Fifteen UMass Lowell students attend Google Pi Day

On March 14, 2012, Google held a “Pi Day Open House” event at their Kendall Square offices in Cambridge, MA.  Six faculty nominated their best undergraduate and graduate students for the event, and a total of 15 UMass Lowell Computer Science students were accepted.  Including these UML students, there were about 70 students in attendance, from universities including BU, BC, Wentworth, UMass Boston, MIT and others.

The program was held in the early evening. The Google Cambridge campus manager welcomed the students, and told them that Google has about 1000 employees in Cambridge (spread out across three buildings, all near the Kendall T stop).  Students asked a few questions, and some basic facts about Google were clarified; e.g., that most of their revenue is from ads.

There were then five talks and demos:

  • A mobile publishing platform which took existing RSS feeds (or other feed types) and generated a mobile-friendly rendering of it which can be customized by publishers was presented.
  • A visualization tool showing the sharing of links through the Google Plus social network was demonstrated.
  • A talk on search quality and features highlighted a few subtle search parsing tricks (like “picture of sunset” vs. “picture of dorian gray”), and live visual iterative refinement of search results.
  • A “symtom search” feature for detecting when a user is searching for a disease was discussed. The speaker related a story about when he was observing live Google search logs of a person searching for “chest pain,” then “chest pain right arm,” which are the characteristic symptoms of a heart attack. He said that the experience humbled him, and gave him a strong sense of responsibility for his product.
  • The SPDY protocol, which optimizes many aspects of HTTP, was presented.  SPDY is in production use in Google Chrome and Firefox, and is being proposed as the new HTTP2 standard.

Following these talks, a set of breakout sessions were offered. Topics included software engineering best practices, how to interview at Google, and information for PhD students.

In the talk for PhD students, Jon Orwant talked about how research in Google works and how it differs from research in academia. At Google, projects always originate from a product idea which could impact millions of people, and that many of the research projects actually do become products which impact millions of people.

Assoc. Prof. Fred Martin, who encouraged faculty to nominate their students for this opportunity, was delighted at the great response from UMass Lowell students, and their success in being accepted to the program.

The Pi Day event was organized by Caitlin Cooke, University Programs Coordinator at Google Cambridge.

UMass Lowell Computer Science students receiving parting gift bags after Google 3/14 Pi Day program. Front row (L-R): Chris Adoretti, Shawna Oneal, Jing Xu, Xian Pan, Mikhail Medvedev, Karen Uttecht, and Swathi Kurunji. Back row (L-R): John Huston, Chunyao Song, Brigit Schroeder, and Curran Kelleher. Also attending, but not in photo: Yinjie Chen, Simone Hill, Bo Yan, and Jie Yang. 

Thanks to Curran Kelleher for authoring this article.

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This page contains a single entry by Martin, Fred published on March 29, 2012 3:20 PM.

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