Professor Leonid Levin Elected to National Academy of Sciences

By Maisie GuziApril 30th, 2019in Faculty, Recent News

Boston University Department of Computer Science Professor Leonid Levin was elected as a new member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)! The NAS is a society of “distinguished scholars charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.” Members are nominated by their peers and elected because of their outstanding contributions to research.

Professor Leonid Levin

Below is the press release from the NAS website. Congratulations, Leonid!

The National Academy of Sciences announced today the election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Forty percent of the newly elected members are women—the most ever elected in any one year to date.

Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,347 and the total number of foreign associates to 487. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.


BU CS Announces Two New Joint Majors

By Maisie GuziApril 17th, 2019in Recent News

We are excited to announce the addition of two new joint majors to our undergraduate curriculum! These majors, Computer Science & Statistics and Computer Science & Linguistics, allow students to explore multiple interest areas while following a structured, centralized curriculum. Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of each program.

Statistics and Computer Science

Mathematics, statistics, and computer science are the subjects making up the mathematical and computational sciences. The joint major in Statistics & Computer Science allows students to explore all of these related disciplines. It is appropriate for Mathematics majors in the Statistics track with an interest in applications in computer science and Computer Science majors wishing to have more breadth in mathematical foundations and statistics. Statistics & Computer Science majors should have advisors in both the Mathematics & Statistics Department and the Computer Science Department, with their principal advisor being in Computer Science.

Linguistics and Computer Science

The major in Linguistics & Computer Science allows students to explore human (natural) language from a variety of perspectives, through courses focusing on meaning and linguistic structure at a variety of levels (sounds, words, sentences), with a range of electives in other areas. Students also learn about the organization, design, and construction of hardware and software systems for computing and discover how such systems can be programmed to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data.

This prepares students for a variety of career opportunities in Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing, including improving or developing new software in areas such as grammar checkers, machine translation, and information retrieval. It also provides an excellent background for students who wish to pursue graduate studies in these areas.


Professor Margrit Betke Awarded MURI Grant

By Maisie GuziApril 16th, 2019in Accolades, Faculty, Recent News

Margrit Betke, Professor of Computer Science and Co-Director of the BU AI Research Initiative, is one of eight investigators from Boston

Professor Margrit Betke

University and MIT to receive a $7.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for  “Neuro-Autonomy: Neuroscience-Inspired Perception, Navigation, and Spatial Awareness for Autonomous Robot.”  The team’s goal is to develop neuro-inspired autonomous robots for land, sea, and air.

Congratulations Margrit! Read the full article on the BU Center for Information & Systems Engineering website here.

Boston University Chosen as 2019 BRAID Affiliate School

By Maisie GuziApril 2nd, 2019in Accolades, Recent News

As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in Computer Science, the Boston University Department of Computer Science is excited to announce that we have been accepted as a 2019 BRAID Affiliate School. The BRAID (Building, Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity) Initiative “aims to increase diversity among undergraduate majors in computer science (CS) departments, with particular attention to women and racial/ethnic minorities.”

During our time as a BRAID Affiliate, we will work to implement a combination of four BRAID commitments that seek to increase participation of underrepresented minority students in CS-related activities. These commitments include:

  • Modifying introductory CS courses to make them more appealing and less intimidating to underrepresented students.
  • Leading outreach programs for high school teachers and students to build a diverse pipeline of students.
  • Building confidence and community among underrepresented students.
  • Developing and/or promoting joint majors in areas like CS and biology that are attractive to underrepresented students.

Department Chair Abraham Matta will oversee the implementation of these commitments.

“I believe our broadening participation in computing efforts cover all four tenets of BRAID,” said Matta. “My goals are continuing to increase numbers of women in CS, increasing numbers of underrepresented minorities, building a stronger community for students, and developing more mentoring opportunities and recruitment strategies.”

Over the past five years, the percentage of underrepresented minorities in our department has risen. Today, 30% of CS majors identify as female, up from 25% five years ago. The CS minor has an even higher representation with 50% of CS minors identifying as female.

“The [Department of Computer Science] at BU has made great strides over the past six years in increasing the number of women faculty, hiring five female faculty out of our last 11 faculty hires,” said Matta. “We have also revised our CS-1 course, adopting the Python-based version developed by Harvey Mudd College. This has resulted in attracting many more women into CS.”

Increases in diversity are notable among those who reported their race/ethnicity over the past five years as well. The percentage of “white” students dropped from about 53% in 2014 to 38% in 2018. Meanwhile, “African American/Black” students increased from 3% to 8%, “Hispanic/Latino” students increased from 11% to 14%, and “Asian” students increased from 31% to 39%.

As a BRAID Affiliate, we are also fortunate to be able to participate in the 2019 BRAID Summit this summer. At the BRAID Summit, we have the opportunity to engage with department chairs from BRAID schools, BRAID Beacon schools, fellow BRAID affiliates, members of the BRAID Research Team from UCLA, nonprofit partners, and BRAID funders.

Being a BRAID Affiliate is a recognition both of the initial efforts we’ve been undertaking toward increasing diversity and broadening participation in computing and of the promise of doing more,” said Matta. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the BRAID program on projects that are aligned to all four BRAID commitments related to introductory CS courses, outreach, building community, and joint majors.”


Professors Leonid Reyzin and Adam Smith Win 2019 IACR Test-of-Time-Award

By Maisie GuziMarch 22nd, 2019in Accolades, Faculty, Recent News

Boston University Department of Computer Science Professors Leonid Reyzin and Adam Smith, and their colleague Yevgeniy Dodis (NYU), have won the 2019 IACR Test-of-Time Award for their 2004 paper Fuzzy Extractors: How to Generate Strong Keys from Biometrics and Other Noisy Data.

Professor Leonid Reyzin

In this paper, the researchers introduced “formal definitions and efficient secure techniques for turning biometric information into keys usable for any cryptographic application, and reliably and securely authenticating biometric data.” They also provided “nearly optimal constructions of both primitives for various measures of ‘closeness’ of input data, such as Hamming distance, edit distance, and set difference.”

Professor Adam Smith

This IACR Test-of-Time Award is given to influential papers that appeared in each of the three main IACR conferences — Asiacrypt, Crypto, and Eurocrypt — fifteen years previously. An award will be given at conference Y in year X to honor a paper published in conference Y in year X-15 which has had a lasting impact on the field.

Congratulations, Leo and Adam!


Emily Whiting Named 2019 Sloan Research Fellow

By Maisie GuziFebruary 21st, 2019

Professor Emily Whiting was named a 2019 Sloan Research Fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation! Alfred P. Sloan is a not-for-profit foundation that funds research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics. The fellowships, awarded yearly since 1955, honor early-career scholars whose achievements mark them as among the most promising researchers in their fields.

Professor Emily Whiting

Congratulations Emily! Included below is some of the press release from the Sloan Foundation:

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announces the selection of 126 outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers as the recipients of the 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships. The fellowships, awarded yearly since 1955, honor early-career scholars whose achievements mark them as among the most promising researchers in their fields. A full list of the 2019 Fellows is available at the Sloan Foundation website at

“Sloan Research Fellows are the best young scientists working today,” says Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Sloan Fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle, and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them. To be a Sloan Fellow is to be in the vanguard of twenty-first century science.”

Past Sloan Research Fellows include many towering figures in the history of science, including physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann, and game theorist John Nash. Forty-seven fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 17 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, 69 have received the National Medal of Science, and 18 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007. A database of former Sloan Research Fellows can be found at

Valued not only for their prestige, Sloan Research Fellowships are a highly flexible source of research support. Funds may be spent in any way a Fellow deems will best advance his or her work. “What young researchers need is freedom to follow where their research leads,” says Daniel L. Goroff, director of the Sloan Research Fellowship program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Find the brightest young minds and trust them to do what they do best. That is the Sloan Research Fellowship.”

Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics—the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in close coordination with the scientific community. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists and winning fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become a leader in his or her field. Winners receive a two-year, $70,000 fellowship to further their research.


Sharon Goldberg and Ethan Heilman highlighted in Boston Globe article

The Boston Globe recently published an article on Professor Sharon Goldberg's new start-up company, Arwen, co-founded with her PhD student Ethan Heilman. Included is some of the article below:


“We’re in the early days,” says Arwen CEO Sharon Goldberg. “But let’s go back to 1999 and using credit cards on the Internet. Nobody wanted to put their credit card number into a website. But you do today, because you trust the encryption. You see that little lock in your browser.”

Goldberg is taking a sabbatical from teaching to build the company, which has eight employees and earlier this month moved out of Underscore’s space into its own office.

She points out that cryptocurrency is designed to be a “decentralized” system — there’s no central bank regulating how much of it there is, just software code running on computers. Yet if you want to exchange one kind of cryptocurrency for another, or turn cryptocurrency into dollars or yen, you need to entrust that transaction to a centralized exchange. “Centralized exchanges are the way to trade this decentralized currency,” Goldberg says. “It’s strange.”

So Arwen is creating a layer of technology that would enable you to convert one currency into another securely, even if the exchange gets hacked or goes offline in the middle of a trade. Arwen’s technology is based on something called an “atomic swap,” which Goldberg explains using the metaphor of a briefcase full of cash. If two people intend to swap briefcases filled with two different kinds of currency, the risk is that you hand your briefcase to the other person and they run off. An atomic swap ensures that each person get the other person’s briefcase, even if the other person tries to split. More

Professor Tsourakakis Wins 2018 IEEE ICDM Test-of-Time Award

By Maisie GuziDecember 5th, 2018

Boston University Department of Computer Science Assistant Professor Charalampos (Babis) Tsourakakis and his colleague, Professor U Kang (Seoul National University), in collaboration with Professor Christos Faloutsos (Carnegie Mellon University) have won the 2018 IEEE ICDM Test-of-Time Award for their 2009 paper PEGASUS: A Peta-Scale Graph Mining System – Implementation and Observations.

The full award text is posted below. Congratulations Babis, U, and Christos!

From left: U Kang, Charalampos (Babis) Tsourakakis, and Christos Faloutsos.

From Carnegie Mellon – The Carnegie Mellon Database Group is pleased to announce that their 2009 paper PEGASUS: A Peta-Scale Graph Mining System – Implementation and Observations has won the 2018 IEEE ICDM Test-of-Time Award. The authors were CMU Ph.D. students U Kang and Charalampos Tsourakakis, in collaboration with Prof. Christos Faloutsos.

This paper on the PEGASUS project showed how to apply graph-mining algorithms on a Map-Reduce platform. The main insight was that a wide range of graph mining algorithms eventually require generalized iterated matrix-vector multiplications (GIMV), which can be efficiently implemented on Hadoop, as well as on SQL. It had already attracted the runner-up award for Best Application Paper in 2009.

The current award recognizes high-impact ICDM papers, and the award ceremony will be during the ICDM’18 Banquet on November 19th in Singapore.

Prof. U Kang is now faculty at Seoul National University, and Prof. Charalampos Tsourakakis is faculty at Boston University.

Groundbreaking collaboration among BU researchers rewarded with $1 million NSF grant

By Christopher R DevitsNovember 29th, 2018in Faculty, Recent News

From BU Today:

What If You Could Manage Information Overload?

Between news articles, tweets, Facebook memes, online videos, Reddit threads, and all the other media sources that we routinely tap into, it seems impossible these days to be informed without being overloaded or to stay connected without getting hopelessly tangled up.

But what if there were a machine or a mechanism that could take in all that information—words, pictures, posts, and videos, in dozens of different languages even—and somehow make sense of it all? Better yet, what if that machine could measure public sentiment about any given event, figure out how different media outlets are covering it, and unscramble the relationship between the two?

That’s the goal of a boundary-breaking collaboration between BU researchers Margrit Betke, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of computer science, Prakash Ishwar, a College of Engineering professor of electrical and computer engineering and systems engineering, Lei Guo, a College of Communication assistant professor of emerging media studies, and Derry Wijaya, a CAS assistant professor of computer science. In September 2018, the BU team was awarded a $1 million, four-year research grant from the National Science Foundation to advance their work.

The research itself is as much a part of this unusual story as the researchers who pulled it together while coming from diverse BU schools. More

Researchers from BU and MIT Work to Overcome Algorithmic Bias

By Maisie GuziNovember 28th, 2018

Computer Science Professors Adam Smith and Ran Canetti, alongside their CS PhD student Sarah Scheffler (GRS'21), are working with MIT PhD students Aloni Cohen, Nishanth Dikkala, and Govind Ramnarayan to figure out what, if anything, can be done to understand and minimize bias from decision-making systems that depend on computer programs.

Their work was recently accepted for publication at the upcoming 2019 Association for Computing Machinery conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, nicknamed “ACM FAT*.”

The full text of the article, featured in the BU Research magazine, can be found here. Congratulations Adam, Ran, and Sarah!

(From left) Adam Smith, Sarah Scheffler, and Ran Canetti. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi