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Message from the Chair

2017-2018 Year in Retrospect

From the Chair, Sandhya Dwarkadas, and the Interim Chair (fall semester), Michael L. Scott

2017-2018 has been quite an action-packed year as we settled and grew into Wegmans Hall. The building has a light and airy feel, and it is delightful to see how well utilized the public spaces are for students to meet in study groups, eat lunch, or just hang out.

We had a graduating class of 149 students; 109 students graduating with a Bachelor's degree --- 40 B.A. and 69 B.S., 32 M.S., and 8 Ph.D. students. An additional 33 students did a minor in computer science. More than a third of our undergraduate students did a double major, with second majors in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Math, Business, Studio Arts, Applied Music, Japanese, Digital Media Studies, Economics, Linguistics, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, History, Optical Engineering, Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, and Statistics.

We had a truly impressive class of 2018. Many are now in industry at companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Cisco, Facebook, Amazon, Spotify, Factset, 1010data, Salesforce, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, ActionIB, Licid Perspectives, Accenture, SRC Inc, Velo3D, EY, YourMechanic, Mathworks, Snap, Microsoft, Elemental Cognition, and Verneek; some are off to graduate school at universities including Brown, Cornell, Rutgers, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UCLA, and our very own University of Rochester; others are at research institutes such as IMDEA. The breadth of placement is truly breath-taking!

In head-to-head competition with teams from other universities, our undergraduates returned this year from the CS Games in Montreal with 6 trophies including first place in theoretical computing, machine learning, and functional programming. Our ACM programming team came in 1st place in the preliminaries and 4th place in the regional finals. Departmental awards at our Commencement Ceremony went out to Andrew Read-McFarland and Haosen Wen (Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants); Shir Maimon (Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant); Vivian Li (Women in Computing and Excellence in Undergraduate Research); and Edward Newton (Outstanding Senior Award).

Our Ph.D. students have been involved in a range of research topics, among them: mitigating side-channel and speculation (Spectre and Meltdown) attacks launched by compromised operating system kernels; emerging nonvolatile memory interfaces; and the analysis of emotion, humor, and hate speech from images and text. Several of them have research internships this summer at locations that include Adobe, Amazon, Expedia, Google, Huawei, IBM,, Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Lincoln Labs, Microsoft, Philips, Qualcomm, Snap, Tencent, and Z2AI Corporation. Additionally, more than 20% of the senior undergraduate class has been involved in research with our faculty as have almost all of our M.S. students. Undergraduate Vivian Li received an honorable mention in the Computing Research Association’s (national) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. Shir Maimon received UR’s Doris Ermine Smith Award for significant achievement in mathematics. Ph.D. student Joseph H. Izraelevitz received a commendation for his dissertation in UR’s 2018 Outstanding Dissertation Awards competition.

In addition to the knowledge they have gained in computer science, our undergraduates are also multi-talented. More than 10% of this senior class were varsity athletes in sports including rowing, track and field, cross country, and football. Aurek Ransom received the first place award in the Writing, Speaking, and Argument program's contest for outstanding writing in the humanities. Sidhant Ahluwalia won a Gwennie Award from the Career Center for his role in Meliora LaunchPad, a hotbed for sharing entrepreneurship experiences.

More than 15% of the senior undergraduate class has taken advantage of the study abroad program to explore countries that include Hungary, the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Spain.

Funded in large part by the BRAID (Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity) initiative, now going into its fifth year, we sent 29 women, three staff members, and two faculty members to the Grace Hopper Conference Celebration of Women in Computing in October in Orlando, FL. This past year, URWiC self-organized to reach out to more than 100 local middle and high school students in order to grow the pipeline of women in computing. The department also hosted a booth for recruiting women and minorities for graduate studies and faculty positions and held a dinner to network with alumnae. We will continue to receive support from the BRAID initiative for at least another year. Our participation in the BRAID initiative has yielded tremendous results: our 2018 graduating class had 109 students, of which 32% were women, compared to a national average of 17.9%.

Our faculty continue to grow their research enterprise and reach, both nationally and internationally. Henry Kautz is director of the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the next three years. Ehsan Hoque received an NSF Career Award and was also listed among ScienceNews’s “10 Scientists to Watch”. Ji Liu was listed among MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35 in China”. Yuhao Zhu received an honorable mention for his dissertation in the ACM/IEEE SIGARCH/TCCA Outstanding Dissertation Award competition. Chenliang Xu received an NSF Big Data Science and Engineering award for his work on “Audio-Visual Scene Understanding”. In addition to NSF, ONR, DARPA, DoD, and the NYS Center of Excellence in Data Science, collaborations with Adobe, Carestream, Futurewei, IBM, Google, Markable, Microsoft, NEC, SAIC Innovation Center, Samsung, Snap, TCL, Tencent, Yahoo, and Xerox fund departmental research. The department also received funding from the Anita Borg Institute (BRAID
funding) and the Burroughs Welcome Foundation.

Among news from our alumni, Ph.D. alumnus Xipeng Shen ’06 was promoted to Full Professor in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University (NCSU). PhD alumnus Andrew McCallum ’96 was named a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.

We welcome Zhen Bai to the ranks of our tenure-track faculty and Eustrat Zhupa to our teaching faculty this coming year. Zhen did her Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and comes to us via a post-doc at CMU. Her research area is broadly human-computer interaction, combining augmented and tangible user interfaces, human-robot interaction, educational technologies, computer-supported collaborative learning, and design for diversity. Her research is interdisciplinary, drawing from multiple disciplines including developmental psychology, social science, learning science, machine learning, and natural language processing. We look forward to having her here. Eustrat did his Ph.D. at the University of Bari in Italy and was a visiting teaching faculty member at RIT prior to joining us.

This last year has seen several changes in our staff due to retirements and additions. Brynn Wilkins and Janet Ouimette joined us as undergraduate program manager and undergraduate coordinator, respectively, taking the place of Marty Guenther who retired in December. Beth Corrigan joined us as staff accountant, replacing Pat Mitchell on her retirement in June. Kristi Kongmany is now the grants manager and assistant to the chair. Vanessa Phengsomphane is the new department coordinator. We are truly blessed to have an amazing staff.

Our student population continues to grow, with over 150 students in the entering undergraduate class of 2022 declaring an interest in computer science. Additionally, the interdisciplinary majors of Data Science, Computational Biology, and Computational Linguistics also continue to grow and draw heavily on computer science.

Do come visit us in our new location! Meliora weekend , when we have an open house and research showcase, is an especially good time to do so.