Columbia Computer Science News

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News about research and education in the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University
Updated: 2 years 47 weeks ago

USA Today Features Feiner's Research

Tue, 05/17/2011 - 1:18pm
"Feiner, one of the gurus of the field, says augmented reality can exploit all the senses, including touch and hearing."

Peter Belhumeur's team, together with Smithsonian and U. Maryland collaborators, launches Leafsnap

Sat, 05/07/2011 - 5:12pm
Peter Belhumeur and his Smithsonian and U. Maryland collaborators launched Leafsnap ( in the Apple App store on Monday. Peter's group has now been covered by NPR, the New York Times, Science Magazine, the Gaurdian UK, Nooderlicht (Netherlands), Morgen (Germany), Smart Planet, Crunch Gear, Engadget, Treehugger, Intomobile, Columbia Record, and a Gizmodo video is slated for release when the iPad version goes live. More than 10,000 people have now installed the app. Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. Leafsnap contains beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States. Leafsnap turns users into citizen scientists, automatically sharing images, species identifications, and geo-coded stamps of species locations with a community of scientists who will use the stream of data to map and monitor the ebb and flow of flora nationwide. The Leafsnap family of electronic field guides aims to leverage digital applications and mobile devices to build an ever-greater awareness of and appreciation for biodiversity. The genesis of Leafsnap was the realization that many techniques used for face recognition developed by Professor Peter Belhumeur and Professor David Jacobs, of the Computer Science departments of Columbia University and the University of Maryland, respectively, could be applied to automatic species identification. Professors Jacobs and Belhumeur approached Dr. John Kress, Chief Botanist at the Smithsonian, to start a collaborative effort for designing and building such a system for plant species. Columbia and the University of Maryland designed and implemented the visual recognition system used for automatic identification. In addition, Columbia University designed and wrote the iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, the website, and wrote the code that powers the recognition servers. The Smithsonian was instrumental in collecting the datasets of leaf species and supervising the curation efforts throughout the course of the project. As part of this effort, the Smithsonian contracted the not-for-profit nature photography group Finding Species, which collected and photographed the high-quality photos available in the apps and the website.

Salvatore Stolfo and Angelos Keromytis's spinout wins SBIR

Tue, 05/03/2011 - 4:43am
Salvatore Stolfo and Angelos Keromytis's spinout Allure Security Technology, Inc., ( won a highly competitive DARPA SBIR grant. The SBIR project will build on the "decoy technologies" developed in the Columbia IDS lab for the insider threat. The first phase of SBIR will develop a baseline system that demonstrates the feasibility of identifying specific types of insider attacks, from malicious insiders to those who accidentally violate security policy.

Eitan Grinspun profiled in New York Times

Tue, 05/03/2011 - 3:18am
The New York Times (Arts Section, C1, 2010/12/30) presents a full profile of Prof. Eitan Grinspun and his group at Columbia University. Grinspun's group combines an expertise in geometry and scientific computing to develop technologies used at Disney, Pixar, Weta Digital (best known for Avatar and Lord of the Rings) and top visual effects and animation studios worldwide. Read the article here.

Dan Rubenstein and co-authors win 2011 IEEE Communications Society Award for Outstanding Paper on New Communication Topics

Fri, 04/29/2011 - 5:09pm
A paper by Ph.D. student Maria Gorlatova and Professors Peter Kinget, Ioannis Kymissis, Dan Rubenstein (CS), Xiadong Wang, and Gil Zussman won the 2011 IEEE Communications Society Award for Outstanding Paper on New Communication Topics. The paper, titled Energy Harvesting Active Networked Tags (EnHANTs) for Ubiquitous Object Networking, appeared in the IEEE Wireless Communications Dec. 2010 Special Issue on "The Internet of Things: the Next Big Thing in Communications?" (link to The paper describes the design challenges posed by a new class of ultra-low-power devices referred to as Energy-Harvesting Active Networked Tags (EnHANTs). The IEEE Communications Society Award for Outstanding Paper on New Communication Topics is given to "outstanding papers that open new lines of work, envision bold approaches to communication, formulate new problems to solve, and essentially enlarge the field of communications engineering." It is given to a paper published in any IEEE Communications Society publication in the previous calendar year. The award will be presented at the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC'2011) award ceremony. More information about the EnHANTs project can be found in

Shree Nayar elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 2:54pm
Shree Nayar was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy studies and sets the direction of research in science and technology policy, global security, social policy, and the humanities. Its founders included Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Its current members include many of the nation's most prominent computer scientists, more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as Lee Bollinger.

Mihalis Yannakakis elected to National Academy of Engineering

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 4:37pm
"Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to 'engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature,' and to the 'pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education." ( Read more on

Dana Pe'er wins Stand Up To Cancer Award

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 11:44am
Dana Pe'er is a recipient of the Stand Up To Cancer award! This award is highly visible due to its media-oriented backing. One of 13 awardees, Dana will receive $750k direct for 3 years for her project on "A Systems Approach to Understanding Tumor Specific Drug Response." Pe’er’s research is focused on elucidating tumor-specific molecular networks, working towards personalized cancer care. The project will develop and use machine learning approaches for the integration and analysis of high-throughput data toward understanding the tumor regulatory network and its response to drug, as well as the genetic determinants of this response. Please see:

Shree Nayar's BigShot in Scientific American

Fri, 04/01/2011 - 10:50am
What could be cooler for an aspiring scientist or engineer than a hands-on project working with and learning about electronics and optics? How about one where each student ends up with his or her own digital camera. Such is the vision of Shree Nayar's BigShot, which he has been cultivating since 2006. Nayar has already developed a dozen prototypes of the build-it-yourself BigShot camera. With his graduate students Guru Krishnan and Brian Smith, he has developed an associated educational and social-networking Web site, and conducted several successful pilot tests with children around the world. The build-and-learn aspect of BigShot has a lot of appeal, says Margaret Honey, CEO of the New York Hall of Science in Queens, N.Y., a hands-on, family-oriented science and technology museum. "I've seen lots of technology and engineering projects throughout my career, and I was really taken with this," she says. "The strategy of engineering this device so that kids can fairly easily put this together without starting from scratch is incredibly smart. I love that kids end up with a working camera and that the assembly of the project is just the beginning."

Simha Sethumadhavan receives NSF CAREER Award

Fri, 03/25/2011 - 12:52pm
Simha Sethumadhavan was funded through the National Science Foundation's CAREER program for an ongoing research project on hardware security. Hardware components can contain malicious, illegal modifications that can siphon sensitive information to transmit to adversaries or shutdown critical operations. Such modifications to the hardware - the root of trust in computing - can compromise trustworthiness of systems because all software runs on hardware. This research investigates techniques to build trustworthy hardware systems even with such untrustworthy, malicious hardware components. Sethumadhavan, an assistant professor of Computer Science and a computer hardware and security expert, is the founding director of the Computer Architecture and Security Technologies Lab (CASTL).

Steve Nowick receives 2011 SEAS Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award

Thu, 03/24/2011 - 11:25pm
The award, created by the Columbia Enginering Alumni Association, is given to honor faculty members for excellence in teaching undergraduates, teaching skills, sensitivity and responsiveness to student needs. It will be presented to the two winning SEAS faculty at Class Day ceremonies on Monday May 16, 4pm in the South Lawn.

Steve Feiner elected to the CHI Academy.

Thu, 03/03/2011 - 11:59am
Steve Feiner has been elected to the CHI Academy, which is an honorary group of individuals who have made extensive contributions to the study of HCI and who have led the shaping of the field. For the citation, please see:

Junfeng Yang receives an NSF Career Award

Thu, 02/17/2011 - 11:45am
Title: Making Threads More Deterministic by Memoizing Schedules Multithreaded programs are becoming increasingly critical driven by the rise of multicore hardware and the coming storm of cloud computing. Unfortunately, these programs remain difficult to write, test, and debug. A key reason for this difficulty is nondeterminism: different runs of a multithreaded program may show different behaviors depending on how the threads interleave. Nondeterminism complicates almost every development step of multithreaded programs. For instance, it weakens testing because the schedules tested may not be the ones run in the field; it complicates debugging because reproducing a buggy schedule is hard. In the past three decades, researchers have developed many techniques to address nondeterminism. Despite these efforts, it remains an open challenge to achieve both efficiency and determinism for general multithreaded programs on commodity multiprocessors. This project aims to address this fundamental challenge. Its key insight is that one can reuse a small number of schedules to process a large number of inputs. Based on this insight, it takes an approach called schedule memoization that memoizes past schedules and, when possible, reuses them for future runs. This approach amortizes the high overhead of making one schedule deterministic over many reuses and makes a program repeat familiar behaviors whenever possible. A real-world analogy to this approach is animals' natural tendencies to follow familiar routes to avoid hazards and discovery overhead of unknown routes. The greatest impact of this project will be a novel approach and new, effective systems and technologies to improving software reliability, thus benefiting every business, government, and individual.