Mathematical Tools of Information-Theoretic Security Workshop: Day 1

It’s been a while since I have conference-blogged but I wanted to set aside a little time for it. Before going to Allerton I went to a lovely workshop in Paris on the Mathematical Tools of Information-Theoretic Security thanks to a very kind invitation from Vincent Tan and Matthieu Bloch. This was a 2.5 day workshop covering a rather wide variety of topics, which was good for me since I learned quite a bit. I gave a talk on differential privacy and machine learning with a little more of a push on the mathematical aspects that might be interesting from an information-theory perspective. Paris was appropriately lovely, and it was great to see familiar and new faces there. Now that I am at Rutgers I should note especially our three distinguished alumnae, Şennur Ulukuş, Aylin Yener, and Lalitha Sankar.

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Postdoc in privacy and security at Imperial College London

Denis Gündüz is looking for a postdoctoral researcher in the areas of privacy and security in cyber-physical systems, particularly for smart metering applications in smart grids. The position is in the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group within the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of Imperial College London.

Previous research experience and a strong track record in information theory, signal processing, and/or optimisation theory is required. This position will be supported through an international project, and will provide an excellent opportunity to work within an interdisciplinary team spanning top European institutions: Imperial College London, KTH, ETHZ and INRIA.
The position is available immediately for one year, with a potential to be extended another year depending on candidate’s performance.

Contact Dr. Gündüz directly if interested.


WordPress ate 90% of this in an editing problem, so here is an abbreviated version.

Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): A really powerful book set during the Biafran War in Nigeria. I had read Americanah first, and this book could not be more different. In reading I kept thinking that the Biafran War occupies the same place as Partition only the outcome was very different and it was much more recent. I put it up there with the must-read books of postcolonial literature.

The Annihilation Score (Charles Stross): This is a Laundry novel, and the n-th in the series, so if you haven’t read the rest it won’t be the right place to start. I liked this bits about government bureaucracy and coverups and shell games, but somehow it was less engaging than some of the previous novels. One of the strong points to me is the change in narrator — this one is from the perspective of Dominique O’Brien, as opposed to her husband Bob. Definitely some good bits in there about women in positions of authority and so on. Recommended if you’re a Laundry fan already.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie): This novel is about a teenage kid growing up on the Rez. It’s definitely pitched for the YA crowd, but it doesn’t really pull that many punches. I think he captures with some lightness the early high school anxieties, despite the really grim reality of the situation. I wonder what students reading it think versus adults. Highly recommended.

Anya’s Ghost (Vera Brosgol): a lovely YA graphic novel about a teenage girl who becomes friends with a ghost who seems to have… other plans.

Range of Ghosts / Shattered Pillars / Steles of the Sky (Elizabeth Bear): Really great high-fantasy series set in a fictionalized Central Asia (plus China plus Russia). Distances are vast, and communication is poor as Henry Farrell noted, so the book has very different themes than most. There’s some nods to this being a post-apocalyptic Earth but those are not pursued, which was the right tactic I think.

The Just City (Jo Walton): Have you ever wondered what would happen if people tried to actually create Plato’s Republic in real life? In this book, Athina (the goddess) tries to just that, and Apollo decides to become mortal to see what “volition” and “equal significance” are all about. The Masters are Plato fans from across the ages, snapped up out of time. The students are Greek slave children, rescued from markets to live in the Just City and become their best selves. Socrates makes an appearance. There are robots. Do they have free will? Lots of philosophy here, but there’s a story too, and character development, and all that. Really a great read, but you have to like talking about Ideas. Unlike other fictionalized philosophies, this one is actually a novel first, which makes it a delight.

Tracks: Composing Uncomposed

  1. Mustang Sally (The Commitments)
  2. World Weary (Noël Coward)
  3. Lefty Teachers at Home (Don Byron)
  4. There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Dave Brubeck with Jimmy Rushing)
  5. Central Park Blues (Ultimate Painting)
  6. I’m A Shy Guy (Ed Reed w. Randy Porter, Jamie Fox, John Wiitala, and Akira Rana)
  7. Good Enough For Granddad (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
  8. Manchester (Kishi Bashi)
  9. Coffee (Sylvan Esso)
  10. He’s Funny That Way (Billie Holiday)
  11. Together (Lightning Love)
  12. Mark My Words (Holly Miranda)
  13. Asa Branca (Forro in the Dark feat. David Byrne)
  14. A Little Lost (Nat Baldwin)
  15. Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment feat. Chance The Rapper)
  16. O Mistress Mine (George Stiles)
  17. Lullaby (Graham Gordon Ramsay feat. Scott Nicholas)

Postdoctoral opportunity at NYU CS/Global Health

Post-doctoral opportunity in developing novel computational approaches for disease surveillance. The laboratory of Dr. Rumi Chunara in Computer Science & Engineering, and the College of Global of Public Health at New York University is seeking highly motivated researchers to develop and study crowdsourced and point-of-care data for understanding infectious and chronic disease in populations worldwide.

Ideal postdoctoral candidates will have a Ph.D. with a strong background in bioinformatics, biostatistics, computer science or related field. Expertise in statistical machine learning and/or data mining are required. Preferred requirements for this position include experience designing software applications and/or storing, retrieving, and analyze large datasets. Experience with R, Python, SQL, JavaScript is preferred. Experience in hacking with cloud technologies (e.g., AWS, Hadoop) is a big plus. You must demonstrate an interest or experience in working with biological data such as genomic sequence, syndromic surveillance or physiological data.

This is an exciting research area and New York City provides great opportunities for networking and support of innovative work. Our group is engaged in many high-profile studies in collaboration with startups and other groups. The selected post-doc will be supported and encouraged to generate high impact publications, gain experience in supervising students and in grant writing if interested. All applicants should send an updated CV to Rumi Chunara (

A letter to the GlobalSIP Technical Program Chairs

I am a big supporter of robust peer review. However, I feel very strongly that issuing short review deadlines weakens the review process and has a negative impact on the quality of research. I had a previous experience with a machine learning conference that assigned 9 papers requiring an in-depth review and was given less than 3 weeks to complete these reviews. I immediately wrote back saying that this was infeasible and the deadline was extended by more than a week, as I recall. It was still hard to get the reviews done on time, but I managed it.

People may think I am being petty here, but I think it is important to not get caught in the dilemma of “phone it in and get it done by the deadline” and “pull some all-nighters to get it done right.”

I regret to inform you that I must resign from the Technical Program Committee for GlobalSIP because I will be unable to complete reviews required of me in the time required by the conference.

On July 12 at around 11:45 EST I was assigned 12 papers to review for the conference, for a total of around 60 pages of material (including references). The deadline given was “before July 22, 2015 (AoE)” which I take to mean approximately 8 AM EST July 22 given the location international date line. This is around 9 days to review 12 papers.

At that time I responded indicating that given my other responsibilities, I would be unable to review such a large volume of material at such short notice in the given time frame. I received no response.

On July 15 at 12:33 AM I received a second request to review the same papers with a revised deadline of “before July 25, 2015 (AoE)”. That is, 2 days after the initial assignment, the deadline was extended by 3 days.

Given my other professional and personal commitments, I will not be able to provide the level of scrutiny required to review the papers in under two weeks. As it stands, the modest extension covering 3 additional business days is not enough, especially given the delay in issuing the extension. I realize that conference submissions do not entail the same depth of review as a journal paper, but they still take time, and the review requests came quite unexpectedly.

Finally, I recognize that the delay in assignment was caused by “system glitches” (as stated in your email) and is not the fault of the PC chairs. However, the brunt of the effect is faced by the reviewers. Without any prior communication or information regarding the delay in review assignments, I am not able to juggle/move/delay other obligations at such short notice.

Anand D. Sarwate
Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey