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Fix-IT Day 2013

Our ACM student group held their annual Fix-IT Day this weekend in which they were able to send 121 people home very happy that their computers were now in working order. The students removed malware (including some rootkits), applied patches, and installed free firewall and virus-protection systems. They not only fixed the computers, but also educated the people in how to maintain their computers themselves. We would like to thank our ACM student members for providing this great service to the Columbia community. You can view a slideshow of photos from the event.

Mr. Stiffler wins UPE Award

We are pleased to announce that Mr. Nick Stiffler, one of our PhD students, has received an Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) Special Recognition Scholarship Award ($1,250) for his outstanding research and academic record in computing. UPE is the international honor society in the computing and information disciplines. Congratulations, Nick!

Gamecock Computing Symposium Winners

Our Second Gamecock Symposium was an even larger success than the first one. The first prize winner was Mr. Hossen Mustafa, and the second prize winner was Mr. Fan Zhang. Congratulations! All the students did a great job presenting their research. Below is a slideshow with some images from the event: Even more photos can be found in this google+ album.

Book on Robot Operating System

Dr. Jason O'Kane has just published his book titled "A Gentle Introduction to ROS." The book is also free to download as a pdf. From the backcover:
ROS (Robot Operating System) is rapidly becoming a de facto standard for writing interoperable and reusable robot software. This book supplements ROS's own documentation, explaining how to interact with existing ROS systems and how to create new ROS programs using C++, with special attention to common mistakes and misunderstandings.

New Faculty: Prof. Jenay Beer

We would like to welcome our newest assistant professor Dr. Jenay Beer to the department. She comes to us from Georgia Tech where she worked in the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory and received both PhD and Master's degrees in Engineering Psychology. She is interested in human-robot interactions and how to to build robots that can help older adults. Her office is 3A58. Below is a video of her TEDx talk at Georgia Tech.

Security Risks in Heart Devices

Dr Xu and her research team have discovered security vulnerabilities in the sensors of cardiac defibrillators and pacemakers. She explains:
As researchers, it's our responsibility to always challenge the common practice and find defenses for vulnerabilities that could be exploited before unfortunate incidents happen. We hope our research findings can help to enhance the security of sensing systems that will emerge for years to come.
You can read the full story at our College website: Security risks found in sensors for heart devices. You can also watch a the video report that appeared on WISTV.

Grubbly: Find Local Food Deals

Jason Rikard and Jonathan Mayhak, two recent graduates from this department, have just released Grubbly, a website and iphone app (Android coming soon) where you can find local food specials. Currently it only covers Columbia but plans are to expand to nearby cities. The app is featured in the State Newspaper. Also, check out their blog.
For the moment, grubbly.com is not a money-maker. Mayhak and Rikard glean specials from the Internet or by personal experience. They often just snap pictures of specials boards with their iPhones to be logged in later. “We go out a lot,” Rikard said. The app is more of a showpiece for their freelance programming startup Apparctica, they said. And perhaps, once the two can figure out a way to quantify how much traffic they are driving to restaurants (without the use of coupons), they can institute a small monthly fee. In the meantime, they are kicking around ways to build grubbly by communicating such things as the vibe of the room, the character of the clientele, the décor, the architecture – taking it to the next level. “Information about how cool it looks and the people who are there,” said Mayhak. “Not just an aggregate of information,” Rikard said.

Magellan Scholars

We congratulate our two Magellan Scholars award winners for this Semester: Connor Bain who will be working on Utilizing Activity and Context Recognition to Mitigate Distractions from Smartphones and Casey Cole who is working on Developing Databases, Web-interfaces and Visualization Tools for Computational Material Discovery.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winner

We congratulate Daniel Grier, an undergraduate double-majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics, for being awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for attending graduate school (list of winners). The 3-year fellowship covers tuition at any University and provides a stipend of $30,000/year.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) provides Fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. Three years of support is provided by the program for graduate study that is in a field within NSF's mission and leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree. The program goals are 1) to select, recognize, and financially support individuals early in their careers with the demonstrated potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers, and 2) to broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans. GRFP is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy in developing the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the Nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation. The ranks of NSF Fellows include numerous individuals who have made transformative breakthroughs in science and engineering research, become leaders in their chosen careers, and been honored as Nobel laureates. Applicants are urged to visit the NSF web page at http://www.nsf.gov/ for more information and guidance about current and emerging themes for NSF.
Daniel Grier has also just been named a finalist in the Computing Research Association Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award.

International Scholarship Award to Study Abroad

Mateusz Czarnocki, a second-year Computer Information Systems major, received $5,000 from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program to study abroad in Poland this spring. This will be combined with two additional scholarships awarded to Matt, including the USC Knight Scholarship. With the help of financial aid, Matt, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, will be able to live and study in his home country. “I have been waiting for any opportunity to return to my homeland and see what it is like to study as a regular student in Poland, spend time with my family, learn more about my home culture and experience daily life in Poland,” wrote Matt in his scholarship application. Matt’s desire to reconnect with his roots first surfaced with the passing of his father in 2004. Unable to be with the majority of his family through this difficult time, Matt yearned to strengthen these family ties and explore his heritage and that of his father. He describes how his father is the inspiration for many decisions in his life, including his interest in computers. While abroad, Matt will study marketing, computer networks, management and banking at the Warsaw School of Economics (WSE). The skills he gains abroad will support his plans to eventually move back to Poland and work in a computer networking-related career. The program is coordinated through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), which offers the largest selection of computer and business courses recognized and accepted at USC toward Matt’s CIS major. Matt is also the recipient of CIEE’s new LIFT Scholarship. The Language Intensive Focus Track award program helps fund the extended study of a single language by top university students. According to his adviser at CIEE, Matt is not only the first CIS major from USC to participate in the program in Poland, but he is also the first CIS major from the southeast. He plans to use that to his advantage. “When I come back from Poland, I will have something to say that no one else has said before,” wrote Matt. When he returns to USC, Matt will organize photographic documentation of his time abroad to develop a presentation for the members of USC’s Opportunity Scholars Program (OSP). The program helps first-generation students from low-income families through their transition into college life. Matt hopes to reach out to this population and inform them of the available opportunities so they may have their own experiences abroad. “For first-generation freshmen, like I was, who start their college career knowing that sometime in the future they would like to study somewhere other than the states, an informative session like this would be a great first step,” wrote Matt. He continues, “I could show people what they must get ready to fulfill their dreams of studying somewhere beyond the states.” Each year, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants of up to $5,000 per semester for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad. For information on the Gilman program and how to apply, visit the website at www.iie.org/gilman/. For information on other scholarship and education abroad opportunities, visit the USC Study Abroad Office’s website at studyabroad.sc.edu.

IBM Award for Cloud Computing

Dr. Michael Huhns has received an IBM Faculty Research Award to conduct research into cloud computing and virtualization. He will be investigating mechanisms whereby cloud and virtualization users can share their cloud resources across institutions in the Southeast. The mechanisms will leverage OpenStack, OpenFlow, and other standard protocols for cloud computing. The expected outcome of the effort is that it will be easier to deploy and manage applications across integrated clouds.

Undergraduate Research Award

We congratulate Casey Cole for winning a Distributed Research Experiences for Undergraduates award. She is building a webapp for storing and easy retrieval of doping experiment results, visualizing trends in these results, as well as developing regular expression-based text analysis tools to automatically extract doped materials information from research papers.

Dr. Nelakuditi Receives Google Faculty Research Award

Dr. Srihari Nelakuditi, along with Dr. Romit Roy Choudhury at Duke University, is a recipient of the prestigious Google Faculty Research Award for their project titled "Google Glass meets Smartphones: Recognizing Humans without Face Recognition" which proposes to identify individuals based on their clothes and motion patterns when seen via Google Glass. This New Scientist article describes their research, and has been picked up by many media outlets and USC News. See video. You can also listen to an interview of Dr. Nelakuditi at the IT minute podcast. This project explores techniques that jointly leverage Google Glass and smartphones to automatically recognize people in the visual surrounding. This enables a scenario where Alice can look at any other person around her, say Bob, and view his Google+ profile. While face recognition would be one approach to this problem, we believe that it may not be always possible to see a person’s face. Our technique is complementary to face recognition, and exploits the intuition that colors and decorations of clothes, and even human motion patterns, can together make up a “fingerprint” that helps recognize the person. This project is expected to not only facilitate human recognition, but also provide a useful primitive for human-centric augmented reality.