New Faculty: Jason Leigh

The ICS Department is delighted to announce that Jason Leigh will be joining our Department in January, 2014. 

Leigh is currently a Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL) and Software Technologies Research Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he also holds an appointment in the Department of Communication.

“We have identified big data visualization as a critical area in which we need to grow capacity to support the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative and UH’s own research aspirations,” said UH Interim President David Lassner. ”Jason is one of the best anywhere, with a proven track record of successful innovation and deep collaboration with leading scientists within his institution and around the world.”

Leigh’s SAGE (Scalable Adaptive Graphics Environment) software is the de facto standard for driving ultra-high resolution display walls around the world, which are fast becoming the lenses through which insight and innovation from big data science and engineering collaborations are brought into focus.

Gazan gets grant from NASA Astrobiology Institute Director’s Discretionary Fund

Rich Gazan has received a $30K grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute Director’s Discretionary Fund to investigate the extent to which publications by astrobiology researchers demonstrate actual and potential interdisciplinarity.

The project, entitled Interdisciplinary Research Metrics in Astrobiology (IRMA), will provide summer research funding for two ICS PhD students in 2013 (Co-Investigators Lisa Miller and Mike Gowanlock), to integrate data mining and information clustering techniques with a social science component to assess opportunities for, and barriers to, interdisciplinary research across astrobiology’s diverse constituent fields.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute Director’s Discretionary Fund makes one-year awards for research that advances the science of astrobiology, demonstrates impact to NASA’s space flight programs or its broader science activities, and/or contributes to NASA’s role as a federal R&D agency. More information about the NASA Astrobiology Institute can be found here: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/.

Susanna Still’s research featured in Nature

ICS Professor Susanna Still and her colleagues are featured in a News article in Nature entitled “Proteins remember the past to predict the future”.

The Nature article, authored by Phillip Ball is subtitled “Insight into what makes biological machines efficient could improve scientific models” and discusses the significance and impact of recent work by Prof. Still and her colleagues. See the full article at http://www.nature.com/news/proteins-remember-the-past-to-predict-the-future-1.11544

Thermodynamics of Prediction

New publication by Susanne Still with co-authors David Sivak, Anthony Bell, and Gavin Crooks, in Physical Review Letters 109.

Abstract: A system responding to a stochastic driving signal can be interpreted as computing, by means of its dynamics, an implicit model of the environmental variables. The system’s state retains information about past environmental fluctuations, and a fraction of this information is predictive of future ones. The remaining nonpredictive information reflects model complexity that does not improve predictive power, and thus represents the ineffectiveness of the model. We expose the fundamental equivalence between this model inefficiency and thermodynamic inefficiency, measured by dissipation. Our results hold arbitrarily far from thermodynamic equilibrium and are applicable to a wide range of systems, including biomolecular machines. They highlight a profound connection between the effective use of information and efficient thermodynamic operation: any system constructed to keep memory about its environment and to operate with maximal energetic efficiency has to be predictive.

Seminar: Henri Casanova, “Random Network Topologies”

As the scales of parallel applications and platforms increase the negative impact of communication latencies on performance becomes large. Fortunately, modern High Performance Computing (HPC) systems can exploit low-latency topologies of high-radix switches. In this talk I’ll describe the use of random shortcut topologies, which are generated by augmenting classical topologies with random links. Thursday, August 30, 4:30pm, POST 127.

Graph analysis shows that these topologies, when compared to non-random topologies of the same degree, lead to drastically reduced diameter and average shortest path length. The best results are obtained when adding random links to a ring topology, meaning that good random shortcut topologies can easily be generated for arbitrary numbers of switches. Flit-level discrete event simulation shows that random shortcut topologies achieve throughput comparable to and latency lower than that of existing non-random topologies such as hypercubes and tori. Random topologies give rise to several practical challenges, including routing scalability and larger physical cable lengths, which will be discussed.

“Random Network Topologies”, by Henri Casanova, Associate Professor of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Hawaii. Thursday, August 30, 2012. 4:30pm.  POST 127

Seminar: Susanna Still, “The thermodynamics of prediction”

In this talk I will explore how dissipation of energy is related to a system’s information processing inefficiency. Any system that is driven by a stochastic environment can be interpreted as computing, by means of its dynamics, an implicit model of the environmental variables. The system’s state retains information about past environmental fluctuations, and a fraction of this information is predictive of future ones. The remaining non-predictive information reflects model complexity that does not improve predictive power, and thus represents the ineffectiveness of the model. I will show that there is a fundamental equivalence between this model inefficiency and thermodynamic inefficiency, measured by dissipation.

The behavior of biological computing machinery typically cannot fully be understood by equilibrium thermodynamics. These systems are better described as driven systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium. In recent years significant progress has been made in this area, most notably Jarzynski’s work relation and Crooks’ fluctuation theorem. I will give some minimal relevant background in this area, and also in information theory and machine learning, before deriving the main results:

1) instantaneous non-predictive information is proportional to the work dissipated due to a change in the driving signal;

2) summed over the length of a driving protocol, non-predictive information provides a lower bound on the total average dissipated work;

3) a refinement to Landauer’s principle can be obtained in which the lower bound on the heat generated due to the erasure of information is augmented by non-predictive information.

These results highlight a profound connection between the effective use of information and efficient thermodynamic operation: any system constructed to keep memory about its environment and to operate with maximal energetic efficiency has to be predictive. The general belief that any decent model must be predictive while having limited model complexity may therefore have a very physical underpinning: systems that implement this predictive inference successfully are thermodynamically efficient. The results hold arbitrarily far from thermodynamic equilibrium and are applicable to a wide range of systems, including bio-molecular machines and also artificial computing machinery. The paper will appear in PRL and is available as a preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.3271/

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Watanabe 112
3:30pm

HICHI in the news

From Honolulu Civil Beat, July 27, 2012: “Candidates are engaging people through these media in a way they wouldn’t have before,” said Scott Robertson. “Especially national candidates at the level of the Senate and House, they’re following a national trend. Almost no national candidates are absent from social media anymore.” Robertson has been conducting studies looking at how people — particularly young adults — respond to the use of social media in national politics.

For more on Scott’s research and its relevance to Hawaii’s political races, see Hawaii Candidates Banking on ‘Like’-ability, Alia Wong, Honolulu Civil Beat, Friday, July 27, 2012.

Casanova wins UH teaching award

Henri Casanova, Associate Professor, won a University of Hawaii Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching in recognition of his efforts at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Henri was honored at a ceremony in May, 2012 and presented with his citation by Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.  For more details, see this press release.

LIS Makes Top 10… Again

For the fifth consecutive year, the school library media specialization in the Library and Information Science (LIS) Graduate Program has been recognized as one of the top ten programs in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report in its “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2011.”
LIS School Library Specialization Places Again Among Top 10
in U.S. News and World Report

For the fifth consecutive year, the school library media specialization in the Library and Information Science (LIS) Graduate Program has been recognized as one of the top ten programs in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report in its “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2011.” It was ranked eighth in the top ten. U.S. News and World Report analyzes more than 12,000 different graduate program areas for this special report. Rankings are based on expert opinions regarding program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of the faculty, research, and students.

The LIS Program is a master’s program in the College of Natural Sciences, Department of Information and Computer Sciences. Martha Crosby, ICS Department chair, commented:

The graduates of the LIS Program make up 85% of the Hawaii DOE’s school library workforce. Several of them have received national recognition. In 2007, Kapolei High School Library led by Carolyn Kirio and Sandy Yamamoto was cited as the National School Library Media Program of the Year by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). This year, Kailua Elementary Library was selected as one of 35 exemplary programs across the nation by the AASL and librarian Darren Tanaka was commended for his innovative approaches to learning.

In 2009, the LIS Program received a $250,000 federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to design and implement training for teams of high school teachers and librarians working on capstone research projects with their students. This three-year grant enables the Program to support the state’s P-20 initiative.

For more information on the U.S News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools, visit www.usnews.com/grad