Spring 2010

In the Spring 2010 issue:

From the Chair

I am very excited about a new program at UTCS called UTeach-CS. As background, the UTeach program started within the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, with the goal of significantly increasing the supply of secondary teachers who are well prepared to teach in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. The program has more than doubled the number of math and science teachers graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, and it has been replicated at twenty-one other universities across the country.

UTeachHowever, only seven UTeach students have been certified to teach computer science (CS), which is negligible compared with the mounting demand so we’re planning to investigate and address this problem, working with the UTeach Institute to replicate solutions at other UTeach universities.

The department recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to establish UTeach-CS. UTeach-CS will increase the number of high school computer science teachers, enabling the U.S. to maintain its position of technical strength and leadership in this digital age. We also hope to significantly increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities who become high school CS teachers.

UTeach-CS aims to create multiple pathways to teaching computer science that draw from different populations: CS majors, non-CS majors, high school teachers who do not currently teach CS and IT professionals who would like to shift their careers into teaching. We will develop foundations to improve the recruitment and training of new high school CS teachers, including developing new curricula for training these four populations and studying the effectiveness of the developed recruitment and curricular material.

We hope to increase the impact beyond UT Austin through several initiatives. Using Texas-based replication sites (UT Dallas, UT Tyler, UT Arlington, University of North Texas and the University of Houston), we plan to develop a model program for UTeach-CS for Texas universities with development of a business plan for growing UTeach-CS and setting growth targets to transfer our experience to replications sites nationwide.

Staff for the UTeach-CS initiative includes:

We are looking forward to launching this new initiative and are excited by the prospects it brings—improving computer science education in the state of Texas.

Bruce Porter, UTCS Chair

Back to Top

Research Corner: Operating System Transactions

Emmett WitchelAssistant Professor Emmett Witchel

Multicore computers have multiple, independent processors. Multicores, with anywhere from 2 to 64 cores, are now ubiquitous. What are not yet ubiquitous are the software programs that use multiple processors to increase their performance. A key challenge to writing these concurrent programs is preventing two processors from accidentally interfering with each other's access to a shared resource (like an output file), leading to incorrect results.

Operating system (OS) support for concurrent programs is essential because the OS enables protected sharing of files, network connections, and other I/O devices for applications. Consider a web server application that wants to add a new user and process a purchase for that new user. Imagine the server has two files, one a list of registered users and the other a list of purchases. The server wants to update the user and purchase file and have any concurrent readers either see both writes or neither. If the nightly bookkeeping software reads the updated purchase file, but also reads the old user file (for example), then it would look like an unregistered user made a purchase, which could cause an error for the bookkeeping software.

Current operating systems have limited interfaces to express the constraints on multiple operations that are relevant for concurrent operations. Professor Witchel's group has developed new techniques to support system transactions, an important advance in concurrent programming. System transactions are a simple, yet powerful OS primitive that prevent concurrent accesses to system resources from interfering with each other. If a web server updates the user and purchase files within a system transaction, all other software on the system will see either both or neither write.

Professor Witchel's group has implemented system transactions as an extension to the Linux operating system. They have used system transactions to prevent a class of security attacks that interfere with administrative utilities to gain control of a system. They have used system transactions protecting updates to files to replace a database in the OpenLDAP directory server, providing the same functionality with the same or better performance and much lower coding and administrative complexity. System transactions can make software installation safer. On Linux today, if the system crashes during a software installation or upgrade, the file system can be corrupted to the point that the operating system has to be reinstalled. The group has shown that system transactions for the Linux package management utilities ensure that either the entire installation completes, or a failed installation leaves no trace.

by Emmett Witchel, Assistant Professor, Laboratory for Advanced Systems Research

Academic Outreach and Initiatives

The department held its annual scholarship lunch on February 3. This year, through the help of generous individual and corporate donors and federal grants, 156 students received approximately $400,000 in scholarships and fellowships. The National Science Foundation recently gave the department $55,000 per year for five years to recruit undergrad students. If you are interested in creating a scholarship or fellowship, please contact Tiffany Grady.

First Bytes LogoThe department will host its 8th annual First Bytes residential camp for high school girls. During the week of June 20-26, 2010, sixty high school girls will spend a week on campus learning about computer science, visiting research labs and interacting with corporate female computer scientists and female faculty. The camp is free for all students, thanks to our generous sponsors: Amazon.com, Google, Lockheed Martin, Texas Film Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission. Visit http://outreach.cs.utexas.edu/firstbytes/ for more information.

The department will hold its 4th annual First Bytes Computer Science Teacher's Camp July 7-9, 2010. High school computer science teachers spend three days on campus learning about new computer science research, interacting with faculty and exchanging ideas. The camp is free for all teachers, thanks to our generous sponsor, Google.

Back to Top

Ambassador Program

Computer Science Ambassadors ProgramAlthough the Department of Computer Science has the distinct honor of being one of the top 10 computer science programs in the country, prospective students and their families are looking for more than just statistics and numbers when choosing a university. Contemporary research, accomplished faculty and comprehensive curricula are just as important to prospective students as affordability, comfort and opportunity. The department offers all of these assets but needs to effectively communicate these strengths to guests. A website can't tell you what it’s like to be in a class. A brochure can't show you what it’s like to be in a virtual reality lab. An email can’t capture the experience of what it’s like to be a student in the major. But a Computer Science Ambassador can.

The Computer Science Ambassadors, current computer science majors, assist with visits from the unique perspective of someone who has experienced what the department has to offer. Listen to what some students and parents have to say:

“We just want to thank you for all of the helpful information that you provided to Dustin last week when we visited UT.You definitely made our visit worthwhile and most enjoyable. It was also great getting to know the students and professors in CS. We appreciate the warm welcome and hospitality of your awesome university.”

“The visit was great, I had a blast! I managed to follow along fairly well in the Data Structures class and was impressed by the intimacy between Dr. Lin and his students. Then we had a great talk afterward and later James cleared up all my unanswered questions. Overall it went very well--thank you so much for setting it all up!”

“I want to thank you for all the time you spent coordinating the various events for Cameron to go to and see on Friday. Your presentation of the different CS pathways and our visit with Glenn Downing was very informative and enlightening. Cameron also enjoyed the classroom visit but he really loved the visit to the Virtual Reality Lab. That was FUN. All in all I would have to say we had a great visit and a very productive day. You did an awesome job and thank you again for centering the day’s events on Cameron’s interests. He is pumped and ready for fall to start. Hook‘em Horns!”

Interested in becoming a Computer Science Ambassador? Contact Jennifer Martinson for more information.

Back to Top

Explore UT 2010

On Saturday, March 6, 2010, the Department of Computer Science (UTCS) participated in Explore UT—“The Biggest Open House in Texas.” The department welcomed thousands of visitors, including alumni, schoolchildren, potential students and members of the community. Explore UT

UTCS offered a variety of programming appealing to a wide range of ages. The “RoboCup Teams in Action!” demonstration, which featured the robot soccer team of Sony AIBO robot dogs and Alderbaran NAO humanoid robots, proved to be especially popular. Dr. Kristen Grauman’s lecture, “Computer Vision and Machine Learning,” was a popular, standing-room-only event.

Students accepted to UTCS for the 2010-2011 academic year took part in "Explore CS" to learn first hand about the program. The annual event drew 70 prospective students and their families to campus for an information session, tours of research labs, and lunch with faculty, advisors and current students. Steven Cahail, a current freshman who attended Explore CS in 2009 said, "This event helped affirm my decision to come to UTCS." Steven, among other freshmen, served on a panel and answered questions for prospective students.

The UTCS advising table was popular with both high school seniors, parents and younger children. Senior Academic Advisor Jennifer Martinson said, “Students and families were excited to have the opportunity to speak with current students individually and get a glimpse into the life of a CS major."

UTCS also hosted it’s first-ever alumni table. Recent grads and established alums stopped by to reconnect with the department, take tours of Taylor Hall and learn more about the robust new UTCS alumni program that is currently in development.

Friends of Computer Science (FoCS)

FoCS LogoToday’s gifted, innovative student or university researcher can be the author of tomorrow’s world-changing technology. But first companies have to meet them.

Members of UTCS Friends of Computer Science (FoCS) can choose from a menu of options designed to increase visibility, brand awareness and develop personal relationships with top CS students and faculty. These activities and relationships build a powerful research and talent pipeline while supporting a CS department consistently ranked in the top-10. This past semester, FoCS visitors to campus included Amazon, Bazaarvoice, Cisco, ConocoPhillips, Facebook, Google, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, QualComm, Sandia National Laboratories and Yahoo!.

FoCS is open to non-profits, government agencies and businesses. Learn more or request membership at http://www.cs.utexas.edu/oea/focs/.

Back to Top

UTCS Alumni

Reconnect: Leslie Martinich (M.S. 1988)

Leslie Martinich - UTCS Alumni - M.S. 1988Leslie Martinich received an M.S. degree in Computer Sciences in 1988 and later received a certification from The Institute for Managerial Leadership from UT’s McCombs School of Business. Her primary interests are in networking, compilers, operating systems and commercializing innovations. Her academic research focused on distributed systems.

In 1988 Leslie joined Novell and led the team that designed and built Novell’s Remote Procedure Call technology in collaboration with Sun Microsystems. Her career has focused on product development, technology management and commercialization of innovations.

Software developers trained to write elegant algorithms occasionally go on to lead commercial efforts. These efforts sometimes fail, not because of insurmountable technical problems, but because of lack of training in people skills. To help address this problem, Leslie collaborated in the development of the Software Project Management Certification Program offered through UT’s Software Quality Institute.

In 2001 Leslie founded Competitive Focus in order to help technology leaders be more effective in delivering innovative products. She recently addressed Fudan University’s School of Management on “Managing and Commercializing Innovations,” and the International Project and Engineering Management Conference in São Paulo, Brazil on “Gaining Support for Your Projects.” She helped design the Engineering Leadership Institute with UT’s Center for Lifelong Engineering Education, where she is a frequent lecturer.

Leslie and her husband, Al, have lived in Austin for 35 years. Their two daughters focused in other areas, but their son John followed his mother’s footsteps and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Sciences in 2001, studying with many of the same professors. (Mohamed Gouda was surprised to see him!) He is now the Global QA Manager for SolarWinds, leading teams in the Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

Leslie is an active volunteer with IEEE, recently the VP of Publications for the IEEE Technology Management Council. She also volunteers for Hospice Austin and is on the Board of Directors of SocialAgency, the creators of Spredfast.

UTCS Alumni Reboot and Refresh!

The University of Texas at Austin Department of Computer Sciences (UTCS), a top-10 ranked CS department, boasts almost 8,000 alumni since 1963—people just like you who are using their degrees and experience to make a difference in the world through the application of computing knowledge. Our alums use their computer science experiences around the world in virtually every industry sector to change our world in ways ranging from improving daily life to altering world views. Thus, the impact of UTCS alumni is vast, pervasive and impressive. You make us proud.

UTCS invites alumni to take a look at UTCS today—a vibrant, leading-edge community of researchers and educators who continue to change the world. From an impressive list of national awards, including Turing awards, to innovations that change the foundation of computing, UTCS is a place alumni can be proud to call their academic home.

We invite you to enrich your shared experiences, interests and pride through meaningful involvement in the UTCS alumni program. Let us know what benefits and services you, as a UTCS alum, would like to see in your alumni program by emailing alumni-info@cs.utexas.edu. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.

So reboot and refresh with UTCS….we’ll be waiting to hear from you!

If you are a UTCS alumni who would like to contribute an article to Alumni Reconnect, please send your 250 word article for consideration to alumni-info@cs.utexas.edu.

Update your information, link from UTCS to your web page and get a lifetime UTCS email address at http://alumni.cs.utexas.edu/welcome/.

UTCS has an “Alumni News” bulletin board in Taylor Hall. Please send UTCS alumni news for inclusion on the bulletin board to alumni-info@cs.utexas.edu.

Schedule a visit to the department by emailing alumni-info@cs.utexas.edu.


Back to Top


Upcoming Events:

Recent Major Department Events:

Back to Top

Faculty News

We invite you to view our national faculty awards and honors: http://www.cs.utexas.edu/people/faculty/awards/

Faculty Promotions (effective fall 2010):

For more information about our faculty, please see the research page of the UTCS website.

Back to Top

Staff News

UTCS welcomes a new employee:

Staff Awards:


  • UTCS Staff Excellence Award: Carol Hyink - Administrative Associate
  • CNS Staff Excellence Award: Carol Hyink - Administrative Associate
  • UTCS Outstanding T.A. Award: Todd Hester - T.A. for CS 393R

Major Events & Deadlines

Every Wednesday: Faculty Forum Lunch, 12-1 & Grad Tea Time every afternoon (through May 5th)

Check out the Newsletter Archives for past newsletters.

UTCS Homepage

Back to Top