Computing and Information Science Highlights

Computer Systems Lab with ECE

The Cornell Computer Systems Laboratory (CSL) brings together faculty members with common interests from CS and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Cornell.

            The field of computer systems is both experimental and theoretical, having grown out of computer architecture; parallel computer architecture; operating systems and compilers; computer protocols and networks; programming languages and environments; distributed systems; VLSI design and fabrication; and system specification and verification.

        Graduate students are admitted to either ECE or CS. Usually students with primary interest in computer architecture, multiprocessor design, VLSI, computer-aided design (CAD), and circuit design enroll in ECE, while students with interest in compilers, operating systems, and programming environments enroll in CS. There are no rigid student classifications; ECE students can have a thesis advisor in CS and vice-versa. Indeed, the interdisciplinary composition of the research teams is a strength of the Cornell Computer Systems Laboratory.

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Digital Libraries and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL)

For ten years, Cornell’s digital libraries research group has carried out research into architectures, protocols, services, and policies that facilitate the creation, management, accessibility, and longevity of distributed information. In particular, the group has had a focus on interoperability—the challenge of building coherent services from many heterogeneous, independently managed digital libraries. Recent achievements include the Open Archive Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI–PMH), which enables technically inexperienced groups to share information, and the FEDORA mechanisms for the storage, manipulation, access management, and dissemination of digital library content, when the parties are more sophisticated technically.

             These problems go far beyond conventional computer science research and, through the new Information Science program, the group works closely with colleagues who have expertise in human–computer interaction, electronic publishing, information preservation, evaluation, and software engineering.

            The NSDL is a long-term program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a digital library of all digital resources that could benefit education in the sciences. The NSF has funded almost one hundred independent projects, with one central project to integrate them into a single library. Following a successful demonstration at Cornell, the central grant has been awarded to a collaboration between the University Center for Atmospheric Research, Columbia University, and Cornell, with Cornell taking the technical lead.

            The NSDL is simultaneously a production library, a testbed for digital-libraries research, and a source of new research challenges. This summer, for example, Donna Bergmark received the Vannevar Bush award for a paper describing her research into methods for automatic selection of materials for the NSDL, combining selective Web crawling with methods from classical information retrieval.

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The Information Assurance Institute

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)/Cornell Information Assurance Institute (IAI) supports a broad spectrum of research and education efforts aimed at developing a science-and-technology base that can enhance information assurance and networked information–systems trustworthiness—system and network security, reliability, and assurance. IAI is also intended to foster closer collaborations among Cornell and AFRL researchers. Fred B. Schneider is the director.

            AFRL researchers participate in Cornell research projects, facilitating technology transfer and exposing Cornell researchers to problems facing the Air Force; Cornell researchers become involved in AFRL projects and have access to unique AFRL facilities. The institute thus makes both Cornell and AFRL more attractive places to work, facilitating recruitment of higher-caliber personnel at each site.

            Under the auspices of IAI, Cornell researchers are now involved in the development of the Air Force’s Joint Battlespace Infosphere (JBI). Various other technical collaborations are also being explored—in the use of “gossip protocols”, in language-based security policy–enforcement technology, and in data mining from networks of sensors.

            This past year, the AFRL funding was renewed for five more years and Microsoft joined as an IAI corporate sponsor. Industrial partnerships with a select few companies not only support and leverage IAI activities but add another important perspective to the problems IAI researchers attack and the solutions they investigate.

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The Intelligent Information Systems Institute

The mission of the IISI, founded in December of 2000, is threefold: To perform and stimulate research in compute- and data-intensive methods for intelligent decision-making systems; to foster collaborations between Cornell researchers, our sponsors, and the scientific community; and to play a leadership role in the research and dissemination of the core areas of the institute. The institute is funded by AFRL/U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). Carla Gomes is the director of the institute. The Scientific Advisory Board of the institute consists of Robert Constable (Cornell), Nort Fowler and Charles Messenger (Information Directorate of the AFRL [AFRL/IF]), and Neal Glassman and Juan Vasquez (AFRL/AFOSR).

            The IISI supports basic research within CIS, promoting a cross-fertilization of approaches from different disciplines, including computer science, engineering, operations research, economics, mathematics, statistics, and physics. Areas of investigation within the IISI are: search and complexity, planning and scheduling, large-scale distributed networks, data mining and information retrieval, reasoning under uncertainty, natural-language processing, machine learning, multi-agent systems, and combinatorial auctions.

            Current IISI members at Cornell are Raffaello D’Andrea (dynamics and control), Claire Cardie (natural-language understanding and machine learning), Rich Caruana (machine learning, data mining, and bioinformatics), Johannes Gehrke (database systems and data mining), Carla Gomes (artificial intelligence and operations research), Joseph Halpern (knowledge representation and uncertainty), Mark Heinrich (active memory and simulation methodology), John Hopcroft (information capture and access), Thorsten Joachims (machine learning and information retrieval) Lillian Lee (statistical methods for natural-language processing), David Shmoys (algorithms for large-scale discrete optimization), Bart Selman (knowledge representation, complexity, and multi-agent systems), Chris Shoemaker (large-scale optimization and modeling), Evan Speight (distributed computing and computer architectures), and Stephen Wicker (intelligent wireless-information networks).

            Several research projects that involve direct collaborations between Cornell and AFRL/IF researchers were initiated through the IISI. These cover topics such as probabilistic decision-making, architectures for active memory systems, multi-agent sensor networks, and visualization of reasoning and search methods. The IISI also hosted a hands-on workshop on foundations and complexity of multi-agent systems. As one of the outcomes of the workshop, a team of researchers from Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Washington is developing a tunable benchmark suite for the design and evaluation of new algorithms for combinatorial auctions. The IISI also sponsored the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Symposium on Uncertainty Within Computation, the 2001 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural-language Processing (EMNLP 2001), Language Technologies 2001, North American Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL 2001), School on Statistical Physics, Probability Theory, and Computational Complexity (2002), Workshop on Phase Transition and Algorithmic Complexity at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (2002), and the School on Optimization at the Fourth International Workshop on Integration of AI and OR Techniques in Constraint Programming for Combinatorial Optimization Problems (CP-AI-OR 2002).

            To further its research mission, the IISI hosts many short-term visitors, and several scientists who make medium- and long-term visits. Visitors have included researchers from AFRL/IF, AT&T Labs, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Microsoft Research, Stanford University, Technion, University of Barcelona, University of Lisbon, University of Minnesota, Washington University–St. Louis, University of Washington, and York University.

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The Cornell Theory Center

The Cornell Theory Center (CTC) is the University’s high-performance computing and interdisciplinary computational research center, serving more than 150 faculty research groups across campus and at the Weill Medical College. CTC has pioneered the use of industry-standard computational clusters running Windows™ as a productive large-scale computing environment, keeping Cornell at the forefront of computational science and engineering. The center currently operates a complex that includes more than 800 processors. One part of the cluster complex—Velocity+—is dedicated to strategic applications that require large-scale parallel computing to achieve results. Among these applications are computational materials, genomics, and structural biology. CTC special-research groups include the Materials Science Institute (MSI) and the Computational Biology Service Unit (CBSU). New systems demonstrate the application of the .NET framework to high-performance computing and integration of the SQL server into large-scale simulations.

            Another CTC research focus is computational finance, an activity headed by CTC director and computer science professor Thomas F. Coleman. Projects include investigating new optimization algorithms for large-scale portfolio analysis and value-at-risk calculations. Much of CTC’s computational-finance work takes place at CTC–Manhattan, which is located across from the New York Stock Exchange and the site of the Annual Securities Derivatives Conferences.

            CTC brings high-performance computing into the undergraduate curriculum through a NASA–funded project, which provides students in CEE 479 and M&AE 491 with access to EduCluster and the CAVE (computer-aided virtual environment). EduCluster is a 16-processor cluster dedicated to student applications and the CAVE is an immersive 3-D virtual-reality environment. CTC’s three-wall CAVE allows scientists to “immerse” themselves in their application. In this project, entitled “Advanced Interactive Design Environment”, seniors will use these resources to design a piece of NASA’s future Reusable Launch Vehicle. Researchers have access to the CAVE Collaboratory for development and preview of their visualizations. CTC also supports developers from courses in architecture and fine arts.

            CTC has done pioneering work in science-communication outreach and informal education through its Virtual Worlds SciCentr, which consists of a series of multi-user virtual environments. This project has engaged several interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate programmers, designers, and content developers in the creation of interactive exhibits, as well as undergraduate mentors who support teams of high school student developers at remote locations. A number of team members come from CS. SciCentr brings CTC into interaction with research scientists and faculty members in the fields of biotechnology, communication, fine arts, theatre arts, music, and architecture. CTC is also engaging undergraduates in development of interactive online laboratory modules focused on bioinformatics through the BioQUEST Curriculum Library.

            CTC receives funding from Cornell, New York State, a number of federal agencies, and corporations.

            For further information, see

CIS Electronic-commerce Immersion with the JGSM

This year, once again, CS collaborated with the Johnson Graduate School of Management (JGSM). Three faculty members (Birman, Gehrke, and Schneider) gave a total of twelve lectures in the e-Commerce Immersion Course (NBA 684  Internet Technology and Applications) in collaboration with R. W. Conway and A. McAdams of JGSM. These CS lectures covered computer-system security, reliability, databases, and data mining.

            CIS and the JGSM brought Daniel P. Huttenlocher back to Cornell as the John P. and Rilla Neafsey Professor of Computing and Information Science and Business, a new chair and joint appointment in the Faculty of Computing and Information Science and the Johnson School. The Neafsey chair reflects a commitment to add strength in information technology and computing in the Johnson School and is an outgrowth of excellent collaborations with the Faculty of Computing and Information Science.