Soundbyte: Fall 2000

Grapics Thriving at the University of Minnesota

Image of Interrante/Chen graphics groups
Interrante/Chen graphics groups: (l-r) Minh X. Nguyen, Seonho Kim, Xiaoyan Cheng, Gary T Dahl, Gabriele Gorla, Haleh Hagh-Shenas, Timothy M. Urness, Sunghee Kim, Alex Liberman, Victoria Interrante, Feng Li. Not pictured: Hae Young Kim, Che-Hung Kuo, and Baoquan Chen.

The need for effective visualization of data in science and medicine, the heightened expectations of users for high quality graphics, and the growing importance of multimedia give some indication of the importance of the field of graphics. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering is fortunate to have recently hired two active young researchers in this area, Victoria Interrante and Baoquan Chen. They each have many exciting projects currently underway, many involving graduate students, thus forming a growing graphics group in the department.

Graphics project 1c: Mapping a 2D texture onto a 3D surface
Graphics project 1c: Mapping a 2D
texture onto a 3D surface without
seams or distortions.
Researchers: Gorla, Interrante,
and Sapiro.

Assistant Professor Victoria Interrante, who joined the department in 1998 and is the recipient of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, brings her knowledge of art and interest in visual cognition to the science of graphics to focus on effectively communicating information through images. She is interested in shape and depth perception, shape-based feature extraction, and the representation of 3D shape through texture.

Several research projects are directed towards conveying 3D shape via lines of principal curvature. The aim is to improve visualization of shapes using textures wrapped around the shape. A project with sabbatical scholar Jack Goldfeather, Carleton College, addresses the problem of computing accurate and smoothly varying estimates of principal directions at points on the surface. Another problem in this area is to determine the kinds of texture that can aid an observer in accurately perceiving a shape. Graduate student Sunny Kim is assisting in this study. A third line of research, pursued with graduate student Gabriele Gorla and Associate Professor Guillermo Sapiro (Electrical and Computer Engineering), aims to map a texture pattern onto an arbitrary 3D shape so that the result is seamless and free of distortions, and so that the dominant direction of the texture is aligned with the direction of strongest surface curvature.

A visualization project involving multivariate datasets focuses on the problem of showing multiple distinct values simultaneously at each point in space. For example, on a map one might want to show at each point a number of different kinds of data to allow the viewer to see any relationships among the data. Color can be used to effectively represent at most two or three values at each point. Interrante, assisted by undergraduate Hae Young Kim, is investigating the use of texture variations to add more dimensions to the multivariate visualization. (See figure at page bottom.)

Numerical simulations of turbulent flow and other complex phenomena produce terabytes of data, far too much to examine. Currently much is just discarded. Interrante, collaborating with Professors Ivan Marusic and Graham Candler in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, and with assistance from graduate students Jason Gott and Seonho Kim, is working on methods to automatically identify key features in the mass of data, such as the evolution of individual vortices in a turbulent boundary layer.

Graphics project 3: Extracting individual vortical structures in a turbulent boundary layer
Graphics project 3: Extracting individual vortical structures in a turbulent
boundary layer for the quantitative analysis of turbulent flows.
Researchers: Interrante, Marusic, Candler, Gott, and S. H. Kim.

Interrante is working with Professor Al Yonas of the Institute for Child Development and Dr. Stephen Christiansen, Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology, on a project whose goal is to develop automatic techniques for screening photographs of infants and young children for indications of strabismus. Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes fail to work in a coordinated fashion. Without early treatment, it can lead to a permanent loss of stereo vision ability, or even to a permanent loss of vision in the nondominant eye. The student working on this is Sunny Kim.

Assistant Professor Baoquan Chen, who joined the department fall semester, is interested in more efficient high-quality rendering of complex scenes, especially those composed of both scenes modeled by polygons and those modeled with discrete data such as clouds, smoke, and 3D medical images (e.g., MRI, CT). The two approaches to improving rendering speed are better algorithms and better hardware. Chen has worked on both approaches in the past and continues to do so. One of his current projects involves the design of an architecture that will render a mixture of polygon and volumetric data.

Graphics project 1a: Investigating the effect of texture orientation on perception of 3D shape
Graphics project 1a: Investigating the effect of texture orientation
on perception of 3D shape.
Researchers: Interrante and Kim.

Assistant Professor Baoquan Chen, who joined the department fall semester, is interested in more efficient high-quality rendering of complex scenes, especially those composed of both scenes modeled by polygons and those modeled with discrete data such as clouds, smoke, and 3D medical images (e.g., MRI, CT). The two approaches to improving rendering speed are better algorithms and better hardware. Chen has worked on both approaches in the past and continues to do so. One of his current projects involves the design of an architecture that will render a mixture of polygon and volumetric data.

Graphics project 2: Representing multi-variate data with texture pattern variations
Graphics project 1a: Investigating the effect of texture orientation
on perception of 3D shape.
Researchers: Interrante and Kim.

On the algorithm side of the problem, one approach, view dependent adaptive isosurface extraction from volumes, tries to extract only polygons that most effectively contribute to the view desired, for example, brain tissue in an MRI, thus reducing the number of polygons that have to be processed. Graduate student Xiaoyan Cheng is assisting in this project. The choice of representation of the scene, whether polygon or discrete point, can affect the efficiency of processing. In general, a combination of polygon and discrete representations can be most appropriate. Graduate students Minh Xuan Nguyen and Haleh Hagh-Shenas are assisting in this work which aims to determine the most effective representation of a scene for a desired view.

A well-known problem in graphics is the aliasing problem which can occur when 3D primitives (polygons or discrete points/pixels) are projected to the screen and the data sampling skips important information resulting in an image which is not correct. Currently anti-aliasing algorithms use a uniform method for the entire scene. Chen wants to adapt the algorithm to the content of the scene. Parts that contain high frequency content, i.e., where there is a lot of change in the scene, will take more processing than those parts with smoother content. Graduate student Che-Hung Kuo is working with Professor Chen to adjust the anti-aliasing method to adapt to the frequency of the content.

For more information, please see Chen and Interrante's Web pages.

-Bobbie Othmer

Greetings from the Department Head

B&W image of Pen-Chung Yew As we enter this new millennium, I cannot help but reflect with great pride on what we have accomplished as a department over the past ten years, and I look forward with great enthusiasm to what we can achieve during the next ten years in the exciting and explosive field of information technology (IT).

The numbers tell a lot about our fantastic success story. Ten years ago, our undergraduate enrollment was only 300, our annual research expenditure was approximately $700,000, and people were wondering why any sensible person would buy an outrageously expensive personal computer for kids to play video games on at home. Today, our enrollment has more than doubled to 620, our department has the highest GPA entrance requirement in the Institute of Technology (tied with Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), our annual research expenditure has more than sextupled to slightly more than $4M this year, and the Internet has made a personal computer in every home a necessity. More than half of the 26 faculty members have been recruited to the department in the last ten years. They brought a new vitality and fresh perspective to the department with five of them receiving prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Awards, one receiving a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and four receiving the University's McKnight Land-Grant Professorship awards. Our faculty members have appeared on national TV, are frequently interviewed by news media to provide latest IT information, chair major technical conferences, and have even started new IT companies. Information technology has affected almost every aspect of our daily life, and there is definitely a sense of excitement in the department that we are at the forefront of this new revolution.

I am deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to lead this department into the new millennium, and I feel compelled to maintain the momentum of our success. We are deeply committed to raising the national ranking of our department. In this pursuit, "quality" is key to our ultimate success. We will continue to recruit high quality faculty members and graduate students to our department. We are in the process of further increasing the quality of our research activities by revising our upper division and graduate level curriculum, improving the process of our Ph.D. qualifying examination, and expanding our Cray Distinguished Lecture Series and our weekly departmental colloquia to invite internationally renowned researchers to our department. We will further improve the quality of our teaching by encouraging faculty members to participate in various teaching programs in the University and of our student advising by actively involving our departmental student organizations such as the local ACM Chapter and the Computer Science Graduate Student Association. We will increase our interaction with industry. Our new industrial partners program will encourage research alliances with industry to leverage our research enterprise, to assist with the recruitment of our graduates, and to form a closer, long-term relationship with the IT industries within the state and nationwide. We want to reach out to more of our alumni. We thank them for their strong support over the years, and we would appreciate their continued support in the future. On October 19, 2001, we will hold our biennial departmental Open House --the first of this millennium! We hope more alumni will come back and join us this year. More details of the new industrial partners program and the Open House can be found on pages 7 and 8 of this newsletter, or by visiting our departmental web site.

We are very encouraged this year that the Dean's office and University administration have made a significant commitment to the growth of our department by including 17 new faculty positions (thereby expanding the total student enrollment by 50% -- to around 900) in the University's biennial budget request to the state legislature. A new building for the department is also included in the University's capital spending plan in the next few years. It remains to be seen how these new initiatives will be received by the state legislature. These new commitments from the college and the University have certainly boosted morale and excitement in our department. We are encouraging our alumni and industrial partners to support the passage of this request by faxing or emailing your state representatives. Please visit the web site for additional information.

I feel strongly that with so many dedicated faculty members, department staff, alumni and industrial partners, the next ten years will be the best yet for our department.

-Pen-Chung Yew

Featured Faculty

Gopalan Nadathur

Image of Gopalan Nadathur

Programming Languages Design and Implementation, Computational Logic
(612) 626-1354

A fact about our computing discipline is that the kinds of problems we want to solve and the physical devices available to us for realizing their solutions are constantly changing. Research in programming languages is oriented towards developing tools for dealing with this situation. A major concern in language design is abstracting away from actual hardware and focusing instead on new and general methods for expressing solutions to computational problems and on techniques for organizing the presentation of such solutions. The complementary aspect of implementation targets the eventual mapping of apparently abstract language constructs onto available hardware. My particular interest is in programming languages that can serve simultaneously as specification languages and as vehicles for encoding problem solving approaches. Languages of this kind support what is known as the declarative approach to programming, and many such languages have been developed in recent years by exploiting the rich connections between the ideas of logical deduction and computation. The implementation of these languages is a challenging task given their distance from actual computers and my research also addresses this issue.

Baoquan Chen

Image of Baoquan Chen

Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization
(612) 625-5072

The past three decades have witnessed a proliferation of polygon-based graphics systems. Yet in such systems, triangle facets only approximate the shape of objects. With the advent of advanced biomedical instruments and scientific simulations, we are coping more and more with three-dimensional data sets such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT), 3D ultra-sound, and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Volume rendering provides a powerful mechanism to visualize this data's complicated internal structures that polygon rendering can not convey. My main research effort is on designing novel algorithms and hardware to speed up volume rendering and the rendering of scenes represented by a mixture of polygons (opaque and/or translucent) and volume data while increasing the realism, thereby enabling scientists to perform more advanced investigations.

Many Thanks...

We would like to express our thanks to the following alumni and friends. Your support is invaluable in helping the department. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the future. Thank you for your support!


  • Best Buy Co. Inc.
  • Honeywell Inc.
  • Honeywell Intl. Fdn. Inc.
  • IBM Corp.
  • IBM International Fdn.
  • Intel Fdn.
  • Lucent Technologies Fdn.
  • McKesson HBOC Fdn. Inc.
  • The Medtronic Fdn.
  • The N C R Fdn.
  • The New York Times Co. Fdn. Inc.
  • Unisys


  • Allen, Todd
  • Ambrose, Edward F.
  • Ash, Kevin M.
  • Austin, Thomas K.
  • Bartz, Christopher T.
  • Binder, Duane G.
  • Carter, Allan M.
  • Cepek, Michael K.
  • Davey, Timothy P.
  • Drake, Janet M.
  • Edwards, Grant B.
  • Elg, Peter R.
  • Ellsworth, Lori J.
  • Erler, Stephen P.
  • Evarts, Richard R.
  • Fisher, Nathan Wayne
  • Grode, Randall J.
  • Gross, Jonathan R.
  • Haapala, Michael A.
  • Hacknew, Bennett
  • Han, Yanchou
  • Hansen, Patricia E.
  • Hanson, Scott P.
  • Heinen, John M.
  • Holey, J. Andrew
  • Indermaur, Kurt A.
  • Jose, Davis P.
  • Kaufman, Alan J.
  • King, Robert C.
  • Kinsella, Eric A.
  • Klingel, Robert L.
  • Kohnke, Marlys A.
  • La Motte, David P.
  • Lahren, Julie R.
  • Lamb, Michael J.
  • Likely, Scott C.
  • Little, J. P.
  • Meidinger, Timothy J.
  • Odalen, David R.
  • Ogren, C. A. Mikulich
  • Ogren, R. S.
  • Pan, Ting L.
  • Pouliot, Charles & Joy
  • Rauchle, Kathleen D.
  • Reich, Marcia T.
  • Sells Chris J.
  • Shattuck, David F.
  • Sherman, William G.
  • Slisz, Raymond L.
  • Stewart, Douglas E.
  • Stuart, Edward L.
  • Swenson, Susan M.
  • Tauzell, David C.
  • Viegut, Michelle
  • Vitek, Christopher J.
  • Volkenant, Cheryl G.
  • Vranyes, Steven A.
  • Whitford, Gary S.
  • Wyttenbach, Dale R.
  • Xu, Jianzhong
  • Zhu, Wenjie

CSGSA Recipient of Unisys Award

The Computer Science Graduate Student Association (CSGSA) was one of several campus-wide student groups to receive a $2000 award from Unisys. CSGSA will have an operating budget for the first time.

The CSGSA was founded to present to the faculty the needs of graduate students and to provide a social organization for students. Bi-weekly meetings are held to discuss faculty committee meetings, graduate student concerns, and departmental events.

One of the main functions of the group is to select student representatives for the faculty committees. These students vote on all issues presented to their respective committees. The CSGSA considers presenting the student perspective to these committees as one of the most critical aspects of the organization.

All graduate students of the department are automatically members of CSGSA. Meetings are open to all students. For more information, visit their website.

-Georganne Tolaas

CS&E Alumni Profile: John Borowicz

Image of John L. Borowicz John L. Borowicz, one of our most interesting and enthusiastic alumni, has had a varied career in business, including being a founder of several technology companies. John actually started out in music, not computer science. After studying 20th century music composition and electronic music techniques with Dr. Eric Stokes at the U of M, he headed to the east coast and got involved with a company making electronic instruments. Soon he and a few colleagues left to found a new company, STAR Instruments, pioneering percussion synthesizers and the first mass audience synthesizers based on these "new devices" - microprocessors. Although the company did well, John decided that the future in music was in software, not hardware, and returned to the U to complete a B.S. in computer science, finishing in 1980. He then co-founded Passport Designs, Inc. which developed computer-based instruments and music software tools. During this time he was involved in defining and popularizing the music-computer communication protocol MIDI. In 1985, he left Passport Designs to concentrate on software to capture and print music. John made good use of his computer science education in the development of ENIGMA technology, software components that enable one to "print what you play", create a publisher-quality score, as well as, provide comprehensive editing, display, and playback capabilities. In 1988 the development was complete and Finale was released to the world by a company that became CODA Music Software. It was hailed as an important achievement in the music world. Finale has fundamentally changed the music publishing business. It is used by every major publisher in the world, major film and orchestral composers, music enthusiasts and educators. Finale also has the distinction of being the most honored and awarded music software package.

After leaving CODA, John got involved with pioneering geographic information systems (GIS), geographic data, data warehouses and data mining in the property and casualty insurance industry as V.P. of Operations at DataMap, which became VISTA Information Solutions after a merger. After nearly a decade in GIS, John set his sights on telecommunications and data visualization at OneLink where he was Chief Software Engineer designing and developing call transaction analysis software systems for the major telecom companies.

John is currently employed at Fallon | Worldwide, one of the top 10 advertising and public relations agencies, as Manager of Interactive Technology. Fallon is interested in exploiting the interactive possibilities of the World Wide Web. In addition to obvious benefits for Fallon's clients, developments in this area are far reaching and definitely useful in life-long learning and distance education initiatives.

In a long career of developing innovative software and disruptive technologies, hiring, coaching and managing other software developers, John has learned that it is vitally important for students to be well grounded in the principles and theory they learn in their computer science courses. These are central to developing the skills and learning the tools. The basics are the keys to growth including a knowledge of what happens at the machine/assembly level and the operating system level. They also need to be able to work in teams, understand and respect the processes, and understand "the business".

John believes in giving back and has been active in support of the University of Minnesota. His activities at the University of Minnesota include serving as a member, and recently the chair, of the Computer Science Associates, a group whose purpose is to get large and small information technology businesses involved in supporting the University and in particular, the Computer Science and Engineering department. He also served as President of the I.T. Alumni Society last year. The primary focus was scholarships and the mentor program. There are about 350 students being mentored through this program this year. John encourages more computer science students to become involved.

-Bobbie Othmer

CS&E News Briefs

Best Buy Funds Scholarship

Best Buy Company Inc. presented a gift of $2500 for an undergraduate scholarship in computer science to be used during the academic year 2000-2001 for tuition and/or book purchase. The recipient must be a full-time student at the University of Minnesota, demonstrate above-average academic achievement, complete an internship with Best Buy Co, Inc., and demonstrate active involvement and leadership in team activities. Best Buy will work with the department to develop an appropriate internship for the recipient.

Jia Awarded Millennium Scholarship

Ning Helen Jia won this year's Bill Gates' Millennium Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate students. Only 4,000 out of 60,000 students nationwide were selected as the scholarship recipients.

Students Compete in Regional ACM Contest

A University of Minnesota team, consisting of computer science students Dinan Jiang, Yan Yu, and Fred Narthasilpa, participated in the regional Association for Computing Machinery/IBM North Central Regional Programming Contest November 11, 2000 at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Competition included 100 teams from the Midwest and Canada.

Victoria Interrante Awarded a McKnight Professorship

Victoria Interrante, Computer Science and Engineering, was one of twelve Year 2001-2003 recipients of the University of Minnesota Graduate School's McKnight Land-Grant Professorship. The goal of this program is to advance the careers of the most promising junior faculty at a crucial period in their professional lives. Recipients are honored with the title McKnight Land-Grant Professor, an endowed chair, which they will hold for two years. The award consists of a $25,000 research grant in each of two years, summer support if needed, and a research leave in the second year. Winners were chosen for their potential for important contributions to their field; the degree to which their past achievements and current ideas demonstrate originality, imagination, and innovation; the potential for attracting outstanding students; and the significance of the research and the clarity with which it is conveyed to the non-specialist. Professor Interrante's research is described on pages 1 and 2 of this newsletter. For additional information, please click here.

Best Paper

"Parallel multilevel algorithms for multi-constraint graph partitioning" was one of four best papers at the Euro-Par 2000 Conference. Written by Kirk Schloegel, George Karypis and Vipin Kumar, it appeared in Proceedings of Euro-Par 2000.

New Book

Mastering Data Modeling: A User-Driven Approach by John Carlis and Joseph Maguire was published by Addison-Wesley this fall. Professor Carlis sends along his thanks t o the students in 5702 (now 5707) who helped make the book better by using (suffering through?) early drafts.

Recent Grants

Mats Heimdahl
NASA Langley Research Center
"Methods and Tools for Flight Critical Systems"

Anand Tripathi
National Science Foundation
"Dynamic and Secure Distributed Collaborations"

Yousef Saad and James R. Chelikowsky (Chemical Engineering & Materials Science)
National Science Foundation
"New Algorithms for Scalable Modeling in Materials Science"

Zhi-Li Zhang
National Science Foundation
Scalable Quality-of-Service Control for the Next Generation Internet

ACM Receives Unisys Award

The student chapter of the ACM recently received a $2000 award from Unisys.

Recent Grad in Time Magazine

Ed Chi, a recent grad of the department, appeared in the December 4, 2000 issue of Time magazine. For additional information, please visit his website.

Alumni Branches Out to Screenwriting

John Borowicz, '80, and writing partner May Chaplin have been selected as the Barry Morrow Screenwriting Fellowship winners for 2000 in the full length feature category. The Fellowship means they are mentored for a year by Mr. Morrow (the writer of RAIN MAN) and receive a $10,000 stipend to cover travel expenses. This is the first time a comedy has been chosen as the winner. Borowicz and Chaplin used special purpose word processing/screenwriting software in pursuit of the fellowship.

Larson Awarded Fellowship

Amy Larson is a recipient of the Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship for the 2001-2002 academic year. This fellowship is for women in the physical or natural sciences who show exceptional promise for a successful research career.

CS&E Undergraduate Profile: Saheed Akhter

Image of Saeed Akhter Saeed Akhter, an undergraduate computer science major at the U of M, was destined for a career in computer science at an early age. While still in high school, he and some friends taught themselves C so that they could program their own video games. These games were of the "shoot-em-up" variety with rather primitive graphics. He also learned how to do Z80 programming on graphing calculators giving further evidence of his early interest in computers. Despite this indication of talent in computer science, he started his academic career at the U majoring in physics. However he soon realized that physics was not for him and decided to change his major to computer science.

For the past year and a half, Saeed has worked at Internet Exposure, a company that creates business web sites. He has been responsible for examining new technologies and for training new people, an important job as the company has grown rapidly. He has also been finding ways to organize the code so that it can be reused. This will help the company develop web sites more quickly.

When asked about his views on coursework in computer science Saeed said that students need the theoretical classes but also need to play with systems to get that hands-on experience. One of the most useful classes he has taken was a compiler class, because it introduced a lot of concepts he would never have thought about otherwise. Saeed says that you have to love what you do. He is amazed at some computer science students who aren't engaged with the subject and just seem to be majoring in computer science because of job opportunities.

The future includes an undergraduate research experience with Dr. John Riedl. Preliminary plans involve studying the use of SVG, scalable vector graphics, being considered as a future standard in XML by WC3, the World Wide Web Consortium. One advantage of SVG is that the file sent does not contain the image, the standard method for supplying graphics on the WWW, but commands for generating the image. The image is rendered on the client side. Thus the file sent over the Internet can be much smaller. He is also interested in using an open source tool Enhydra, discovered during researching new technologies at work, to dynamically generate the SVG and send it to the client.

Saeed's enthusiasm for computers and the Internet may lead him to graduate school after completion of his B.S. next year. There is so much more to learn.

-Bobbie Othmer

Industrial Partnership Program Established

A new Industrial Partners Program has been set up to provide a means of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between a company and the department. As of January, seven companies have become members.

The department benefits from the support of the industrial partners which goes beyond financial support to include communication about our curriculum and instruction, industry trends and training needs. The relationships established may also lead to job opportunities for our students, consulting or research opportunities for our faculty, and support for various initiatives related to the department.

An industrial partner benefits by receiving extra assistance in recruiting our students for full-time or summer positions or internships. This includes assistance in arranging meetings with interested students, a complimentary invitation to the biennial open house and its recruiting booths, a special web page for placing job postings, and assistance in collecting resumes from interested students. Other benefits include access to department research through regular reports of our research, periodic opportunities to interact with faculty, and the opportunity to send someone to stay in the department to attend classes or participate in a research project. An industrial partner also can use the relationship to offer input on curriculum and instruction.

For more information on the Industrial Partners Program and membership fees, consult the Industrial Partners web page.

Current Industrial Partners

  • Architecture Technology Corporation
  • Honeywell
  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Minnesota Technology Inc.
  • Net Perceptions
  • Unisys

Computer Science and Engineering's Third Biennial Open House Friday, October 19, 2001

Reserve the date! This is the beginning of the University of Minnesota's Homecoming Week!

We would like to receive nominations for: the Alumni Award, keynote speaker, and topics for panels and workshops.

Send your nominations/suggestions to on or before April 15, 2001.


Soundbyte is published twice a year by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota. Please direct comments or questions to:

Soundbyte Editor
Computer Science and Engineering
4-192 EE/CS
200 Union Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Department: (612) 625-4002
Fax: (612) 625-0572

Pen-Chung Yew
Department Head

Ravi Janardan
Associate Department Head

Anand Tripathi
Director of Graduate Studies

Eugene Shragowitz
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Bobbie Othmer

Tim Lee