seeks to boost speed on cloud platform apps with CAREER Award<img alt="" src="/Profiles/PublishingImages/Angelina%20Lee_3_20_04.jpg?RenditionID=2" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><div id="__publishingReusableFragmentIdSection"><a href="/ReusableContent/36_.000">a</a></div><p>​</p><p>Most personal computers, laptops and mobile phones are equipped with multicore processors. Technology has reached the physical limit on how fast one can clock the processing speed, but the computational demand of modern technology continues to grow. Hardware developers have added more processing cores into a processing chip to provide more computational power, however, writing correct and efficient software that fully uses multicore hardware is extremely challenging.</p><p> </p><p>I-Ting Angelina Lee, assistant professor of computer science & engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, plans to develop software infrastructure that can improve programmer productivity and increase the speed of interactive applications running on cloud platforms with a five-year, $500,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. CAREER awards support junior faculty who model the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellence in education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. One-third of current McKelvey Engineering faculty have received the award.</p><p> </p><p>Lee studies task parallelism, a parallel programming paradigm designed to program shared-memory multicore machines.</p><p> </p><p>"Task parallelism can improve programmer productivity because it provides high-level language abstractions to allow the programmer to express the logical parallelism of the computation and let an underlying runtime system to perform load balancing and synchronization automatically," Lee said. "Existing task-parallel platforms have been demonstrated to work efficiently for high-performance scientific applications in practice."</p><p> </p><p>Lee said task parallelism falls short in supporting modern interactive parallel applications commonly run on cloud platforms, however, because it is mainly designed to target high-performance scientific applications that use specific parallel patterns and has throughput as the main performance criterion.</p><p> </p><p>"Interactive applications, on the other hand, such as web services that support online gaming platforms and Google search, utilize very different parallel patterns and focus on different performance criteria," she said. "For such applications, a desirable performance criterion is responsiveness — web services tend to be long-running with both front-end computation necessary to respond to the client requests and backend computations necessary to perform the upkeep of the web servers. As the requests keep coming in, a web server needs to respond with low latency while doing enough maintenance work to allow the server to run smoothly. Because the server workload consists of different types of computations, the server must discern and prioritize front-end related computations over other background maintenance-related computations to ensure good user experience."</p><p> </p><p>Writing code for such interactive applications using traditional parallel programming paradigm is extremely challenging, Lee said, and she aims to develop software infrastructure so that nonexpert programmers can develop such applications that run efficiently on multicore machines.</p><p> </p><p>"We need new language abstraction to express nontraditional parallel patterns and novel runtime scheduling policies to enforce server responsiveness," she said. "Because both the language abstraction and the scheduling policies must change, we also need a new set of tools to help debug and performance engineer code written using the new paradigm.</p><p> </p><p>"What I'm trying to do is to bring properties and guarantees provided by traditional task parallelism to support high-performance computing scientific applications, which we understood well, and extend them to better support interactive parallel applications," she said.  </p><p> </p><p>Lee integrates parallel computing into the undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches. In addition, she is developing a simple open-source platform with colleagues called Open Cilk to support the traditional type of parallel computing for both teaching and research. The Open Cilk team is planning its first release this year.</p><p> </p><p>In addition, Lee is interested in improving gender diversity in the field of computer science. She does outreach events with female students from local high schools to encourage more women to go into the field. She also regularly participates in events organized by Women in Computer Science (WiCS), an organization for women in computer science at WashU.</p><SPAN ID="__publishingReusableFragment"></SPAN><p> </p><p> </p><p><br/></p>2020-05-18T05:00:00ZI-Ting Angelina Lee plans to develop software infrastructure that can improve programmer productivity and increase the speed of interactive applications running on cloud platforms with a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. drives successful shift of international conference at WashU to virtual <img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/ICCP2020_GroupPhoto.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><div id="__publishingReusableFragmentIdSection"><a href="/ReusableContent/36_.000">a</a></div><p>​Ayan Chakrabarti had been planning to host the IEEE International Conference on Computational Photography (ICCP) at the McKelvey School of Engineering for a year, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. Instead, he was able to host it virtually and without cost to attendees, which allowed more than 800 to participate, rather than the usual 250 that attend the in-person conference.<br/></p><p>Chakrabarti, assistant professor of computer science & engineering, general chair and one of three program chairs for the annual conference, held April 24-26, and the conference planning team wanted it to be as close to a regular in-person session as possible, which typically includes researchers presenting their work and a live moderated question-and-answer session. To do this virtually, each presenter submitted a pre-recorded 12-minute video of their presentation. During the live session, these videos were streamed live on YouTube, interspersed with 3 minutes of live questions and answers broadcast from a Zoom meeting with an author and a session moderator present. The moderator asked authors questions that attendees submitted using the live chat feature on YouTube.  <br/></p><p>Despite making the change from in-person to virtual with little more than a month's notice, Chakrabarti said the feedback from those who attended was positive.<br/></p><p>"Several members of the research community said this was a great experience," Chakrabarti said. "We got a fair amount of interaction in our live sessions, in some cases, more so than in live conferences. Typing questions in a chat window seems to have a lower barrier than walking up to a microphone to ask them in a physical meeting."<br/></p><p>Chakrabarti said one of the biggest challenges of a virtual conference is dealing with the different time zones across the world.<br/></p><p>"We tried to make sure all of the time zones in North America were accounted for," he said. "Our sessions began at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. Some session times didn't work for those in Europe or Asia, but all of our sessions were recorded and put on YouTube. We had a Slack channel set up for the conference so that people could ask questions at there or in YouTube comments anytime after the session."<br/></p><p>Attendees also took advantage of technology to hold virtual happy hours on Zoom, to network and have social interaction using the Slack channel, Chakrabarti said.<br/></p><p>Based on the success of this virtual conference, the conference steering committee is considering a hybrid model for future conferences given the increased participation and engagement at the virtual conference and potentially restricted international travel or limited travel budgets in the future. <br/></p><p>"We have always put our videos online after a session, but what we haven't had before was the interaction with the people who weren't attending the conference in person," he said. "We want as many people to attend as possible, so we're talking about a possible hybrid model for next year, since we don't know if international travel will open up."<br/></p><p>Chakrabarti said he and the planning team received many questions from others planning virtual conferences, so he drafted a document describing how the ICCP conference was carried out. It is publicly available at <a href=""></a>.<br/></p><SPAN ID="__publishingReusableFragment"></SPAN><p> </p>Attendees of the ICCP conference couldn't gather for the traditional group photo, so they did the next-best thing. Beth Miller 2020-05-11T05:00:00ZWhen the COVID-19 pandemic forced large group meetings to cancel, conference planners moved things online. the Class of 2020 valedictoriansWhile the global pandemic has impacted Commencement ceremonies at Washington University in St. Louis, it hasn’t lessened the quality, pride or accomplishments of the class of 2020.<br/><img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/Valedictorians%202020.jpg?RenditionID=2" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />This year, the McKelvey School of Engineering honors 10 students who have excelled beyond their peers by earning the class’s highest academic marks. <div> <br/>Meet the McKelvey Engineering Class of 2020 valedictorians and learn more about their experiences at WashU and how they helped prepare them for their futures.<span><hr/></span></div><div><h3>Alex Baker</h3><p> <b>Major in computer science with a second major in finance<br/>Hometown: Springfield, Missouri</b></p> <img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/baker-alex.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="baker-alex.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/> <p> One of Alex Baker’s most enriching learning experiences occurred while he was teaching.<br/></p><p>The Department of Computer Science & Engineering offers undergraduate students the opportunity to help faculty instruct courses; Baker served as a TA for CSE 131: Introduction to Computer Science.</p><p>"The experience taught me how to communicate technical ideas, work with people and exposed me to several great learning opportunities,” he said.</p><p>Baker plans to continue his studies in computer science at WashU and earn a Master of Science degree. He said he’s drawn to the limitless possibilities of the field.</p><p>“Computers are neither smart nor dumb; they simply follow directions,” he said. “You can get a computer to do anything, as long as you can imagine it.”<br/></p><span><hr/></span><p><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Barathkumar Baskaran</span><br/></p><div> <strong>Major in chemical engineering with minors in finance and environmental engineering science<br/>Hometown: Gilberts, Illinois</strong></div><div> <br/> </div> <img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/baskaran-barathkumar.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="baskaran-barathkumar.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/> <div>WashU was always Barathkumar Baskaran’s top pick of schools. He applied during the early decision admission period and, in his words, “never looked back.”</div><div> <br/> </div><div>“I appreciated the strength of WashU's academics, but I also appreciated the spirit of collaboration rather than competition that was present across campus,” he said.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>One such collaboration is that has made an impact on his development as a scholar and an engineer is his work with his research mentor Hani Zaher.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>“A large part of research is repetitively dealing with an experimental failure and then being able to move on and troubleshoot,” Baskaran said. “I gained that resiliency through my experience in his lab, and his mentorship has been an invaluable component of my decision to pursue graduate school.”</div><div> <br/> </div><div>Like many of Baskaran’s classmates, he’s disappointed by COVID-19’s impact on his senior year.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>“I am sure I am not alone in the students who had a bucket list of things they wanted to do one last time, and I was most definitely looking forward to walking across the stage at Commencement,” he said.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>Still, despite the change in plans, Baskaran is remaining optimistic about his experience. He’s looking forward to pursuing a doctoral degree in chemical engineering at MIT.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>“I am grateful for the past three years that I've had at WashU,” he said. “Even with the absence of the final quarter of my senior year, I don't feel the friendships and memories of these past few years are diminished, but rather enhanced.”<br/></div><div><span><hr/></span> <span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Saima Choudhury</span></div><div> <b>Major in chemical engineering</b></div><div><b>Hometown: Houston, Texas<br/></b><br/><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/choudhury-saima.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="choudhury-saima.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/> <p>While Saima Choudhury excelled in the classroom, she’s also thrived outside of it. She served on the leadership of WashU’s Muslim Students Association, Strive for College, the WashU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and <i>Colour</i> magazine.</p><p>Choudhury said she valued these opportunities to grow as a student, a leader and a person.</p><p>“Being at WashU has taught me to adapt to a new and uncomfortable environment, to confront ugly truths about the world, to be more vulnerable with myself and my friends, and to develop new ways of thinking,” she said.</p><p>She encourages other WashU students to break out of their bubble and explore, whether that’s getting out into the city or studying a new and unfamiliar subject.</p><p>“Being at WashU gives you unique access to resources some people can’t even dream of, so use them,” she said. “Start early; don’t give yourself the excuse that it can wait, because the year will be over before you know it.”<br/></p><span><hr/></span><p><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Yoon Ho ”Raphael” Chung</span><br/></p><div> <strong>Major in biomedical engineering and a second major in applied science in electrical engineering</strong></div><div><strong>Hometown: Seoul, South Korea</strong></div><div> <br/> </div> <img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/chung-raphael.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="chung-raphael.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/> <div>The current pandemic has caused major disruptions for members of the Class of 2020, but Raphael Chung said he hopes that his fellow graduates don’t let the changes discourage them.</div><div> <br/> </div><div> “Even if a lot of things seem outside of your control, there is always something that can be done,” he said. “It might be taking a step back and reprioritizing things to prepare for the next step forward.”</div><div> <br/>Following graduation, Chung will take part in the ZeroTo510 medical device accelerator program, a role that — combined with his WashU education — will empower him to achieve his career aspirations.</div><div> <br/>“I’ve always wanted to help people be healthy and improve their quality of life,” Chung said. “I found biomedical engineering to be an interesting and exciting approach for working towards those goals.”<br/></div><div><span><hr/></span> <span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">T</span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">ianci</span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"></span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;"> Hu</span></div><div> <strong>Major in computer science<br/></strong><b>Hometown: Nanjing, China</b><br/><br/><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/hu-tianci-new.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="hu-tianci-new.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin: 10px;"/></div><div>Three things drew Tianci Hu to WashU: The prestige of the university, its small undergraduate student body and recommendations from close friends.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>As expected, the rigorous education proved to be a challenge at times, but Hu was able to succeed thanks to “a lot of reading, practice and a bit of luck.”</div><div> <br/> </div><div>And because of that dedication, he’s more than prepared for his future role with Citadel LLC, a hedge fund and financial services company.</div><div> <br/> </div><div>“I’m excited to explore the financial market and see how my math and computer science background will contribute to the investment process,” he said.<br/></div><div><br/></div><div><br/></div><div><span><hr/></span> <span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Jessie Korovin</span></div> <b>Major in systems engineering with a second major in financial engineering and a minor in computer science<br/>Hometown: Livingston, New Jersey<br/></b><p style="font-weight: bold;"></p> <b></b><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/korovin-jessie.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="korovin-jessie.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin: 5px 10px; width: 293px; height: 298px;"/> <p>Jessie Korovin has one piece of advice for his fellow classmates: Spend as much time as possible with the people you care about. </p><p>As a student of both engineering and finance, Korovin faced many challenges in his academic career that he would not have been able to overcome without the support of his friends, teachers and classmates.</p> <p>“Collaboration in general has been important for my success at WashU,” he said.</p> <p>One of his biggest challenges was a mathematical finance course he took as part of his second major.<br/></p> <p>“It was a graduate-level course with quite a few PhD students,” he said. “The material was incredibly difficult, but I was able to persevere with the help of a friend.”</p> <p>And as he moves forward to his career as an analyst for PGIM Inc., those relationships are what he’ll miss most at WashU.</p> <p>“My WashU experience was highlighted by the lifelong friendships I've made,” he said.<b></b></p><span><hr/></span><p><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Nick Matteucci</span><br/></p> <div style="font-weight: bold;"> <strong>Major in chemical engineering with a minor in energy engineering<br/>Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri</strong></div> <div> <b style="font-weight: bold;"><br/></b><b><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/matteucci-nick.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="matteucci-nick.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/></b> <p>The child of a WashU professor, Nick Matteucci was hoping to get as far away as he could for college.</p><p>He eventually came around — mentally and physically.</p><p>"After touring the beautiful campus and meeting with professors, students and Coach [Jeff] Stiles, I knew there was no other school I wanted to go to," he said </p><p>It's the community that drew Matteucci to the university, and it's also what he'll miss the most.</p><p>"There are so many brilliant, humble and driven people that create the exciting and fun atmosphere I've come to love here."<br/><br/>As he moves on to earn a doctoral degree in chemical engineering, he has a few words of encouragement for his fellow seniors.<br/></p><p>"I feel blessed and grateful for all the time we got at WashU to be a community, despite being heartbroken that our second semester was uprooted the way it was," he said. "Hopefully, we can use this unusual time to remember to pursue what we love and not take time for granted, as everything can change in an instant."<b></b></p><span><hr/></span><p><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Patrick Naughton</span><br/></p></div> <div rtenodeid="5"><strong> </strong><strong>Major in electrical engineering with a second major in computer science<br/></strong><b>Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri</b></div> <div style="font-weight: bold;"> <br/> </div> <b><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/naughton-patrick.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="naughton-patrick.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/></b> <div>What drew Patrick Naughton to WashU was the opportunity to take part in research and hands-on experiences as an undergraduate.</div> <div> <br/> </div> <div> “The ubiquity of electronics and computers makes me interested to learn as much as I can about how they work and ways to improve them,” he said.</div> <div> <br/> </div> <div>In the classroom, Naughton found inspiration from faculty who challenged and motivated him to excel.</div> <div> <br/> </div> <div>“Professor [William] Richard helped me develop an interest in hardware design and supported my academic progress,” he said. “His sequence of courses pushed me to think about computer science and engineering in new ways.”</div> <div> <br/> </div> <div>After he graduates, Naughton plans to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.</div> <div> <br/> </div> <div>“I am most excited to begin working on more independent research and developing my skills to contribute to scientific knowledge production,” he said.<b></b> <br/></div><div><span><hr/></span> <span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">Lucca Paletta</span></div><div style="font-weight: bold;"> <b>Major in mechanical engineering<br/>Hometown: Lake Odessa, Michigan</b></div> <div style="font-weight: bold;"> <br/> </div> <b><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/paletta-lucca.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="paletta-lucca.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/></b> <div>Lucca Paletta has been fascinated by physics since high school. Even when his course work stymied him, he met the challenge with determination.</div> <div> <br/>“The most difficult course for me was probably my second semester of physics,” he said. “Many of the electricity and magnetism concepts didn’t make intuitive sense to me, so I spent tons of time in office hours, asked the professor questions every day after class and got a private tutor.”</div> <div> <br/>The hard work paid off. Thanks to assistance he received from Engineering Student Services and course professor Martin Israel, Paletta not only passed the course, he went on to receive the Varney Prize for Introductory Physics.</div> <div> <br/>His next challenge? A five-year term with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, the Naval Reactors, in Washington D.C.</div> <div> <br/>“I’ll get the chance to work on nuclear reactors and ensure the safety of many U.S. Navy sailors,” Paletta said. “I am excited for the opportunity to contribute to the clean energy industry and hopefully improve the lives of generations after me.”<b></b></div><div><span><hr/></span> <span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">F</span><span style="color: #555555; font-family: "libre baskerville", "times new roman", serif; font-size: 1.25em;">inn Voichick</span></div><div style="font-weight: bold;"> <strong>Major in computer science with a second major in mathematics and a minor in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology<br/></strong>Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin<br/><br/></div> <b><img src="/news/PublishingImages/Pages/meet-the-class-of-2020-valedictorians/voichick-finn.jpg?RenditionID=6" alt="voichick-finn.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin: 5px 10px;"/></b>For Finn Voichick, the most fascinating aspect of computer science is how it combines theory with practice. A member of Studio TESLA, Volchick has shared his love of engineering — both its theories and practice — with those in need.</div> <div> <br/>Volchick served as a member of the club’s Enrichment team, which created design challenges meant to inspire a love of STEM and innovation in underserved middle-school students.</div> <div> <br/>“It was a great experience,” he said. “Some of my favorite projects were blimp racing with helium balloons, building a small house to withstand extreme weather conditions and building a circuit to send Morse code messages.”</div> <div> <br/>Voichick will continue to study the intersection of theory and practice at the University of Maryland while pursuing a doctoral degree.</div> <div> <br/>“I'll miss the students and professors who have supported me and helped shape and deepen my interests and experiences at WashU,” Volchick said. “As a senior, our sudden campus departure has been challenging, and I regret not being able to say an in-person goodbye to my WashU community.”<b></b><br/> <p style="font-weight: bold;"> <br/> </p></div> </div>Danielle Lacey2020-05-06T05:00:00ZWhile the global pandemic has impacted Commencement ceremonies at Washington University in St. Louis, it hasn’t lessened the quality, pride or accomplishments of the class of 2020. Engineering students, alumna win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships<img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/feb2020-east-end.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><div id="__publishingReusableFragmentIdSection"><a href="/ReusableContent/36_.000">a</a></div><p>Several McKelvey School of Engineering students have been offered the highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.</p><p>The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The fellowship includes a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the opportunity to conduct their own research.</p><p>In 2020, NSF made more than 2,000 fellowship offers to applicants. More than 1,700 applicants received honorable mentions, which is considered a significant academic achievement.</p><h4>The new fellows from McKelvey Engineering include:</h4><ul style="list-style-type: disc;"><li>Anna Marie Powell Eddelbuettel, who will earn a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in May and will pursue graduate study at Princeton University;</li><li>Jacob Graham, who will earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in May and will pursue graduate study in mechanical engineering;<br/></li><li>Nicholas Matteucci, who will earn a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in May and will pursue graduate study in chemical engineering;<br/></li><li> Alumna Sydney Katz, who earned bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and in applied science from Engineering in 2018, is pursuing graduate study in aeronautical and aerospace engineering at Stanford University.<br/></li></ul><h4>Fellows who are studying at McKelvey Engineering include:</h4><ul style="list-style-type: disc;"><li>Elisabeth Anna Jones, who earned a bachelor's degree from SUNY College at Geneseo and is a doctoral student in systems science & mathematics at WashU;</li><li>Xiaohong Tan, who earned a bachelor's degree from Purdue University and is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at WashU;</li><li>Hannah Maria Zmuda, who earned a bachelor's degree from Washington State University and is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at WashU;</li></ul><h4>Those receiving honorable mentions include:<br/></h4><ul style="list-style-type: disc;"><li>Patrick Ryan Naughton, who will earn a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from McKelvey Engineering in May, who will pursue robotics and computer vision;</li><li>Erin Newcomer, who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at WashU;</li></ul><ul style="list-style-type: disc;"><li>Elizabeth Anne Sivriver, who will earn a degree in computer science and mathematics from Arts & Sciences in May and will pursue graduate study in the human-computer interface.</li></ul><p> </p><SPAN ID="__publishingReusableFragment"></SPAN><br/>Beth Miller 2020-04-02T05:00:00ZMcKelvey Engineering students and alumni win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. the media: Ultrasonic Waves Can Make Siri Share Your Secrets<img alt="" src="/news/PublishingImages/Vice%20Ning%20Zhang%20mention.jpg?RenditionID=1" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis have discovered a new method of attacking mobile devices via inaudible voice assistant commands, using a novel method that’s effective from up to 30 feet away. While the attack requires such a specific environment that we’re unlikely to see it used much in the wild, it nevertheless represents a previously unknown vulnerability that affects virtually all mobile devices, including all iPhones running Siri and a plethora of Android devices running Google Assistant.<br/></p><p>The research team presented its <a href="">full report</a> on the vulnerability at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium on February 24, and has subsequently <a href="">published a summary</a> on the university website. The gist of the main finding is that these voice assistant programs listen to a frequency far wider than the human voice is capable of producing, and thus can be fed ultrasonic waves that will be interpreted as voice commands while remaining completely inaudible to the human ear.<br/></p>As part of their study, the researchers set up a variety of scenarios in which this attack method could be used to steal information from the target device. All versions of the attack shared a common premise and required the same laundry list of specialized tools: a piece of software that can produce the right waveforms, an ultrasonic generator to output the signal, a piezoelectric transducer (a device that turns an electrical signal into physical vibrations), and a hidden microphone to listen for the voice assistant’s response.<div><br/>The most obviously compromising version of the attack involves using these inaudible queries to ask the voice assistant to set the phone’s volume to a very low level, then read aloud the contents of a text message containing a two-factor authentication code. In theory, this could be done in a way that leaves the phone’s owner completely unaware of the attack, as the voice assistant reads the text at a volume that gets lost in the background noise of an office or public space but can nonetheless be picked up by the hidden microphone.</div><div><br/></div><div>In order to perform the attack at an inconspicuous distance, the researchers conducted the ultrasonic signal through a hard surface upon which the target device was placed. They found that the process worked through up to thirty feet of metal, glass or wood, but softer materials such as a tablecloth foiled the attack by not conducting the signal with a sufficient degree of fidelity.</div><div><br/>The idea of an attacker being able to sit down 30 feet away from you and read all your text messages sounds quite terrifying, but it’s important to keep in mind the improbability of becoming the victim of an attack like this in the real world. As mentioned above, the attack requires some fairly specialized equipment, some of which is fairly odd-looking and cumbersome, rendering it hard to deploy in a public space without attracting suspicion. Furthermore, it requires a very particular physical arrangement wherein the target device is out of line of sight from the attacker while still being coupled to a hard surface upon which the attacker can deploy the required gadgetry.</div><div><br/>“I don't think we will see such an attack a lot in common places, but probably used for a more targeted attack,” says assistant professor Ning Zhang, who led the research team. He also warned that while the hardware they use in their demonstration is unwieldy, there are alternatives; “The signal generator can be expensive and bulky, but you can design your own hardware to generate certain signals ... depending on how DIY you want to do. A cell phone will also do, if bulkyness is the main problem.”<br/></div><div><br/></div><div>Of course, a particularly paranoid user can foil this method of attack by simply keeping their phone in their pocket instead of leaving it on the table next to them. As with many of these exciting-sounding methods of cyberattack, this is technically possible to pull off in the wild, but unlikely to appear outside the world of serious espionage and/or spy movies any time soon.<br/></div><div><div class="cstm-section"><h3>Ning Zhang<br/></h3><div style="text-align: center;"> <strong> <a href="/Profiles/Pages/Ning-Zhang.aspx"> <img src="/Profiles/PublishingImages/Ning%20Zhang%202018.jpeg?RenditionID=3" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></a> <br/></strong></div><ul style="text-align: left;"><li>Assistant Professor<br/></li><li>Research: Professor Zhang's research focus is system security, which lies at the intersection of security, computer architecture and programming language<br/></li></ul><p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/Profiles/Pages/Ning-Zhang.aspx">>> View Bio</a><br/></p></div></div>Mitch Bowman, VICE assistant programs listen to a frequency far wider than the human voice is capable of producing, and thus can be fed ultrasonic waves that will be interpreted as voice commands.<p>​<span style="font-size: 1.05em;">Voice assistant programs listen to a frequency far wider than the human voice is capable of producing, and thus can be fed ultrasonic waves that will be interpreted as voice commands.</span></p>