Newsletter for Spring 2008

In this issue…

Previous Issues

Message from the Chair

Dear alumni, students, and friends,

Commencement is but one week away.

The Class of 2008 is packing up apartments and dorm rooms, and preparing for the big move — to new places and to new opportunities. Competition among companies to recruit the students has been fierce! I was struck by the number of students who signed on for jobs as soon as late-December and early-January. We wish everyone the best in their pursuits and lives beyond BU.

The Department of Computer Science continues to be engaged in an impressive array of interdisciplinary research activities. During the past 12 months, CS faculty members have been involved as principal investigators and co-principal investigators in more that $17M of funded research projects. Nearly $9M (greater than 50%) of these grant-funded projects involved collaboration with faculty and researchers in other departments, centers, schools on campus. Not bad for a department with only 17 faculty!

A hearty homecoming welcome and congratulations go to Rebecca Norlander (CS ’91), who will give the keynote address at the Department Commencement next weekend. Rebecca is the recipient of the first annual CS Distinguished Alumni Recognition Award (more details later in this newsletter). Congratulations also to Szu “Han” Chang (CS ’08) who will give the student address, and to Michael Mallon who will receive a college prize for academic excellence.

Have an enjoyable and productive summer.

Stan Sclaroff, Chair
Computer Science Department
Boston University

Rebecca Norlander Wins First BU CS Distinguished Alumni Award

As we get ready to launch the Department’s 25th anniversary celebrations, and in recognition of the many achievements of our alumni body, in the Fall of 2007 we established the BU/CS Distinguished Alumni Award — an award to be given annually to a CS alumnus or alumna who has excelled in his or her professional career.

For 2008, the Department received a number of nominations, and by a unanimous vote of the Faculty, Rebecca Norlander (CAS’91) was selected as the winner.

In nominating Rebecca to this award, Azer Bestavros wrote

It is befitting for Rebecca to be the first recipient of this award, not only in recognition of her impressive professional career and service so far, but also in recognition of her dedication to our department and her interest in its well being.

Rebecca graduated from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science in May 1991, largely focusing in her studies on computing systems and network design. She joined Microsoft in June 1991 as a developer in the Excel team, and has since established herself as one of the most capable technical leads at Microsoft, often assigned to some of the company’s most critical development projects. After spending over five years as a developer with various MS Office teams, she took on the program management of the Windows Operating System OLE group, with a mandate to “fix OLE”. From there, she assumed various critical program and group management roles with various Windows teams, working on various technologies, including COM, DCOM, COM+, Trident, IE, and Avalon. In September of 2003, Rebecca was asked to leave her position as Group Manager of Avalon to manage the development of the much-anticipated (and at the time badly-needed) Windows XP SP2 security-focused release, scheduled less than a year later. Her primary objective was to make aggressive, end-to-end changes to the operating system that provided shield-like security technologies for Windows, while still making XP an attractive operating systems for consumers and business customers alike in terms of functionality, and ship it in a timely manner. Following the successful, highly acclaimed release of XP SP2, on schedule in August 2004, Rebecca spent two years as a General Manager in the Windows Vista Security team responsible for the Firewall, NAP infrastructure, Windows Security Center, and Anti-Malware functionalities, intended to make security a more integral and approachable part of using a computer. Given Rebecca’s unique perspective and experience with a wide set of Microsoft teams and technologies, she was chosen as the Technical Strategist for Ray Ozzie, who succeeded Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect in June 2006. In that role, Rebecca’s primary goal is to help drive the Software and Services vision across Microsoft — a goal befitting her passion of “changing the world for the better through software and technology.”

In addition to her impressive professional career, Rebecca is also quite active on a number of other fronts, most notably in efforts aiming to advance K-12 mathematics and science education, and to address issues related to the severe under-representation of women in Computer Science. Examples of her contributions in that capacity include her service on the Board of Advisors for The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, and her frequent appearances as a speaker and panelist at various venues on that subject, including the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference. As Chair of the Department from 2000 to 2007, I can also comment on Rebecca’s constant interest in keeping up with the Department’s news, and her keen interest in its successes, often inquiring about its faculty development, and always finding time in her busy schedule to meet with me, every time I visited the Northwest. Rebecca visited our department twice over the last five years, and in both times she made a point of meeting with various members of the CS faculty and the BU administration, and of addressing our Women in Computer Science (WICS) group.

In her spare time, Rebecca works, trains, snowboards, teaches snowboarding in the winter, participates in triathlons in the summer, hacks around in the garden, hangs out with friends — if not in person, then on Facebook — and otherwise stirs up trouble with her spouse, J Allard, whom she met in her first year at Boston University.

Rebecca will be receiving her award during the CS Convocation of the class of 2008.

Congratulations to Rebecca!

Gabe Parmer Wins 2008 Research Excellence Award

The BU/CS Research Excellence Award was established to recognize Ph.D. students who have produced outstanding research results over the course of their careers at Boston University. For 2008, Gabe Parmer won the award. Gabe pursues his research under Professor Rich West on the mechanisms and policies that are central to the design of dependable and predictable software systems. Quoting from the citation for the award: “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,” and “in 2007, Gabe had several notable first-author publications and presentations including at RTAS, RTSS, PDPTA and VMworld.”

Currently, the Department is funding REA awards through discretionary funds available to individual faculty members. Suggestions for other means to support this initiative are welcome! For more information on the REA awards, please refer to this link

IAP Research Day Held on March 19, 2008

On Wednesday March 19, 2008, the Department hosted its 8th Annual Industrial Affiliates Program (IAP) Research Day — an opportunity for our students to show off results from their research work and to get feedback from a broad audience, and an opportunity for members of our larger community—including alumni of the Department—to get acquainted with the various research projects undertaken by members of our faculty. On display were 35 research projects and demos from a wide range of areas, including Operating Systems, Programming Languages, Networking, Security and Cryptography, Databases, and Computer Vision. In addition to undergraduate CS students and members of the faculty and administration from the wider BU community, visitors included members of a number of local research labs, including VMware, Google, BBN, Motorola, and EMC, as well as a number of prospective students.

Three prizes were awarded to the best poster presentations. These prizes went to Gabe Parmer on his poster and demo on the “Design and Implementation of Mutable Protection Domains”, to Andrei Lapets for his poster on “A Typed Language for Truthful One-Dimensional Economic Mechanism Design”, and to David Charlton for his poster on “Hinged Dissections in the Plane”.

For more information (and pictures), check the IAP web pages..

A Sign of the Times for American Sign Language

Professors Stan Sclaroff and Carol Neidle (of the Linguistics Dept) hope that before long it will be possible to demonstrate signs in front of a camera and have a computer look up their meaning. With a three-year, $900,000 National Science Foundation grant, they are collaborating on computer technology that could identify a sign based on its visual properties.

For more information, check:

CS Faculty Weigh In on File-Sharing Friction

In an article by Chris Berdik in BU Today, Professors Azer Bestavros and Leo Reyzin argued that the recording industry’s “litigation campaign” is a wrongheaded approach to protecting music copyright. They contended that the industry can’t enforce its way out of its piracy predicament. Continued attempts to do so will spur the development of new file-sharing networks and new means to encrypt and cloak network user identity, leading to an Internet “arms race” with plenty of collateral damage — falsely accused students, improperly filtered online communication, wasted resources, and stifled innovation — but no solution to illegal downloads.

For the full article in BU Today, check:

Join BUCAN on Facebook!

Interested in connecting with fellow CS alumni? Interested in getting updates about departmental events and activities? With social networking, it’s now easier than ever! Just join the BUCAN group on Facebook at and spread the word!