Kai Zeng, a computer science graduate student in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, brought home first place in the Lucid Programming Competition. Zeng competed among 260 participants from across the western United States in the hackathon. The outer space-themed challenge required contestants to solve 12 mathematic and algorithm problems such as Six Degrees of Neil Armstrong and Antimatter Annihilation.
Although he hadn’t done any algorithmic problem solving for a while, Zeng decided to enter the contest just to brush up on those skills. “I think algorithm skills should be exercised regularly,” he said. “I plan to participate in more programming competitions in the future to continue to improve my thinking and coding abilities.”
Zeng is a master’s degree student with a research focus on distributed systems and machine learning, advised by Associate Professor Lizhong Chen.
“Zeng’s excellent programming skills have helped his research significantly,” said Chen.
Jacob Cook is the definition of an overachiever. This spring he had the rare distinction of graduating with not one but two honors bachelor’s degrees from the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, in bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering, as well as a minor in computer science.
“Successful completion of a dual degree requires unparalleled dedication and discipline to meet requirements for both programs,” said Matthew Johnston, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Cook’s achievements were recognized with the Burgess/Tektronix Award, given each year by the College of Engineering to a senior who has demonstrated exceptional participation in activities beyond academic performance.
In addition to excelling in two challenging academic programs, Cook also completed a MECOP internship, participated in research for two different labs, served as both an undergraduate learning assistant and a resident assistant, and was an active community member.
“Jacob’s dedication and productive contributions to multiple hands-on research programs is remarkable, and it speaks to his future potential for contributions to the industry,” Johnston said.
Although he put in a huge amount of work on his own, Cook says he was lucky to have had tremendous support from his family.
“Both my parents are computer engineers who taught me great perseverance and an intense work ethic,” he said. “They raised me to do my best and encouraged me to go to college. Likewise, my grandfather was a businessman who taught me the importance of leadership and interpersonal skills for success. I cannot imagine where I would be without my family, and I wouldn’t have received this award without their help.”
The Burgess/Tektronix Award was initiated in 1990 to honor Fred Burgess, past dean of the College of Engineering. Cook received a plaque and a check for $500 and will be recognized at the fall College of Engineering Celebrate Excellence event in the fall.
Eta Kappa Nu at Oregon State University is an honor society for electrical and computer engineering majors through IEEE. At the end of each school year, the club recognizes two students with awards. This year winners were Yeojin Kim for the Robert Short TA of the Year award, and Noah Koontz for the Sophomore of the Year award.
Robert Short TA of the Year: Yeojin Kim
Yeojin Kim was born and grew up in Seoul, South Korea. She went to college at Sogang University where she completed a double undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering, and mathematics. She also worked as an intern for Naver, a South Korean web search engine, and as a software engineer for Qualcomm in Korea. She has served as a mentor for the Institute of International Education’s program Women Enhancing Technology to help female undergraduates studying in STEM fields.
“It is a great honor to receive this award. Sharing things I’ve learned with others during TA activities was one of the most pleasing moments,” Kim said.
Sophomore of the Year: Noah Koontz
Noah Koontz has been fascinated with the fusion of hardware and software from an early age. In middle school he got his first Arduino and attempted to build an open-source laser tag system with it.
“I’ve been a maker ever since,” he said.
At Oregon State, he has been working at the Open Sensing Lab, which has allowed him to apply his passion and skills to solve real-world problems in agriculture — building internet-connected devices for farmers and researchers to monitor their crops.
“I will continue to seize opportunities to work with embedded systems and solve real-world problems, hopefully having fun along the way,” Koontz said.
Laurel Hopkins was awarded the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology fellowship to support her doctoral research to improve species distribution models. The models link environmental variables to species occurrences and are useful tools for science and conservation.
Hopkins, a graduate student of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State, was inspired by a class project in which she was modeling butterfly occurrences. She realized she could improve species distribution models using deep learning methods to analyze satellite images.
“Deep learning methods are incredibly powerful in extracting semantic information from images, meaning these techniques are well suited to analyze remotely sensed data,” she said.
She will use a large dataset of NASA Landsat images to train deep networks which, based on preliminary results, she expects will produce habitat summaries that are more descriptive than traditional methods, and lead to more informative species distribution models.
Hopkins will publicly share the image library and deep network architectures so other researchers can use them to advance ecological research.
The award is for $135,000 to support her research under the guidance of Rebecca Hutchinson, assistant professor of computer science, and of fisheries and wildlife.
“I am thrilled to be working towards better understanding how we can limit our footprint and help support biodiversity,” Hopkins said. “It is phenomenal to get this support from NASA because it means that they understand the need and importance of this area of work.”
Lizhong Chen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, joins five others this year who were inducted into the Hall of Fame of the IEEE International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture. It is the top venue in the field and there are only 53 inductees in its 26-year history who meet the requirement of having at least eight publications accepted to the symposium.
“I feel honored, as most of the current members in the Hall of Fame are senior researchers who are IEEE and/or ACM Fellows,” said Chen. “I appreciate the recognition as it acknowledges my technical contribution to the computer architecture community in the past decade. It also helps to increase the visibility of Oregon State in this research field.”
Chen is the founder and organizer of the Annual International Workshop on AI-Assisted Design for Architecture. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery, and currently serves as an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Computers.
Support with teaching from the undergraduate learning assistants was appreciated even more than usual spring term, as all classes switched to remote teaching due to the coronavirus pandemic. In recognition of the students’ efforts, a new award was created in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Greg Healy and Nadia Najim received the awards this year which included a certificate and $500.
Greg Healy holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and is pursuing a degree in computer science to become a full-stack web developer. He has been the learning assistant for the web development course for the online degree program in computer science for postbaccalaureate students.
In course evaluations, the students said Healy was as the most influential component of their success. In addition to being extremely responsive to student questions, he also created video demonstrations to walk students through more challenging content. When asked by the course instructor, Eric Ianni, to review assignments and suggest improvements, Healy went one step further and designed several assignments that built to a towards a final assignment.
“Greg is a once in a lifetime undergraduate learning assistant,” Ianni said.
Nadia Najim is a bachelor’s student in applied and computational mathematics. She has been an undergraduate learning assistant for large electrical engineering courses and served as the head assistant where she managed a team of up to 12 other assistants. Najim was nominated by four faculty who wrote in their letter that she “made sustained and absolutely outstanding contributions to the education of more than 2,000 undergraduate students.”
By creating reusable content, Najim has made an impact beyond her own interactions with students. She generated weekly topical material, including group and individual practice problems, as well as guidance and training for fellow assistants on best practices, tips, and tricks for approaching each course topic.
Najim’s skills were especially appreciated by Pallavi Dhagat, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who taught engineering fundamentals for the first time in spring term.
“All through the term, she kept ahead of me, alerting me to what was coming next in the recitation sessions, creating sample problems for help sessions before the midterm and final exams, rallying the other learning assistants and students during stressful times in the term, advising me on concepts she felt I could reinforce in my lectures and giving me valuable feedback on the length and difficulty of my exams,” Dhagat said.
Ni Trieu (’20 Ph.D., Computer Science) was recognized for her work in an area of cryptography called private set interaction. It allows two entities to compare databases to find items in common without leaking other information such as passwords.
Trieu received the dissertation award from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for research that improved the speed and security of private set interaction. She also developed the first practical techniques to compare more than two sets of data.
“Ni has a great aptitude for research, and a compelling vision of how cryptographic tools can protect the privacy of everyday people,” said Mike Rosulek, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering. “She matches her technical aptitude with an equal measure of hard work and persistence.”
Trieu grew up in Vietnam and received a scholarship to do her undergraduate studies in Russia at St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. During her time there, she developed an interest in theoretical computer science, including cryptography, which she describes as a bridge between theory and practical applications.
As a student at Oregon State, Ni also spent several summers as a research intern at Bell Labs, Visa Research, and Google. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Berkeley. She will be joining Arizona State University as an assistant professor this fall.
Souti Chattopadhyay, graduate student of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, was first author on a paper that won the Honorable Mention Award at the 2020 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The distinction is given to the top 10% of the papers presented.
Other authors include her advisor, Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, and colleagues at Microsoft and University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
“This award means that our research matters and provides deeper insight into what the future can hold in terms of accessible and inclusive computing,” Chattopadhyay said.
Chattopadhyay’s research examines how data scientists make decisions when interacting with programming interfaces. The goal is to make programming tools contextually assistive with freedom to delay and review the outcomes of decisions along the path.
Souti Chattopadhyay1, Ishita Prasad2, Austin Z. Henley3, Anita Sarma1, Titus Barik2
Oregon State University1, Microsoft2, University of Tennessee-Knoxville3
Computational notebooks—such as Azure, Databricks, and Jupyter—are a popular, interactive paradigm for data scientists to author code, analyze data, and interleave visualizations, all within a single document. Nevertheless, as data scientists incorporate more of their activities into notebooks, they encounter unexpected difficulties, or pain points, that impact their productivity and disrupt their workflow. Through a systematic, mixed-methods study using semi-structured interviews (n = 20) and survey (n = 156) with data scientists, we catalog nine pain points when working with notebooks. Our findings suggest that data scientists face numerous pain points throughout the entire workflow—from setting up notebooks to deploying to production—across many notebook environments. Our data scientists report essential notebook requirements, such as supporting data exploration and visualization. The results of our study inform and inspire the design of computational notebooks.
Conley is also an IEEE Fellow and was elected a 2019 Fellow of the American Vacuum Society. In other recent achievements, he nearly made it to the top of Marys Peak on his road bike starting from his house in Corvallis, but got turned around by snow.
“I am excited about my new role as associate editor which will be continuing my long service to IEEE that began in graduate school as a reviewer for Transactions on Nuclear Science,” Conley said. “I view associate editorship as an honor as well as an obligation. It will require much hard work but will give me the opportunity to arrange for appropriate and constructive technical reviews and to influence the content and quality of one of IEEE’s flagship journals.”
The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the OSU Hackathon Club from holding BeaverHacks Spring 2020 on March 27-29. Seventy-four participants formed 17 teams to develop a website, app, or API on the theme of community building.
It was held online — the usual venue for the club’s events, since the organizers are computer science students in the online baccalaureate program. However, the global health emergency still had an influence on the event.
“We had a lot of submissions that somehow tied to the pandemic,” said Jordan Bartos, postbaccalaureate student in computer science and president of the club.
Teams were judged by a panel of instructors and industry representatives. The club distributed $400 in prizes to the following winners:
“It was incredibly gratifying to win, because the focus of our project was something all of us felt very passionately about,” said Mae La Presta, postbaccalaureate student in computer science. She was part of the winning team that created the Reading Room app to help foster a sense of community when social distancing has become the new norm.
Although the club was started by students from the online program, they welcome all Oregon State students. Bartos says his priority as president is to grow the membership of the club and raise awareness of their events. Future events could include collaborations with other clubs on campus.
“I feel pretty strongly about the benefits of the Hackathon club because when I competed in the first one, it really ignited something in me for coding in general,” Bartos said.
Participants say that learning new technical skills, building relationships with other students, and having the reward of creating something new were the main benefits of the experience.
“I was impressed by what everyone was able to accomplish by the end of the weekend. The presentations were incredible, and it was so cool to see what everyone’s ideas were,” said Manda Jensen, postbaccalaureate student in computer science.