Fall 1998

Job Opening in Seattle, WA

D. Thiebaut
I'm working as the Producer on a RPG (role playing game) for the PlayStation in Seattle, WA and we're looking for a couple of people to fill out the team.  Neither position is programming oriented, but they might be of interest to some CS students/winter graduates.  These aren't intended to be internship positions, although at least the Director's Assistant and possibly a Designer position could be.  If you are interested please feel free to contact me via email or give a call.  The requirements could be flexible in some areas depending on the candidate.  Both positions should start near the beginning of 1999.

Anna Farr '90

[Posted 18 Dec 1998]

Summer Internship Opportunities

D. Thiebaut
Here is a note from Andrea Tulenko-Catlin, who recently joined Smith to start administering the engineering program.

If interested, contact Andrea Tulenko-Catlin,

[Posted 7 Dec. 1998]

Job opportunity at DataStudy

D. Thiebaut
I am posting a note I got from Katie Moriarty, Smith '97. Her company is hiring programmers.

[Posted 22 Jan 1998]

Free Lunch! and Superstitious Learning in People and Machines

D. Thiebaut
Hi again. Here's an announcement for the last MacArthur Chair series talk of the semester, given by David Jensen from UMass. Five-college faculty AND STUDENTS are more than welcome, so please pass this on to anyone who might be interested.

Thanks, -Lee Spector

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Free Lunch !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Superstitious Learning in People and Machines:
Understanding and Correcting a Common Error

a presentation by

David Jensen

12:00 Noon, Friday, December 4
Adele Simmons Hall Auditorium
Hampshire College


When presented with random data, human subjects often believe they can discover predictive patterns. This belief lies at the root of many superstitions about gambling, sports, and stock market trading. While we have come to expect such beliefs in humans, we don't expect them in machines. Unfortunately, many machine learning algorithms are distinctly superstitious -- they infer the existence of patterns from purely random data. My colleagues and I have explored this phenomenon in machine learning algorithms, and we have uncovered surprisingly simple mechanisms that cause it.

In this talk, I will discuss one simple but common statistical error in the reasoning of human and artificial agents. This error can arise whenever an agent generates multiple items (e.g., classification rules), scores each item based on a data sample, and selects the item with the maximum score. If the agent does not adjust for the statistical properties of the maximum score, its reasoning can be erroneous. This error causes three known pathologies in machine learning algorithms and a variety of similar pathologies in humans. I will present evidence of these pathologies, explain how they arise, and discuss three solutions for both artificial and human agents. I will conclude by addressing the question "Why does such a simple statistical error cause so much mischief?"

David Jensen is Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research focuses on machine learning, data mining, and statistics. Prior to joining the UMass faculty, he was a technology analyst for the U.S. Congress.

Sponsored by the MacArthur Chair Program on Inquiry-Based Learning in People and Machines. Contact Lee Spector ( for information.

[Posted 25 Nov 1998]

"The Approximability of NP-hard Problems: A Survey"

D. Thiebaut
There will be a special Computer Science Department and Theory Colloquium on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 2:30pm in LGRT 103:

"The Approximability of NP-hard Problems: A Survey"

Sanjeev Arora, Princeton University

Abstract: Since many optimization problems are NP-hard, researchers have tried to design approximation algorithms, which provably compute solutions whose cost is within a small factor of the cost of the optimum solution. During the past decade, very good approximation algorithms have been designed for many problems. For some other problems, we now know that no good approximation algorithms exist if P is different from NP. (In other words, if a good approximation algorithm exists for these problems, then P is equal to NP and hence an exact algorithm exists.)

The talk will survey these two areas of active research.

Sanjeev Arora is one of the leading --- if not the leading researcher --- responsible for the recent breakthroughs in approximability of NP-complete problems. This will be a wonderfully intelligible and enlightening survey talk.

[Posted 25 Nov. 1998]

Web assistance needed

D. Thiebaut
Go to the Smith Announcement page and search for the word "PRONTO"...

[Posted 18 Nov 1998]

Undergrad. Research Internship Opportunities

D. Thiebaut
Los Alamos National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., and Sandia National Labs (in CA and NM) offer students an entire academic semester of research experience as participants in the Undergraduate Research Semester, with opportunities in

For more information, visit

[Posted 16 Nov. 1998]

Knowledge Representation for the World Wide Web

D. Thiebaut

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Free Lunch !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


             Knowledge Representation for the World Wide Web

                           a presentation by

                             James Hendler

                    12:00 Noon, Monday, November 2
                     Adele Simmons Hall Auditorium
                           Hampshire College


One of the most exciting changes in computing in the past
decade has been the introduction of the world wide web and the
internationally expanding internet, which make enormous amounts
of information available to users regardless of location. This
access, however, has made for information management problems
beyond the range of most systems to handle.  AI systems,
combining intelligent agent technologies with large knowledge
bases have long been proposed as a leading contender for helping
to deal with searching, managing, and filtering this wealth of

Unfortunately, to date AI systems have not yet accomplished all
that is expected from them in the information technology arena.
One of the reasons for this is the lack of a memory
infrastructure that can support such searches.  Traditional
databases don't provide enough semantics or expressivity for the
needs of information agents, while AI KR systems don't scale to
the massive sizes needed for supporting intelligent search

In this talk, we look at some work which is aimed at bridging the
gap between AI and databases, and on the use of this research in
support of World Wide Web applications. In particular, we
describe the SHOE language, an ontology mark-up language for web
documents.  We show how SHOE is being used to support an emerging
community-wide web management and search tool for researchers in
microbiological epidemiology (particularly concerning documents
on "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" such as the
well-known "mad cow disease").  We also describe the Parka-DB\201
system, a combination of AI and database technology which allows
for the collection of SHOE data into knowledge bases that can be
browsed or queried by users.


Dr. Hendler is an associate professor in the Department of
Computer Science, The Institute for Systems Research, the UM
Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Department of
Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland where he has
worked since 1986. He is the author of the book Integrating
Marker-Passing and Problem Solving: An activation spreading
approach to improved choice in planning and is the editor of
Expert Systems: The User Interface, Readings in Planning (with
J. Allen and A. Tate), and Massively Parallel AI (with
H. Kitano). Hendler also serves as the Artificial Intelligence
area editor for the international journal "Connection Science,"
is an associate editor of the "Journal of Experimental and
Theoretical AI," and is on the editorial boards of a number of
other journals in the areas of intelligent agents, AI, and
robotics.  Dr. Hendler was the recipient of a 1995 Fulbright
Fellowship for his work in artificial intelligence, and will be
the program chair for the 1999 AAAI conference.

Sponsored by the MacArthur Chair Program on Inquiry-Based Learning in
People and Machines. Contact Lee Spector (
for information.

For more information, please contact: Lee Spector, MacArthur Chair
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Cognitive Science, Hampshire College
Amherst, MA 01002
413-559-5352, Fax: 413-559-5438

[Posted 30 Oct. 1998]

Schedule of Distinguished Lecture Series at Umass

D. Thiebaut

[Posted 22 Jan 1998]

Talk by Prof. Zhi-Li Zhang:

Efficient Selective Frame Discard Algorithms for

Stored Video Delivery across Resource Constrained Networks

L. Gao

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 4pm. McConnell 404

Video delivery from a server to a client across a network is an important component of many multimedia applications. While delivering a video stream across a resource constrained network, loss of frames may be unavoidable. Under such circumstances, it is desirable to find a server transmission schedule that can efficiently utilize the network resources while maximizing the perceived quality-of-service (QoS) at the client. To address this issue, in this work we introduce the notion of selective frame discard at the server and formulate the optimal selective frame discard problem using a QoS-based cost function. Given network bandwidth and client buffer constraints, we develop an $O(N\log N)$ algorithm to find the minimum number of frames that must be discarded in order to meet these constraints. The correctness of the algorithm is also formally established. We present a dynamic programming based algorithm for solving the problem of optimal selective frame discard. Since the computational complexity of the optimal algorithm is prohibitively high in general, we also develop several efficient heuristic algorithms for selective frame discard. These algorithms are evaluated using JPEG and MPEG video traces.

[Posted 27 Oct 1998]

Scholarships for future teachers

D. Thiebaut
Contact Dr. Sharon Palmer, STEMTEC's Director of Student Services, (413) 545 0734,, or go directly to

[Posted 22 Jan 1998]

Andersen Consulting on campus

D. Thiebaut
Marylin Muller, Smith '97, will be back on campus recruiting for Andersen.

She expressed her interest in meeting with CS majors before the official recruiting meeting, in an informal setting. Here's part of her letter.

[Posted 24 October 1998]

Brown University Grad. School Day

D. Thiebaut
Brown University
Department of Computer Science


Graduate School Information Day
Friday November 20th

for current college seniors interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

Have you ever wondered what graduate school in Computer Science was really like? Do you want to see what types of research graduate students and faculty are currently doing? Do you want to talk with current graduate students and faculty about the pains and pleasures of a graduate education in Computer Science? Can you appreciate the differences between a large and a small department for graduate study? Have you considered Brown University for graduate school?

Then you are invited to attend a 1-day information session in the Computer Science Department at Brown University on Friday November 20th. Here we will introduce you to graduate school at Brown and answer all your questions.

The current agenda includes:

        9:00  - 9:45    Buffet breakfast
        9:45  - 10:00   Welcome
        10:00 - 11:00   Current research at Brown
        11:00 - 11:30   Facilities tour
        11:30 - 12:00   Life in Providence
        12:00 - 1:30    Lunch with faculty and graduate students
        1:30 -  4:00    Demos and faculty office hours
        4:00 -  4:30    Meeting with graduate students
        4:30 -          TGIF/Reception

For further information contact Steven Reiss ( or visit our web page at . To register for the information day send email to

We will arrange a limited number of overnight accommodations as needed. We can also provide limited travel support where necessary.

[Posted 22 Oct. 1998]

News from Buffy White

D. Thiebaut

I just wanted to say hi, and let everyone know that I'm doing well at the new job. I hope the department is having a good semester so far! I also wanted to let you know that Communica, where I work is currently looking for software engineers. They are looking for anyone from entry level through senior level, so if you know anyone that is interested in working for a fun, small engineering company located on Cape Cod, have them e-mail me. We do all kinds of different projects for larger companies including IBM, 3COM and Sun. And, I do have to say that all that having taken computer architecture helps a lot!!! Oh, Communica also has a few summer internship positions. So, again if anyone might be interested in that have them e-mail me. Also, Communica's web page is not a very good reflection of the quality of this company (the web page is pretty bad, they're in the process of updating it now ) :)


[Posted 19 Oct 1998]

Mendenhall Fellow Talk

D. Thiebaut
Jaime Davila will be giving two talks this Fall. The first one will introduce some of the tools he is using in his research, while the second talk will concentrate on his research.

Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms

Jaime J. Davila

Wed. 28 October 1998, 4:15 p.m. Refreshements at 4:00 p.m.

McConnell 404

Neural networks (NN) are computational devices loosely based on the human brain; a number of simple processing nodes, called neurons, are connected among themselves. The computation performed by any one of these neurons is very simple, but complex behavior emerges when neurons are connected to each other. NN have been used in the past to develop computer systems capable of understanding natural languages such as English. How to best configure a NN for any particular task is still an open question. In my research I use another biologically inspired model, genetic algorithms (GA), to search for good configurations for NN attempting to solve natural language processing tasks.

In the first of my two talks, I will present an introduction to Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms. In the second talk (Nov 18th) I will be presenting the details of my own research, as well as preliminary results.

[Posted 19 Oct 1998]

Position at ACM

D. Thiebaut

                  Positions Open at Crossroads
                    Background Information
Crossroads is a student-run magazine published by the Association
ofComputing Machinery (ACM) in print and online at the Crossroads
web site ( We are currently looking for
students interested in joining the Editorial Staff.  Crossroads is
published quarterly and has a print circulation of about 15,000; the Crossroads
website receives (on average) about 1,000 hits per day.

             Positions Open -- Apply by November 1, 1998
Assistant Graphics Editor

The Assistant Graphics Editor is responsible for helping the 
Graphics Editor solicit graphics and edit graphics for
They will also produce graphics or artwork as needed, design
promotional materials as needed, and help format all graphics
in the appropriate format. 

General Editor

The General Editors are responsible for the solicitation and
collection of 
all articles and columns. Specific responsibilities include: 

  -Invite submissions of articles 
  -Participate in deciding which articles to select for each issue 
  -In charge of the first phase in editing each article chosen
   for publication 
  -Maintain contact with authors about the status of their
  -Participate in the general administration of Crossroads 

Assistant Business Manager

The Business Manager is responsible for the business aspects of
running a magazine. 
The Assistant will aid in the following responsibilities, in
coordination with the Business Manager:

  -Develop and implement a plan to solicit print and web-based
  -Act as liason between the Crossroads editorial board and the 
   ACM headquarters business manager 
  -Assist the ACM headquarters business manager in soliciting
   advertising for Crossroads 
  -Maintain the rate card 
  -Maintain the web-based advertising (receiving banners from
   advertisers, formatting Crossroads web pages to house the ad, etc.) 

Assistant Publicity Manager

The Publicity Manager will coordinate activities to help promote
The Assistant will help the Publicity Manager with the following

  -Develop and implement a plan to publicize Crossroads both in
   print and online.
  -Submit Crossroads to appropriate search engines, design flyers
   to announce calls for articles, find appropriate awards to
   nominate Crossroads for, write press releases, etc. 
  -Research and list appropriate mailing lists, university
   research labs, usenet groups, etc. for each issue so that calls for articles
   can be 
   targeted to these resources 
  -Maintain the xrds-announce mailing list and send appropriate
   messages over it 
  -Act as liason between the Crossroads editorial board and the
   ACM headquarters personnel who track the popularity of Crossroads 

Managing Editor

The exact description of this job is about to change, but here is
a rough idea of what would be involved:

  -Recruiting new staff members as needed
  -Helping to maintain the Crossroads web site
  -Tracking and reporting status of submitted articles, corresponding with
   authors as necessary
  -Assisting other staff as requested

For more information
More information about Crossroads can be found at our web site,

The Staff Policy can be found at:
If you would like more information, please
contact us at
Sincerely yours,
Crossroads Editorial Staff

To apply for these positions, go to our
online application at

[Posted 19 Oct 1998]

Winter Simulation Conference

D. Thiebaut

The INFORMS College will sponsor up to 10 students (graduate or undergraduate) and faculty members to attend the 1998 Winter Simulation Conference. The Winter Simulation Conference is the premier technical meeting for exchange of information on simulation. The program consists of tutorials on fundamentals of discrete event simulation methods, tutorials on simulation software/modelware by leading vendors, reports on applications by practitioners, and results of research from leading universities and industrial research organizations. The tutorials are primarily targeted for newer members of the simulation community. This year, the conference will be held in Washington DC, December 13-16, 1998. Get more information from the conference website at

The awards are for students and faculty members who are women or minority, and for faculty members who teach at predominantly women's or minority colleges. In all cases, the awards are limited to student and faculty members who have not previously attended the Winter Simulation Conference, and will not be co-author of a presentation at the 1998 conference. Awards will range between $100 and $300 depending on the situation, and can be applied towards registration and other expenses. Note that the early registration cost (received by November 13, 1998) is $295 for members of ASA, ACM, IEEE, INFORMS, or SCS; $345 for non-members; and $30 for full-time students.

An on-line application form for this sponsorship program is available at First consideration will be given to applications received by November 2, 1998 so please respond promptly. If you do not have Web access, contact me to get a mail-in application.

[Posted 15 Oct. 1998]

Talk by Jaime Davila: Neural Nets and Genetic Algorithms

D. Thiebaut

Wednesday, Oct 28, 4:15 p.m. location TBA

Neural networks (NN) are computational devices loosely based on the human brain; a number of simple processing nodes, called neurons, are connected among themselves. The computation performed by any one of these neurons is very simple, but complex behavior emerges when neurons are connected to each other. NN have been used in the past to develop computer systems capable of understanding natural languages such as English. How to best configure a NN for any particular task is still an open question. In my research I use another biologically inspired model, genetic algorithms (GA), to search for good configurations for NN attempting to solve natural language processing tasks.

In the first of my two talks, I will present an introduction to Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms. In the second talk I will be presenting the details of my own research, as well as preliminary results.

[Posted 15 Oct 1998]

Radically Rethinking Introductory Computer Science Educatio

D. Thiebaut
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Free Lunch !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      Radically Rethinking Introductory Computer Science Education

                           a presentation by

                           Lynn Andrea Stein

                    12:00 Noon, Friday, October 23
                     Adele Simmons Hall Auditorium
                           Hampshire College

      Introductory computer science education is entrenched in an
      outdated computational model. Although it corresponds neither
      to our computing environments nor to our work, we insist on
      teaching our introductory students computation-as-calculation,
      a mathematical problem-solving view of the role of the computer
      program. We can dramatically improve this situation -- and, -- as
      a corollary, all of undergraduate computer science -- by
      focusing on the kind of dynamic, interactive, inherently
      parallel computation that occurs in spreadsheets and video
      games, web applications and robots.

Lynn Andrea Stein is an Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Laboratory for Computer Science. She is currently on sabbatical leave at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, where she is writing a radical introductory computer science textbook.

Professor Stein's research spans the fields of cognitive robotics, commonsense reasoning, software agents, human-computer interaction and collaboration, and object-oriented programming. She is author or co-author of more than 30 publications and has served on the program committees of numerous national and international conferences in these fields. She is co-founder and organizer (1993) of the Robot Building Event at the national conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. From 1991 to 1996 she served as Associate Chair and then Chair of the AAAI's Symposium Committee; she is currently an Executive Councillor of the AAAI. Sponsored by the MacArthur Chair Program on Inquiry-Based Learning in People and Machines. Contact Lee Spector ( for information.

[Posted 22 Jan 1998]

Morgan Stanley

D. Thiebaut
Morgan Stanley will be on campus interviewing on Oct. 14, 1998, at 7:00 p.m. in Neilson. Their priority is to talk to CS majors about job opportunities.

[Posted 26 Sept. 1998]

Anouncing Microsoft Women's Technical Scholarship

L. Gao
Microsoft is committed to building great products. To do that, we need a wide range of great perspectives from both men and women. The Microsoft Women pursue studies in computer science and related technical disciplines. Microsoft is offering a full-tuition scholarship to one outstanding undergraduate at your university or college for the 1999 2000 academic year. Applications must be postmarked by Friday, January 29, 1999, or by your school Microsoft will review all applications and select final candidates on the basis of eligibility, quality of application, and interest in the PC/software industry. Microsoft will interview the finalists by the end of February 1999. The name of the winner will be announced in March 1999. To get more information about the program and application procedure, check out

[Posted 25 Sept 1998]

MIT on campus

D. Thiebaut
MIT will be interviewing on campus on Cotober 16, 1998. Check with the CDO for more information.

[Posted 22 Sept. 1998]

DOE Energy Research Fellowship

D. Thiebaut
"Opportunities for college undergraduates to participate in Argonne National Laboratory's research projects. Eligibility: GPA 2.5 or better, US citizen or permanent resident, sophomore, junior, or senior standing.

Go to for more information. Deadline Oct. 1st!

[Posted 22 Sept. 1998]

Little Sister/Big Sister program needs help

D. Thiebaut
[Received from Carrie Keesling] "I am writing on behalf of the Big Sister/Little Sister Program, which is a division of the Student Alumnae Association of Smith College. We are interested in employing a student assistant who is well-versed in Microsoft Access and is interested in working closely with our program in database maintenance. This position would continue through the spring semester. If you have any suggestions of possible interested parties, please email me at this address."

Carrie Keesling

[Posted 20 Sept. 1998]

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

D. Thiébaut
The NSF has a $15,000 fellowship program for seniors interested in going to graduate schools.

To get the Program Announcement, send email to, leave the subject blank, and for the message enter:

	get fmgfkitp.txt (for instructions to access the pdf files)
	get fmgfkitd.txt (for instructions to access the Word for Windows files)

[Posted 15 Sept. 1998]

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