More Lesson” to the class of 2010. In his comments, Matt noted that “it’s a common theme in commencement remarks to encourage people to go out in the world and find themselves. This always struck me as a little passive: as though your true calling was a lost umbrella, and if you just hunted enough you might find it. The truth of the matter is that you, now, have the opportunity to create yourself. You’ve gathered the tools you need here to do nearly anything, and you’re at a point when you have nothing but time ahead of you to explore. Try some things out. Play in a band. Write a novel. Join a kickball team. Learn to bake. You never know what you’re going to find that you like to do. And this goes both ways—you may discover something you always thought you’d love, but end up finding hopelessly boring. This is where the best part of being a computer scientist comes into play: the skills you’ve learned can be applied to almost any field. All you need to do now is find what excites you most, and use your skills to support it, and make it better.” He then added: “Take the chances that come to you, and remember—while we call today “Commencement” it’s really neither the beginning of anything, or the ending of anything either. You’re a life long learner, and today is simply one more lesson.”
Matthew Boggie is a Media and Technology Strategist at the New York Times. Before that he was a Senior Manager at Accenture Ltd.—a management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. In addition to working on both strategic and technical projects for major broadcast and publishing companies, including a custom-built system that managed PBS’ programming content, he has published points of view on the future of the digital content industry and was interviewed on these topics by both industry magazines and international news agencies.
As impressive as Matt’s professional successes are, it was his exceptional record of volunteer work—and how he used and continues to use his CS background and education to make a difference in society—that impressed the BU/CS Distinguished Alumni Award selection committee. Matt is the Director of ProjectExplorer—a not-for-profit organization that provides a global cultural experience aimed at fostering the next generation of global citizens. It does so by producing free online films and educational programming for primary and secondary school students and teachers. Since the project’s inception Matt has single-handedly supported the site’s technical platform and content development. For his work with ProjectExplorer, Matt was recognized by Accenture as the New York/New Jersey area Volunteer of the Year for 2005. Matt also won a 2009 Parents’ Choice Gold Award for ProjectExplorer.org in his role as site developer.
Matt received his BA in Computer Science from Boston University in 1999. He lives in New York City with his wife, Jenny Buccos—founder and director of ProjectExplorer.
For more details, check the BU/CS Distinguished Alumni citation for Matt Boggie as well as his complete convocation address to the class of 2010.
Also, check the pictures from the 2010 Convocation for Computer Science. Congrats class of 2010!
Hearty congratulations are in order to our students and faculty for the many research achievements and recognitions that they garnered in the past year.
- Undergraduate student Henrison Hsieh (CAS’12) was selected to receive a Phi Beta Kappa Award for 2010 in recognition of his demonstrated level of scholarship and academic achievement.
- Undergraduate student Chris Kwan (CAS’11) won the 2nd place award at the BU Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, for his “Camera Canvas” research with Professor Margrit Betke to enable image editing software for people with disabilities. [Link]
- CS doctoral students Raymond Sweha and Vatche Ishakian won the GSAS BU Science Day Prize for their work with their advisor Azer Bestavros on cloud-assisted content distribution. [Link]
- CS doctoral student Vatche Ishakian won the BU Science Day CISE Prize for his work with his co-advisors Azer Bestavros and Assaf Kfoury on safe colocation of periodic real-time systems. [Link]
- CS doctoral student Hany Morcos and his co-advisors Professors Azer Bestavros and Abraham Mattawon best paper award at the 2010 IEEE Med-Hoc-Net Workshop for their work on mobility coordination for improved sensing and routing in ad-hoc networks. [Link]
- Professor Evimaria Terzi was one of seven researchers world-wide to receive the Microsoft Faculty Research Fellowship [Link].
- Professor Leonid Levin won the highly prestigious Humboldt Research Award in recognition of an extraordinary mathematical mind and a career filled with noteworthy theoretical advances in computer science, probability, and information theories. [Link]
- Professor John Byers won the ACM SIGCOMM Test-of-Time award for his 1998 paper with co-authors Michael Luby, Michael Mitzenmacher, and Ashutosh Rege, on “A Digital Fountain Approach to Reliable Distribution of Bulk Data.” The Test-of-Time awards are meant to recognize technical contributions whose impact is still felt 10–12 years after initial publication. [Link]
- Professors Mark Crovella and Azer Bestavros won the inaugural ACM SIGMETRICS Test-of-Time award for their landmark 1996 paper entitled “Self-Similarity in World Wide Web Traffic: Evidence and Possible Causes.” The Test-of-Time awards are meant to recognize technical contributions whose impact is still felt 10 years after initial publication. [Link]
Congratulations to all!
It was a banner 2010summer! CS Faculty members secured over $9 million of research funding in support of a variety of projects in the CS Department—many of which feature large collaborative efforts spanning multiple Departments and Institutions (with total funding in excess of $30 million). The following are the headlines (and links) to stories published in various outlets announcing some of these awards.
Computer Science Professor John Byers teamed up with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University and at the University of Wisconsin on a project that seeks to develop an eXpressive Internet Architecture to enable future Internet architectures that provide intrinsic security in which the integrity and authenticity of communication is guaranteed. This project was funded by a $7.1 million award from the NSF, and is one of four awards in NSF’s new, highly anticipated Future Internet Architecture (FIA) program.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to a team of researchers from Boston University, the University of Washington, the University of Maryland, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The grant will fund a project entitled AIRFOILS (Animal Inspired Flight with Outer and Inner Loop Strategies), which will focus on the development of unmanned aircraft inspired by the flight mechanics and flight behavior of bats, birds and insects.
NSF Funds Major New Cloud Computing Project
The National Science Foundation has awarded total of $3 million to fund a new research project “Towards Trustworthy Interactions in the Cloud.” This is a collaborative, multi-institutional award, under the aegis of the RISCS Center at BU. Approximately $1.5 million will fund the research team at BU. The team at BU includes: Professors of Computer Science Azer Bestavros (BU PI and project lead), Jonathan Appavoo, Leo Reyzin, and Nikos Triandopoulos. Researchers at Brown University and UC Irvine round out the team.
Associate Professor of Computer Science Hongwei Xi received a $450K grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop programming languages and tools that enable the construction of software systems that carry safety and reliability guarantees that can be formally specified and then verified.
New Grant for Computer Modeling of Human Behavior
The National Science Foundation recently announced its three Expeditions in Computing awards for this year. Computer Science Professor and Department Chair Stan Sclaroff is a principal investigator on a team that won one of the three awards. Their $10-million-project is titled “Computational Behavioral Science: Modeling, Analysis, and Visualization of Social and Communicative Behavior.”
Computer Scientist Wins Grant to Develop Internet Privacy Tools
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a three-year, $474K grant this month to Evimaria Terzi, professor of computer science at Boston University’s College of Arts & Sciences. The grant will fund research to develop tools to protect the privacy of social media users. Terzi is the principal investigator for the project.
Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jonathan Appavoo and colleagues from other institutions have received a $2.3 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE) to support research on “A Fault-Oblivious Extreme-Scale Execution Environment.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a $3 million grant to support a new research project at Boston University, “Securing the Open Softphone.” Five CAS faculty members—Mark Crovella, Sharon Goldberg, Steven Homer, and Leonid Reyzin from the Department of Computer Science and Nikolaos Triandopoulos from the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cybersecurity—will be members of the research team that will study the new threats and promises of softphones — phones that are programmable with software.
Despite a decade of research, it has now become clear that the challenge of deploying secure Internet routing protocols is not one of technical feasibility, but one of incentives. CS Professor Sharon Goldberg received a $489K NSF grant for a project that will develop various approaches to evaluate the utility of network security protocols, and the incentives to deploy them. This is in addition to a $93K gift from the Cisco University Research Program Fund, to support Sharon’s research on partial deployments of such protocols.
Boston University Prof. Mark Crovella, professor of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences, has been awarded a $450K National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. Working with two graduate students, Crovella will use the funds to study ways of simplifying the graphs that are used to describe and understand complex networks.
Boston University Prof. Evimaria Terzi, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences, has been awarded a Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship grant. Terzi and six other promising young researchers from around the world will share in a total grant distribution of $1.4 million.
Ibrahim Matta, Associate Professor of Computer Science, has been awarded a $560K National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop a new approach to Internet architecture. The grant will fund the development of a prototype for Recursive Internet Architecture (RINA), an innovative, clean-slate approach to computer networking that uses inter-process communications (IPC), a set of techniques for the exchange of data among multiple threads in processes running on one or more computers connected by a network.
A Bostonia magazine article featured the research of CS Professor Evimaria Terzi in which she proposed a computable privacy score—“a metric that could be used to compare a person’s information exposure with that of other users on a network or with the person’s exposures on different networks.” This research, which was conducted in collaboration with her former IBM colleague Kun Liu, underscores the risks that social networking users are taking with respect to their privacy.Commenting on the implication of her work, Evimaria noted that information that most people consider perfectly safe for sharing can be combined and mined to reveal things that few people want others to know. As to why social networking users are keen on sharing such information, she notes that the compulsive sharing she sees reflects the Internet’s narcotic power to induce its users to “undress, metaphorically, online.” Social networking users need to “learn not to share.”
Evimaria works on algorithmic data mining with emphasis on social-network analysis, analysis of sequential data, ranking, and clustering. Her research was recognized earlier this year, when she was one of a handful of junior faculty members world-wide to be awarded the prestigious Microsoft Faculty Research Fellowship for 2010.
The CS Distinguished Lectureship Series featured Professor Eva Tardos as its speaker for Fall 2010.
Eva Tardos is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, and was department chair from 2006 to 2010. Tardos won the Fulkerson Prize, awarded jointly by the Mathematical Programming Society and the American Mathematical Society, and the Dantzig prize awarded jointly by Mathematical Programming Society and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. She was awarded a number of research fellowships (among others Alfred P. Sloan, a NSF Presidential Young Investigator, Packard Foundation, Guggenheim). She is an ACM Fellow, INFORMS fellow, and SIAM fellow, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Tardos’ research interest is algorithms and algorithmic game theory.
The topic of Eva’s lecture, which was held on October 18, was on the nexus of learning and game theory. In her talked she showed how earning behavior can avoid bad outcomes predicted by the price of anarchy in atomic network games such as the load-balancing game. Network games play a fundamental role in understanding behavior in many domains, ranging from communication networks through markets to social networks. Such networks are used, and also evolve due to selfish behavior of the users and owners.
The 2010 edition of Boston University’s Research Magazine included an article featuring Mark Crovella’s research on Internet measurement and its use in identifying anomalous traffic patterns that could be indicative of security breaches. Rather than attempt to define the properties of unwanted traffic, the strategy that Mark and his collaborators employ is to characterize what “normal” Internet usage looks like. Then, using statistical techniques, it is possible to capture and analyze anonymous traffic information at five-minute intervals as the data flows through thousands of routers around the world to identify anomalous patterns, which could serve as an early warning system. Such a technique—based on Principal Component Analysis and licensed to Guavus, a venture-backed bi-national company led by one of Mark’s former PhD students, Anukool Lakhina (PhD 2006)—is now being used by GEANT, Europe’s main multi-gigabit computer network for research and academic purposes.
Mark Crovella’s “contributions to the measurement and analysis of networks and distributed systems research” was recognized recently when he was one of 41 researchers worldwide named as 2010 Fellows of theACM—the main professional organization for Computer Scientists.
It is now time to solicit nominations for the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award. All alumni are invited to submit nominations. Nominations will be accepted via email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. A nomination must include current contact information for both the nominator and nominee, and a short (1–2 paragraph) justification. Self nominations are welcome.
The CS Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2008 to recognize a CS alumnus or alumna who has excelled in his or her professional career. Rebecca Norlander received this award in 2008, Manuela Veloso received this award in 2009, and as mentioned earlier in this newsletter, Matt Boggie received this award in 2010.
For more information, check the CS Distinguished Alumni Award Website.
- Nationwide watch parties for the Beanpot on February 7, 2011: Last year, hundreds of Boston University alumni and friends teamed up to cheer on the Terriers at Beanpot gatherings all around the country. This year, don’t miss the party as BU fights to reclaim the title as champion of the fiercest tournament in college hockey. Join Terrier fans in your area on Monday, February 7 to watch BU battle reigning National Champion Boston College in Round One of the Beanpot Hockey Tournament. For more information (including scheduled parties), check the BU Nationwide Beanpot Parties Website.
- Global Day of Service is April 16, 2011: This April, alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends, and family will join forces at service sites around the world to create a new chapter in the University’s proud history of service and to deepen constituents’ sense of “One BU.” Check www.bu.edu/dayofservice for details.
- Boston University’s Winterfest is February 25–26, 2011: The sixth-annual Winterfest weekend will take place on February 25 and February 26, 2011. The weekend is open to all alumni and their families. The weekend offers a wide range of events and activities, including a Terrier Tailgate and hockey game, tours of campus, Alumni College classes, an ice-sculpting contest, ice skating, and other activities just for kids. Details are available on the Winterfest Website.
- Is Your Company Hiring? Post internships for BU CS students or jobs for new graduates by sending an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to make these opportunities available to the entire BUCAN community, please consider posting on the “Jobs” section of the BUCAN LinkedIn Group.
LinkedIn has emerged as the de-facto social-networking tool for connecting professionals. To help you connect or reconnect with members of the BU/CS community, and in addition to its presence on Facebook, BUCAN is now a LinkedIn Group, which you can join at http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/2853567.
Join us now (and spread the word!)