W&L Computer Science Blog

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Guests and Speakers

Computer Science meets Biology: Models and Algorithms for Understanding Evolution

Dr. Jessica Wu, VisJessica Wuiting Assistant Professor,
Department of Computer Science, Harvey Mudd College

Friday, December 4th
3:30 p.m. (reception)
4:00 p.m. (talk)
Parmly 307

Computational techniques have long been applied to biological data to address a wide range of evolutionary questions.

This talk will focus on the need for accurate, efficient, scalable, and general computational methods for reconstructing gene evolutionary histories. The TreeFix algorithm that combines sequence data and species histories to correct reconstruction errors will be presented along with a demonstration of how the accurate predictions enabled by TreeFix have been used to improve our understanding of evolution.

Students, Faculty/Staff invited to attend!

Valerie Barr of Union College to Speak Dec 11

Valerie Barr, Professor of Computer Science at Union College, will be speaking at the Winter 2013 Fall Academy (Wed, Dec 11 at 12:30 p.m. in the IQ Center) about her experience encouraging faculty across discipines to pursue computing topics in their courses.  Her talk is entitled “Blake, Biofuel, and Bribery: Interdisciplinary Applications of Computing”.

Guest Speaker: Andrew Danner of Swarthmore College

Andrew Danner, Ph.D., of Swarthmore College will talk about his work on developing efficient techniques to process large GIS data sets–a topic of interest to both computer scientists and geologists.

“TerraStream: From Elevation Data
to Watershed Hierarchies”

Monday, January 30 at 11:15 a.m.
Parmly 307 in the Science Center

Terra Stream
Abstract: Modern remote sensing and mapping technologies generate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that often exceed several Gigabytes or Terrabytes in size. Processing such huge data sets poses a number of computational challenges. Portions of the data must reside on large but slow hard disks, while computation can only occur in the smaller but faster internal memory of modern computers. In these cases the transfer of data between disk and main memory becomes the primary bottleneck rather than internal CPU computation.

This talk will describe the I/O model of computation in which we can develop scalable algorithms for processing large data sets. I will also present TerraStream–an implementation of several I/O-efficient algorithms for processing large point clouds of elevation data, creating digital surface models, extracting river networks, and constructing watershed hierarchies. TerraStream performance scales efficiently to input data sets containing over 300 million points and over 20GB in size.

Jan Cuny from the NSF discusses Broadening Participation in Computing

Jan Cuny of the National Science Foundation came to Washington and Lee on March 16 to discuss “Broadening Participation in Computing: Engagement, Education, Research, and Policy”. Jan talked about why broadening participation in computing is important (e.g., lots of jobs that need to be filled and not enough computer scientists; diversity of ideas), why it’s difficult (e.g., education challenges, incorrect stereotypes), and what we’re doing (many cool programs and initiatives!).

Jan met with students and faculty at an informal reception before her talk and answered many questions throughout the afternoon.

Some highlighted sites and programs:

Jan’s visit was sponsored by Women in Math and Science and Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Emily Gibson Hill to Give Talk on Intuitive Program Comprehension Tools

Emily Gibson Hill from the University of Delaware will give a talk on applying natural-language analysis to understanding large software systems.

Developing Natural Language-based Software Analyses & Tools to Expedite Software Maintenance

Friday, December 4, 11:15 a.m.
Parmly 405
Pizza lunch to follow

Abstract:  Today’s software is large and complex, with systems consisting of millions of lines of code. New developers to a software project face significant challenges in locating code related to their maintenance tasks of fixing bugs or adding new features. Developers can simply be handed a bug and told to fix it–even when they have no idea where to begin.

We can significantly reduce the cost of software maintenance by reducing the time and effort to find and understand code. In this talk, I will outline the challenges in finding and understanding code in a large software project as well as present some software engineering tools that can help. Specifically, I will present techniques that leverage the textual information from comments and identifiers as well as program structure to create intuitive software engineering and program comprehension tools.

Bio: Emily Hill is a PhD candidate at the University of Delaware in Computer and Information Sciences. While an undergraduate at a liberal arts college, Emily researched information retrieval systems, which influenced her thesis topic. Her interdisciplinary thesis focuses on developing natural language processing and information retrieval techniques to improve software engineering tools. Emily spends much of her research time analyzing the natural language clues developers
leave behind in identifiers and comments. Outside of research, Emily enjoys singing opera, fantasy football, and reading.


October 7: The Value of a Liberal Arts Degree: Spotlight on Sciences

Career Services is hosting a panel discussion, focusing on the sciences.  Alumni speakers will represent a variety of career industries on each panel.  If you have considered majors and/or careers in these areas, come hear how major choice at W&L has played into the career decision-making and planning of these individuals.  Take advantage of this unique opportunity to hear from and interact with multiple alums in your field of interest!

When: Friday, October 7, 5 p.m.

Where: Science Center G-14

There will be an informal reception immediately following the panel in the Great Hall of the Science Center.

Science Bios

Chris Diebold ‘09
Chris graduated from W&L with a B.S. in chemistry in June 2009.

Dave Passavant ‘99
Dave graduated from W&L in ’99 with a double major in Computer Science and Business Administration.  Dave has recently started a position as Director of Business Design at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Abby Perdue ‘04
A graduate of Washington and Lee University, majoring in biology and English, and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Virginia Behr ‘97
Ombudsman, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Elizabeth DeStefano ‘99
Elizabeth has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Biology from Washington & Lee University and a Masters degree in Public Health Communications and Marketing from George Washington University.  Elizabeth has been with the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) since the  beginning of 2002.