The Volen Center Turns 25 Years Old

Construction of Volen Center

Since its construction at the heart of the Brandeis campus, the Volen National Center for Complex Systems has been a key focal point of the Brandeis campus. The structure was dedicated on October 20, 1994 and has served as a gateway to the Brandeis Science Complex for the past 25 years. Planning for the construction of the building began in 1989 with funding from the federal government. Additional funding from the government and donations from benefactors followed. The total cost of construction was over $31 million.

The Center’s primary focus is the study of one of the most complex of complex systems – the human brain and mind. When the Volen Center was formed in 1989, its mission statement was “to advance our understanding of cognitive processes, perceptions, neuroscience, and the development and application of parallel computer systems.” As part of this mission, a retreat was first held in May 1989. This retreat has evolved into the annual Volen Retreat. True to the collaborative focus of the Center, the Volen Retreat includes talks from multiple disciplines of Brandeis faculty. Thanks to the M. R. Bauer Foundation, a lecture series and week-long Distinguished Lecturer Visitors series brings scientists from all over the world  to the Brandeis campus to talk about their research and interact with faculty, postdocs and graduate students.

The bricks and mortar of the Volen Center provided essential office and lab space. In addition to the building, new Brandeis faculty became a part of the Volen Center. Leslie Griffith joined the Center in September 1992. Susan Birren followed in July 1993 and Jordan Pollack in September 1994. Faculty and labs of Computer Science, Linguistics, Biochemistry and Neuroscience moved into the completed structure in May 1994.

What has been impact of the Volen Center? Barbara Wrightson, who was the Program Project Coordinator during the Volen construction and is now the Director of Budget and Planning in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, said that “the Volen Center helped to nurture the fabulous growth of the neuroscience program at Brandeis.” Additionally, shortly after moving into Volen, the Computer Science department experienced a boom in enrollment. The department saw it’s enrollment double in the decade after the Center opened.

 

JBS Voice/Web/Mobile Showcase

The 2018 Voice/Web/Mobile JBS will have their final product showcase this Thursday 8/2 from 3-5 in Schwartz 112.

Six teams of three students each have built apps which can be accessed either through voice or through a browser (or both). The presentations will be from 3-4 (right after SciFest though in a different building) and you’ll be able to play with their apps from 4-5 at the reception.

The six apps are ( https://sites.google.com/a/brandeis.edu/jbs-2018-cosi/home/teams):

  • PresentationApp/SpeechFlow — control your computer during a presentation entirely with your voice (visit link A, pick a random student to answer this question, to to slide 10, etc.)
  • CollegeInfo — allows you to ask complex questions about the Brandeis course schedule, such as which Computer Science courses are offered this semester on Mondays at 3:00, and you can also use it to build and view your schedule.
  • SeniorCenter — matches seniors based on their interests in books, movies, and TV series. This is designed to fight the isolation and depression common in seniors while allowing them to use their voice rather than click buttons on their computer or phone.
  • DeisTransportApp — allows you to make reservation on the BranVan and query arrival times and bus locations all by voice!
  • HumanGainz — allows your phone to serve as your personal trainer at the gym. Reminding you of which exercises are next in the workout you selected.
  • SON – this is a next generation calendar app which incorporates social media so you can ask which of your friends are free at a particular day/time as well as handle all of the usual calendar operations.

Please join us to see the presentations, ask questions,  and interact with the apps.

— The JBS Team—

Hongfu Liu Joins Computer Science as Assistant Professor

Dr. Hongfu Liu has joined the Michtom School of Computer Science at Brandeis University as a tenure-track assistant professor. He received his Ph.D. in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Northeastern University (NEU), supervised by Prof. Yun (Raymond) Fu within 3.5 years. Before joining NEU, he earned his master and bachelor degrees in management from the Beihang University with Prof. Junjie Wu. He also received two minor bachelor degrees in applied mathematics and laws.

His current research interests lie in data mining, machine learning  and related applications on business intelligence, computer vision and bioinformatics. He has published several papers in top conferences and journals, such as KDD, ICDM, SDM, AAAI, IJCAI, T-PAMI, T-KDE, T-IP, DMKD, BMC and so on. He is also the reviewer for several top conferences and journals. He has been nominated as KDD Top 20 rising star all over the world in 2016.

Papaemmanouil Receives Funding from Huawei Technologies

Olga PapaemmanouilShenzhen-based Huawei Technologies, the largest manufacturer of telecom equipment in the world, is supporting Associate Professor of Computer Science Olga Papaemmanouil‘s efforts to develop machine learning approaches for managing the performance of data management systems. The grant will support research on workload management, that is the task of query placement, query scheduling and resource allocation for database applications. Workload management is an extremely critical task for database systems as it can impact the execution time of incoming processing tasks as well as the overall perceived performance of the database  and the quality of the service (QoS) offered to end-clients. The complexity of the problem increases for applications that involve dynamically changing workloads and concurrently executing queries sharing the same underlying resources, as well as applications that are deployed on data clusters with fluctuating resource availability.

Dr. Papaemmanouil’s research aims to design frameworks that can be trained on application-specific properties and performance metrics  to automatically learn how to effectively dispatch incoming queries across a cluster of servers, implicitly solving the resource allocation challenge. These techniques will rely on machine learning algorithms (reinforcement learning and deep learning)  that model the interaction of concurrently running queries  as well as the relationship between database performance and the underlying resource availability in the cluster. The project will lead the way towards the development of workload management solutions that eliminate ad-hoc heuristics often used by database administrators to address these challenges and replace them with software modules capable of providing custom workload management strategies to end-clients.

Olga Papaemmanouil Promoted to Associate Professor

During the November Board of Trustees meeting, Olga Papaemmanouil (Computer Science) was promoted to associate professor with tenure. She joined Brandeis in 2009 after receiving her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Brown University. Her work revolves around data management systems and distributed systems.

Her research aims to  offer insight on the complexity of the data sets and operations involved in data management systems and use this insight to produce solutions and optimizations that improve these systems’ effectiveness and efficiency. Her research is motivated by practical applications and offers real-world tools and services that assist application developers in tacking the challenges of building, managing and optimizing data-driven applications.

Her work covers a broad range of data-driven challenges, including big data exploration and analytics, workload and resource management for cloud databases, query optimization and query performance prediction.

Olga won an NSF Career Award for her work on performance tuning of cloud databases and her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Hewlett Packard, Amazon, Google and Huawei Technologies.

Jordan Pollack Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Jordan Pollack

The International Society for Artificial Life. has awarded a lifetime achievement award to Jordan Pollack, Professor of Computer Science and Chairman of Computer Science department, for his work on robotics, computer-simulated evolution and artificial life forms. Pollack, who has been a Brandeis faculty member for the past 23 years, is also the director of the Dynamical & Evolutionary Machine Organization (DEMO). DEMO is a research lab where Pollack and his students study recurrent neural networks, evolutionary computation, and dynamical systems.

Pollack received the lifetime award last week (September 4-8) at The European Conference on Artificial Life 2017 in Lyon, France. Nick Moran and Jordan Pollack’s paper “Effects of Cooperative and Competitive Coevolution on Complexity in a Linguistic Prediction Game” (MITCogNet) also received the best paper award at the conference.

In an interview with Brandeis Now, Professor Pollack discusses his career and research.

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