Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university began as the Carnegie Technical Schools, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1900. In 1912, the school became Carnegie Institute of Technology and began granting four-year degrees. In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to form Carnegie Mellon University. The university's 140-acre main campus is 3 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh. Carnegie Mellon has seven colleges and independent schools: the Carnegie Institute of Technology (engineering), College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mellon College of Science, Tepper School of Business, H. John Heinz III College and the School of Computer Science.

In 2010, the Wall Street JournalĀ ranked Carnegie Mellon 1st in computer science, 4th in finance, 7th in economics, 10th overall, and 21st in engineering according to job recruiters.

Honors: A Technology Powerhouse

Carnegie Mellon News

Carnegie Mellon University News

Lorrie Faith Cranor has been named the next director of the CyLab, Carnegie Mellon University's security and privacy institute, effective January 15. CyLab, founded in 2003, brings together security and privacy experts from all schools across Carnegie Mellon with the vision of creating a world in which technology can be trusted.

"I'm honored and thrilled to serve as CyLab's next director," Cranor said. "I look forward to supporting CyLab's ongoing success and bolstering research aimed at making our increasingly digital world safe and trustworthy."

Cranor is the FORE Systems Professor of Computer Science and of Engineering and Public Policy, and directs the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security (CUPS) Laboratory. She is a co-director of Carnegie Mellon's Privacy Engineering master's program, and served as chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2016.

An internal committee conducted a rigorous international search for director candidates. Cranor was selected for her leadership in the field and for her vision of the next phase of CyLab's growth.

"Lorrie's extensive leadership experience and background, as well as her recent government experience as the FTC's chief technologist, make her an exceptional choice as CyLab's new director," said Jon Cagan, interim dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering.

Having played a key role in building the usable privacy and security research community, Cranor co-edited the seminal book Security and Usability and founded the Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS). She is a co-founder of Wombat Security Technologies Inc., a security awareness training company.

Cranor has authored over 150 research papers on online privacy, usable privacy and security, and other topics. Her current research projects include password usability and security, privacy for the Internet of Things, and development of meaningful and usable privacy notices and consent experiences.

Before joining the Carnegie Mellon faculty, Cranor received her doctorate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and was a member of the secure systems research group at AT&T Labs-Research. She is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and she is a member of the ACM CHI Academy.

Cranor's appointment follows that of Douglas Sicker, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, who has served as CyLab's interim director since Sept. 1, 2017. Sicker stepped in after the previous director, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor David Brumley, took a leave of absence to help grow his startup company, ForAllSecure.

Mon, 14 Jan 2019

As members of Carnegie Mellon University's NextManufacturing Center, Kate Whitefoot and Levent Burak Kara are using additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, to reimagine what is possible when creating component parts.


Kate Whitefoot

"What parts consolidation allows us to do is monolithically make components that would normally have to be assembled together," said Whitefoot, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy. "This can substantially reduce the costs associated with making those parts, and also potentially allow us significant weight savings. So this is something that manufacturers are really interested in, particularly in industries like aerospace and automotive."

By consolidating multiple different sized parts into one part, Whitefoot can decrease the number of fasteners, remove mating surfaces associated with the parts, and monolithically print these parts. Under certain conditions, this can make them stronger than multiple parts that were, for example, welded together.

By redesigning the geometry of the parts to further reduce weight, Whitefoot's research could revolutionize many industrial sectors — particularly aerospace and automotive. When part consolidation is leveraged to bring down the production costs associated with the process, additive manufacturing becomes more cost competitive with more traditional manufacturing methods. By consolidating parts, Whitefoot and Kara are not only reducing production cost and weight savings, but also significantly decreasing the time spent printing the build.

One reason why this is so attractive in the aerospace sector is because pounds directly translate into fuel use throughout aircrafts' lifetimes. Every ounce saved by optimizing a part's size and weight can help offset that fuel use, thereby reducing costs and environmental impacts.

"If we can use these methods to significantly reduce production costs, then many more industries would be able to adopt additive and then take advantage of the performance benefits that it can bring," Whitefoot said, "which includes opening up the design space and potentially causing significant weight savings, having huge cost and environmental benefits when it comes to applications where we translate into fuel use."

Being able to merge parts and produce them as one single monolithic part is a giant leap for parts manufacturing, but the researchers want to take it a step further — toward automatic redesign. Whitefoot is working with Kara to automate the optimization of metal part shapes created through additive manufacturing — minimizing the weight of these parts, as well as the cost of production.


Levent Burak Kara

"With the advance of additive manufacturing, now we can manufacture more complex geometries," said Kara, a professor of mechanical engineering. "One thing that makes additive topology optimization attractive is that we can now manufacture parts that were only theoretically possible before. Within the parts, complex internal geometries can be produced to minimize the overall mass of the part, while making sure that the structure can withstand all the external forces applied to it as well as a traditionally machined part could."

Whitefoot and Kara are developing methods that allow for the automatic optimization of parts. With this research, a manufacturer could upload a CAD file of a set of parts, and these methods would automatically gauge the optimal way this set of parts should be consolidated.

"Taking several parts and automatically being able to synthesize them into one uniquely geometric part may not have been feasible before," Kara added, "but with additive manufacturing, we can now not only optimize for the best combination of these parts, we can actually create the parts that were impossible to create with traditional machining methods."

Whitefoot and Kara are undergoing an initial one-year project with Boeing to demonstrate the feasibility of the methods they have developed. On the commercial market, it takes time to move from having a workable method in the research stage to actual commercial life ability — but the researchers forecast that this technology could be available commercially within a five-year time horizon.

"We're doing this to help additive manufacturing engineers and designers streamline the process of creating more automated tools," Whitefoot said, "so additive design can really move from an art to a science."

Fri, 11 Jan 2019

Carnegie Mellon University's Cristiana Lara and Ignacio Grossmann, ExxonMobil and the National Energy Technology Laboratory have developed a new model to help plan for the future of energy.

"We are conducting research to address the planning of capacity expansion in the electricity generation infrastructure," said Lara, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, "assuming an increasing share of power generation from renewables, and the possibility of including baseline fossil power generation and energy storage systems."

In a paper they published in the European Journal of Operational Research, the team addresses how new large-scale optimization models are required for predicting and planning where power will come from over the next 20 to 30 years.

Renewable power generation, such as solar and wind, comes with its own set of problems. The sun is not always shining; the wind not always blowing. Due to the intermittent nature of renewable power generation, it is necessary to plan for possible fluctuations in power on an hour-by-hour basis to ensure the reliability and flexibility of the system. There already exist a number of sustainable fossil energy systems that can be used to generate a baseline of power to mitigate this intermittency, and further development of energy storage systems can help as well.

"Advanced optimization modeling techniques have been developed for the planning of cost-effective, long-term sources for power generation in a given region," said Grossmann, a professor of chemical engineering. "These choices include both fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and nuclear - and renewables, such as wind, solar and hydro. Together, the combination of these sources will be able to satisfy forecast power demands and variability in renewable generation, while anticipating development of new power storage technologies."

The model, which uses multiperiod mixed-integer linear programming, is applied to a given area, such as a state or an independent systems operator consisting of existing and potential generators, along with potential energy storage units. From there, the objective is to find the location, year, type, and number of generators and storage units to install; when to retire the generators, or extend their lifetime; the approximate power flow between these locations; and the approximate operating schedule in order to meet the projected demand while minimizing costs.

Since the corresponding programming model involves millions of variables and constraints, advanced commercial optimization software cannot solve these problems. Therefore, Lara and Grossmann have developed a special solution algorithm, which allows them to effectively optimize these problems, typically in just a few hours.

In order to test their model and decomposition algorithm, the team applied it to a case study on the Texas Interconnection, managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The results show that their framework can provide substantial speed-up, and allow the solution of larger instances. This improvement in solution time allows one to perform several sensitivity analyses, and better understand the drivers for a variety of scenarios.

With the help of this new optimization model, future energy infrastructure will not only be more productive and cost effective, but more environmentally efficient as well, bringing the full benefit of next-generation energy technologies to the world.

Fri, 11 Jan 2019

Carnegie Mellon University, world-renowned for computer science and artificial intelligence, has launched a free, online curriculum for high school students that helps instructors teach programming skills using engaging graphics and animations.

The curriculum fills a gap between introductory computer science educational materials available for grades K-8 and the rigorous Advanced Placement courses that the most advanced students might take later in high school, said David Kosbie, an associate teaching professor and co-director of the School of Computer Science's new Computer Science Academy.


Carnegie Mellon has launched a free, online curriculum for high school students that helps instructors teach programming skills using engaging graphics and animations.

"This isn't 'drag and drop' programming," Kosbie said. "We're teaching them to use Python, a text-based programming language that is the most widely taught language at the university level."

Python also is one of the most popular programming languages in industry, used by such organizations as Google, Amazon and Facebook.

The CS Academy was established and its CS1 curriculum developed in response to requests from secondary school teachers and principals, who face growing demands from parents for computer science education but must cope with a lack of educational standards for computer science, a paucity of trained teachers and limited teaching materials.


Students from Pittsburgh area high schools piloting the Computer Science Academy’s new curriculum participated in puzzle-solving challenges at CS1 Day last spring at CMU's Pittsburgh campus.

Now being piloted in 40 schools, CS1 will be available for general use this fall, free of charge. It is designed for use by classroom teachers, not as a self-guided online course.

One of CS1's distinctive features is graphics and animation exercises for each unit that were developed by dozens of Carnegie Mellon computer science students.

"Most of the students involved in the project are just a few years older than the high school students who will be using CS1," said Erin Cawley, program manager for the CS Academy and a former K-12 computer science educator. The idea, she explained, was to make the exercises as engaging and fresh as possible.

Focusing the exercises on graphics also pays dividends in the educational process.

"The hardest part of programming for many novices is debugging" — finding errors in programs and fixing them, Kosbie said. "With graphics, it's easy for students to see what went wrong. 'Oh, the ear shouldn't be on the forehead, it should be over here.'"

CS1 includes a number of tools to aid teachers, including an image inspector tool that can show the teacher where in an exercise a student is having trouble. Exercises also are graded automatically, freeing up the teacher's time for instruction.

Cawley said the curriculum is useful to teachers regardless of whether they have experience in computer science. Extensive teacher training and online support is available through the CS Academy.

Though appropriate for any level of high school, CS1 is the first in a planned four-year sequence of coursework and ultimately is envisioned as a ninth-grade course.

CS1 was initially piloted in 14 high schools with 400 students in 2017-2018. The pilot program was expanded by 26 schools and another 1,300 students during the current school year. Most of the schools are in western Pennsylvania, but others are in such states as Texas, New Jersey and Washington.

Mark Stehlik, SCS assistant dean for outreach and co-director of the CS Academy, said the curriculum isn't easy, but students in the pilot schools have had notable success, including those who attend under-resourced schools.


Mark Stehlik, left, and David Kosbie, co-directors of the School of Computer Science’s Computer Science Academy, address students from 13 Pittsburgh-area high schools who were participating in a pilot study of the academy’s new computer science curriculum last spring.

The CS Academy is supported by SCS and by gifts from Seth Merrin, philanthropist and the CEO of the institutional equities marketplace Liquidnet; and from former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris. Merrin established Rwanda's Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for students orphaned during or after the Rwandan genocide, which is one of the schools now using CS Academy.

Thu, 10 Jan 2019

Machine learning has grown dramatically in engineering and computer science in recent years with the explosion of interest in artificial intelligence. In machine learning, humans — engineers and computer scientists — feed large data sets into a neural network model to train the model to learn from data and eventually identify and analyze patterns and make decisions.

Carnegie Mellon University's Gauri Joshi is researching the analysis and optimization of computing systems. Joshi, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), was has been named a recipient of a 2018 IBM Faculty Award for her research in distributed machine learning. Faculty Award recipients are nominated by IBM employees in recognition of a specific project that is of significant interest to the company and receive a cash award in support of the selected project.


For her research into research in distributed machine learning, Gauri Joshi earned a 2018 IBM Faculty Award.

Joshi's research is about distributing deep learning training algorithms. The datasets used to train neural network models are massive in size, so a single machine is not sufficient to handle the amount of data and the computing required to analyze the data. Therefore, datasets and computations are typically divided across multiple computing nodes (i.e. computers, machines, or servers), with each node responsible for one part of the data set.

In a distributed machine learning system with data sets divided across nodes, researchers use an algorithm called stochastic gradient descent (SGD), which is at the center of Joshi's research. The algorithm is distributed across the nodes and helps achieve the lowest possible error in the data. It requires exact synchronization, which can lead to delays.

"My work is about trying to strike the best balance between the error and the delay in distributed SGD algorithms," Joshi said. "In particular, this framework fits well with the IBM Watson machine learning platform; I will be working with the IBM Watson Machine Learning vision; I will be working with the IBM Research AI team."

In every iteration of the SGD, a central server is required to communicate with all of the nodes. If any of the nodes slow down, then the entire network slows down to wait for that node, which can significantly reduce the overall speed of the computation.

Efficiency and speed of computation are the two main things Joshi aims to improve, both without risking the accuracy of the network.

"When you have a distributed system, communication and synchronization delays in the system always affect the proponents of the algorithm. I'm trying to design robust algorithms that work well on unreliable computing nodes," she said.

Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering in fall 2017, Joshi was a research staff member at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Because of her past experience, she was aware of the specific research projects that are relevant to the company's interests.

The funding provided by the Faculty Award will be used to support Joshi's students, who are working on the theoretical analysis for this project. In the future, she hopes to release an open source implementation of the new algorithm they have developed. Joshi plans to work with IBM to make this method available to anybody who wants to train their own machine learning algorithms using distributed SGD.

Wed, 09 Jan 2019

A yellow, steel structure constructed this fall in front of Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) will become the largest robot ever constructed in the 22-year history of the organization.

Its 45-foot-tall gantry, visible from Pittsburgh's 40th Street Bridge, was built as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prototyping project to automate its annual mat-sinking operations on the Mississippi River. The massive mats, which consist of concrete blocks wired together, shield riverbanks from erosion, helping to protect levees and ensure safe river navigation.

As big as it is, the prototype robot being built on NREC's front lawn will serve only to test and further develop systems that will become part of the final, much larger robot — a floating factory called ARMOR1 — that eventually will be deployed on barges on the Mississippi.

The NREC gantry supports a 55-foot-long, 24-ton arm that is about 20 feet above the ground. A carriage suspended from the arm will have two hoists for picking up, transporting and positioning concrete blocks so they can be tied together with wire to create the mats. Each concrete "square" is 25 feet-long, 4-feet-wide and 3inches thick and weighs 3,600 pounds.

A deck has been installed for moving four rows of concrete blocks as they are tied together; in the final, deployed robot, the conveyance system also will launch the completed mats into the river.

An automated mat-tying system, now being built and tested inside the NREC building in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville section, will be added to the outdoor assemblage in mid-2019.

The test system is an unconventional robot and bigger than any previous NREC projects, including a system for the U.S. Air Force to remove coatings from aircraft using 3-story-high, laser-equipped mobile robots and an autonomous mine truck for Caterpillar.

Steven Scott is a mechanical engineer working on the Corps of Engineers prototype.

The Corps of Engineers' ARMOR 1 final prototype robot will dwarf this current test system. It will have six of the 55-foot arms for moving concrete squares. The assembly barge will measure 180 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, said Gabriel Goldman, technical lead for the project at NREC. It will produce mats with 35 rows of concrete squares.

"And that's just the barge with the arms," he added, noting the system will include several barges. "When you zoom out, this thing is massive — and it's all floating."

Mat sinking takes place during the low-water months of August through December and is very labor intensive. Four gantry cranes are used to move concrete blocks from supply barges to a work barge where workers wire the mat together using pneumatic tools. As the mat is being assembled, the work barge inches away from shore to launch the mat along the sloping river banks. The Mat Sinking Unit, which has been in operation for 70 years, is crucial in preventing erosion to the riverbank of the Mississippi River, a vital commercial waterway that drains 41 percent of the nation's water and is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.

The goal of the automated system is to increase the amount of mats that can be assembled and launched each day, while improving worker safety and reducing operating costs. The new system will add technical skilled jobs such as robotic control operators to the ARMOR 1 workforce.

NREC is a subcontractor to SIA Solutions and is working with Bristol Harbor Group on the ARMOR 1 project. NREC is responsible for designing the robotic system to automate the entire mat assembly and launching process. Herman Herman, NREC director, is the principal investigator and Jim Arthur is the project manager.

In the latest phase of the project, NREC researchers will use the newly built robot to test each part of the process. That includes automatically picking up, moving and positioning the concrete blocks, as well as detecting when blocks are broken or otherwise defective. They also will be testing methods for automatically tying the mats together.

NREC is scheduled to finish its work by spring of 2020. The full-scale robotic system, to be deployed in 2021, will be built by another contractor.

NRECis part of CMU's Robotics Institute and performs contract research and development for a variety of governmental and industrial clients.

Wed, 09 Jan 2019

Chieko Asakawa, the IBM Distinguished Service Professor in the Robotics Institute and an IBM Fellow at IBM Research, is among 19 innovators who will be inducted this year into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Asakawa, who came to Carnegie Mellon in 2014, is being honored for her invention of the Home Page Reader (HPR), the first practical voice browser providing internet access for blind and visually impaired computer users. The HPR debuted in 1997, enabling users to surf the internet and navigate webpages through a computer's numeric keypad instead of a mouse.

The HPR soon was widely used around the world and its interface technology has been adopted by many other voice browsers.

Asakawa and the rest of the 2019 class will be honored and inducted May 1-2 at a celebration in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Inventors Hall of Fame and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Inventors Hall of Fame, a Smithsonian affiliate, has a museum at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

"The National Inventors Hall of Fame honors the innovation game-changers who have transformed our world," said Michael Oister, CEO of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. "Through inventions as diverse as life-saving medicines and web browsers for the visually impaired, these superhero innovators have made significant advances in our daily lives and well-being."

The new inductees include David Walt of Harvard University, the inventor of microwell arrays, which revolutionized genetic analysis by making it possible to analyze thousands of genes simultaneously; Turing Award winners Ken Thompson and the late Dennis Ritchie, who created the UNIX operating system and the C programming language; and Jeff Kodosky and James Truchard of National Instruments, who introduced the graphical programming language LabView™. Posthumous inductees include Joseph Muhler and William Nebergall, who developed stannous fluoride toothpaste for reducing cavities, and Andrew Higgins, who invented the landing craft known as Higgins Boats used to land U.S. troops on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944.

Asakawa, who has been blind since a swimming accident at age 14, has been instrumental in developing a number of technologies to aid people with visual impairments or other disabilities. These include technologies to help the blind community in Japan access digital Braille books, a disability simulator to help web designers make sites user-friendly to all, and standardized design and programming interfaces that help developers create accessibility tools and applications.

At Carnegie Mellon, Asakawa has worked with Kris Kitani, assistant research professor of robotics, and her students, as well as IBM Research, to create NavCog, a smartphone app that analyzes signals from Bluetooth beacons to help people with visual disabilities navigate their surroundings. The system has been deployed on the CMU campus, in a Japanese shopping mall and, most recently, at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Asakawa now is working on an "AI suitcase," a lightweight, motorized device that could guide people with visual impairments through airports or other public spaces.

Tue, 08 Jan 2019

For two decades, thousands of high school and college students have put their personal experiences with discrimination in the spotlight as participants in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards at Carnegie Mellon University.

What started as a small contest for a few Pittsburgh public high schools has expanded into a program that reaches hundreds of students across western Pennsylvania every year.

The scope of the awards continues to expand. This year, a record number schools were represented: 21 high schools and eight colleges and universities.

During fall 2017, an anthology, "Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards at Carnegie Mellon University," was published by CMU Press. The book features 91 pieces by 83 writers from the first 18 years of the awards program.

"When we started these awards, we had no idea that they would continue to exist, much less expand the way they have over the years," said Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English and founder and director of the awards program. "I continue to be in awe of these powerful young voices speaking up against discrimination and injustice in our society."

The 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards at Carnegie Mellon University will take place 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, in CMU's Cohon University Center Rangos Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

The awards ceremony will feature the student winners reading their award-winning pieces and musical performances.

Notable poems and essays from the 2019 winners include "They Sat in the Back" by CMU's Hannah Daniel, 19, which was dedicated to the victims of the 2018 shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. Daniel's poem won first place for college poetry and was one of three winning pieces that responded to the shooting.

We sat in the back.
We were 13 years old, itchy, tired, and we didn't want to be there.
We were anxious to leave our seats-
we sat in the back to sulk,
to count on our fingers how many more Saturday morning services
we would have to endure before we could check
the box for our b'nai mitzvot.
We picked at our nails,
but we sang the blessings because we loved them even still.
The minutes limped along.
We shifted in our dresses and our ballet flats that were getting a little too small.
Our stomachs rumbled as we waited for kiddush
and we sat in the back of the room.

They also sat in the back.
Our matriarchs, our door-holders,
the ones who had prepared our kiddush that morning.
The ones who knew the code to the building was the same year it was built,
the ones who drove us to this service.
They were the ones who sang in the choir,
the ones who taught your children their aleph bets.
They sat nearest to the entrance, the ones who walked with walkers.
The ones who parked right outside the temple doors to rest
their stiff backs on stiffer benches each Saturday morning.
The ones who have seen their children
and their children's children
through the sanctuary's doors.
They built this place up from the ground
and they sat in the back.

We did not want to sit in the front, where we might catch the eye of the rabbi,
where God might see our lips stumble on our prayers.
We sat in the back so we might easily slip out to use the bathroom,
to get a drink of water, to check the broken clock in the hall.
We sat in the back so that we could be the first to leave.

They sat in the back because they arrived early.
They were our living ancestors, our minyan makers.
They sat in the back and they knew your name
because they had been the first ones to welcome your family into the synagogue
with a warm hug and boker tov.

We sat in the back; we wanted to leave.
They sat in the back; they didn't have time.

Another highlight comes from Daevan Mangalmurti of Pittsburgh Obama Academy of International Studies, whose essay "Apu?" won second place for high school prose. Mangalmurti, 16, wrote about his classmates and the controversy around Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a recurring character on "The Simpsons." The following is an excerpt from his piece.

"Charles told me it was inspired by Apu. I asked who Apu was. Damian asked me if I had never watched 'The Simpsons' before. I said no. And they all started laughing. And then one of them called me Apu. It was probably Richard. Funny, isn't it? I didn't understand it then. But I felt angry enough about it to be insulted, because this was not looking good. But I didn't know enough, and there wasn't anything I could do.

"So I went home, and I asked Google about Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Name inspired by a beloved series of Bengali classic films. Not bad. A cartoon character with skin the color of turmeric and a fake Indian accent. Not great. Voiced by a white guy. Looking worse. Subject of an upcoming documentary on racism. Oh boy. How bad could this be, anyways? Pretty bad, it turns out. Calling me Apu is like calling a black man Sambo. And if no one of any decency uses the word Sambo in 2017, why does anyone use Apu? It's demeaning, it's insulting, and it assumes that all Indian people are the same and not worthy of their own individual characteristics by overshadowing them with a collection of negative American stereotypes of Indians. If you're an Indian-American kid growing up in a normal place with normal parents, Apu is a shadow hanging over you wherever you go, whatever you do."

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards is sponsored by UPMC, Cohen & Grigsby, Hachette Book Group, Champtires, CMU’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and English Department.

The 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Award Winners

High School Prose

First Place: "The Fear of Queer"
Madison Katarski, 17
Pittsburgh CAPA

Second Place: "Apu?"
Daevan Mangalmurti, 16
Pittsburgh Obama

High School Poetry

First Place (Tie): "A Sacrilegious Seder"
Madeline Bain, 17
Pittsburgh CAPA

First Place (Tie): "Searching the Lines of My Palm"
Ilan Magnani, 16
Pittsburgh CAPA

Second Place: "Rebirth of a Nation"
Destiny Perkins, 17
Pittsburgh CAPA

Third Place: "My Black, My White"
Journey Washington, 17
Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School

Honorable Mention: "Rest in Power"
Jimmy Coblin, 17
Pittsburgh CAPA

Honorable Mention: "America"
Nadia Laswad, 15
Pittsburgh CAPA

Honorable Mention: "Said"
Aaliyah Thomas, 17
Pittsburgh CAPA

College Prose

First Place: "Bravery"
Qianou (Christina) Ma, 18
Carnegie Mellon University
First-year student, Science and Humanities Scholars

Second Place: "To Forgive the Choice of Writing in These Very Words"
Xinyi (Joyce) Wang, 21
Carnegie Mellon University
Senior, Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts

Third Place: "The Hill Between Us"
Eion Plenn, 20
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "Something In-Between"
Maya Best, 20
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "Childhood Innocence, Avatar, and a Mean White Woman"
Jivak Nischal, 18
Carnegie Mellon University
First-year student, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Honorable Mention: "To the Tiger Mother Who Nearly Ate Me Alive: Open Letters from an Adoptee"
Angelica Fei Li Amatangelo, 21
University of Pittsburgh

College Poetry

First Place: "They Sat in the Back"
Hannah Daniel, 19
Carnegie Mellon University
Sophomore, Biological Sciences

Second Place: "Happy Birthday, Laquan McDonald"
Joss Green, 20
Carnegie Mellon University
Sophomore, Drama

Third Place: "A Brief Life"
Ariana Brown, 25
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "baby steps"
Amy Huynh, 21
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "All who hold fast to it"
Sydney Roslin, 21
Carnegie Mellon University
Senior, Music and English

Honorable Mention: "I Have Two Names"
Julie Heming, 22
Carnegie Mellon University
Senior, English

Read all of the winning entries.

Tue, 08 Jan 2019

Carnegie Mellon University’s Baruch Fischhoff says the key to communicating scientific research is simple: Collaborate.

“Communicating science effectively can require an unnatural act: collaboration among experts from professional communities with different norms and practices,” wrote Fischhoff in his paper “Evaluating science communication,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Those experts include scientists who know the subject matter and scientists who know how people communicate. They include practitioners who know how to create trusted two-way communication channels and practitioners who know how to send and receive content through them. They also include professionals who straddle these worlds, such as public health officials managing pandemics and climate scientists defending their work.”

Fischhoff, the Howard Heinz University Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and the interim director of CMU’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, offers an approach to facilitating communication by combining two strategies for addressing complex problems: bounded rationality, typically employed by the scientists; and satisficing, typically employed by practitioners.

Bounded rationality is the process of looking for the best possible solution to a manageable subset of a problem, while deliberately ignoring some aspects of the problem. Satisficing requires looking for an adequate solution, while considering all aspects.

In other words, scientists ignore issues they can’t treat systematically, using the restraints of their specific field of study to reach strong conclusions. Practitioners generally pay attention to anything that might be relevant and are typically willing to accept imperfect solutions. When working together properly, these two methods can lead to effective communication. But what about when they don’t?

“When these two worlds fail to connect, each is the worse for it,” Fischhoff wrote. “Scientists can overestimate how far their results generalize, and offer practitioners unsupported advice or summaries. Practitioners can absorb fragments of science, and exaggerate its value on their own. Scientists can unwittingly or naively let their values color their research or expositions. Practitioners can selectively pursue or accept convenient truths.”

As an example, Fischhoff uses an effort he participated in to aid decisions related to sexual assault by better communicating relevant scientific evidence as an alternative to the universal, contradictory advice often offered to women regarding whether to resist physically when attacked. After reviewing the limited evidence on the efficacy of self-defense measures, and interviewing a diverse group of women, men and experts on the subject, it became clear to Fischhoff and his colleagues that the answer wasn’t as simple as “yes” or “no.”

“When uncertainty is great, advice is unproven,” Fischhoff wrote. “Unless those limits are acknowledged, if things go badly, then decision-makers may bear the insult of blame and regret in addition to the injury that occurred. Whatever they did, some ‘expert’ had advised otherwise.”

This is why effective scientific communication is so important — not because it can perfectly inform decision-making every single time, but precisely because it can’t. When scientists and practitioners work together to communicate both the context and the limitations of scientific research, only then can the research be used to its full potential for the benefit of all.

Fri, 04 Jan 2019

There were many stories that came out of the 2018 midterm elections, from the Democrats gaining the majority in the House of Representatives, the Republicans keeping the lead in the Senate, and a historic number of women and minority candidates who ran and won, including the first Muslim women and Native American women elected to Congress.

U.S. Representative Susie Lee — an alumna of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University — is among the new members and was elected to represent Nevada's 3rd congressional district.

"My decision to run was a natural extension of all the work I've done in my career. And it came out of a frustration with Congress not helping the most vulnerable people in our community — the people I've been serving for the past 25 years," Lee said. She notes that the frustration with gridlock that she was feeling was commonly felt by her constituents.

"When you see that families are struggling and can't make enough money to pay their bills, they're worried about health care costs and that there's no action on gun safety legislation, there's a frustration in the type of leaders we've been electing to Congress," she said.

Lee moved to Las Vegas 25 years ago. In that time, she has built a career rooted in service to her community. She has started and led nonprofit organizations focused on education and homelessness, including her most recent role at the helm of a dropout prevention program.

"I have always been driven to service. I think that's because of my mother, who is Catholic and very spiritual," Lee said.

Those years of leadership experience played a big role in running her campaign and crafting a message that resonated with voters. She likened running a congressional campaign to starting a company and winding it down in a year's time. And as a nonprofit leader, she's no stranger to fundraising and building support for a mission.

"In a campaign you have to deal with human resources, budgeting, trying to get people invested in your cause and motivated to invest in what you're doing," Lee said. "It's different though, because in nonprofit work you're purposefully non-political, you can't be involved in campaigns. That was a challenge, but I also think it was an asset because I was used to connecting with people outside of politics."

Focused on the Issues

One disadvantage Lee faced in the general election is that she was up against a Republican opponent with very high name recognition in Nevada — Danny Tarkanian, son of longtime University of Las Vegas, Nevada basketball coach and local legend Jerry Tarkanian.

"I knew getting out of the blocks that I needed to define myself before he defined me, because people knew him," said Lee, adding that Tarkanian had previously run for political office, increasing his visibility. "I knew that I had to get out and communicate about what I stood for and who I was before they were able to attack me."

Early support and a focus on key issues helped Lee get her name out and define her message. She said her campaign focused largely on:

Health Care: "This year, we've seen the largest increase in seniors declaring bankruptcy, and in many cases it's because of health care costs. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and there are fixes that need to be made to it, but it gave millions of people access to health care when they never had access before. Now you have an administration and a Congress trying to tear the ACA apart piece by piece, and that's something that motivated people to vote."

Education: "In Nevada, we have an economy that we've struggled to diversify, and the quality of our K-12 education system is one of the impediments to us being able to attract workers and families. We need to produce an educated workforce for the future, and we want to be able to attract businesses to our state and to our district."

Environment: "A big issue unique to Nevada is the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository, which we've fought it in a bipartisan manner in this state. The federal government has been trying to force this down our throats, and we've resisted because we don't want the nation's nuclear waste coming into our state, on our roads and our railways."

Lee said she is excited to bring Carnegie Mellon-style analytical thinking to some of these complex problems.

"It's important to use data and technology to analyze and locate problems, and identify the solutions across the country that have proven to be effective. Any issue you want to take on, like mental health services or housing for example, you need to identify what the needs are and produce the resources to fill those gaps. That's what an education at Carnegie Mellon teaches you to do," she said. "Carnegie Mellon teaches you to be empirical, and really break problems down so you can solve them."

Work Ethic, Service and Swimming

Lee grew up in Canton, Ohio, one of eight children. At that time, Canton was in the midst of an economic and population decline endemic to many Midwestern "Rust Belt" towns in that era. She says her family always had enough, but that everyone worked hard and pitched in to help the family make ends meet — for her part, Lee started delivering papers as an 8-year-old. An avid swimmer, she then worked all through high school as a lifeguard.

That work ethic primed her for her years at CMU, where she balanced her undergraduate and graduate studies with a packed work schedule to pay her way through school. 

She also found time to swim for the Tartans swim team. She gives special acknowledgement to Donna Morosky, who worked in the Department of Athletics and Student Affairs for 38 years before retiring in 2013.

"Donna was my swim coach and my employer, and an incredibly important person in my life. I look back on my time at Carnegie Mellon and swimming was a big part of it," Lee said.

Her experiences also helped shape her current policy concerns.


Before joining the 116th Congress, Lee was the founding director of After-School All-Stars Las Vegas, and most recently was the president of Communities in Schools of Nevada, a dropout prevention organization.

"Student debt is a big issue in this country right now, and making sure that all kids have access to higher education is important to me," she said. "When I was younger, I had a government that worked for the middle class. I was able to put myself through school without any help from my parents because of programs like Pell grants and work study. I want to turn around and help others because I've received so much help at critical points in my life."

She looks back fondly on all that hard work, the constant running from class to jobs and back again, and the bonds she forged in the local neighborhoods. She said that connecting with people locally is the No. 1 thing young people should do if they're interested in politics or passionate about a specific issue.

"Don't just study it, practice it. If there's an issue that's driving you that you want to be involved in, go out and be an activist, organize around it, educate yourself. Get out from behind your desk and get involved in the community. You have to understand what you're fighting for," Lee said.

Thu, 03 Jan 2019