Graduate Admissions Visit 2013

February 21, 2013

Poster Session

PhD student Xin Wu explains his research at the poster session

PhD student Xin Wu explains his research at the poster session {.PhotoCaption}

This year's graduate admissions visit for prospective students was a whirlwind of activities over three days, but much work went on before and after the recruiting event - one of the Department of Computer Science's most important activities.

Capitalizing on the success of last year's visit, the department again invited top applicants working or studying in the United States to a pre-admissions visit of the campus - this time on February 21-23.

"It gives us a chance to talk about what sets Duke apart," said Marilyn Butler, graduate program coordinator for the department. "We're a small school, and this visit is a chance for us to sell ourselves and what we do well. We have lots of casual contact; everybody knows everybody; and the students get a lot of faculty one-on-one time. There are some real advantages to this program."

Following an overview of the department on Friday, February 22, each visitor had at least five interviews with faculty members, sometimes meeting with research groups and postdoctoral researchers as well.

In addition, a poster session on Saturday and research talks on both Friday and Saturday helped to generate excitement for the variety of research occurring in the department. Associate Professor Landon Cox gave a talk on "Pwning Mobile Gaming through Collaborative Rendering," discussing how GPU rendering for gaming on mobile devices could be supported by offloading part of the job to the server. In his talk "No Free Lunch in Data Privacy," Assistant Professor Ashwin Machanavajjhala analyzed the trade-off between accuracy and privacy in social advertising and described new research about a "no free lunch" theorem that argues privacy tools cannot simultaneously guarantee utility and privacy for all types of data. Graduate student Susanna Ricco outlined the mathematical model she used to extract motion information from general video sequences in her talk "Dense Long-Range Motion Estimation in Video with Occlusions." The results can be used to support advanced video editing applications for propagating changes to an object's appearance, and the extracted paths - written as a curve in two dimensions - also could be input for other computer vision algorithms that recognize objects or activities in scenes.

Professor Alexander Hartemink led the annual campus tour, which was moved this year from the usual Saturday to Friday when the campus would be busier, giving prospective students a more accurate view of life at Duke.

The department's graduate students were highly involved in the visit, with co-graduate student representatives Alexandros Iliopoulos and Yezhou Huang of the Graduate Recruitment Committee and last year's graduate student representative - Pablo Gainza - helping to set the schedule and to pick venues for meals and social activities. Graduate students also engaged the visitors throughout the event, volunteering to ferry them from the airport, dine with them, walk with them to professors' offices, and attend the poster session - all the while answering many questions.

Huang, whose research interests include computational biology and machine learning, noted the participation of current graduate students is important because of the similar perspectives they share with the applicants. "Additionally, the applicants are more relaxed talking with existing graduate students," he said.

After the visit, the department's graduate students continued to assist in the admissions process by offering feedback on the applicants to the Graduate Recruitment Committee and by communicating with prospective students by email. Huang, an international student from China who was not able to visit Duke before making his decision on the university, remembers chatting via email with students in the Department of Computer Science. "Every year, existing students will send emails to admitted applicants to try to answer their questions," he said.

Now that he's on the other side of the recruiting process, he sees the value in current students participating in the graduate admissions visit. "The activities themselves provide opportunities for existing graduate students to know each other's work better," he said, "and the progress in many fields."