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  • Computer Science Department adds two Lecturers to Faculty | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    introductory computer science classes part time while working at CRF full time to help faculty design and build backend systems for all types of research projects With his new position the mix gets recalibrated teaching becomes full time and CRF part time I m thrilled to be working full time with students here at Columbia It s the best of both worlds a large university environment with highly motivated students yet like a college professor I have this direct interaction with the students which is the favorite part of my job Blaer knows the classes the students and faculty the projects and how the computer systems are set up in a department dependent on systems that s better than knowing where the bodies are buried He s involved also in the administrative aspects that touch on teaching he is Director of Undergraduate Studies for BS Programs and is active in the Science Honors Program for area high school science and math students Deep institutional and systems knowledge is all well and good but a lecturer first and foremost has to be able to teach Blaer has that angle covered especially well As someone who genuinely cares about teaching he pays attention to what resonates with students and what doesn t and strives to keep his lectures engaging using humor and real life stories from his own research to keep students interested That he succeeds is clear from student comments on the Columbia Underground Listing on Teacher Abilities CULPA site where Blaer has earned a silver nugget for his teaching and approachability We re thrilled to have Paul join the faculty full time as a lecturer The department has rock solid confidence in his classroom skills because we have the strongest possible kind of evidence actual results over several years says Rocco Servedio chair of the Computer Science department Ansaf Salleb Aouissi Introduction to Data Science Machine Learning for Data Science Discrete Math Artificial Intelligence Ansaf Salleb Aouissi Lecturer in Discipline The increasingly data centric approach in all aspects of science and technology means students need to learn what algorithms and methods can stand up to the immense scale of today s data sets Teaching computer science from the perspective of large data sets is the job of Ansaf Salleb Aouissi A data scientist from before the term was commonly understood Salleb Aouissi has worked with all types of data on projects ranging from geology and geographic information systems early in her career to social sciences and urban design and more recently to medical informatics and to education The common denominator is data The context may be different and the goals may be different but at the end of the day data is data and you try to leverage that data somehow to learn something new says Salleb Aouissi An associate research scientist at Columbia s Center for Computational Learning Systems CCLS since 2006 she has worked on both fundamental research into new machine learning and data mining algorithms and methods

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/cs-adds-two-new-lecturers/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Fast, accurate enough for the human in the loop: Visualizing and interacting with big data sets | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    for small data sets using a small set of fixed interactions or you get full expressiveness with SQL and queries but you have to wait and give up interactivity Part of the problem is that the database and the visualization communities have traditionally been separate with the database side focusing on efficient query processing and accuracy and the visualization community focusing on usability and interactions Says Wu If you look at visualizations from a database perspective a lot of it looks like database operations In both cases you re computing sums you re computing common aggregates We can remove many of the perceived differences between databases and visualization systems Wu wants to bridge the two sides to operate more closely together so both consider first the expectations and requirements of the human in the loop For instance what does database accuracy mean when a human analyst can t differentiate 3 4 from 3 45 in a scatterplot A slight relaxation of accuracy requirements unnoticeable to users would conserve resources while speeding up query operations In understanding the boundary between what a human can perceive and what amounts to wasted computations Wu hopes to develop models of human perception that are both faithful to studies in the Human Computer Interaction and Psychology literatures and applicable to database and visualization system performance On the visualization side less attention has been paid to the programming languages like JavaScript used to construct the visualizations consequently visualizations are hard to write to debug and even harder to scale A similar situation once prevailed in the database world where application developers wrote complex and brittle code to fetch data from their databases but the invention of SQL a high level declarative language made it easier for developers to express relationships within the data without having to

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/wu-profile/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Advancing the algorithmic foundations of massive data | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    nearest neighbor a search would go much faster if objects were pre grouped according to some shared attribute making it easy to zero in on just the small subset of objects most likely to contain the most similar neighbor The new challenge then becomes what attribute shall we use to make such a pre grouping maximally efficient The speed up thus gained reverberates across a wide range of computational methods since nearest neighbors search is ubiquitous and serves as a primitive in higher level algorithms particularly in machine learning More generally in the same spirit of relying on approximate attributes to speed operations Andoni has developed a theory of sketching that represents complex objects by smaller simpler sketches that capture the main structure and essential properties of the original objects yet use less sublinear space and time to compute For many tasks such as estimating similarity of a pair of objects a sketch may work just as well as a fully realized object While relaxing strict formulations is happening generally throughout the community in most part by necessity Andoni is carrying the idea further and is in the forefront of those inventing new primitives and new data structures that explicitly incorporate the concept of sketches In early work applying a sketch primitive Locality Sensitive Hashing to nearest neighbor search Andoni in 2006 with Piotr Indyk was able for the most basic Euclidean distances to improve over a seminal 1998 algorithm widely used for classification The Communications of the ACM later 2008 vol 51 hailed the new primitive as a breakthrough technology that allowed researchers to revisit decades old problems and solve them faster Few expected more progress to be possible Yet when Andoni again revisited the problem in papers published in 2014 and in 2015 he unexpectedly made more headway

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/alex-andoni-joins-cs-dept/ (2016-02-17)
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  • In Memoriam: Joseph F. Traub | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    Based on his achievements at CMU Columbia University in 1979 extended an offer to Traub to found the University s Computer Science department He accepted the offer and chose to locate Computer Science within the Engineering School which at the time offered a single computer only three tenured faculty members teaching computer science and a huge demand for computer classes After securing a 600 000 gift from IBM which later provided another 4 million he was able to add faculty and attract top students Within a year the department was awarding bachelor s and master s degrees as well as PhDs He would chair the department until 1989 In 1982 he oversaw the construction of the Computer Science Building working closely with architects to come up with a final design that would later win awards Traub liked building things from scratch In 1985 while still chair of the Computer Science department he became the founding editor in chief of the Journal of Complexity a position he held at the time of his death In 1986 he founded the Computer Science and Technology Board CSTB of the National Research Council serving as its chair from 1986 until 1992 and again in 2005 and 2009 His awards and honors are many and include election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1985 the 1991 Emanuel R Piore Gold Medal from IEEE and the 1992 Distinguished Service Award from the Computer Research Association CRA He is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery ACM the American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics SIAM and the New York Academy of Sciences NYAS He was selected by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome to present the 1993 Lezione Lincee a cycle of six lectures Traub received the 1999 Mayor s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology an award presented by Mayor Rudy Giuliani In 2012 his 80th birthday was commemorated by a symposium at Columbia s Davis Auditorium to celebrate his research and contributions to computer science Traub s contributions to Columbia s Computer Science Department have been instrumental in establishing the strong foundation of excellence of our Computer Science department today enabling our ongoing frontier leadership in this field said Dean Mary C Boyce Joe will be sorely missed by all of us at Columbia and by the computer science community across the globe A life of science and discovery Traub always described himself as lucky Lucky in his early life that his parents were able to flee Nazi Germany in 1939 and settle in New York City that he had a knack for math and problem solving just when those skills were needed that a fellow student s prescient suggestion led him to visit IBM s Watson Laboratories where he first encountered computers And lucky to be among the first to enter a new unexplored field when he had the ambition to make new discoveries and a hunger to do something significant

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/joseph-traub-in-memoriam/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Henning Schulzrinne named recipient of 2016 IEEE Internet Award | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    standard and together they have had an immense impact on telecommunications both by greatly reducing consumer costs and by providing a flexible alternative to the traditional and expensive public switched telephone network This award also recognizes the work by my students and visitors in the Columbia IRT lab as well as all the other colleagues who contributed to making Internet based multimedia possible says Schulzrinne in referring to the Internet Real Time IRT Lab which he directs and which conducts research in the areas of Internet and multimedia services The Internet award follows on the heel of two other honors recently accorded Schulzrinne In January he was named an ACM Fellow and in December 2014 he received an Outstanding Service Award by the Internet Technical Committee ITC of which he was the founding chair In 2013 Schulzrinne was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame Other notable awards include the New York City Mayor s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology and the VON Pioneer Award Schulzrinne whose research interests include applied network engineering wireless networks security quality of service and performance evaluation continues to work on VoIP and other multimedia applications and is currently investigating an overall architecture for the Internet of Things and making it easier to diagnose network problems He is also active in designing technology solutions to limit phone spam robocalls and recently testified on this topic before the Senate Special Committee on Aging In addition to his research Schulzrinne is active in public policy and in serving the broader technology community From 2012 until 2014 he was the Chief Technology Officer for the Federal Communications Committee where he guided the FCC s work on technology and engineering issues and played a major role in the FCC s decision to require mobile carriers to support

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/Schulzrinne-receives-IEEE-Internet-award/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Columbia researchers are presenting six papers at SIGGRAPH | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    the crystal structure of atoms to sand dunes in the desert At some point I contacted a few good friends from grad school who provided all sorts of beautiful examples from the physical sciences some of which appear in the paper The fact that we can model the basic behavior of so many different phenomena using one simple geometric formulation is very satisfying In the future it would be fun to explore how our algorithm might also apply to problems in physical simulation for instance how does a piece of metal like spoon remember its shape when you bend it This has everything to do with how singularities get distributed throughout the metal which in turn has to do with minimizing distortion as in the map making problem Your image of a rabbit with embedded cacti stripes made the cover of this month s ACM Transactions on Graphics Of all the possible images to be seen at SIGGRAPH this month why do you think yours was chosen I couldn t tell you But the SIGGRAPH community produces some truly beautiful work every year and I m very flattered for our work to be recognized in this way A method for interactively deforming shapes Choosing handles in interactive time Category Simsquishal Geometry Tuesday 11 August 9 10 30 am Linear Subspace Design for Real Time Shape Deformation Yu Wang University of Pennsylvania Alec Jacobson Columbia University ETH Zürich Jernej Barbič University of Southern California Ladislav Kavan University of Pennsylvania What is the practical application of your work In computer graphics a common task is to change the shape or pose of an object or character The normal process is for the user to pick a point or handle from which to control movement As the user moves the handle changes propagate outward affecting the nearby area The question is always how far does the influence of the handle extend and how quickly does the influence fall off Previously the user decided typically by using a paintbrush type tool to define the area and the rate of fall off Over the past four years we have been working to automate the interpolation process by developing an optimization that calculates the correspondence between distance and how much weight to assign the influence of the handle and does so in a way that ensures smooth natural motions This makes the deformation task easier for the user who no longer has to figure out the interpolations But the calculations take time every time the user inserts a handle it takes a few minutes for the calculations to complete interfering with the desired interactivity Our new paper fixes this problem by speeding up the calculations to interactive time What is the technical innovation that allowed you to reduce the time of calculations There are several I will mention two We examined the algebraic properties of our optimization for computing correspondences and discovered that if we were more careful about the cost function we could speed the process Previously the weighting function would consider all possible functions between 1 and 0 and choose the smoothest function We found that by carefully modeling the idea of smoothness it suddenly became possible to re use a lot of the computation for finding the weights of one handle and use it for all other handles That was a big time savings Another came from removing the non negative constraint from the weighting function a constraint that seems very intuitive to have If this one handle is negative and gets moved right the other handle should have an opposite response and go left Plus a non negative constraint makes it unnecessary to optimize over all functions only those that are non negative But the constraint makes the optimization much harder It turns out to be easier and faster to optimize over a generic function set than a very specific set What we realized to our surprise was we could either have very smooth deformations without bumps at each of the handle or we could have non negative weights but we could not have both It was a tradeoff we were willing to make we could put up with a bit of non intuitiveness for better results Further without that constraint the optimization is much faster In the end we were able to speed things up to the point that a user can plop down a handle decide it is not right and immediately choose another handle and continue working The design process is now easy and fluid When can people in industry expect to be able to interactively deform shapes using your method It might be a while Studios have well established procedures and introducing something new into that can take time Plus new features have to be adapted for the different packages where the underlying geometries may be hidden by additional layers It is the research community that will make immediate use of new projects and features We have made our software available online and we expect that the first users will be researchers whose work depends on deformations that perhaps they were not able to do previously Now instead of having to rely on artists or modelers researchers themselves can explore new territory Transforming almost any object into a Rubik s Cube Transforming a 3D object into a twisty puzzle Category Fabrication Function Wednesday August 12 10 45 am to 12 15 pm Computational Design of Twisty Joints and Puzzles Timothy Sun Columbia University Changxi Zheng Columbia University The popular Rubik s cube is a 3D puzzle composed of 26 separate interlocking pieces that rotate along six rotation axes each of which can be moved independently While the most well known Rubik s cube is a square others are constructed using different geometric shapes tetrahedron octahedron dodecahedron icosahedron together they compose a class of twisty joint puzzles Now two Columbia researchers have greatly expanded what else can be included in this class of puzzles Timothy Sun and Changxi Zheng

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/SIGGRAPH/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Yaniv Erlich: Dissecting the complex relationships of genes, health, and privacy | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    piqued his interest and he went on to study both biology and genetics two sciences increasingly awash in data and in need of algorithms for inferring information from the data He approached both subjects from a computational perspective At MIT s Whitehead Institute where he headed a research lab from 2010 through 2014 he had the chance to apply his computational tool kit to genetics Results were impressive One method sequenced tens of thousands of samples at a time Another harnessed signal processing and statistical learning to extract genetic information from short tandem repeats or STRs a fast mutating fragment of DNA so small it had been mostly neglected by the research community Both methods contributed new information about how genes operate at the molecular level But Erlich was also interested in how genes affect health and traits Is the relationship linear where mutations predictably sum to a trait or is it nonlinear with mutations interacting unpredictably with one another The answer required a population scale analysis one too large to be constructed using traditional data collection methods Here Erlich and his Whitehead colleagues came up with an innovative solution Using existing genealogical data taken from social media sites they created a genealogical tree of 13 million individuals dating back to the 15th century Such a deep genealogy reveals clusters of genetic variation some tied to longevity others to rare disorders And offering as a side bonus an intriguing view into human migration Looking at how mutations ripple through populations researchers can measure the frequency of a certain trait and thus evaluate the genetic contribution With a larger tree even more will become possible The promise is great but it all means nothing if there isn t genetic material to work with And that requires trust People today are more wary about revealing personal data and they are right to be so Erlich himself is one of the first to flag the ethical complexities involving genetics and privacy A paper he spearheaded released in January 2013 caused a stir by showing how easy it is to take apparently anonymized genetic information donated by research participants and cross reference it to online data sources Using only Internet searches with no actual DNA Erlich and his research team were able to correlate the donated DNA to a surname in 13 the US population a result that surprised even Erlich Our study highlighted current gaps in genetic privacy as we enter to the brave new era of ubiquitous genetic information explains Erlich However we must remember that sharing genetic information is crucial to understand the hereditary basis of devastating disorders We were pleased to see that our work has helped to facilitate discussions and procedures to better share genetic information in ways that respect participants preferences Ensuring better safeguarding of genetic information will encourage more people to contribute their DNA speeding the day when personalized medicine becomes a reality for all especially those most at risk of rare genetic diseases For them the

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/erlich-new-prof/ (2016-02-17)
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  • Changxi Zheng wins NSF CAREER Award | Dept. of Computer Science, Columbia University
    based computational sound for immersive environments and his proposal will look to tightly integrate the visual and audio components of simulated environments It will represent a change from today s practices where digital sound is usually created and recorded separately of the action and then dropped in when appropriate In Zheng s proposal computational sound will be automatically generated using physics based simulation methods and fully synchronized with the associated motion What I propose to do about sound synthesis is analogous to the existing image rendering methods for creating photorealistic images says Zheng We would like to create audiovisual animations and virtual environments using computational methods In addition to the realism sound that is not tightly coupled with motion loses some of its impact and detracts from the overall immersive experience says Zheng Attaining any type of realism in virtual worlds requires synchronizing the audio and visual components What the user hears should spring directly and naturally from what the user sees It will take new mathematical models and new computational methods Sound is a physical phenomenon and creating sound by computer requires understanding and simulating all the motions and forces that go into producing sound Computational methods will have to replicate everything from the surface vibrations on an object that produce the pressure waves we hear as sound while taking into account how frequency pitch and volume are affected by the object s size shape weight surface textures and countless other variables The way sound propagates differs also depending on whether sound waves travel through air or water and what obstructions or other sound waves get in the way It s a dynamic situation where a slight adjustment to one variable produces nonlinear changes in another Zheng s system will have to tackle not only the physical phenomena but

    Original URL path: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/2015/zheng-wins-NSF-award/ (2016-02-17)
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