Now Loading: The Future Home of BU CS

By Christian ColeDecember 13th, 2021

Article and photos by Christian Cole

Over 200 feet above campus, a red elevator door clinks open. “Floor 15,” the operator announces. We thank him for the manual ride up the core of what will be the future Center for Computing & Data Sciences. Turning left out of the elevator, an open construction site unfolds. The fresh concrete and various equipment quickly fade away, dwarfed by the awe-inspiring view of Boston in the background.

At right around 300 feet, the Center for Computing & Data Sciences is now one of the tallest buildings on campus. The building was topped off with a ceremony on September 30th of this year, but work is far from complete. Recently, a large milestone was achieved with the removal of the shoring beams that were required to realize the unique architecture modeled after a stack of books. Before November, the tower portion of the building looked almost square with the temporary supports still in place.

“In the summer we were definitely getting a lot of people stopping by questioning [the building],” said Luke Apone, a Project Manager with Compass Project Management. “People see the rendering and then see a different product because we’re building it with the shoring - we get a lot of questions like that - why does it look different than it looks in all the pictures around the fence.”

David Smythe, a Senior Associate with the architecture firm that designed the building, KPMB, explained the intricate staging of this process.

“The steel structure of the building and the [numerous] cantilevers [had] to be supported until it [was] all built,” Smythe explained. “Because taking away any kind of shoring steel at any one moment from one corner would have an adverse effect - it’s a very dynamic situation how the steel takes all the loads and if you don’t do it correctly and in sequence then it might put more loads on one corner of the building that it wasn’t designed for.”

Smythe explained that the building was constructed with the anticipation that, after the temporary shoring beams were removed, the cantilevers (the parts of the building that do not have any support underneath) would drop as much as ¾ of an inch.

“Given the scale of the building it’s not a big thing,” Smythe clarified. "However, the removal of these beams was still a large milestone with many moving parts. [...] The most recent big [milestone] for us, the architect, was to see the shoring steel come out so you could see the shape of the building that was sort of disguised."

“From the owner’s side and the contractors’ side that was a big [safety] risk,” said Apone. “So getting that done was huge.

Next up, the tower portion of the building will start to be enclosed with glass panels similar to those on the podium. This “glazing,” as it’s called, was not able to be installed until the shoring beams were removed.

“You have to wait until the building’s settled before you start adding more weight to it. When the curtain wall gets added [the cantilevers] will fall a little bit more, but that’s why the curtain wall had to wait and that’s been a real challenge with the schedule,” said Smythe. “The schedule is already quite challenging and aggressive with the scale of the building.”

Another unique challenge for the construction of this building? The construction elevator had to be built inside the core, rather than on the exterior as is common in most active construction projects. Due to the large offsets every few floors, having an exterior elevator would be much more complicated. Smythe and Apone explained that three of the six elevators in the core will be installed and then used for construction activities while the construction elevator is dismantled for the other three elevators to be installed.

The Center for Computing & Data Sciences has had a remarkable journey from its very beginning when the concrete slab it now sits on was poured.

“The initial digging of the hole and the foundation was substantial and pouring that one large mat,” said Smythe. “5,000 cubic yards of concrete - one of the largest pours in the City of Boston.”

“The third largest pour in the City of Boston,” Apone added.

The sustainability of this building began at the very beginning when this slab was poured and the concrete used was mixed with a substance called fly ash.

“We had a target for the amount of fly ash which is carbon offsetting,” explained Smythe. “[...] cement is energy-intensive and costly to produce, [but we] produce[d] it with fly ash which is basically a waste material from the coal industry - so it [was] just sort of a double-whammy there of carbon capturing.”

Fly ash is just one of the many remarkable features of this building in regards to sustainability. Beyond low-flow water fixtures that Smythe explained are now standard for buildings, the interior fixtures and treatments will be low in gases called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These gases are responsible for the chemical smells you might have experienced in a freshly-painted room or after opening a new piece of furniture. Lower amounts of VOCs are associated with better indoor air quality and better health and well-being for building occupants. As for lighting, each office will have a daylight sensor to monitor how much artificial light is actually needed.

“If you’re getting the light levels you need from just natural light - [the sensor] controls the light level,” said Smythe. “It’s not just an on/off switch where you’re wasting light energy.”

Even the glass panels that will soon start climbing the tower are designed for energy efficiency. With triple-glazing and exterior treatments positioned in a way to decrease solar loading, the building will keep out cold air in the winter and will require less cooling in the summer.

Perhaps the most remarkable sustainability feature of this building, however, is how it will heat and cool the space inside. Before the foundation was even poured, over 30 wells were drilled 1,500 feet into the Earth to feed the building’s geothermal system. Apone explained more about how this system works.

“There’s a steel casing that goes down, and then there’s another plastic pipe that does a loop in that casing - water runs through that,” he said. “[This] transfers the energy from the earth to the water [for] heating and cooling. They tie together in a circuit [and] those [circuits] run into a head exchanger [which] transfers the heat and the cooling and runs it up through the building.”

Eventually, the Center for Computing & Data Sciences will aim to be certified as Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). To achieve this milestone, the construction team is required to track everything they use. “Every single material in the job has to [...] fill out a LEED materials form that documents [factors such as] how far away it’s coming from, what its recycled content [is],” said Smythe.

With just under a year of construction remaining, the focus is now on fully enclosing the structure and getting it weather-tight during the winter. While one might expect the dropping temperature to be a formidable challenge, Apone explained that wind is the important factor. “With the wind these panels would essentially turn into sails when you get higher up in the building,” he said. “The cranes have limits they can operate on so that would be a factor there. Temperature-wise, [it] shouldn’t be a problem.”

After that, it’s just the interior that remains.

“From there on it will be finishes and then a race to the finish,” said Apone.

The Center for Computing & Data Sciences is scheduled to have construction completed on October 28, 2022 with a targeted opening to the community set for the spring semester of 2023.

CS PhD Students Win Best Research Track Paper at 9th IEEE International Conference

By Christian ColeOctober 25th, 2021in Recent News

CS PhD students, Ali Raza and Zongshun Zhang, have won the Best Research Track Paper Award at the 9th IEEE International Conference on Cloud Engineering (IC2E) 2021 for their work:

LIBRA: An Economical Hybrid Approach for Cloud Applications with Strict SLAs. Ali Raza, Zongshun Zhang, Nabeel Akhtar, Vatche Isahagian, and Ibrahim Matta. Best Research Track Paper.

https://conferences.computer.org/IC2E/2021/

Congratulations, Ali and Zongshun!

Andrea Burns Awarded the 2021 Google Fellowship

By csmediaSeptember 29th, 2021in Recent News

By Lizzy Maimone

BU CS PhD student Andrea Burns (GRS’23) has been selected to receive a 2021 Google PhD Fellowship in the area of Machine
Perception, Speech Technology, and Computer Vision. There were 12 fellowship awardees in this category with Andrea being the sole recipient from Boston University. As a graduate student, she was made aware of
the industry and government-sponsored fellowships which can provide funds for graduate students and their research. “I think most graduate students know of such awards because your funding greatly affects you during your graduate program (e.g., whether you have to TA courses and how often),” said Andrea.

Andrea is a fourth-year Ph.D. Student at Boston University. She is a member of the Image and Video Computing Group, advised by Prof. Kate Saenko and Prof. Bryan A. Plummer. Her research is in representation learning and the intersection of computer vision and natural language processing specifically in vision and language. Andrea is well-versed in a wide variety of computational topics including computational machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, speech technologies, and human-computer interaction. “I think it's very exciting to work on vision-language representation learning because there are many high impact applications,” said Andrea. “Image-sentence search, image captioning, visual question answering and more have many use cases (think Google search or automatically captioned images on social media).”

Her passion for her research and long hours of work on experimentation and analysis were rewarded with interest from other researchers. “The fact that other researchers found [the projects] interesting and think they're worthwhile endeavors was one of the most exciting and affirming moments I've ever experienced,” said Andrea. “I believe my work matters and can have a great societal impact. It's easy to forget that the time you spend working every day really does contribute to a bigger picture.” 

The award also allowed for greater financial support, and more time dedicated to her studies without the burden of grading and tutoring students as a teachers’ assistant. She has also been able to collaborate with research scientists at Google since receiving the award. 

Beyond the Google fellowship, Andrea has won other awards during her time at BU, including the Grace Hopper Conference Award and the Dean's Fellowship during the Fall of 2018. Andrea received her undergraduate degree at Tulane University. When she was applying to Ph.D. programs, BU struck her interest due to the professors she could potentially work alongside as well as the many other resources that BU offers. Once enrolled, she found her faculty advisors particularly helpful. “I've had an immense amount of support and input on my research direction,” Andrea said. “Having experts in the field provide insight into the history of certain research problems and guiding the research process has taught me a lot about how to build research ideas and projects around them.”

Congratulations, Andrea! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

BU CS invites applications for new faculty members

By serrieSeptember 17th, 2021in Faculty, Recent News

To apply:

Lecturer position (review to begin 5/1/22 and continue on a rolling basis): https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/21670

Assistant Professor position (review to begin on 12/1/21 and continue on a rolling basis): https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/19503

Associate Professor of the Practice position (review to begin on 11/1/21 and continue on a rolling basis): https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/19506

Boston University Computer Science has the following openings:

A lecturer position beginning July 1, 2022. The position requires teaching foundational courses in computer science, mainly at the undergraduate level, in areas such as programming, computer systems, algorithms and data structures, software engineering, data science, and security.

Two tenure-track assistant professorships beginning July 1, 2022. Strong applicants in all areas of computer science, including security, privacy, foundations of programming languages and formal verification, machine learning and optimization, systems, human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and theory, are encouraged to apply.

An associate professor of the practice beginning July 1, 2022. This search is particularly focused in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning. 

The Department is in the midst of an extended period of sustained growth, and is looking to both deepen areas of existing strength as well as to broaden into additional, new areas.   Over the past several years, the tenure track faculty size has grown by 50%, with corresponding increases in graduate student population as well as in space and other resources. In December 2019, Boston University broke ground on a new 17-story, 350,000-square-foot Center for Computing & Data Sciences, to house Computer Science along with other units contributing to Data Science, with planned opening in January 2023.

Boston University, which has steadily increased in rankings over the past decade, is committed to nurturing and supporting interdisciplinary and cross-departmental research.   BU is situated centrally in Boston, a vibrant city with an enormous range of options for industrial and academic collaboration around technology.

The Department consists of a diverse group of 32 tenured and tenure-track faculty members, and offers programs leading to B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. The Department has research strengths in data mining, databases, graphics, image and video computing, machine learning, natural language processing, networking, distributed systems, operating systems, software design and implementation, real-time systems, security and cryptography, and theory of computation and algorithms. In addition, members of the Department collaborate closely with faculty across the university including mathematics and statistics, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, biology, earth and environment, economics, law, medicine, among others. Additional information about the Department is available at http://www.bu.edu/cs.

Boston University as well as the Department of Computer Science expect excellence in research and in teaching and are committed to building a culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse scholarly community.

The department's expectations for successful candidates for tenure in Computer Science can be found here.

BU is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We are a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

Applicants are encouraged to consider other open faculty positions in related academic units at Boston University, including The Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Statistics. Upon request, successful candidates will have the opportunity to secure secondary appointments in cognate academic units at Boston University as appropriate.

Professor Levin Gives Lecture During STOC 2021

By csmediaJune 25th, 2021

by Lizzy Maimone

During the Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing from June 21–25, 2021, BU CS Professor Leonid A. Levin spoke about the topic “How to succeed in tasks like proving Fermat’s Theorem or predicting the Higgs boson." To learn more about the event, click here

This lecture aims at attracting attention to the following open problem: Can every algorithm finding, say, 3-coloring be sped up 10 times on an infinite set of graphs? Professor Levin speaks on this topic in-depth, using his personal findings and research capabilities to inform watchers. Watch it here:

Wenxin Feng Wins ACM ETRA 2021 Best Paper Award

By csmediaJune 4th, 2021in Recent News
A picture of Margrit Betke and Wenxin Feng
Betke and Feng

Congratulations to BU CS 2018 PhD Alumnus Wenxin Feng, advised by Professor Margrit Betke, for winning the ACM ETRA 2021 Best Paper Award!

Wenxin, now a researcher at Google, worked on a project which was a 2018 collaboration with co awardee Andrew Kurauchi. Andrew Kurauchi was a visiting PhD student in the IVC lab in 2014/15, and his PhD adviser Carlos Morimoto of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Wenxin’s full paper HGaze Typing: Head-Gesture Assisted Gaze Typing introduces a bi-modal typing interface. We are proud to commend Wenxin for receiving this award. To read her article about HGaze Typing, click here. To see the award and other awardees, click here.

Student Spotlights: A Social Media Series

By Keziah ZimmermanMay 14th, 2021

By Keziah Zimmerman

This year has not been an easy one. Despite the challenges of remote learning, CS students continued to amaze us with their accomplishments. To recognize the strength of those who faced these difficult times head on, our department interviewed students on their studies, hobbies, goals, and dreams. Read below for summarized versions of student stories, highlighting their involvement in our community. Congratulations to all on the completion of a tough year - we admire your hard work and determination.

Jack Giunta (CAS’22)

Jack’s love for CS began in high school when he enrolled in a video game making course which then taught him Java. Now at BU, Jack has enjoyed courses such as CS210 with Professor Appavoo, CS350 with Professor Mancuso, and CS237 with Professor Snyder.

When he’s not gaming or finishing up problem sets, Jack acts as the treasurer for BU’s Machine Intelligence Community, is the Student Director of BU CS Ambassadors, and is developing a Spark! project focused on creating a web-database of COVID-related state policies. Jack is also a Program Manager for the Community Service Center, runs the CSC Blog and Podcast "Ask & Tell”, and participates on the BU Men's Ultimate Frisbee team.

To his peers, Jack says students should not be afraid to ask for help. “My worst semesters were those in which I tried to tough it out alone,” he said. “You would be amazed at how easy it is to make a new friend, and how often those small friends turn out to be big connections later on.” After graduation, Jack dreams of creating multiplayer tournament games with a team of developers. 

Jack, we thank you for the endless value you provide to our community of learners. We wish you the best as you pursue your career!

Victor Vicente (CAS’23)

As a CS major, Victor’s interest in all things electronic began when he first took up gaming as a hobby. Now a BU, Victor has found himself immersed in CS. Not only does he work as a freelancer, developing plugins and server management software for gaming networks, Victor is also the Director of Recruitment for UPE, a speaker and organizer for the Boston Hacks’ Tech Team, and is a CS Ambassador. In the future, Victor wants to continue these roles and hopes to work in either web development or systems programming.

“Working with the CS community at BU has been amazing and students should get involved,” Victor said. “BU would not be what it is for me without these clubs. Even if you don't want to join a club, there are a lot of activities around campus (and virtually) that can help you feel at home.”

Thank you to Victor for sharing your experiences. Your involvement in the community is inspiring and we look forward to seeing all you accomplish.

 

Andrea Burns(GRS’23)

Using her knack for working with numbers as motivation, Andrea made it her goal to earn an undergraduate degree that would use math to solve real-world problems. Andrea not only achieved this goal after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science at Tulane University but took it a step further when she continued onto BU in pursuit of her Ph.D. After completing her Ph.D., Andrea hopes to work in computer vision, natural language processing, and human-computer interaction topics.

With her wide range of interests and growing curiosity, Andrea enjoys many hobbies outside of STEM, including dancing, painting, drawing, cooking, and studying French. At Tulane University, she studied abroad in Paris and even created a hip hop dance crew.

Andrea encourages students to actively seek opportunities and apply to jobs and internships with confidence. “Trust yourself and apply for anything you can,” she said. “I think I doubted myself too much in college and limited myself. It's always best to apply […] You never know what might happen!”

Thank you, Andrea, for your insights and the talent you bring to the CS community. We wish you the best of luck as you continue to grow! 

Olivia Bene (CAS’23)

As a recent transfer student, Olivia has acclimated to life at BU quite quickly- she got involved right away, and started a job at Mugar Library earlier this year! Olivia was drawn to BU because of the opportunities available within the CS department and was motivated to apply due to her love for all things electronic. This passion began freshman year of high school, when she first took a robotics course.

During her time at BU, Olivia hopes to complete a research project in the new computing and data sciences building, where she knows researchers will be completing groundbreaking work. Her favorite course at BU has been CS112 with Professor Snyder, where she noted how his love for CS drives students’ passion. 

For the department as a whole, Olivia would “love to see events (once it’s safe) that bring together CS students of all grade levels.” A fan of Boston sports and baseball, Olivia dreams of becoming a data engineer for a major MLB team such as the @RedSox once she graduates.

Thank you to Olivia for joining our series. You inspire us with your passion for CS and we cannot wait to see all you accomplish.

Sheila Jimenez Morejon (CAS’22)

Sheila chose CS on a whim when she applied to BU. After taking CS111 her first semester, she fell in love with the course content and knew she wanted to pursue CS as her major. With this passion for CS, Sheila is very involved on and off campus. She is a member of a club that creates software for social impact companies called Hack4Impact, and is also a founder of the Developer Student Club (DSC).

Outside of BU, Sheila has interned for multiple companies. The summer going into her sophomore year, she worked as a coordinator at Codebreakers, a summer camp which teaches Python and cybersecurity principles to high school girls. Additionally, this past summer, she interned for Facebook through the Facebook University program.

Taking inspiration from the help she’s received from BU friends and classmates, Sheila recommends that students ask questions whenever possible. “I was intimidated for the longest time because I felt I was behind in knowledge and experience,” she said. “I definitely was behind, but that didn't matter. I started by asking friends who had taken classes before my "stupid" questions. Eventually, I moved onto my TAs and then my professors. I learned the most this way and enjoyed the material a lot more too!”

Thank you to Sheila for taking the time to give such an in-depth interview and we appreciate all you do for our community. We wish you the best as you continue your studies!

Zoë Chirico (CAS’22)

A CS and Statistics major, Zoë is not only passionate about her coursework, but is also heavily involved on campus. Outside of the classroom, Zoë is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, Association for Women in Mathematics, and UMOJA. In her free time, she makes TikToks about life at BU, participates in ballet, cross country, and has recently begun baking.

In the future, Zoë hopes that more students will be open to learning moments. “Imposter syndrome will paralyze you,” she says. “You’re just as qualified as any other classmate sitting next to you in lecture. We mostly see successes, but forget to be aware of what obstacles came before it.”

Zoë, thank you for participating in our spotlight series. We anticipate your future successes and are so grateful for your contributions to the CS community.

Branching Out: A Social Media Series

By Keziah ZimmermanMay 14th, 2021

By Keziah Zimmerman

As the 2020/2021 academic year comes to an end, we wanted to take a moment to recognize the efforts of our staff members. These incredible individuals not only committed themselves to creating a successful learning experience for CS students but did so with ever-present enthusiasm. Below, we have collected biographies from our social media series, Branching Out, which highlighted staff member’s previous accomplishments, demonstrated personal interests, and better unified our community. Here’s to the CS department and all you have done this year- thank you for helping the CS and BU community flourish! 

Jess Kupczak: Undergraduate Academic Advisor 

Originally from Boston, Jess graduated from Boston University in 2018 with a BA in Psychology. When applying for jobs, she ultimately chose BU CS because of the exciting developments in the field and for the opportunity to build relationships with students. “My favorite part of my job is hearing about student’s interests, goals, and passions,” Jess said. 

When she’s not at work, Jess enjoys baking, embroidery, and painting. Jess’s favorite TV show is New Girl (not just because the main character is named Jess), and she recommends it to everyone! Her top music genres on Spotify are Pop and Rock and her favorite artists are Bon Iver, Harry Styles, Florence and the Machine, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise. She’s currently reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. Jess also has a rambunctious Tuxedo kitty named Leo, who has more nicknames than the average cat. In addition to being called Leo, he also goes by Leonardo DiCatrio, Bubba, and Stinky.

For those new to Boston looking for a bite to eat, Jess recommends trying Tatte Bakery, Pavement Coffeehouse, Life Alive Organic Café, and Blaze Pizza. She also thinks every Bostonian should take a trip across the Smoot Bridge (or the MIT Mass Ave Bridge) for the views and should visit the North End for baked goods- “go to Bova’s Bakery and skip the line at Mike’s and Modern,” Jess said.

Looking back on her own college experience, Jess wishes she had pushed herself out of her comfort zone a bit more and spent time exploring fields she was unfamiliar with. “Make sure you get out of the BU bubble,” Jess said. “This goes for physical campus but also in terms of academics – be sure to branch out!”

Jess, we thank you for all you do for our department and for participating in our Branching Out series. Best of luck as you continue your work!

Erin Murdock: Undergraduate Academic Advisor

Erin recently joined BU CS and will work alongside Jess Kupczak as one of our new Undergraduate Academic Advisors! Although Erin is just getting started in her new role, she is extremely excited to grow with the CS department. She completed her BA at Mount Holyoke College, with a major in Gender & Environmental Studies and a certificate in Queer & Sexuality Studies. Erin also holds an Ed.M. from Boston University in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies that she completed in 2019 and she is currently pursuing an MBA from the Questrom School of Business.

Outside of work, Erin enjoys yoga and has been actively trying to incorporate it into her everyday routine. During quarantine, she thinks everyone should read Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, which is a true story about a survivalist family and how education changed Westover’s life. Erin has a 6-year-old Boston Terrier named Kobe (like the beef not the Bryant), and he feels right at home here at BU!

If you are looking for places to eat in Boston, Erin highly recommends the Barking Crab in Seaport. When asked what the best coffee spot on campus was, she responded: “I have a strong opinion on this. Einstein Bros. Bagels in the CAS basement. Order a hazelnut coffee and an asiago bagel with garlic and herb cream cheese- the combination is out of this world.”

Based on her own experiences, Erin encourages students to pursue activities that bring them joy. “I was on an NCAA swimming & diving team my first year of college and was absolutely miserable,” she said. “Even though I was unhappy, I was determined to stick with it because I had made a commitment. Of course, stick with your commitments you make, but not at the expense of your own happiness.”

Thank you, Erin for all of your efforts- we look forward to your continued hard work! 

Jacob Harrington: Academic Programs Manager 

Growing up in Wallingford, Connecticut, Jacob was determined to pursue his undergraduate degree in a bustling city and he decided to do so at BU. He graduated in 2016 with his BA/MA in Economics and completed his Master of Urban Affairs through BU’s Metropolitan College in 2019. Jacob’s love for BU continued past graduation - he has been working at the university since the day after he received his degree! His favorite part of the job is being able to work with amazing colleagues, not just within the department, but across the entire university.

With more time indoors due to the pandemic, Jacob has rekindled his passion for playing the trombone, finding that playing music is a great stress-reliever after busy days on Zoom. Being inside has also allowed Jacob to spend more time with Riggins, his orange tabby cat who loves to cuddle and steal food off of people’s plates. Jacob’s top three musical artists are The National, Pinegrove, and Future Islands, and although Kelly Clarkson does not fall on his top three musicians’ list, his go-to karaoke song is (obviously) Since U Been Gone! The last book he read was the third novel of The Witcher series, Baptism of Fire, and highly recommends this series to anyone looking for new books to read. Jacob’s favorite restaurants are Veggie Galaxy in Central Square, Cambridge; Stoked Pizza in Washington Square, Brookline; and Saloniki Greek in Fenway!

To students looking for advice, Jacob emphasizes the importance of connecting with professors. “Go to office hours and talk with your professors,” Jacob said. “Don’t be afraid or nervous to talk about yourself and your accomplishments.”

A huge thank you to Jacob for all of his work throughout this past year. You are an essential part of our community and we appreciate all you do!

 

Christian Cole: Senior Program Administrator 

Meet Christian Cole, the Senior Program Administrator for the CS Department! Growing up in rural Maine, Christian decided to branch out (pun intended) from these rustic roots and venture to the city for his college years. To achieve these dreams of attending university in a city, he decided to go to BU. Christian graduated with his BA in Environmental Science and a French minor. After college, he continued on to work for the CS Department. He enjoys working in the CS world for its dynamic nature, but his favorite part of the job is watching students graduate, as he loves seeing them achieve such a momentous goal.

Prior to the pandemic, Christian was a huge runner, spinner, and traveler, but ever since quarantine, he has dabbled in a new hobby: Animal Crossing New Horizons. Quarantine has also given Christian time to indulge in more Netflix. He loved Bridgerton and is an adamant follower of the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While his favorite artists include Lady Gaga, Troye Sivan, and Lizzo, Christian once won a gift certificate to the BU Pub for his karaoke performance of Prince Ali from Aladdin.

As a BU native, Christian’s favorite spot on campus is Bay State Road in the spring with all the magnolia and dogwood trees in bloom. He encourages every Bostonian to go kayaking on the Charles and try the almond milk latte from 1369 Cafe in Inman Square! If you’re looking for new restaurants, Christian recommends Monument Restaurant and Tavern in Charlestown, Lulu’s in Allston, and Cambridge Common in Harvard Square.

From his own college and professional experiences, Christian advises students to attend office hours on a semi-regular basis. “Office hours give you something to work towards so you have questions to ask,” Christian said. “It helps you get to know your professors better which is great for recommendations if you decide to apply to grad school.” He also encourages students post-pandemic to study abroad, describing his time in Grenoble, France (RIP) as “the best undergraduate experience” he had.

A special thank you to Christian for his constant support throughout this past year. Your work does not go unnoticed and we appreciate everything you do for the CS community! 

Kori MacDonald: Program Administrator

Today’s Branching Out feature is Kori MacDonald, the Program Administrator for the CS Ph.D. Program! Originally from Merrimack, NH, Kori received her BA in Public Relations at Quinnipiac University. After graduation, she decided to attend Merrimack College, where she received her M.Ed. in Higher Education. After learning about BU CS, she recognized the program’s potential for growth, with its increasing Ph.D population and BU’s plans to construct a new building. Kori accepted her job offer in hopes of contributing to this development but ended up connecting with people so personally, she considers the CS community to be a part of her extended family.

Although Kori does not qualify herself to decorate the Sistine Chapel, she adores painting. Kori has two dogs Stella and Nova! Stella is 14 years old, a favorite among department faculty members, and Nova is a newly adopted 3-year-old puppy. Kori also has a hamster, Lavender, who has also been well-integrated into her family’s zoo.

Kori really misses Pavement’s coffee, stating that she’s unsure if it’s because she hasn’t had it in a year or if it’s because it’s really that good, “but a mocha latte with a pistachio muffin… chef’s kiss!” She thinks every Bostonian should go to a Red Sox or a Bruins game, Kori suggests being on the lookout for what’s right in BU’s back yard. “Even if you don’t know or like the sport,” she said, “it’s the crowds, the company you’re with, and the snacks that make nights at Fenway or the Garden so special.”

Beyond enjoying lattes from Pavement or experiencing memorable nights wandering around Boston, Kori encourages students to appreciate the time they have in school. “College has a lot to offer, beyond resume builders! Do things that make you happy and spend time (COVID-safely) with people who support you the way you support them,” she said. “I think, all of us, not just college students, forget to celebrate the small stuff. So, if you feel you’ve had a productive day, or you passed an exam, or you put yourself out there in a new situation, celebrate that!”

Kori, we appreciate all of your work and perseverance throughout this year- thank you for all you do!

Chelsea Houlihan: Administrative Coordinator 

Born and raised in Connecticut, Chelsea moved away from home to attend the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she majored in English Rhetoric & Communications. After graduating, Chelsea decided to develop her career at BU CS, the main reason being the department’s inclusive and dynamic work environment. As a close-knit community, Chelsea has been able to build connections and has limitless opportunities to meet new people, which is her favorite part of the job!

When she’s not chatting with other CS staff members and getting to know students, Chelsea enjoys CrossFit, traveling to new places (pre-COVID), hiking, and spending her summer days at the beach playing cornhole. When the weather forces her to stay inside, she binges shows such as WandaVision and Good Trouble, which she recommends everyone should watch if they have the time. Chelsea also has a new member of her family - Astro, who is a 6-month old puppy and is quite the handful!

To truly experience Boston culture, Chelsea encourages people to attend a Bruins hockey game and recommends taking a bike ride through Seaport, as there are amazing views and restaurants scattered throughout the area. Specific restaurants Chelsea enjoys dining at are Mama Magoos and Jim’s Market (order the Clogger- a hearty and delicious breakfast sandwich). She is also a huge fan of Los Amigos, which she passionately argues is superior to Chipotle.

In addition to exploring the city, Chelsea urges students to take the time to meet new people through school events, as they are a great way to network with peers.

Thank you, Chelsea, for participating in Branching Out and for helping our department run smoothly- we couldn’t do it without you!

Cristhel Santillan: Grants Administrator

Cristhel grew up in Boston and graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in Psychology and certification in Finance. Not only does Cristhel enjoy the collegiate work environment that BU provides, she also loves the CS department for its dog-friendly office space. Her favorite part of the job is how she is able to help others, specifically since her role allows her to aid researchers’ project funding.

Outside of CS, Cristhel adores baking, gardening, playing with her dogs, and reading. The last book she read was the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and she is currently working through The House of the Spirits. Cristhel considers both Cable Girls and Wandavision to be binge-worthy TV shows, and encourages everyone to spend a rainy day indulging in these series. When blasting music in her car, Cristhel’s favorite artists to come on shuffle are FKA Twigs and Bomba Estero and her song of choice is “Hey There Delilah.” She has two goofy dogs, Teddy (7 y.o.) and Luna (2 y.o.), that love sleeping and barking at birds (don’t we all!).

As a Boston local, born-and-raised, Cristhel thinks every Bostonian should experience at least one group sing-along of “Sweet Caroline” at a Red Sox game. For coffee and tea, Cristhel suggests going to either Jugos or Pavement. Her favorite restaurants are El Peñol in East Boston and Earl’s in Back Bay. Cristhel’s go-to spot on campus is the BU Beach - especially with its recent addition of outdoor seating and string lights!

For students looking for advice, Cristhel thinks everyone should give themselves room on their own to find out exactly what they enjoy doing. “That doesn’t mean you let other responsibilities slide,” she says, “but instead make it a priority alongside other things that matter.”

Thank you, Cristhel for your determination throughout this entire year. We appreciate all you do! 

Chris DeVits: CS Department Manager

Meet Chris DeVits, the Department Manager for BU CS and recent Susan K. Jackson award recipient!  Chris grew up in Malden, MA and currently lives with his family in Manchester, NH. Chris attended Saint Anselm College as a Politics major and earned his Masters and Advanced Graduate Certificates in Higher Ed Administration from BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Chris started in his role with CS in 2012 and appreciates how it has maintained a small tight-knit community vibe despite growing to one of the largest departments in CAS over the years.

Before the pandemic, Chris’s favorite part of work was commencement weekend. He described it as an awesome opportunity to see students’ accomplishments celebrated by friends and family. Despite missing events such as graduation, Chris finds reasons to appreciate remote work such as the extra time he’s been able to spend with his two kids (a 6-month-old and 3-year-old). Although his Spotify history has shifted from bands like Rage Against the Machine to different renditions of baby shark, he describes the memories made with his family over the past year as a blessing. Chris also has an English Setter named Belle who he loves to bring to the office and he invites you to stop by and say hello once things are back to normal!

When stepping away from his responsibilities, Chris enjoys searching for critters during hikes, spending time outdoors, and watching action-packed movies and TV shows like 24, Jack Ryan, and 300. This fondness for adventure makes Chris’s go-to karaoke song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor unsurprising! For local recommendations, Chris suggests the Eggnog Latte at Pavement and Cornwalls for a bite to eat.

Chris encourages students to take advantage of the time they have to learn about subjects that interest them. “Once you graduate, you get a job, bills are due, lawns need to be mowed, and kids need to be cared for,” Chris said. “You rarely find yourself with uninterrupted time to learn about something new. Don’t let this opportunity slip by.”

Chris, you provide so much to the department and we appreciate all you have done for the CS community. We thank you for everything!

 

Parul Sohal (GRS’24) Recieves the IEEE Real-Time Systems Symposium Best Student Paper Award

By Keziah ZimmermanDecember 11th, 2020

On December 4th, 2020, Parul Sohal (GRS’24) was awarded by the IEEE Real-Time Systems Symposium (RTSS) for the best student paper. The work is titled “E-WarP: a System-wide Framework for Memory Bandwidth Profiling and Management" and was co-authored by Rohan Tabish, Ulrich Drepper, and Renato Mancuso.

PhD student Parul Sohal (CAS’24). The image is taken from her website.

According to their website, the IEEE RTSS is the “premier conference in the field of real-time systems and is a venue for researchers and practitioners to showcase innovations covering all aspects of real-time systems, including theory, design, analysis, implementation, evaluation, and experience.”

Congratulations to Parul, Rohan, Ulrich, and Renato on this accomplishment!

For more information on RTSS please visit: http://2020.rtss.org/

The award-winning paper is accessible here: https://cs-people.bu.edu/rmancuso/files/papers/EWarP_RTSS20_final.pdf

CS Professors Receive $2 Million DARPA Grant to Battle Automated Misinformation in the News

By Keziah ZimmermanNovember 24th, 2020

By Keziah Zimmerman

CS Professors Bryan Plummer and Kate Saenko, in collaboration with professionals from UC Berkeley, University of Washington, and UC Davis, have received $2 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The grant is in support of a project that aims to battle automated misinformation in the news. BU CS spoke with Professor Bryan Plummer to gain insight into the objectives and challenges of this upcoming research.

BU Professor Bryan Plummer, who also previously worked as a Postdoctoral Associate and Research Assistant Professor, and is a member of the IVC Group.

“One of our goals is to automatically detect misinformation in the news,” said Plummer. “Powerful AI agents have recently been developed that can automatically generate text and images that are difficult to identify as machine-generated. Since these AI agents are fairly easily used, there are significant worries about this being used to spread misinformation.”

Citing a competition at Facebook which attempts to detect machine-generated images, Plummer emphasized the relevance of such research to the challenge of addressing misinformation in the news.

“Professor Saenko and I have already started to investigate AI misinformation in some of our recent work,” said Plummer. “With our graduate student, Reuben Tan (GRS’23), we created machine-generated news articles by using state-of-the-art language generation methods, and then our goal was to identify the real and fake news articles. We designed an algorithm that tries to find a mismatch between a new article and any images and captions that significantly improved the performance of our model.”

In addition to this new research project, both professors have worked with DARPA before, developing projects focused on explainable artificial intelligence and learning with fewer labels. To receive the current grant, Plummer and Seanko teamed up with researchers at other institutions for their proposal.

“Rapid advances in AI and machine learning have led to the ability to synthesize images of people who don’t exist, videos of people doing things they never did, recordings of them saying things they never said, and entirely fabricated news stories about events that never happened,” said Plummer when summarizing the research proposal. “While many earlier forensic techniques have proven effective at combating more traditional falsified content, new approaches are required to combat this new type of AI-synthesized content.”

Professor Kate Saenko, who is the director of the Computer Vision and Learning Group and a member of the IVC Group.

One of the biggest challenges the researchers expect to face is the ever-changing nature of specific AI models that automatically detects machine-manipulated media. Plummer explained how this is an obstacle because the methods that identify the manipulated media most likely will not work once the AI model changes.  

“It is especially difficult to detect for some methods that selectively manipulate an image or news article to change its intent,” said Plummer. “Since most of the content is from the original source, you have to find anomalies due to the local changes that were made.”

When asked about goals for the project, Plummer identified that there are multiple objectives the group has, but he is particularly interested in learning how to adapt models to identify new AI automatically, and then to discern the intent behind the manipulation. This will allow the researchers to interpret the overall goal of this sort of AI manipulation. 

With this new award and project taking shape, BU CS students will, no doubt, be curious about how they could follow a similar path. When asked for advice for those looking to get into research, Plummer emphasized that while there are many choices, a focused approach helped him along his path.

“There are a lot of choices you can make in your academic career,” said Plummer. “Deciding on what to do, having a clear idea of what you want to see happen, and fitting that into your long term plans can make it easier to decide what to spend your time on.  This helped keep me focused on my goals.” 

Visit the research page for additional information about the current work Professors Plummer and Saenko and Reuben Tan are conducting: https://cs-people.bu.edu/rxtan/projects/didan/ 

Screenshot from Reuben Tan, Bryan A. Plummer, and Kate Saenko's work, "Detecting Cross-Modal Inconsistency to Defend Against Neural Fake News"