Welcome to the Fall 2023 semester in Computer Science here at USF! Now
that the Labor Day holiday has passed and we’ve traded those last foggy
days of summer for the beautiful autumn afternoons and sunsets, it’s
time to rededicate ourselves to our work.
This is a really exciting time to study Computer Science. Computing is a
fundamental part of almost everything in our lives these days, whether
it’s AI helping to write your emails, choose your playlists or park your
car, or sensors controlling the environment for us, or the many servers
and databases that store all of our personal, medical and educational
records. The world is changing rapidly, and the rate of change is just
as quick; we are truly at the elbow of exponential growth.
But making that change work for everyone requires deep thought, care,
and wisdom. It’s not only building amazing things, but also
understanding the fundamental problems that need solving, empathizing
with those who are most vulnerable, and asking how we might best work to
create a better world through technology.
This is why I love USF, and why I think the education we offer is so
special and unique. We have the chance to integrate all of these
incredible tools with a vision to create a more humane and just world
and to be computer scientists with a purpose. I’m really excited to
continue our journey together this year, and to have you all as a part of
For the first big project in this Fall’s CS 112 course, professors Subbu Subramanian and Paul Haskell offered their students the option to develop a Java program that plays the card game Blackjack. The software did not to give a human player a game to play, but rather acted as a player itself—choosing bets and deciding whether to hit, stand, split pairs, or double down. Each student’s game communicated in real time over a WiFi network with a central program that acted as the game Dealer. The students’ programs placed bets, received cards, and made plays virtually over the campus computer network.
The evening of November 2nd, all the CS 112 classes combined to hold a Blackjack Tournament. Over pizzas and snacks, the students pitted their games against each other, and against the Dealer, to see how well they played. The results were exciting for players and spectators alike. The students’ programs played almost 100 hands of Blackjack per second, and each game lasted about 10,000 hands. With initial stakes of $500 each, the software players were able to win and lose over $100,000 per game before the champions finally lost their last chip. A video shows one game’s progress, with students’ virtual piles of chips growing and shrinking based on their programs’ decisions and the luck of the cards.
CS 112 is the first or second college programming course most students have taken, so this was a particularly demanding project. Students’ programs ranged from a few hundred lines of Java code to almost 2000 lines. Most students programmed in Blackjack strategies researched online and tweaked through testing. The programs counted cards to determine when Blackjacks were likeliest. One program even developed a Neural Network to decide on the best way to play.
Rong Liew, USF MSCS 2020 alum recently founded and launched Showwcase, an all-in-one platform for tech workers. We caught up with Rong to learn about his journey, from class idea to a new startup hiring Software Engineers, Data Analysts, Internships, and Design.
How did Showwcase start?
Showwcase was an idea that started in class LS307. Taking Professor Jon Rahoi’s Career Prep course, it was a weekly activity for us to go through resumes in class, with the goal of improving each student’s chance of landing that dream job. The issue, however, was that everyone had a different resume format, had no idea what to include, had dozens of resumes stored on their laptops (without a version control system to manage this), and ultimately, that resumes were not representative of the skills, knowledge, and abilities, possessed by our classmates. Continue reading “CS Career Prep Course Leads to USF Alum’s Startup”→
Despite the unique challenges our students and recent alumni faced this spring and summer with job and internship searches, we are thrilled with the success of our students and alumni. Below are just some of the companies where our students interned as well as the companies our alumni recently joined as new, permanent employees. You can find many more USF CS alum on our LinkedIn page here!
USF Computer Science faculty are not only fantastic teachers, but are active researchers. Below are some research publications and other work that our faculty have completed so far this year. If you would like to learn more about their research, join us every Tuesday this fall at 9AM (PDT) for our new Research Seminar (contact Gian Bruno for details and zoom link).
David Guy Brizan – Research Publications
A Badgujar, S Chen, A Wang, K Yu, P Intrevado, DG Brizan, “Quantum Criticism: A Tagged News Corpus Analysed for Sentiment and Named Entities,” Natural Language Computing Advances (NLCA) 2020.
K Sonar, P Intrevado, DG Brizan, “The Seven Critical Axes of Information For Yelp Restaurant Reviews,” in International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications (ICMLA) 2020.
A Badgujar, S Chen, P Khambatta, T Tran, A Wang, K Yu, P Intrevado, DG Brizan, “QUANTUM CRITICISM: AN ANALYSIS OF POLITICAL NEWS REPORTING,” Machine Learning and Applications (MLAIJ) 2020.
The Berkeley Revolution: my 100% custom WordPress website for Prof. Scott Saul’s American Lit class at UC Berkeley.
The Oakland Artists Project: I heavily customized an existing WordPress theme for Professors Ajuan Mance and Kirsten Saxton at Mills College (for a Digital Humanities class that I also previously co-taught with them).
Alark Joshi – Research Publications
Thanawut Ananpiriyakul, Josh Anghel, Kristi Potter, Alark Joshi, “A Gaze-Contingent System for Foveated Multiresolution Visualization of Vector and Volumetric Data,” Visualization and Data Analysis 2020 1 (02), 1-10
Alark Joshi, Marissa Schmidt, Shane Panter, Amit Jain, “Evaluating the benefits of Team-Based Learning in a Systems Programming Class,” Frontiers in Education 2020.
Preim, Bernhard, and Alark Joshi. “Evaluation of visualization systems with long-term case studies.” In Foundations of Data Visualization, pp. 195-208. Springer, Cham, 2020.
Sophie Engle – Research Publications
Sophie Engle, Sami Rollins, Gian Bruno, Xornam Apedoe, Matthew Malensek, Christina Tzagarakis-Foster, Alark Joshi, “Engendering Community to Computer Science Freshmen through an Early Arrival Program, ” American Society for Engineering Education 2020.
Darius Coelho, Rubin Trailor, Daniel Sill, Sophie Engle, Alark Joshi, Serge Mankovskii, Maria Velez-Rojas, Steven Greenspan, and Klaus Mueller, “”Blockchain for Collaborative Visual Analytics”, 17th International Conference on Cooperative Design, Visualization, and Engineering, 2020.
Professor Jung – Conference Presentation
Discrepancy Detection in Whole Network Provenance (Raza Ahmad (SRI International), Eunjin Jung (University of San Francisco), Carolina de Senne Garcia (Ecole Polytechnique), Hassaan Irshad (SRI International), Ashish Gehani (SRI International)). The Theory and Practice of Provenance (TaPP) workshop 2020
Haden Lee – Research Publications
Haden Hooyeon Lee, “More Personalized Learning by Reducing Latency in Grading,” In Proceedings of the 16th Annual ACM International Computing Education Research (ICER) Conference (ACM ICER 2020), August 2020, (To Appear).
Professor Vahab Pournaghshband recently had his paper, Promoting Diversity-Inclusive Computer Science Pedagogies: A Multidimensional Perspective accepted into ACM ITICSE202 [Link Here]
Vahab Pournaghshband and Paola Medel, “Promoting Diversity-Inclusive Computer Science Pedagogies: A Multidimensional Perspective,” In Proceedings of 25th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE), June 2020.
Vahab Pournaghshband and Hassan Pournaghshband, “A Project-Based Approach to Teach Security Concepts in Introductory Courses,” In Proceedings of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Rocky Mountain (CCSC-RM 2020), October 2020, (To Appear).
Vahab Pournaghshband and Hassan Pournaghshband, “Entailing Security Mindset in Foundational CS Courses: An Interactive Approach,” In Proceedings of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Midwestern (CCSC-MW 2020), September 2020, (To Appear).
Vahab Pournaghshband and Peter Reiher, “Protecting Legacy Mobile Medical Devices Using A Wearable Security Device,” In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Computer Networks & Data Communications (CNDC), December 2019.
Paul Kirth and Vahab Pournaghshband, “PLDetect: A Testbed for Middlebox Detection using PlanetLab,” In Proceedings of the 12th EAI International Conference on Testbeds and Research Infrastructures for the Development of Networks & Communities (TRIDENTCOM), December 2019.
Benjamin Wells – New Research
This is a result in word combinatorics showing that no substitution instance of a certain string occurs in a famous squarefree sequence (the Leech sequence) that uses three letters. https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.12213
The University of San Francisco’s (USF) Women in Tech initiative is thrilled to announce an incredibly generous $300,000 gift from Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. This extraordinary gift is a continuation of Newmark’s longstanding commitment to supporting gender equality in technology. His goal is to help more women become interested in coding early on in their educational careers and to aid in the fostering of an inclusive environment for all women in tech.
Craig Newmark’s donation will directly impact six areas across Computer Science, Data Science, and Engineering for both undergraduate and graduate students at USF. These are:
$100,000 in Scholarships: these scholarships make all the difference as to whether women can continue their studies and are prioritized for students with the highest need.
$75,000 Research Opportunities for Women and Veterans: these funds pay women and military veterans to work on important research problems in tech. Studies have shown that when women in tech carry out research with professors, this leads to higher retention in technical fields.
$50,000 Academic Conference Attendance: these funds enable women in tech to participate in life-changing conferences such as Grace Hopper, and other conferences such as Tapia, Lesbian Who Tech, and Afro Tech. Students receive internships and jobs at these conferences which change their lives!
$35,000 Growth of Women in Tech (WiT) student organization: The Women in Tech student organization is the lifeblood of all of these activities. Through peer network support and mentorship, workshops on technical resumes, technical interviews, the annual hackathon, weekly meetings, and much more, WiT helps the recruitment, retention of women and minority students in Computer Science, Data Science, and now the new Engineering department.
$25,000 Summer Zero for Women in Engineering: this provides funding for three women to participate in the first Summer Zero program, a 6-week student academic program that aims to retain women and underrepresented groups in the newly launched engineering program, while providing academic support and reinforcement in math, design, programming, and writing.
$15,000 Girl Tech Power Coding Camp: this provides funding for middle and high school girls to learn programming with professors and students from the Computer Science department at the University of San Francisco.
The Department of Computer Science welcomed their first cohort of Community-Engaged Scholars (CES) this past fall semester. CES is funded through the National Science Foundation and is a four-year scholarship program designed to support academically talented, low-income students.
The program started with a one-week, residential summer program. Students participated in day-long sessions with faculty and guest lecturers, were introduced to foundational topics in CS, campus and departmental resources, and the resources available from the technical community in the SF Bay area. Students also had the opportunity to explore San Francisco through field trips.
The program continued in the fall semester with a seminar taught by Professor Sophie Engle. This course featured activities including faculty research talks; presentations by the campus career center and similar organizations; field trips to local meetup events; and opportunities for the scholars to socialize and build relationships with one another.
Professor Haden Lee has been an amazing addition to the Department of Computer Science. In his first semester, he taught a graduate-level Algorithms course and he has now transitioned to teaching a graduate-level Data Processing in the Cloud course. We sat down with him to discuss how his first semester went, how his second semester is going and touched on his future goals.
“I learned a lot of new things in terms of how students organize”
Before Professor Lee joined USF, he noted that his goal was to learn and contribute to the student body as a whole. This first semester was a learning experience for him, especially during CS Night, our yearly student project showcase. Professor Lee spent the night exploring projects and thinking about how he could possibly be a faculty sponsor for a project in the future. He enjoyed all of the excitement and projects that students have come up with that displayed their own strengths as programmers and creativity.
Professor Lee was not only a spectator but an active participant of CS Night. He was part of a panel that shared career insights with students after the student showcase and answered questions from the audience about how to get an internship along with post-graduation advice for Computer Science Majors.
Something that Professor Lee would like to see in the future in the department is to modernize the Computer Science Labs space and equipment for classes and projects. His Data Processing course is very programming heavy and is broken down into two sections. The first is running programs on your local machine, with the course transitioning to the cloud with Google Cloud Platform. Professor Lee says that it would be nice to be able to use the CS labs so you could run computationally intense programs in the Computer Lab which would reduce latency from testing to verifying your project output.
“Giving students relevant advice is important to me”
Professor Lee also gives students the option to have 1-on-1 time with him to talk about anything that they would like. He says that 80% of students take him up on the offer and a common thread is about their resume. Professor Lee stresses the importance of getting help from people with relevant industry experience because, in a fast-moving field like software engineering, it is important to stay current and up to date. He looks forward to finding a solution to help other students in a scalable way.