Loose Change

The Computer Science Department Newsletter
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Summer 1995


Inside This Issue...

Immerman Receives International Prize for Solving 30-Year-Old Computing Problem

Neil Immerman, Associate Professor of Computer Science, has been awarded one of the highest honors in his field for discovering the solution to a problem that has plagued the computer science community for 30 years. He has been awarded the international Goedel Prize for the best paper in theoretical computer science published in a refereed journal during the past six years. This award is presented annually by the European Society of Theoretical Computer Science and the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Automata and Computing Theory.

Immerman shares the award with University of Chicago student Robert Szelepcsenyi, who independently discovered the award-winning theorem at the same time Immerman did in 1989.

The journal papers cited in the award both contain proofs of the Immerman/Szelepcsenyi Theorem, which shows that two complexity classes are identical, and settles an open problem in computer science. For 30 years it had been believed that the two classes were distinct. Immerman is one of the inventors of a branch of theoretical computer science called descriptive complexity; he used those techniques to prove that the computational complexity classes Nondeterministic Space[s(n)] and co-Nondeterministic Space [s(n)] are equal for all functins s(n) greater-than-or-equal-to log n.

Upon receiving the Goedel Prize, Immerman said, ``Of course, I'm thrilled. I am grateful to some of my teachers for their inspiration and to my wife, Susan, for her patience. I feel very lucky to get an award for doing what I love to do."

Professor Immerman was presented the award the week of June 1 in Las Vegas at the 27th Annual ACM Symposium on the Theory of Computing. A $5,000 monetary award is included in the prize.

White House Unveils Latest Use for UMass Software

President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore debuted yet another government information system that has UMass information retrieval technology at the heart of it.

Unveiled at the White House during the June 14 Conference on Small Business was a new on-line information service called the U.S. Business Advisor (U.S.B.A.). Billed as a ``one-stop shop" for business, the service allows people with access to the Internet to easily retrieve information about federal regulations and compliance that is relevant to U. S. Businesses. (See below for Web address.)

Efficiently accessing this information is the work of INQUERY - the information retrieval software developed by Professor Bruce Croft and other researchers in the Computer Science Department's Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR).

INQUERY has become a favorite tool for government information retrieval because of the software's advantages over other IR systems, namely the ability to process queries in natural language as opposed to relying on a structured query language; the ability to rank the information it finds according to how relevant it is likely to be to the query; and the ability to search millions of full-text documents (or gigabytes of information) in seconds.

The U.S. Business Advisor is the latest government system to utilize the UMass software. The Library of Congress, the U.S. National Holocaust Museum, and the U.S. House of Representatives are among other government agencies and branches to use INQUERY for electronic information retrieval. Promoting the use of on-line information systems is part of the Clinton Administration's plan to increase access to government information.

INQUERY is also being used extensively in the private sector in such systems as EnviroTech On-Line, another service geared towards business. EnviroTech On-Line is a joint venture between Digital Equipment, the International Environmental Business and Technology Institute, The University of Massachusetts and the Applied Computing Systems Institute of Massachusetts (ACSIOM). The system will be unveiled this summer.

For a demonstration of INQUERY, visit the UMass CIIR Web site. THOMAS is another government information system that uses INQUERY.

From the Chair - Computer-Based Educational Technology

There is much interest in educational technology of late, and the department is expanding its role in this area. Educational technology covers a wide range of topics from film strips and overhead projectors to computerized labs and intelligent tutoring systems. We as computer scientists are mainly interested in computer-based educational technology and have particular expertise to bring to the table. But first, we need to answer an important question before we can develop effective technology: What is the problem being addressed by computer-based educational technology and what can we accomplish?

This is not a simple question. The problem has many aspects. Educating young children is becoming more difficult. An elementary school teacher recently told me that the percentage of children coming into kindergarten and first grade without knowing the names of colors and other basic knowledge has increased dramatically in the last few years. Regardless of the societal reasons for this, these children must be educated. There is the possibility that computer-based technology can help at various levels in early education, especially when math and science is introduced. It is also possible that racial and gender biases might be avoided or redressed with such technology.

The resources available to universities are not increasing at the same rate that the need for remedial work in incoming students is growing. (A slight understatement for dramatic effect.) Remedial work in early college education can be made more efficient and effective by the right technology. While we do not subscribe to the idea that teachers can be replaced by technology, it is possible to increase productivity by strategic use of the right systems. One of our areas of expertise is intelligent tutoring systems. These systems can be used as quasi-laboratories, where students can learn crucial concepts through guided exploration, enhanced by multimedia interaction. Intelligent tutors can augment the effectiveness of good classroom teachers and take up a significant proportion of the increasing remedial load on many departments.

Early and remedial education aside, sophisticated technology is becoming an indispensable part of many disciplines. For example, the first year of the engineering program is currently integrating an intelligent tutor to give first year students experience in designing for manufacturing. The tutor gives both graphical and textual feedback on student designs and displays the process of injection molding the part. Other programs, especially in science, will need computer-based instructional systems in addition to those currently in use, to meet their needs. From a marketing perspective, programs that are not current in technology will not be competitive.

An area of growing importance in educational technology is distance learning. The engineering school, through its Video Instructional Program has been engaged in this area since 1974, and Computer Science faculty have been involved as teachers since the beginning. A problem to be overcome in distance learning is to make the interaction two way instead of mainly one way. The phone and email have been the technologies of choice in the student to teacher direction. The Internet, as well as increased availability and lower prices of high-speed telephone connections, provide new opportunities for improved distance learning environments. We have researchers working on the technology necessary to make advances in this area.

These are some of the ways the Department is getting involved in computer-based educational technology. Developing this technology requires intense collaboration with educators in the disciplines using the technology. In recent years, and accelerating in the last year, we have engaged in collaboration and dialogue with many University departments, a process which is continuing. This looking outward is a healthy development, and one which has the potential to improve all our cultures.

David W. Stemple,
Professor and Chair


People News


Art Gaylord, Director of Project Pilgrim, presented Project Pilgrim: Developing a New Computing Infrastructure Using OSF DCE at the OSF DCE User and Developer Conference held in San Jose, CA in April. Gaylord's presentation was part of the conference's DCE Success Stories Track.

Professor Eliot Moss is working on a project for ACM SIGPLAN and the OOPSLA conference. He is managing the conversion of 10 years of conference proceedings to publish a compendium on CD-ROM. The proceedings are scheduled to be released at the 10th annual OOPSLA conference in October.


Professor Bruce Croft has been elected Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Information Systems.

Grants and Awards

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has renewed a grant for Professor Andy Barto. The grant is entitled Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning and Adaptive Neural Networks.

Professors Rod Grupen and Andy Barto were recently awarded a new grant from NSF entitled A Control Basis for Learning and Skill Acquisition.

Professor Kathryn McKinley has been awarded a Faculty Research Grant through the University's Office for Research, Graduate Education and Economic Development. Her project is entitled Improving Cache Performance of Uniprocessors.

Professor Eliot Moss is the recipient of a cash donation and an advanced workstation from Hewlett-Packard in recognition of his group's work on optimizing C++. Professor Moss has also received a cash donation and equipment from Sun Microsystems Laboratories in recognition of his group's work related to Modula-3 and persistent programming languages.


Professor Wendy Lehnert has been selected as one of the University's 1995-1996 Distinguished Faculty Lecturers. Only 4 faculty per year across all campus departments are chosen to present a lecture as part of this series.

Member Elections

Research Associate Professor

Research Assistant Professor Barbara Lerner and Rick Lerner are the proud parents of Gregory Nicholas Lerner, 6 lbs. 5 oz. and 19 inches, born May 13, 1995.

Professor Kathryn McKinley and Scott Strahan joyously announce the birth of their son, Cooper Davis Strahan, born on May 14, 1995. Cooper weighed 7 lbs. 7 oz. and was 21 inches.

Professor Eliot Moss and Hannah Abbott are pleased to announce the birth of their daughter, Natalie Schuyler Moss, born May 6, 1995. Natalie weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz. and was 20 inches.

Other News

Graduate Student Dan Barrett has had an article accepted for publication in the fall issue of Keyboard magazine. The article is entitled Digital Dinosaurs: Progressive Rock on the Internet, and is about musical resources on the Net. Dan has also had a product review accepted in Video Toaster User magazine, a magazine devoted to desktop video.

Sad Good-Byes

The faculty, staff and students, as well as many other people across the University, are very sad to have to say good-bye to a truly special person, Darlene Freedman. Darlene has worked at the University for 20 years, 12 of which she dedicated to the Department of Computer Science. We will miss Darlene very much, but wish her only the best in her new position at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


Staff Focus -Associate Dean Diana Blazis Realizing the Goals in Toward 2000

(Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part series focusing on the goals that Dean Linda Slakey has for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. These goals were articulated in a document prepared by the Dean called Toward 2000. The Hiring of Associate Dean of NSM, Diana Blazis, is an important step toward meeting the challenges and realizing the goals for NSM that are outlined in Toward 2000.)

An emerging challenge for many University colleges and departments is to intelligently organize and disseminate the vast amount of institutional information that is available. Better management and use of this information are goals that Dean Linda Slakey believes are crucial to developing good ties with the College's constituencies. ``Having an identity as a College both for our outside constituencies and within the College is important," says Slakey. ``We get asked all the time for information about the College. We need to be able to organize our knowledge so that we can distribute it in whatever form is asked for--whether in a newsletter or a response to a reporter or a response to a parent about what our strengths are."

The Dean wants to use this information more effectively in areas directed towards outreach. ``Many of our outreach efforts will focus on our largest constituent group, our students," says Slakey. ``We've already begun to build stronger relationships with high-schools in the state. I think that we can play a roll in bringing back the top-end students to the University by marketing how good the experience is here for undergraduate science majors."

Slakey believes that for students who want to study science in college and who want to prepare themselves for a career in science, they cannot do better anywhere in the Commonwealth than UMass. ``I don't except any of the prestige institutions from that," says Slakey. ``This comes from the quality of the faculty and their very real willingness to incorporate undergraduates, especially motivated, committed undergraduates, into their work. This fact is not as widely known as it should be outside the University."

Slakey felt the need for another high-level person in the Dean's office who could form relationships with high-schools, who could organize the events that the College uses to present itself to the high-schools and who could work with the departments on strategies for presenting themselves to the schools. So the tasks of outreach and managing information became part of the job description for a much needed addition to the College--Dr. Diana Blazis, Associate Dean of NSM.

Dr. Blazis is an alumna of the University. She received her B.S. from UMass in Psychology, and is the first Ph.D. recipient from the UMass Neuroscience and Behavior Program. After receiving her Ph.D., she worked as a postdoctoral research associate and lecturer at Yale for four years in the area of computational modeling and computational approaches to learning.

``I saw the Associate Dean's position in the back of Science magazine," says Blazis. ``What really caught my eye wasn't the position as much as where it was. I always swore when I was a graduate student that I would go to Yale, and then return to UMass. I thought that I would come back as a professor, but after reading the position description and realizing I had the qualifications, I applied. I came here based largely on one thing, an abiding love for the University."

As she believes is true for most people who come to UMass, Blazis left with a rabid fascination and affection for the place. She also knew the struggle that the University had gone through and is going through with regard to budget cuts and shrinking resources. ``I came back with a deep desire to help the University," says Blazis. ``I wanted to help my alma mater, and I seemed to have some of the resources to do that."

In addition to her information management and outreach responsibilities, the Associate Dean is responsible for working to facilitate multi-departmental grants. ``Part of what I expect the Associate Dean to do is to take a role in making sure that we are ahead of the game in knowing opportunities where funding could be won by a multi-departmental approach," says Slakey. ``Having help on an organizational level makes a big difference when you are trying to pull together a multi-disciplinary grant."

``In the past, successfully pulling together a grant usually meant an individual faculty member shouldered that burden," says Slakey. ``I believe a way to enhance the College's success is to spend College money to hire somebody who can shoulder some of that responsibility."

Blazis is working heavily with people in Computer Science on several inter-departmental initiatives. One is the Metacenter project. The Metacenter is an NSF initiative that would establish a high-speed link to the NSF's backbone which connects its supercomputing centers. That network would also be a high-speed link to a number of other industries and schools across the country. This particular network would support downloading of images and multimedia connections, unlike the kinds of resources we have now.

``It's part of an overall movement aimed at eventually establishing a high-performance computing center at UMass," says Blazis." This would be a five-college and five-campus initiative. I am working with people like Rick Adrion and Chip Weems in Computer Science on this. We've just sent out a proposal to NSF describing our intentions to set up a parallel computing site. Then part two of that would be the high-speed link up to NSF computing centers, the actual Metacenter," says Blazis.

There are smaller efforts that are also happening across campus. The Dean's office hopes to sponsor a campus-wide computing symposium. ``We have some fabulous people doing advanced computing who aren't working in science," says Blazis. ``There are folks with an interest in high performance computing who aren't necessarily scientists, so we want to hear from them. The idea is that we want to let folks know that they are not alone and that there are a number of stunning investigations going on using advanced computing technology on campus. It's a strictly intramural way of showing each other how good we are, which is something I regard as an important part of my job," says Blazis. ``In times this tough, morale needs a little propping up and we want to remind each other of how good we are. That really is a key factor in boosting morale."

The Dean and Associate Dean make a strong team that is very effective in working towards the realization of NSM's goals. ``I feel really fortunate to be working with Dean Slakey," says Blazis. ``She is someone with vision who has a lot of intestinal fortitude and a lot of focus, care and dedication for the job. I see myself as complementing the Dean," says Blazis. ``Like most young people, I'm ready to go off at a moment's notice to change the world. Linda is very thoughtful and very concerned about thinking several moves ahead and examining the impact today's actions will have in the long term. That's just tremendously useful for me. It has forced me to learn that same skill."

``Another thing that I find every single day in this job," says Blazis, ``is this immersion in the needs of the many. One of the great things about the strategic planning exercise that led to the completion of Toward 2000, has been that within our College the department heads have seen the needs of the many. It is a department head's job to protect the interests of their group," says Blazis, ``but it is also informative for them to see that we are all in the same boat, to see how good we are, and how good we could be. This daily education, the needs of the many, is a far cry from my days sitting at my SPARCstation at Yale thinking about a very focused research problem. To have to come into an environment where there are 300 faculty, some having several research projects under their direction, and trying to balance their needs against an admittedly diminishing pool of resources, is quite an education. Learning to do this is something that all levels of administration are being forced to do."

Blazis believes that there is a feeling among some folks that we are at a crisis point in the University's history. ``It's very easy to get into crisis mode," says Blazis. ``You can look at it that way, or you could say the glass is half full#here's an opportunity. We can take advantage of this time to really assess ourselves (as we've done), make decisions and plan where we want to go. We must realize that if we can survive this, things will probably only get better."

``If we can justify ourselves to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts now, we will be in a position of strength in the future," says Blazis. ``Maybe this is something I am saying as someone who is not a veteran at this level. I'm certainly a veteran of the University, but I'm not a veteran at political and administrative warfare. However, I sense that if we can show the Commonwealth, this is what we give you, they will remember that.


Dean's Office Moves to Tower

On June 12, the Office of the Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics moved to new quarters in the Lederle Graduate Research Tower.

The new address is:

College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
715 Lederle GRC Tower B
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003-4522

Phone numbers remain the same. The FAX number is (413) 545-9784.


Campus Council on Educational Technology Forms

Professor and Chair, David Stemple, has recently spearheaded the formation of a Campus Council on Educational Technology on the Amherst campus.

The council is an informal alliance of University faculty and staff who are engaged in development and deployment of educational technology. They are joined by those groups and individuals on campus who plan to use that technology. Council members will communicate with each other via electronic mail.

The purpose of the council is to improve awareness and knowledge about campus activities and planning in the area of educational technology, to facilitate collaboration of these activities, to provide easy access to those engaged in developing and deploying the technology, and to increase visibility of the campus activities in this area.

Traffic has been diverse. There is already increased communication among council individuals and increased awareness of campus activities. There have been notifications of free software, talk announcements, advertisements of new Web pages on Ed Tech, distributions of bibliographies and the advertising of Requests for Proposals in the area of Ed Tech. ``I've personally used the forum to send out a review of a talk on educational technology," says Stemple.

There are currently 107 members of the Council, and it continues to grow. ``I'm not leading this group; I simply developed the idea and am providing the medium," says Stemple. ``Our vision is that people will use this medium of communication to form communities out of which leadership and coordination will emerge."


Internet News

Kurose Co-Authors K-12 Internet Proposal

Associate Professor Jim Kurose co-authored a proposal that will get an area high-school connected to the Internet.

Northampton High-School in Northampton, MA is in line to receive over $34,000 in equipment and software to set up an IBM compatible computing environment throughout the school, allowing students in all departments to tap into the Internet for all kinds study.

The grant is part of the Massachusetts Department of Education's Technology Capital Matching Grant program which distributes about $2.6 million for computer and technology related equipment.

Professor Kurose has been involved in K-12 outreach for many years. He helped to start and is on the superintendent's technology education committee in his town. In this capacity, he helps to educate teachers on how to use the schools' computer systems, how to use the Internet and how to promote the use of computers in education.

Kurose's research interests are real-time and multimedia communication, network protocols for parallel machines, operating systems, and modeling and performance evaluation.

New Internet Course for Non-Majors Offered

Professor Wendy Lehnert has designed a new course for non-computer science majors who want to learn how to navigate the Internet. Called Using the Internet (CMPSCI 191A), the course will provide students with the basic skills they need to tap the Net, including file transfer protocols, online searches, Web browsers and newsgroups.

The department is offering a pilot run of the course with a limited number of students this fall.


Alumni Update

Scott Anderson, Ph.D. 1995, has accepted an assistant professorship at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA.

Martha Steenstrup, Ph.D. 1985 edited a recent publication by Prentice Hall called Routing in Communications Networks. The book is a comprehensive reference covering the range of routing techniques used in circuit-switch, packet-switched, high-speed and mobile networks. The book is meant to be used as a reference, as a foundation for comparative study of existing routing techniques, and as a catalyst in the development of new techniques. Steenstrup is a senior scientist in the Advanced Internetworking Research group at Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc. in Cambridge, MA. She develops algorithms for routing, flow control and resource allocation in wireline and wireless networks.

Calling All Alumni

We love to report on what students have been up to since graduation! This information is important to us, and we would like to ask you to help us to keep our database current. We are trying to add information about first jobs to our database, so please let us know what your first job was in addition to what you are doing now.

If you have access to email, please contact hayes@cs.umass.edu with information on your current mail address and career information. If you don't have email, please drop us a line through the U.S. postal service at:

Editor, Loose Change
Computer Science Department
Box 34610
Lederle Graduate Research Center
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003.

Thanks very much for your help. We hope to hear from you soon!

Graduate Fellowships & Awards

Kousha Etessami has been awarded the Best Student Paper Award (joint with another student) for the 1995 IEEE Structure in Complexity Theory Symposium. Kousha recently learned of more good news when he was awarded a very competitive postdoc position at DIMACS in New Jersey for the upcoming year, and a postdoc the following year at the BRICS Institute in Aarhus, Denmark.

Willard McDonald, a graduate student in the Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics, received an Honorable Mention in a contest for a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Willard was awarded the opportunity to apply for up to 10 hours of CPU time in one of 5 NSF Supercomputing centers.

Erich Nahum, has recently received a fellowship for the coming academic year from the Computer Measurement Group (CMG). CMG is an industrial professional society concerned with measurement and performance of computer systems and networks. The fellowship is awarded to only two students each year. Nahum is the first UMass recipient of the award.

Graduate student David Skalak and incoming student Nathan Sitkoff have been awarded UMass Graduate School Fellowships for the 1995-1996 academic year. The fellowships are designed to promote the recruitment and retention of academically superior students. Skalak has been awarded a $6,500 fellowship. Sitkoff's fellowship is in the amount of $10,000.

Peri Tarr has been awarded an IBM Cooperative Fellowship for the 1995-1996 academic year. The fellowship provides payment of the student's tuition and a $12,000 stipend for the academic year. The aim of the fellowship program is to promote student involvement in research projects being conducted at IBM.

Summer Interns

Graduate student Dorothy Mammen is spending the summer doing an internship at Xerox PARC. She is working with Bernardo Huberman in the area of the Dynamics of Computation. Dorothy's work will be in developing, implementing and testing algorithms for the cooperative solution of hard problems.

Graduate student Sneha Kasera is working as a summer intern at AT&T Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ. Sneha is working in the field of multimedia traffic on mobile computing networks.

Undergraduate Awards & Honors

Steven Battisti has been awarded a Senior Leadership Award by the UMass Office of Alumni Relations. The awards are given to seniors who have had leadership responsibilities during their undergraduate years. Recipients were honored at an awards luncheon in May.

Alexander Lowry won first prize at the 10th Annual Math Competition sponsored by the UMass Math Department. He received a $1,600 cash prize that is supplied by EDS. The competition is open to all first and second year students.


Recent Technical Reports

To access technical reports:

	anonymous ftp to: ftp.cs.umass.edu/pub/techrept/techreport

	Web site is http://www.cs.umass.edu/

	or contact:

	Librarian (Techrept@cs.umass.edu)

	Department of Computer Science, Box 34610

	University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-4610

	(413)545-2744 Fax: (413)545-1249

* There is a per page charge for hardcopy of thesis papers


Loose Change is published quarterly by the Computer Science Department, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Your suggestions, comments and contributions are welcome. Please send them to the address below.

Editor: Karen J. Hayes

Phone: (413) 545-3651

email: Hayes@cs.umass.edu 

Fax:(413) 545-1249 

Web: http://www.cs.umass.edu/

Contributors: David W. Stemple 

Photos: University Photographic Services


Posted: August 15, 1995