Berg wins 2017 Helmholtz Prize

November 3, 2017

The International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) is the top international Computer Vision event, comprising the main ICCV conference and several co-located workshops and short courses. At ICCV 2017 in Venice, Italy, Professor Alex Berg won the Helmholtz Prize for his work in ICCV 2003, “Recognizing action at a distance.”

The Helmholtz Prize, formerly the “Test of Time Award”, is awarded biennially to recognize ICCV papers from at least ten years prior with significant impact on computer vision research. Berg’s paper was one of seven recognized for 2017. Berg’s co-authors on the 2003 paper were Alexei A. Efros, Greg Mori, and Jitendra Malik.

The awarded paper can be read online from Berg’s home page. For previous winners of the Helmholtz Prize, visit the ICCV Wikipedia page.

Tech companies look to universities for talent in artificial intelligence

November 1, 2017

Tech companies are pursuing artificial intelligence projects more than ever, and they’re looking at universities to recruit their new talent.

According to Dinesh Manocha, a computer science professor at UNC, artificial intelligence is an old field that has been around for more than 50 years. However, he said in an email that recent technology breakthroughs have made new and exciting applications of AI a possibility.

Manocha said these developments include increased voice recognition, automatic recognition of images and natural language processing. He said there is strong interest in developing personal robots that can perform daily chores at home, as well as semi-autonomous or autonomous cars.

According to Manocha, developments in AI and machine learning are what make products like Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home and Google Voice work.

Morgan Vickery, a UNC junior computer science major, said in an email AI can go much further than just natural language processing — reaching into realms such as game development, education, finance, industry, medicine, costumer service and transportation. She said every industry and company can benefit from the incorporation of AI.

“AI has the potential to improve company efficiency, lowers physical risk to workers, lower costs and create employment opportunities,” Vickery said.

Manocha said the leading tech companies are short of talent in AI and related areas, and so they are heavily recruiting students with a strong background in this area. He said many professors are giving up their academic jobs to join the tech industry.

Luke Zettlemoyer, an AI professor at the University of Washington, is one professor who chose to turn down a job offer as a research scientist at Google. Instead, he will continue teaching AI and running a research group at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

He said in an email his current setup allows him to keep teaching and doing research with graduate students, which he enjoys.

“It is true that some really great faculty will leave for industry — which is a shame for the students,” Zettlemoyer said. “But it also provides new opportunities for others to get hired into faculty positions and drive the next round of innovative research and teaching.”

Zettlemoyer said universities can really benefit from the industry’s impact, such as students going on to get great jobs.

According to Manocha, tech companies are already coming to UNC for AI talent.

“Many of our graduate students are heavily recruited and paid high six-digit packages,” he said.  “For example, six of my former PhD and postdocs are working in (the) Autonomous Car industry, including large companies such as Google/Waymo, Uber and many startups.”

Vickery said she is seeking jobs related to virtual, mixed and augmented reality within serious games and game development. According to Vickery, serious games are those that are used to train and teach, such as the military simulating combat situations through virtual reality.

“Computer science is already a lucrative field of study, and the demand for engineers has skyrocketed,” Vickery said. “There is such value in being technologically literate, and our society is so reliant on technology to simply function that it would be silly not to see the value in studying it.”


How will AR and VR technology improve learning within higher education?

October 31, 2017
NewsRadio 680 WPTF – Raleigh, NC

WPTF 10/27/2017 6:22:52 PM: make math brandon thank you first for augmented reality and virtual reality vr vr are growing part of the technology world now growing part of our education i spoke with mainland a computer science professor at unc-chapel Hill to find out more how will this technology is a yard vr technology improve learning within higher education i your feed trouble hell we have being doing there’s a binary surge forward and i would claim they neat researcher for our feel may consider the real one of the most well-known academic in feared that had been conducting a yarn vr research what it takes health one of the early years the stump about the russian stuff that we have developed here un feet a bet by my colleague put catcher russell taylor who had been working 18 the project called nonow manipulator and if i could take the 5th don’t it’s pretty amazing i don’t know if you ever have a chance i get it or you heard a volley of with developing the night and i am such a realist professor either through phd be patient but be like if people why you have a mechanism of old way to enable you to protect a very very strong not know world you the get a flat in march killed that’s how they can think of the pech people dialed way you can protect extremely small object and magnified it a million times taking the patient to die you can new roof i touch and able to buy things for you to touch this circus use of such structure and in cooperation with the infected farm and so our thought surely in april sign pinned to cooperate and pouch up yet i don’t know enough skilled and basically what is the yard which dumbbell of in to magnifying now object going nono surfaces million times bigger so that you can feed them with the naked eye and you can’t touch them to new york in life and you can do this it if you’re fine tooth are co located in the same place where you have one final pitch here thank you for another few months have located in the clock trump using the femme kind of stuff we all eat 

Bansal receives DARPA Young Faculty Award

October 23, 2017
October 23, 2017
Assistant Professor Mohit Bansal (right) receives the DARPA Young Faculty Award certificate from DARPA Program Manager Fariba Fahroo.
Assistant Professor Mohit Bansal (right) receives the DARPA Young Faculty Award certificate from DARPA Program Manager Fariba Fahroo.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Mohit Bansal has received the prestigious Young Faculty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — becoming only the second UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member to do so — for his work on natural language processing and machine learning.

Established in 2006, the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) “identifies and engages rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions,” and provides them with funding, mentorship and contacts, both in the Department of Defense and in industry. The DARPA-YFA is a two-year award valued at up to $500,000, with the potential of receiving up to an additional $500,000 in funding in the third year.

As a Young Faculty Awardee, Bansal has received two-year funding for his project, “Life-Long Learning: Dynamically Revising Neural Networks via Commonsense and Conversational Feedback.” Bansal was among a select group of 28 winners nationwide.

The Young Faculty Award will support Bansal’s research on developing life-long learning based artificial intelligence (AI) models that dynamically revise their neural architecture, inspired by how humans continuously learn from feedback and adapt to their surroundings. This is an innovative break from current static-architecture models that do not sufficiently self-correct or adapt to unexpected scenarios. These revisions will be based on real-time feedback from user-machine interaction and human-driven common-sense knowledge bases. The research could lead to more intelligent machine learning models, with potential groundbreaking improvements across the human-robot collaboration task spectrum.

Bansal’s lab in the computer science department in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences focuses on natural language processing and generation, multimodal and grounded machine learning, and deep learning-based data analytics.

Nemitz and Amert earn Best Student Paper at RTNS 2017

October 6, 2017

The International Conference on Real-Time Networks and Systems (RTNS) recognized doctoral students Catherine Nemitz and Tanya Amert with the Best Student Paper Award for 2017. The paper, “Real-Time Multiprocessor Locks with Nesting:
Optimizing the Common Case,” was also co-authored by Kenan Professor James H. Anderson.

The full paper can be read online.

James Anderson, Catherine Nemitz, and Tanya Amert
receive their Best Paper Awards at RTNS 2017.

Students face off in the first ever Carolina Data Challenge

September 22, 2017

In partnership with the National Consortium for Data Science, the Odum Institute, the UNC Computer Science Department and Carolina Analytics & Data Science, the Carolina Data Challenge brought over 120 students and about 25 teams from colleges all over North Carolina to compete for multiple prizes. Prizes included an Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon gift cards, Visa gift cards and camera drones.

Lily Zhang, co-director of the Carolina Data Challenge, has been planning the event for over a year. She said participants pick a data set to analyze and produce visualizations, insights and predictive models from the set. They compete in different categories to win prizes based on what they create.

“Oftentimes class teaches you the theoretical concepts, but you don’t always get the chance to apply your knowledge,” Zhang said. “I think that’s what this competition gives you a chance to do … that’s your weekend and you clear your calendar and you work on this data set.”

Sophomore Alex Kan participated in the Carolina Data Challenge and analyzed data about New York City’s crime statistics. He participated to get more experience with data sets and said he looks forward to the next competition because it is different from most hack-a-thons.

“It’s a lot more interesting because everyone is given the exact same information and people come to drastically different conclusions,” Kan said.

Elaine Kearney, co-director of the Carolina Data Challenge, said the data sets used in the competition were new to the students. One of the sets used was a compilation of tweets about Hurricane Harvey and the availability of supplies in the area.

“With Hurricane Harvey, it was actually tweets, so they were extracted from Twitter and put into a format all together in a group, so I guess you can call that a data set,” Kearney said.

Moving forward, the co-directors want the Carolina Data Challenge to be used to benefit charities, the government and other organizations in the hopes of contributing beneficial analysis.

“There’s so much data out there, we can do so much good with it, just like with the Hurricane Harvey insights that people made over this weekend,” Zhang said.


UNC-Chapel Hill startups deliver economic boost to North Carolina communities

August 15, 2017

UNC-Chapel Hill startups deliver economic boost to North Carolina communities

Carolina startups and social ventures generate $10 billion in annual revenue toward state and global economies; create more than 8,000 jobs in North Carolina and 63,000 worldwide

(Chapel Hill, N.C.— Aug. 15, 2017) – The economic value created by startups connected with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is on the rise, according to a biannual report on Carolina’s commercial and social ventures.

The mid-year analysis shows upward trends in how the University’s startup companies and social ventures are growing across North Carolina, creating new jobs that contribute to the changing workforce and bringing revenue to local and global communities. It includes ventures founded by faculty, staff and students during their time at UNC-Chapel Hill or within three years of graduating from or leaving the University.

As of June 2017, data on UNC-affiliated ventures show:

  • A 26 percent increase in the total number of ventures (475 compared to 378) since June 2016, with 75 percent of the total ventures launched (358 of 475 ventures) still active.
  • 85 percent of active ventures (306 of 358 ventures) are headquartered across 16 North Carolina counties, an 8 percent increase from the 283 UNC-affiliated ventures based in North Carolina at this time in 2016.
  • 99 percent of the $10 billion in annual revenue earned by the ventures comes from those headquartered in North Carolina.
  • 63,914 people are employed by these ventures, and 8,090 of these employees are located in North Carolina.

“Faculty, students and alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill are highly successful at not only incubating novel ideas, discoveries and technologies in classrooms, studios and labs, but also taking their innovations to market as commercial startup companies or social ventures,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. “Because the large majority of these companies establish themselves in North Carolina, they make a significant economic impact for the state by providing jobs and generating revenue in local communities. At the same time, these companies make a human impact that is global in scale through new advances that include bio-medical therapies for serious diseases, technological breakthroughs and social endeavors that improve the lives of many citizens in North Carolina and beyond.”

The economic impact analysis is conducted by Innovate Carolina, a meta-group of more than 200 university faculty, staff and student leaders who collaborate to create new connections, identify gaps and strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial environment on and off campus.

A number of Carolina startups made significant advances in 2017, including:

G1 Therapeutics, a clinical-stage oncology company in Research Triangle Park with ties to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, raised approximately $108.6 million in an initial public offering of its stock in May. The company began trading on the NASDAQ Global Market under the ticker symbol “GTHX.”

Impulsonic, a 3D audio company that creates true-to-life sounds in virtual reality experiences and games, was acquired by Valve Corporation, a video game and digital distribution company. Impulsonic was founded by students and researchers from Carolina’s computer science department.

Falcon Therapeutics is advancing a new approach using tumor-homing cells to treat glioblastoma cancer, the most common form of primary brain cancer and also one of the deadliest. The company recently raised $700,000 in a private equity stock offering, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It was founded by a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

410 Medical has developed a novel medical device rapidly infuses life-saving fluids during medical emergencies involving critically-ill patients. It received an investment from the Carolina Angel Networkand is the first company to receive funding from Triangle Venture Alliance, a new investment partnership among angel networks from UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University and NC Central University. The company was co-founded by a physician with a clinical faculty appointment in pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine.

Seal the Seasons partners with local farmers and uses technology to flash freeze farm-grown produce at the peak of freshness to sell to consumers 12 months a year. The company, founded by a Carolina student, has raised $750,000 in funding and sells produce at a variety of grocery stores, including Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Fresh Market and Whole Foods.

Through the support of the Innovate Carolina Network, UNC-Chapel Hill startups are positioned for success as they move through their innovation journey. With a mission to create an environment where innovators thrive, Innovate Carolina provides the right resources and connections that startup companies and ventures need to nurture their ideas.


About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 318,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 157 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.

About Innovate Carolina

Through the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Innovate Carolina is UNC-Chapel Hill’s innovation ecosystem that supports the needs of faculty, students, staff, and community members as they translate their unique ideas into practical benefit for the public good. To further cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship within the community, Innovate Carolina provides connections to incubators, accelerators, business services and campus programs, including the 1789 Venture LabLaunch Chapel HillKickStart Venture ServicesTechnology Commercialization Carolinaand CUBE, the social innovation incubator at the UNC Campus Y. Innovate Carolina also partners with the startup investor community through the Carolina Angel NetworkCarolina Research Ventures Fund and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. Follow Innovate Carolina on Facebook and on Twitter and visit


Office of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development contact: Michelle Bolas, (919) 843-6287,

University Communications contact: MC VanGraafeiland, (919) 962-7090,

Service through technology (profile of CS major Zareen Farooqui)

August 15, 2017

Zareen Farooqui is a junior studying business administration and computer science at UNC-Chapel Hill. This summer, she’s using the knowledge she gained in her classes to revamp United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Teaming for Technology Program. That program refurbishes used computer equipment and makes it available to North Carolina schools, students and nonprofit organizations at greatly reduced prices.

“We work to provide refurbished computers to underserved communities,” said Farooqui. “In school, I’m doing a lot of coding but I’m not getting my hands dirty in the actual hardware which I was able to do here.”

Farooqui’s internship was part of the APPLES Service-Learning program based out of the Carolina Center for Public Service. The student-led program pairs Carolina students with community or governmental organizations for a variety of internships in either the spring semester or during the summer.

Learn more about the APPLES Service-Learning program by visiting the program’s website.

This week, we’ll profile three Carolina students participating in the program. Watch a video about Carolina student and APPLES Service-learning intern Jennifer Barber.

By Brandon Bieltz, University Communications
Published August 2, 2017

Pasunuru, Bansal earn Outstanding Paper Award at ACL 2017

August 14, 2017
Mohit Bansal
Mohit Bansal
Ramakanth Pasunuru
Ramakanth Pasunuru

First-year doctoral student Ramakanth Pasunuru and assistant professor Mohit Bansal earned an Outstanding Paper Award at the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) 2017 conference in Vancouver, Canada. ACL is the primary conference in Natural Language Processing (NLP) research, and the Outstanding Paper designation was awarded to the top 1.5 percent of nearly 1,400 submissions. The paper, “Multi-Task Video Captioning with Video and Entailment Generation,” significantly improves the challenging task of video description generation via multi-task learning with the auxiliary tasks of video-to-video completion and premise-to-entailment generation.

The full paper is available online.

For more information on Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning research by Prof. Bansal’s NLP-ML Group, please visit

Baykal, Alterovitz earn Best Paper at RSS 2017

July 17, 2017
Ron Alterovitz

Cenk Baykal (B.S. 2015) and associate professor Ron Alterovitz earned the Best Paper award at Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their paper, “Asymptotically Optimal Design of Piecewise Cylindrical Robots using Motion Planning,” introduced a method of motion planning that allows a tentacle-like medical robot to navigate through an area of the body and reach as many target regions as possible while avoiding obstacles like bones and major organs.

The full paper is available online.

For more information on robotics and motion planning research by the Computational Robotics Group, please visit the group’s website.