Monday, May 24, 2021

UC San Diego computer scientist wins UC San Diego Chancellor's Dissertation Medal

UC San Diego computer science PhD student Zexiang Xu has been selected as this year's Chancellor's Dissertation Medal recipient within the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Xu is currently a research scientist at Adobe Research. 


Zexiang Xu was advised by
computer science professor Ravi Ramamoorthi, who is Director of the UC San Diego Center for Visual Computing.


Zexiang Xu's abstract: Sparse Sampling for Appearance Acquisition


Dissertation Abstract

Modeling the appearance of real scenes from captured images is one key problem in computer graphics and computer vision. This traditionally requires a large number of input samples (e.g. images, light-view directions, depth hypotheses, etc.) and consumes extensive computational resources. In this dissertation, we aim to make scene acquisition more efficient and practical, and we present several approaches that successfully reduce the required number of samples in various appearance acquisition problems.


We exploit techniques to explicitly reconstruct the geometry and materials in a real scene; the two components essentially determine the scene appearance. On the geometry side, we introduce a novel deep multi-view stereo technique that can reconstruct high-quality scene geometry from a sparse set of sampling depth hypotheses. We leverage uncertainty estimation in a multi-stage cascaded network, which reconstructs highly accurate and highly complete geometry with low costs in a coarse-to-fine framework. On the material side, the reflectance of a real material is traditionally measured by tens and even hundreds of captured images. We present a novel reflectance acquisition technique that can reconstruct high-fidelity real materials from only two near-field images.


Moreover, we exploit image-based acquisition techniques that bypass explicit scene reconstruction and focus on realistic image synthesis under new conditions. We first present a novel deep neural network for image-based relighting. Our network simultaneously learns optimized input lighting directions and a relighting function. Our approach can produce photo-realistic relighting results under novel environment maps from only five images captured under five optimized directional lights. We also study the problem of view synthesis for real objects under controlled lighting, which classically requires dense input views with small baselines. We propose a novel deep learning based view synthesis technique that can synthesize photo-realistic images from novel views across six widely-spaced input views. Our network leverages visibility-aware attention information to effectively aggregate multi-view appearance. We also show that our view synthesis technique can be combined with our relighting technique to achieve novel-view relighting from sparse light-view samples.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Jacobs School faculty, lecturers named Distinguished Teachers

 Three members of the Jacobs School community were selected to receive Distinguished Teaching Awards from the UC San Diego Academic Senate. The prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award is bestowed upon up to five members of the Academic Senate, three non-Senate faculty members, and three graduate students at UC San Diego each year, to recognize and honor the important role excellent teaching plays at the University. The Committee on Distinguished Teaching seeks to select those who exhibit creativity, innovative teaching methods, the ability to motivate students to actively seek out knowledge, and an extraordinary level of teaching commitment.

James Friend, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Joe Gibbs Politz, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, received Distinguished Teaching Awards for Senate Members. Katya Evdokimenko, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, received a Barbara and Paul Saltman Distinguished Teaching Award, Non-Senate Members.

Learn more about all three Jacobs School of Engineering recipients below. 

James Friend, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Q: What do you teach?

A: I teach a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses, including dynamics, acoustofluidics, computer aided analysis and design, and cardiovascular fluid mechanics, to name a few. 

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?

A: I think I most enjoy seeing students eager to learn develop in the time I have with them to learn the topics we cover and become better at them than I ever was. I also enjoy learning myself, and teaching new courses gives me the opportunity to really learn the material well enough to be able to teach it. 

Q: Why is teaching an important, integral part of your job?

A: I love teaching! While research is satisfying, and I enjoy the experience of personal and professional growth that it gives me, I really enjoy the consistent reward of seeing students advance week to week, asking questions, seeing the light turn on and them applying what they’ve learned to new things, to things I’ve not considered. And to witness them talking to each other about the material with excitement and new ideas. It’s most gratifying.

Joe Gibbs Politz, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Q: What do you teach?

A: An explicit goal of mine has been to teach courses across our whole curriculum to get a thorough firsthand picture of what students experience in our program. I've taught a wide variety of courses in our lower division, ranging from majority non-major courses for folks just getting into CS, to discrete math, to core programming and data structures courses. I also teach our senior-level and graduate compilers courses, which are about creating and improving programming languages, an area that I find has a wonderful synthesis of theory and engineering.

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?

A: Lots of things! One of the most impactful is hearing from students that something they learned in my classes showed up in their work or helped them accomplish something in another context. We put a lot of effort into making our courses and projects teach fundamental concepts through practical applications. Seeing that pay off is always gratifying.

Q: Why is teaching an important, integral part of your job?

A: Our students are so inspiring! The come from all kinds of backgrounds, work hard, and take advantage of the opportunities in our classes. Teaching is important to me because it's the most direct way I can use what I know to support them.

Evdokimenko with her students
Ekaterina "Katya" Evdokimenko, lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Q: What do you teach?

A: I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on topics ranging from the Elements of Materials Science, to Biomaterials and Medical Devices and Mechanical Behavior of Materials. I also teach several enrichment classes for the IDEA Engineering Student Center, including Fundamentals of Engineering Applications and Introduction to Engineering Research.

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?

A: The students’ motivation, their genuine interest and their wonderful questions! Those questions are the key part of the whole entire teaching process, since they promote conversation and help to understand the subject on the next level of complexity. 

When not teaching, Evdokimenko 
can be found scaling rock walls!

Q: You've developed a post-lecture question component to your classes, can you talk about that?

A: I incorporated a daily “extra-credit part” into most of my classes. This part consists of  questions/problems/free responses at the end of every lecture on the topic covered at the previous lecture. I grade this part myself and study the answers before the next lecture to see what students understood and didn't understand, and modify my next lecture accordingly. Also, I am providing my personal feedback to every student for this extra-credit part, which helps them a lot to comprehend the material covered in the class more deeply. This process also gives me the idea on what parts should be discussed in more detail.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Jacobs School faculty, student earn Integrity Awards

Four Jacobs School of Engineering faculty and one graduate student were named Integrity Champions at the UC San Diego 2021 Integrity Awards. They were among the nine recipients across campus honored for their substantial contributions to academic, research and professional integrity over the previous 12-month period. The event is organized by the Research Ethics Program and the Academic Integrity Office in collaboration with the Executive Vice-Chancellor's Office. 

Videos with each of the recipients, as well as a recording of the ceremony, are available here:

 The Jacobs School’s Integrity Champions are:  

Stephanie Fraley, associate professor of bioengineering, was recognized for her work to maintain academic integrity during the remote teaching necessitated by the pandemic. She led the Department of Bioengineering’s transition to remote instruction, developing a range of streamlined material and approaches for the department to use. In her own courses, Fraley developed new teaching approaches that both promoted novel ways of learning, and simultaneously ensured that academic integrity could be maintained in the new remote learning environment.


Huihui Qi, assistant teaching professor of mechanical engineering, and Curt Schurgers and Saharnaz Baghdadchi, assistant teaching professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, were recognized for their efforts to develop pedagogy to transition assessments in large courses from written to oral exams. While the switch was instigated by the move to remote learning, the faculty believe that oral exams actually allow more adaptive questions, more insightful and helpful feedback for students, and encourage a more thoughtful approach to academic integrity, and are developing plans to continue to use oral exams and other more authentic assessment methods even after a return to in-person learning, to enhance academic integrity in their large courses. Qi, Schurgers and Baghdadchi were also honored for volunteering considerable time to assist other faculty transition their courses and assessments to virtual.


Ross Turner, a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student, was recognized for serving as a mentor and role model for other students, demonstrating what it means to prioritize ethics and integrity in all his research and projects. Turner led a group of graduate students in developing, packaging and delivering at-home activity kits for students in San Ysidro Unified School District when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a transition to remote learning. He also served as a student voice as the Jacobs School transitioned to remote instruction, advocating for alternative testing schedules for students in different time zones. As an advocate for ethics and integrity, Turner was instrumental in organizing and providing graduate student feedback on initial draft's of the Jacobs School of Engineering's Research Ethics Initiative guidelines. He was also selected as a Science Policy Fellow through the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy program to dig into the policy implications of his scientific research on directed energy and high-energy lasers.