Summer 2009 UROP Opportunities


  • Direct Funding from the UROP Office: Deadline is this Thursday, April 16, 2009 - students must fill out online application by that day.
    UROP Homepage for PIs:
    UROP Homepage for Students:
  • Hacker Heaven: Supervisors must get to John Merriman student info (name, class year, gender, under-represented minority) by April 30th and decisions are made the first week in May. If approved, students then have until 6/25/09 to fill out the online UROP application.
  • Supervisor-funded UROP: Students have until 6/25/09 to fill out the online UROP application.

Advanced Open Social Microblogging

Microblogging (Twitter et al) is all the rage but sites like twitter are centralized sites. You can't follow people on different sites. It's your data but you don't own it. Why is twitter a web site instead of a protocol? Come do a UROP project at the Decentralized Information Group to put matters right -- design a web 3.0 application in which open web-wide microblogging functionality happens within a client-side web application, but the data is stored in the cloud -- a policy -aware social-conscious storage medium. Build on the exiting work of the Tabulator Firefox add-on semantic web user interface research platform.

Requirements: Must be able to code in clean Javascript, and work as a team with others in the group. Design the architecture for the next wave.

Contact: Tim Berners-Lee (

Advanced Web Application: Tabulator

The Semantic Web is the newest, most transformative development in Web technology, and the Tabulator project, is maybe the coolest project out there, as it provides the user with ability to explore the global of interconnectedness of all things, and to participate in the collaborative space. This will be the third year of the project, which has been almost completely UROP-driven. Each year the Tabulator becomes more powerful. It is an add-on to the Firefox browser, and currently it allows one to explore the semantic web, slice and dice the information, making instant mashups such as maps and timelines, and also (since last year) editing new data and correcting incorrect data. By the end of this summer, with your help, we want it to be yet more powerful, with enough smarts to allow a new user to take part in a completely decentralized social network, which unlike the SNSs you know connects between people across all sites. We would like the display to not not only allow editing, but to automatically update whenever a data item is edited elsewhere. (Sounds simple but not simple to engineer). There is a large list of tasks large and small to be done. The tabulator forms a platform, which allows interesting developments to be done rapidly - you can both contribute to this and use it.

Requirements: You must be able to program in javascript, and you must be able to work in a team. If you have experience in dynamic HTML and/or Firefox, network programming, RDF, SPARQL etc that is useful but not essential. You will join an exiting team, but you have your own project within the larger project. You will contribute your part, but it must fit in well with other's work.

Contact: Tim Berners-Lee ( or Ralph Swick (

Online Data Integration Using Semantic Web technologies

The Semantic Web is a powerful distributed model for publishing, utilizing, and extending information and is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0. It provides several enabling technologies and protocols such Resource Description Framework (RDF), RDF Schema (RDF-S), Web Ontology Language (OWL), and SPARQL Query Language. These technologies have led to online Semantic Web data sources whose contents can be ``mashed-up'' (i.e. queried and integrated on-the-fly) to provide rich Web applications. However, the user or application developer still needs to know exactly what data is present in each source and needs to formulate queries carefully in order to get a reply. When the content of a source changes, mashups/users cannot take advantage of it until the application developer becomes aware of this change and modifies the application/query accordingly. In order to allow users to dynamically explore this space by asking open ended queries, we intend to use the federation paradigm from database systems, where federated data sources collaboratively attempt to solve a user's query. In this project, the student will learn about and use Semantic Web technologies, study some SPARQL federation proposals, extend or develop a federation protocol, and implement a test-bed. This work will be the foundation on which rich Web applications such as distributed social networks and distributed microblogging can be developed and has the potential for high impact. A successfully implemented project could lead to support and/or an MEng in the Fall.

Prerequisites: Knowledge of database systems, RDF, and SPARQL is useful but not essential. Ability to program (in python preferably) is required.

Contact: Please send your resume to Lalana Kagal

Policy Assurance for Database Queries

Database systems use simple policies to support access control to the data they contain. These policies restrict access to tables, enable certain views of data, or prohibit access selectively. However, these systems require system designers to think about data and security simultaneously and require policy administrators to know the data structure. When queries fail due to insufficient permissions, users do not get any feedback about the reason for this failure. Our approach attempts to overcome these deficiencies by (i) allowing high-level policies about access to databases to be defined, (ii) allowing users to check the compliance of their queries against previously agreed upon policies to determine whether or not their queries will be allowed. As part of this policy assurance process, the user will also be provided with a justification or reason for why the query is or not compliant. The student will extend our policy framework that consists of the AIR policy language based on Semantic Web technologies, a policy reasoner that uses truth maintenance to provide useful justifications, and a Semantic Web browser, Tabulator, for graphically exploring the justifications. Support for Fall possible on the successful completion of this project.

Prerequisites: Some knowledge of Semantic Web technologies, SQL and python is useful but not required.

Contact: Please send your resume to Lalana Kagal

Policy-Based Reasoning for Information Handling Control in Decentralized (Web) Environments

We are using Semantic Web technologies to provide transparency and accountability for information use across web-scale environments. Fundamentally, we are working towards answering the question, "What really happens to my data after I give it to you? Are you complying with our contract/our policy/the law? What about the next party to receive it?" While the technology can apply to anything from the transit of your credit card data after an online purchase to the breach of a corporate trade secret policy, this project focuses on how government can properly control information during the pursuit of counter-terrorism, law enforcement, and disaster recovery. At least two UROPs are needed to assist in creating the policy representation, modeling the data transactions, and creating a user interface for non-technical users (analysts and their managers). You will have the opportunity to be an integral part of the project, working regularly with graduate students and researchers, as well as the opportunity to seek advice from and offer suggestions to researchers and faculty. For more about our work, see: TAMI project (for general description) and AIR paper (for a discussion of the policy reasoner and the truth maintenance system).

Prerequisites: Students may apply for Spring, Summer, or both. This work will involve coding; applicants should have successfully completed 6.001 or be able to show equivalent skill. Knowledge of SemWeb appreciated but not required.

Contact: Please email Daniel J. Weitzner at

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