Noteworthy achievements


Bren School faculty, students and research initiatives are some of the most well regarded successes on the UC Irvine campus. We are pleased to announce the following noteworthy achievements.

Be sure to subscribe to the Bren School's RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to get noteworthy news, press releases and articles about the Bren School delivered directly to your desktop!

Awards, grants and other honors can be sent to to be considered for publication.


UCI Data Science Initiative awarded $1.25 million from NASA for minority research opportunities

photo: Padhraic Smyth


UCI has been awarded $1.25 million from NASA as part of a new $5-million 5-year award to establish a new center at Cal State LA for STEM education. This new center will collaborate with UCI’s Data Science Initiative and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)’s Center for Data Science and Technology to train undergraduate and masters students in areas such as climate change, hydrology, computational physics, and data science with an emphasis on minority and low-income students.

Professor Padhraic Smyth, UCI Data Science Initiative Director, will be UCI’s PI on the project and will be working with five other UCI faculty members from engineering, physical science and computer science to host Cal State LA students for short summer workshops and lab visits. The funding will support a project coordinator and provide some summer support for participating faculty and Ph.D. students.

For more information, click here.


Stats professor receives $160,000 NSF grant for neuroscience-focused research

photo: Hernando Ombao


Statistics professor Hernando Ombao has received a $160,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his collaborative research project, “Bayesian State-Space Models for Behavioral Time Series Data.” With a focus on neuroscience and its analysis and integration of behavioral and neural-derived data, the project will develop novel statistical models and inferential methods for the analysis of multi-domain behavioral data and time series with complex temporal and dependence structures.

“This NSF proposal will be useful as we build our group of students at UCI who are working on statistical methods that will push forward boundaries of neuroscience research,” Ombao says.

Such research has broad-reaching impact, with the potential to advance knowledge on the neural underpinnings of human and animal behavior; integrate data from different domains to be used by behavioral scientists to test directly for associations between decision making and brain response; and advance knowledge in other fields that collect temporal data with complex structure, such as sociology (network modeling), environmental sciences, linguistics and signal processing.

The grant comes from the NSF’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES). According to the SES website, the division “seeks to enhance our understanding of human, social and organizational behavior by building social science infrastructure, [and] by developing social disciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects that advance knowledge in the social and economic sciences.”

Read more information about Ombao's research project here.


Informatics Ph.D. student receives Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

photo: Katherine Lo


Informatics Ph.D. student Katherine Lo has received the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship supports women in technology with a $10,000 financial award for the academic year as well as an invitation to the annual Google Scholars' Retreat, which offers unique professional development and community outreach opportunities, at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. In addition to her Ph.D. studies, Lo is an adviser to the student organization Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) at UC Irvine. She has previously received an honorable mention from the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

The scholarship is named for the late Dr. Anita Borg, who was committed to dismantling barriers for women and minorities in technology. Google memorializes Dr. Borg through this scholarship in “hopes to encourage women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders in the field,” according to the scholarship website.


Professor Olson Recognized by Google Co-founder

photo: Judith Olson


Informatics Professor Judith Olson has won many accolades and been widely published over the years, but it’s not often that you are recognized by the likes of Google Co-founder and CEO Larry Page. In a book recently released titled The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, Page acknowledges the impact Olson had on him as a student: "The college course that made the greatest impression on me was one on human-computer interaction taught by Judith Olson. The goal was to understand how to design interfaces that were easy and intuitive."


ICS graduate students receive prestigious NSF fellowship


Three graduate students from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) have just received the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP). Informatics students Oliver Haimson and Van Erick Custodio and statistics student Maricela Cruz join 2,000 students nationwide to be awarded the fellowship in 2015. Informatics student Katherine Lo also received an honorable mention in the highly competitive program. Haimson, Custodio and Cruz contribute to UC Irvine’s 35 total awardees in 2015, while Lo joins an additional 37 honorable mentions across campus.

“I'm very humbled by this award to be included in such great company both present and those that came before,” says Custodio. “My research will greatly benefit from this award in that it gives me the freedom to explore the far reaches of my imagination. Receiving the NSF GRFP award allows me to broadly share the story I have to tell through my research. I am excited about the difference in the world my research can make because of this fellowship. This, I hope, is the first of many signs that my work has potential to contribute to the research community and society at large.”

Founded in 1952, the NSF GRFP provides graduate students in the early stages of their research with three years of support, including a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to their institution. Fellows enjoy supercomputer access, as well as the opportunity to participate in the Graduate Research Intern Program (GRIP) and the Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide Program (GROW). Past GRFP recipients have gone on to make significant scientific and engineering breakthroughs, with some even becoming Nobel laureates.


Ph.D. Computer Science Students Win iDASH Competition

iDASH Competition Winners

At the recent 2015 iDash Privacy & Security Workshop at UC San Diego, two of Chancellor’s Professor Gene Tsudik's lab members, Sky Faber (a fourth year Ph.D. student) and Luca Ferretti (a visiting Ph.D. student from University of Modena, Italy), were winners of the iDASH Genome Privacy Protection Competition for their solution to "Task 2: Secure comparison between genomic data." As part of winning this competition, they received a $300 prize.


Ito presents on 'connected learning' at SXSWedu Conference

photo: Mimi Ito


South by Southwest’s education conference (SXSWedu) held in Austin, Texas, invited research scientist Mimi Ito to present at its newly formed closing program in March. Ito discussed “connected learning,” the concept of harnessing information and social connectivity for education. She presented alongside GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli, actress and founder of Hawn Foundation Goldie Hawn, and Khan Academy founder and Executive Director Sal Khan.

The single-stage closing program highlighted unique educational convergences by exploring education through the lens of music, film and interactive technologies. “The closing session is a new format, and intended to bridge the education and interactive programs,” Ito says. “I think it is an important signal that we need to find ways to unite the social agenda of educational reform to innovative technology approaches.”

Ito’s discussion of connected learning advocated for using today's tools to advance the longstanding goals of progressive education. “Too often, new educational technologies are used to reinforce traditional forms of education which we know are not effective or empowering to the learner. We have the opportunity to change that,” she says.


Tsudik to Discuss Trust Management Architecture for NDN at University of Calgary

photo: Gene Tsudik


Chancellor's Professor of Computer Science Gene Tsudik is speaking as part of the Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance (ISPIA) Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Calgary on Thursday, March 26. Tsudik​' lecture, titled "Elements of Trust in Named-Data Network," will provide a brief overview of NDN and a summary of various secuirty and privacy issues, while focusing on network-layer trust management. Motivated by the need to mitigate so-called "content poisoning" attacks, Tsudik will also explore the design of a trust management architecture for NDN. For more information, visit the ISPIA site.



ICS Ph.D. Grad Receives Best Doctoral Dissertation Award from iSchools

photo: Xinru Page


Information Schools (iSchools) has awarded recent ICS Ph.D. graduate Xinru Page a Best Doctoral Dissertation Award for her dissertation “Factors that Influence Adoption and Use of Location-Sharing Social Media,” which seeks to understand real-world factors shaping behaviors and attitudes toward location-sharing social networks (LSSN), especially as to why people avoid or abandon this technology, or limit their usage. Page, now an assistant professor in computer information systems at Bentley University, was advised by Informatics Professor Alfred Kobsa. Her current research interests include privacy, technology adoption, interpersonal communication, social media and human computer interaction. During her time with ICS, she received a Dean’s Fellowship and Yahoo! Best Dissertation Fellowship Award. She will receive her latest $2,500 prize at this week’s iConference, iSchools’ international gathering of scholars and researchers concerned with critical information issues in contemporary society. The iSchools selection committee, drawn from leading international schools, noted that Page's dissertation is timely and important, with one reviewer calling it “a multi-method tour de force which masterfully integrates qualitative and quantitative research.”

Read more about Page and the award here.


NSA, DHS again dub UCI a National Center of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity research

photo: Gene Tsudik


UC Irvine has been redesignated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research for academic years 2015-2019 by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. “This acknowledges UCI’s prominence and growing impact, as well as expertise, in information assurance,” said Chancellor’s Professor of computer science Gene Tsudik, who heads the Secure Computing & Networking Center at the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. “It also highlights UCI’s ability to help the nation in educating and training IA specialists.” The program is intended to reduce vulnerabilities in — and threats to — the national information infrastructure by facilitating graduate education and research and training both researchers and practitioners. In addition, the redesignation allows UCI to compete for targeted grants from the National Science Foundation, the DHS and the NSA. For more information, visit the NSA National Centers of Academic Excellence website.


Informatics Ph.D. student receives DoD SMART Fellowship

photo: Eugenia Gabrielova


Informatics Ph.D. student Eugenia Gabrielova has received the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Fellowship. Established by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the fellowship funds and supports STEM undergraduate and graduate students’ academic endeavors, places them in DoD lab summer internships, and promises post-graduate employment upon degree completion. The program aims to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers working at DoD laboratories.

Gabrielova will be joining the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Systems Center Pacific, a Navy research and development lab in San Diego. Her research interests include virtual worlds, large-scale scientific data exploration, and self-managing software systems. She currently works under the guidance of professor Crista Lopes as part of the ICS Mondego Group, which focuses on research in large systems and data.


FALL 2014

Informatics graduate student awarded Global Food Initiative fellowship

photo: Ankita Raturi


Ankita Raturi, a graduate student in informatics, is one of five UC Irvine students who have been awarded $2,500 fellowships to fund projects that focus on food issues. They’re among 54 University of California students receiving support from UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program for efforts addressing such subjects as community gardens, food pantries, urban agriculture and food waste.

Raturi will work to develop a software program that models the environmental impact of agricultural systems. Called the Open Resource Tracker, the program will be designed to help understand how resources flow both within and between food systems. The software could theoretically be used with any resource-consuming system (e.g., farms, restaurants, factories). While the primary audience for this tool will be those directly involved in the environmental assessment of food systems —farmers, analysts and government workers — it will also have a consumer-facing interface.

The Global Food Initiative was launched in July to align the UC’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the United States and the world — for food security, health and sustainability.


UCI ranks in top 20 nationally for theoretical computer science

photo: Michael Goodrich


photo: David Eppstein


photo: Sandy Irani


Theoretical computer science at ICS scores in the top 20 computer science departments nationally, according to a ranking list developed collaboratively by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Maryland.

The list, titled “Ranking of CS Departments based on the Number of Papers in Theoretical Computer Science,” was developed in response to a perceived lack of transparency in the criteria for U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools for theoretical computer science list. Theoretical computer science includes a focus on logic and mathematics. The list considers the quality of computer science department faculty at respective schools and publication rates in major computer science conferences as key ranking measures. It is a part of a larger MIT and University of Maryland collaborative project, titled “BigDND: Big Dynamic Network Data.”

There are two ranking lists, each developed with the same dataset but using a different equation to organize the data. Depending on the list, computer science at UC Irvine comes in at 18th or 19th place, beating out Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale.

Chancellor's Professor Michael Goodrich attributes UC Irvine’s placement on the list to the work coming out of the Center for Algorithms and Theory of Computation, of which he is technical director and Chancellor’s Professor David Eppstein is director. The center’s research seeks to produce rigorously tested results about problems dealing with computers and their applications. In a recent example, professor Sandy Irani, in collaboration with professor Shahram Ghandeharizadeh at USC, has developed several novel algorithms for managing key-value caches for database management systems that greatly reduce processing overhead and enhance system throughput.

“I think this ranking data is an excellent recognition of impact the faculty in the center are having on the area,” Goodrich says.

The list is currently a Beta version; the developers welcome feedback at


Kobsa receives $666,000 from NSF to research user privacy decision support

photo: Alfred Kobsa


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded informatics and computer science professor Alfred Kobsa $666,000 to research user privacy decision support.

Even though consumers want to be in charge of their privacy and current privacy norms and research recommend transparency and user control, expecting all users to make all privacy decisions themselves turns out to be unrealistic. Kobsa’s proposal, “A User-Tailored Approach to Privacy Decision Support,” seeks to realistically empower users for privacy choices, through personalized default settings and through rationales for disclosure that best suit users’ predicted decision-making. Throughout his research, he will work with industry to deploy solutions for privacy decision support.

The research is funded by the NSF Social & Economic Sciences (SES) division, which “seeks to enhance our understanding of human, social and organizational behavior by building social science infrastructure, by developing social disciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects that advance knowledge in the social and economic sciences,” according to the website.


Tomlinson, Patterson receive $400,000 NSF grant for crowdsourcing and food security project

photo: Bill Tomlinson


photo: Don Patterson


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded informatics professor Bill Tomlinson $400,000 for his project “Fostering Non-Expert Creation of Sustainable Polycultures through Crowdsourced Data Synthesis.” Associate professor Donald Patterson and Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois Sarah Taylor Lovell serve as co-principal investigators.

The project integrates research in computing and sustainability science with the goal of enabling a new approach to sustainable food security. By combining cyber-human systems and crowdsourcing research with the science of agroecology, the project seeks to develop an understanding of how online design tools may contribute to sustainability through enhanced local food production; to use the process of populating a plant species database as an instance of a class of problems amenable to intelligent crowdsourcing; and to pioneer new knowledge in crowdsourcing optimization.

According to the project abstract, “The work will contribute to long-term food security and offer lessons, concepts, methods, and software tools that may be transferable to other sustainability challenges.”

The award is part of the Cyber-Innovation for Sustainability Science and Engineering (CyberSEES) program at NSF, and is funded through the Division of Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF), which supports research and education projects that explore the foundations of computing and communication devices and their usage. According to the CCF website, “CCF-supported projects also investigate revolutionary computing models and technologies based on emerging scientific ideas and integrate research and education activities to prepare future generations of computer science and engineering workers.”


Noteworthy achievements archive: