A digest of Illinois Computer Science faculty, alumni, and students who are featured in the media.
Chicago Inno -- Incoming Department Head Nancy Amato and Farmers Fridge -- whose CTO is Rajesh Karmani (PhD CS '13) -- were both part of Chicago Inno's annual 50 on Fire list of people and companies influencing the direction of the Chicago-area tech scene.
Inside Higher Ed -- Much of the action with alternative credentials and pathways is occurring with online graduate programs. The University of Illinois is at the forefront of this experimentation. Faculty members teach the online courses with equal rigor to the parallel campus-based version, according to Illinois CS Professor John C. Hart. (Report is behind a pay wall, key excerpts available here).
LinkedIn -- Lending startup Affirm comes in at No. 24 on LinkedIn's list of Top 50 Startups. Illinois CS alum Max Levchin (BS CS '97) is the CEO and co-founder of San Francisco-based Affirm.
Design Taxi -- In 10 years Google Chrome has risen to become the most popular web browser. In celebrating the milestone, Google teased a surprise slated to arrive soon. "I'm so excited to share the @googlechrome 10th birthday update... COMING THIS WEEK!," Illinois CS alum and Google Chrome Engineering Director Parisa Tabriz said via her Twitter account.
Variety -- Tech companies keep algorithms secret for competitive reasons, but that has led to alternative -- often incorrect -- explanations of how they work. A study by U. of Illinois researchers, including CS Professor Karrie Karahalios, found that Facebook users often develop their own “folk theories” about how it curates its newsfeed.
Popular Science -- “The machines are all over subscribed,” Bill Gropp, Illinois CS Professor and director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, says as work starts for what will be the next, fastest supercomputer, Frontera. Illinois' Blue Waters has been used to do things like model an enormous EF-5 tornado and to produce maps of Alaska.
Ars Technica -- The success of Internet of Things devices such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home has created opportunities for developers, but, according to research by Profs. Adam Bates and Michael Bailey from the University of Illinois, also the potential to exploit some of the idiosyncrasies of voice-recognition machine-learning systems for malicious purposes.
Crain's Chicago Business -- "The Department of Computer Science isn’t moving to Chicago. We’re not creating a fourth campus. We’re creating something new and innovative," said Bill Sanders, a University of Illinois Engineering professor and the new interim director of the Discovery Partners Institute.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette -- If you use a fitness tracker and post workouts online, you may be sharing the location of your home. University of Illinois computer science professor Adam Bates says, “Everyone is becoming much more aware of the privacy risks on social networks. But no one is talking about fitness networks."
Boston Magazine -- Asher Dale has good reasons to be happy. For one, he’s celebrating the release of his first app, based on the “Three Good Things” method (originally published in 2017).
The Daily Illini -- Tens of millions of users post their running, walking or biking routes online through Strava, a fitness-tracking app, while using a privacy feature they believe would hide their home address. However, their locations could be revealed by a geometry problem so simple a high school freshman could solve it, said Adam Bates, professor in Computer Science.
Computing -- Blockchain-based smart contracts present a unique risk, and companies should be wary of deploying them, according to CS Professor Grigore Rosu. "There are two big problems ... The code is public so you can work out how to attack it. Secondly, once you have a smart contract - that's it. It deploys and you cannot change it."
TECH IN ASIA -- “I don’t know why, but I asked myself this question very early on: What is the purpose of my life? What can I do that will be meaningful? I realized that I’m a tech geek but I also like to work with people and build things like companies and teams," said Monk's Hill Ventures Managing Partner and Illinois CS graduate Peng Ong.
Diverse Issues In Higher Education -- Nancy Amato was selected head of the Department of Computer Science and an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois. Amato will be the first woman to lead the department.
Smile Politely -- Ajay Shekar is a master's student in Computer Science working on applying machine-learning and deep-learning techniques on medical image datasets. He wants to create a tool that can help predict Parkinson’s Disease.
WAND-TV -- A team of computer science researchers at the University of Illinois, including Assistant Professor Adam Bates, uncovered security flaws in several fitness tracking apps and developed solutions.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette -- Meet Mrinaal Mittal, a University of Illinois senior pursuing degrees in, among other things, computer science, with minors in business and South Asian studies. He has already created several startups. "The best advice I have for others is what my father gave me ... don't be scared to fail."
Health Data Management -- A newly developed tool combines different types of genomic data to predict patients’ responses to therapeutic drugs. The University of Illinois, including CS Professor and Willett Faculty Scholar Saurabh Sinha, worked with the Mayo Clinic to create a Center of Excellence to tap the wealth of information contained in genomic data.
MarketWatch -- A new threat to plant malware on computers comes via CDs sent through the mail, and the story cites a 2016 study conducted by researchers that included some from Illinois CS as evidence that people are surprisingly open to attacks you might not think would work.
betanews -- MIT researcher and Illinois CS alum Mark Klein (MS CS '86, PhD CS '90) says an AI fact-checker remains a long way off. "It's a much bigger problem than being able to parse the words, make a syntax tree, and use the standard Natural Language Processing approaches."