Faculty

professor emeritus thomas kailath
February 2019

Professor Emeritus Thomas Kailath has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 IEEE Radio Communications Committee (RCC) Technical Recognition Award. The award was conferred in December at the IEEE Globecom'18 in Abu Dhabi.

His award citation reads, "for exceptional contributions to research and education in radio communications".

The Radio Communications Committee (RCC) Technical Recognition Award aims to promote radio communications research and development activities in both the academic and industrial community. This award is established as part of the RCC activities in which research and development takes place in areas related to radio communications. The award recognizes members of the IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc) who have made outstanding contributions to the technological advancement of radio communications.

 

Congratulations to Tom on this well-deserved award!

 

 

Professor Subhasish Mitra and Professor H.-S. Philip Wong
February 2019

Computers have shrunk to the size of laptops and smartphones, but engineers want to cram most of the features of a computer into a single chip that they could install just about anywhere. A Stanford-led engineering team has developed the prototype for such a computer-on-a-chip.


Electronic computing was born in the form of massive machines in air-conditioned rooms, migrated to desktops and laptops, and lives today in tiny devices like watches and smartphones.

But why stop there, asks an international team of Stanford-led engineers. Why not build an entire computer onto a single chip? It could have processing circuits, memory storage and power supply to perform a given task, such as measuring moisture in a row of crops. Equipped with machine learning algorithms, the chip could make on-the-spot decisions such as when to water. And with wireless technology it could send and receive data over the internet.

Engineers call this vision of ubiquitous computing the Internet of Everything. But to achieve it they'll need to develop a new class of chips to serve as its foundation.

The researchers unveiled the prototype for such a computer-on-a-chip Feb. 19 at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. The prototype's data processing and memory circuits uses less than a tenth as much electricity as any comparable electronic device, yet despite its size it is designed to perform many advanced computing feats.

"This is what engineers do," said Subhasish Mitra. "We create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts."

EE professors Mitra and H.-S. Philip Wong, worked with scientists from the CEA-LETI research institute in Grenoble, France, to design this chip of the future.

New memory is the key

The prototype is built around a new data storage technology called RRAM (resistive random access memory), which has features essential for this new class of chips: storage density to pack more data into less space than other forms of memory; energy efficiency that won't overtax limited power supplies; and the ability to retain data when the chip hibernates, as it is designed to do as an energy-saving tactic.

RRAM has another essential advantage. Engineers can build RRAM directly atop a processing circuit to integrate data storage and computation into a single chip. Stanford researchers have pioneered this concept of uniting memory and processing into one chip because it's faster and more energy efficient than passing data back and forth between separate chips as is the case today. The French team at CEA-LETI was responsible for grafting the RRAM onto a silicon processor.

In order to improve the storage capacity of RRAM, the Stanford group made a number of changes. One was to increase how much information each storage unit, called a cell, can hold. Memory devices typically consist of cells that can store either a zero or a one. The researchers devised a way to pack five values into each memory cell, rather than just the two standard options.

A second enhancement improved the endurance of RRAM. Think about data storage from a chip's point of view: As data is continuously written to a chip's memory cells, they can become exhausted, scrambling data and causing errors. The researchers developed an algorithm to prevent such exhaustion. They tested the endurance of their prototype and found that it should have a 10-year lifespan.

Mitra said the team's computer scientists and electrical engineers worked together to integrate many software and hardware technologies on the prototype, which is currently about the diameter of a pencil eraser. Although that is too large for futuristic, Internet of Everything applications, even now the way that the prototype combines memory and processing could be incorporated into the chips found in smartphones and other mobile devices. Chip manufacturers are already showing interest in this new architecture, which was one of the goals of the Stanford-led team. Mitra said experience gained manufacturing one generation of chips fuels efforts to make the next iteration smaller, faster, cheaper and more capable.

"The SystemX Alliance has allowed a great collaboration between Stanford and CEA-LETI on edge AI application, covering circuit architecture, circuit design, down to advanced technologies," said Emmanuel Sabonnadière, CEO of the French research institute.

 

Source: Stanford News "A Stanford-led enginering team unveils the prototype for a computer-on-a-chip", February 19, 2019.


 

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EE Professor Jelena Vuckovic
February 2019

Professor Jelena Vuckovic is the director of a new initiative - Q-FARM. Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have launched the Quantum Fundamentals, ARchitecture and Machines (Q-FARM) initiative to leverage and expand the university's strengths in quantum science and engineering and to train the field's next generation of scientists.

"Our mission is not only to do research, it's also to educate students, bring the community together, fill the gaps that we have in this space and connect to the world outside, both to industry and to other academic institutions," said Q-FARM director Jelena Vuckovic.

Q-FARM emerged from Stanford's long-range planning process as part of a team focused on understanding the natural world. The idea for it originated from faculty across departments who recognized that the university is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the field of quantum research, said Q-FARM deputy director Patrick Hayden, a professor of physics in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

"I think it is very possible for Stanford to establish itself as the leading center in quantum science and engineering," Hayden said. "We have advantages that other schools do not, including top-ranked science and engineering departments that are a short distance away from technology companies and SLAC, a renowned laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy."

[...] 

On the theoretical front, quantum mechanics merged with computer science, mathematics and other branches of physics to give rise to a new field known as quantum information science (QIS). QIS aims to harness the spookier properties of quantum mechanics – superposition, wave-particle duality, entanglement – to manipulate information. Surprisingly, insights and techniques from QIS are proving useful not only for the design of quantum computers, algorithms and sensors but also for providing powerful new tools for investigating old questions in physics. [...]

As QIS has matured, so too has the ability of engineers to fabricate quantum-mechanical systems. Phenomena such as quantum teleportation that were once purely theoretical can now be created and studied in the lab. "This is what's supposed to happen in science, that there is this feedback loop between theory and experiment, but it's not always true," Hayden said. "This is an area where it's really happening and that's very exciting."

[...]

With many world-leading research groups already established at Stanford, Q-FARM's role will be to build bridges between them and create a community that can tackle the major emerging challenges in the area. Among Q-FARM's initial priorities are the creation of postdoctoral and graduate fellowships and organizing research seminars where faculty, students and visiting scholars can present their research.

Q-FARM will also focus on developing an educational program for undergraduate and graduate students to bolster the current curriculum. "We already have an excellent collection of classes, but we want to coordinate the program between physics and engineering so that we can better educate our students," Vuckovic said.

Demonstrating a united front on the research end will also help with faculty and student recruitment in an increasingly competitive field and attract some of the significant government funding that will target quantum research.

In 2018, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Quantum Initiative, which authorizes $1.275 billion to be spent over the next five years to fund American quantum information science research and to create multiple centers dedicated to quantum research and education.

"Bringing one of those centers to Stanford and SLAC will help us maintain the strengths we already possess and establish ourselves more broadly in this field," Vuckovic said.

"If we can sustain this pace, Stanford will be the place where people who work in this field will want to be," she added. "We have leading physics and leading engineering. We are in Silicon Valley. This is what makes us the right place to carry this forward."

 

Excerpted from Stanford News, "Q-FARM initiative to bolster quantum research at Stanford-SLAC", February 8, 2019.


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EE and CS Professor Mary Wootters
February 2019

Mary Wootters has been selected as a 2019 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Computer Science. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has selected 126 outstanding researchers as recipients of the 2019 Sloan Research Fellowships. Awarded yearly since 1955, the fellowships honor early-career scolars whose achievements mark them as among the most promising researchers in their fields.

"Sloan Research Fellows are the best young scientists working today," says Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "Sloan Fellows stand out for their creativity, for their hard work, for the importance of the issues they tackle, and the energy and innovation with which they tackle them. To be a Sloan Fellow is to be in the vanguard of twenty-first century science."

Awarded in eight scientific and technical fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics—the Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in close coordination with the scientific community. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists and winning fellows are selected by an independent panel of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate's independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become a leader in his or her field.

Valued not only for their prestige, Sloan Research Fellowships are a highly flexible source of research support. Funds may be spent in any way a Fellow deems will best advance his or her work. "What young researchers need is freedom to follow where their research leads," says Daniel L. Goroff, director of the Sloan Research Fellowship program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "Find the brightest young minds and trust them to do what they do best. That is the Sloan Research Fellowship.

Congratulations to Mary for this outstanding achievement!


 

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. www.sloan.org

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Press Release

Professor Ada Poon presenting at 2019 World Economic Forum
February 2019

| Source: Stanford Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

The theme of the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, was "Globalization, 4:0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution.'" The term, handily shortened to 4IR, was coined to describe the confluence of the physical, digital and biological, and how technologies in these realms are combining to alter the human experience. Think AI and Machine Learning. It's already happening with autonomous vehicles, predictive content curation, and facial recognition. In health, it's enhancing medical imaging, personal health tools, and the capability to record and process massive amounts of data to advance research and treatment. However, there is much more to come; a "world-to-be" to craft and prepare for.

Watch Professor Poon's Video (below)

Into this international meeting of the minds in snowy Switzerland stepped the team from Stanford, themselves a perfect example of 4IR expertise in operation. In their case, to treat and solve mental illness. From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Leanne Williams and Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez partnered with Dr. Ada Poon of Electrical Engineering. They made up the fifth group of Stanford scientists sent to Davos in as many years by the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute to highlight the interdisciplinary research in neurosciences underway at the university. The fit could not have been better.

For the first time, the WEF featured a "dedicated mental health track," as Dr. Rodriguez described it, "raising the visibility of mental health as a global challenge, and laying the foundation for supporting ongoing global mental health initiatives."

A prime time "Mental Health Matters" panel featuring Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the tone. At the premier world gathering revolving around economics, this panel drew at-capacity attendance. And no wonder. The two most common mental health issues – depression and anxiety – combine as the number one disability in the world and account for an annual loss in the global economy equivalent to one trillion U.S. dollars. The cost in human suffering is even higher. Between eight hundred thousand and one million people die by suicide every year- the world's biggest silent killer, especially of the young.

CEOs and leaders of nations squeezed in alongside funding analysts and health professionals to hear the discussion. Looking around the audience, Dr. Poon knew mental illness had finally been universally recognized as a critical public health concern when she realized she was sitting next to the Queen of Belgium, rapt as the rest.

The Stanford team unveiled its groundbreaking work at the Wu Tsai-sponsored IdeasLab.

"We presented around the theme of the Dawn of Precision Psychiatry," said Dr. Williams, founding Director of the PanLab for Precision Psychiatry and Translational Neuroscience, and architect of the Stanford Center for Precision Health and Mental Wellness. "We presented complementary perspectives on how to use precise neuroscience-based measures to develop a new system for subtyping and tailoring treatments for depression, how to use neuroscience to develop rapid-acting novel interventions for anxiety, and how to harness novel bioengineering approaches to achieve precise "readouts" of important human capacities such as memory, in order to optimize them."

Dr Leanne Williams
 
Dr. Williams explained how she uses advanced neuroimaging technology to detect the measurable biology of depression, then subtypes the disease for precise treatment. Her breakthrough in identifying specific "short circuits" underlying the disorder means the trial and error method of therapy can be replaced by targeted remedies tailored for a half dozen distinct "biotypes." Dr. Williams' research shows her approach can double the rate of patients who go into remission with the first form of treatment administered.

As big a leap forward as this is, her message in Davos was to keep the proverbial foot on the accelerator to develop a new, integrated system for mental health.

"Just think of the technologies we can harness – genomics to refine the biotypes, machine learning for innovative classifications, a fusion of biotypes with wearable sensors for scale and expansion to new interventions as they are developed. These solutions are imperative for public health and humanity. They are also an imperative for development – knowing that each new dollar invested in mental health will generate at least a four dollar return."

Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez, Director of the Translational Therapeutics Lab and Associate Chair of Stanford Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, shared her advances in developing a fast-acting treatment for anxiety sufferers for whom standard therapies have been ineffective. The World Health Organization reports anxiety disorders as the most common mental health conditions on the planet. However, Dr. Rodriguez says the development of medications for psychiatric illnesses falls far behind those of other diseases; for eleven new compounds being tested to treat cancer only one will be studied to address a psychiatric disorder.

Her lab has been tackling one particularly disabling condition, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which research shows is linked to a hyperactive brain circuit.

 

"Unfortunately, it can take a long lag time of two to three months to bring about major symptom relief, and complete symptom relief is not common." Hence Dr. Rodriguez's focus on a rapid-acting treatment with longer-lasting effects. Research suggesting glutamate - the main chemical messenger involved in circuit activity - may play a role in OCD led to her work with the drug ketamine, found to block glutamate docking ports. "We found that a single low dose of ketamine caused an immediate decrease - within hours - in OCD symptoms in all participants. In half, this rapid benefit lasted up to one week."



As her lab continues testing the underlying mechanisms of ketamine's fast-acting effects, it's also got next-generation drugs with fewer side effects and longer-lasting benefits under study.

Hardware plays a vital role in both research and clinical application. In partnership with Stanford experts in transcranial brain stimulation and neurosurgery, Dr. Rodriguez is examining the use of non-invasive as well as surgically implanted devices for treatment delivery, and Dr. Williams is integrating imaging technology with other sensors to individualize early detection and treatment prediction.

Here is where the work of Dr. Ada Poon, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator, completes the 4IR triad in precision psychiatry. In her research of bioelectronic medicines – the use of electronic devices to treat illnesses - Dr. Poon discovers ways to miniaturize implantable devices so they can be seamlessly integrated with the human body. She felt a charge go through the IdeasLab when she displayed her implantable pacemaker and brain stimulator, smaller than a grain of rice.

"The audience was excited by the size of the device, and by research showing how it is remotely-controlled in mice, and in pigs because of their closeness to human scale in terms of size. Compared to pharmaceutical drugs which act globally throughout the body causing side effects, bioelectronic devices can directly communicate with the specific area of the body, acting on it immediately. Bioelectronics provides exquisite spatial and temporal resolution, and they can be easily programmed and personalized."
The marriage of electrical engineering and medicine makes perfect sense to Dr. Poon, "Our nervous system is coordinated through neural impulses which are electrical in nature; bioelectronics is speaking the language of our nervous system. We can use it to communicate with our bodies as a therapeutic treatment."

Dr. Poon is broadening her research to use micro-implants for treating other diseases currently incurable through drugs. She is developing a memory recovery micro-implant that would progressively reverse short term memory loss in Alzheimer's disease, an "electronic" pancreas to address the global shortage and skyrocketing cost of insulin, and an EEG sticker to monitor overall mental health as a preventative tool.

"What is the equivalent of diet and exercise for the body, for the brain and mind?"
It is no small feat to coordinate a team of this caliber, sending scientists six thousand miles from their labs, but the consensus of Stanford's 'Precision Psychiatry' doctors, with gratitude to Wu Tsai Neuro, is that it was well worth the trip. The message they carried to Davos was that mental illness is real, there are solutions, and the time is now to utilize innovation to scale up the response in a big way. By all accounts, it was well received. Each scientist reported new opportunities for collaboration, investment, and implementation they say would not have been possible in any other setting. With the world view the WEF provided them, they see Stanford as well-positioned to lead the future of neuroscience-based mental health solutions.


 

"I was struck by the profound and notable attention to mental health at WEF. It is a sea change for our field, and there are new opportunities for collaboration and team science opening up across nations." -- Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez


"It was rewarding, as an engineer, to share the message that there are different ways to think about solutions to big global problems like mental illness. It was inspiring to see so many concerned about mental health, and reinforced the belief in the work we are doing." -- Dr. Ada Poon


"This was a moment I had hoped I would witness in my research lifetime ... It was a rare opportunity to experience alignment of our neuroscience message with alignment of development priorities." Dr. Leanne Williams concluded, "The WEF does receive criticism that it reflects privilege without action for all. My experience on this occasion was that there is an openness and hunger for mental health solutions based in hardcore science – in our case neuroscience – and that if privilege can be used to drive real change, then that will ultimately be of benefit to our global community."


 

 

VIDEO: Watch Professor Poon's WEF Presentation

December 2018

Congratulations to Professor Jennifer Widom for receiving the 2018 Erna Hamburger Prize from the EPFL-WISH Foundation. The award acknowledges her significant contributions and research in data management and analysis. Award honorees are celebrated for their dedication to informing, educating and motivating other women in science. Jennifer is the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering, and a staunch advocate of education for all, which she supports through MOOCs and by taking her teaching to other parts of the world.

Prior to becoming Dean, she visited 15 countries – including Bangladesh, Chile, India, Tanzania and Nigeria – for an "instructional odyssey." She gave short courses and workshops at universities and other institutions in her areas of expertise: big data, design thinking and collaborative problem solving.

"I commend the EPFL-WISH Foundation for creating the Erna Hamburger prize to honor women in science and humanities," said Professor Widom. "Professor Hamburger is an inspiration. I'm flattered and humbled to join the truly distinguished list of recipients of the prize in her name."

EGFL-WISH Foundation established the Erna Hamburger Prize in 2006 in honor of the first female professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

 

Please join us in congratulating Jennifer on this meaningful honor!

 

 

Excerpted from Stanford's "Dean Jennifer Widom receives the 2018 Erna Hamburger Prize", December 12, 2018 and EPFL's "A MOOC pioneer honored at EPFL" August 8, 2018.

December 2018

Please join us in congratulating Professor Benjamin Van Roy on his elevation to IEEE Fellow. He is being recognized for contributions to reinforcement learning and approximate dynamic programming. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields. Recently, Ben received the Stanford Management Science and Engineering Graduate Teaching Award, and the Stanford Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He also received the NSF CAREER Award in 2000.

Ben's research focuses on understanding how an agent interacting with a poorly understood environment can learn over time to make effective decisions. He is interested in the design of efficient reinforcement learning algorithms and stochastic control. He also leads the DeepMind Research team in Mountain View, and has led research programs at Unica (acquired by IBM), Enuvis (acquired by SiRF), and Morgan Stanley.

 

Please join us in congratulating Ben on his well-deserved recognition!

 

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November 2018

Please join us in congratulating Jelena Vuckovic on her elevation to IEEE Fellow. She is being recognized for contributions to experimental nano and quantum photonics. The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields. Jelena received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2006, the Humboldt Prize in 2010, and the Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship in 2013. In addition to her research activities, she helped to organize, and participated, in the 2017 Rising Stars in EECS Academic Conference.

Jelena leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also a faculty member of the Ginzton Lab, PULSE Institute, SIMES Institute, and Bio-X. Jelena is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics - MPQ (in Munich, Germany), and of the scientific advisory board of the Ferdinand Braun Institute (in Berlin, Germany). Currently, she is also an Associate Editor of ACS Photonics, and a member of the editorial advisory board of Nature Quantum Information. Her research areas include • nanophotonics, quantum information, quantum technology, quantum optics, Integrated quantum photonics, photonics inverse design, nonlinear optics, optoelectronics, cavity QED.

 

Please join us in congratulating Jelena on her well-deserved recognition!

 

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November 2018

Researchers from the Pop Lab, with help from UC Davis researchers, published an article about electrochemically-driven nanoscale thermal regulators.

The paper's abstract states, "the ability to actively regulate heat flow at the nanoscale could be a game changer for applications in thermal management and energy harvesting. Such a breakthrough could also enable the control of heat flow using thermal circuits, in a manner analogous to electronic circuits. Here we demonstrate switchable thermal transistors with an order of magnitude thermal on/off ratio, based on reversible electrochemical lithium intercalation in MoS2 thin films."

In order to make this heat-conducting semiconductor into a transistor-like switch, the researchers bathed the material in a liquid with lots of lithium ions. When a small electrical current is applied to the system, the lithium atoms begin to infuse into the layers of the crystal, changing its heat-conducting characteristics. As the lithium concentration increases, the thermal transistor switches off. Working with Davide Donadio's group at the University of California, Davis, the researchers discovered that this happens because the lithium ions push apart the atoms of the crystal. This makes it harder for the heat to get through.

The researchers envision that thermal transistors connected to computer chips would switch on and off to help limit the heat damage in sensitive electronic devices.

Besides enabling dynamic heat control, the team's results provide new insights into what causes lithium ion batteries to fail. As the porous materials in a battery are infused with lithium, they impede the flow of heat and can cause temperatures to shoot up. Thinking about this process is crucial to designing safer batteries.

In a more distant future the researchers imagine that thermal transistors could be arranged in circuits to compute using heat logic, much as semiconductor transistors compute using electricity. But while excited by the potential to control heat at the nanoscale, the researchers say this technology is comparable to where the first electronic transistors were some 70 years ago, when even the inventors couldn't fully envision what they had made possible.

Excerpted from "How can we design electronic devices that don't overheat?" Nov 9, 2018.

 

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November 2018

Professor Dan Boneh is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the School of Engineering and head of the Applied Cryptography Group. He and advisee, PhD candidate Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, developed a system called 'Prio.' Their data privacy system aims to allow data collection to be strictly device data, not personal data.

Many internet-enabled devices need to know how people use their products in order to make them better. But when faced with the request to send information about a computer error back to the developers, many of us are inclined to say "No," just in case that information is too personal.

The Applied Cryptography Group, has developed a new system for preserving privacy during data collection from the internet. Their technique emphasizes maintaining personal privacy.

"We have an increasing number of devices – in our lightbulbs, in our cars, in our toasters – that are collecting personal data and sending it back to the device's manufacturer. More of these devices means more sensitive data floating around, so the problem of privacy becomes more important," said Henry Corrigan-Gibbs, a graduate student in computer science who co-developed this system. "This type of system is a way to collect aggregate usage statistics without collecting individual user data in the clear."

Their system, called Prio, works by breaking up and obscuring individual information through a technique known as "secret sharing" and only allowing for the collection of aggregate reports. So, an individual's information is never reported in any decipherable form.

Prio is currently being tested by Mozilla in a version of Firefox called Nightly, which includes features Mozilla is still testing. On Nightly, Prio ran in parallel to the current remote data collection (telemetry) system for six weeks, gathering over 3 million data values. There was one glitch but once that was fixed, Prio's results exactly matched the results from the current system.

 

"This is rare example of a new privacy technology that is getting deployed in the real world," reports Dan, "It is really exciting to see this put to use."

 

Excerpted from Stanford News, "Stanford researchers develop new data privacy technique" November 1, 2018.

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