Introducing the new L&S Data Science Major

A new Data Science major in the College of Letters and Science has been approved, effective Fall 2018. This is part of Berkeley’s active engagement with the burgeoning field of data science, which has the potential to shape numerous fields of study and practice.  The major is designed to equip students to draw sound conclusions from data in context, using knowledge of statistical inference, computational processes, data management strategies, domain knowledge, and theory.  Students will learn to carry out analyses of data through the full cycle of the investigative process in scientific and practical contexts, as well as gain an understanding of the human and ethical implications of data analysis and integrate that knowledge into their work.   The College of Engineering also has plans for a Data Science major, which is currently undergoing design and review.  A minor is also under consideration for students in both colleges. More than 3,000 students enroll in data science courses at Berkeley every year.

Lea Kissner leads Google's internal privacy strike force

EECS alumna Lea Kissner (B.S. '02) is the subject of a Gizmodo article describing her visit to a class at Berkeley this week where she discussed her job as a Principal Engineer at Google leading the security and privacy teams for infrastructure and social products.  One team of 90 employees with different backgrounds and skill sets, called NightWatch, reviews almost all of the products that Google launches for potential privacy flaws.  The article also covers some of the obstacles she has faced and her involvement chairing a discussion topic on Practical Privacy Protection at the OURSA conference in San Francisco today. “I want to tell people things we’ve learned. I want to build the world I want to live in, and the world I want to live in includes things like products being designed respectfully of users and systems being designed respectfully for users. I don’t think everybody has to learn everything the hard way,” Kissner tells me later. Then, the mathematician in her kicks in and she adds, “It’s very inefficient if nothing else.”

Berkeley boosts female computing grads

Assistant Teaching Prof. John DeNero and CS major Tammy Nguyen are featured in a Mercury News article titled "Forget tech’s bad bros: Stanford, Berkeley boost female computing grads."   Between 2010 and 2017, UC Berkeley doubled the percentage of women receiving degrees in CS, from 11% to 22%, which runs counter to a national trend in which the proportion of women receiving degrees in computer and information sciences dropped from a high of 37% in 1984 to about 18% in 2016.  DeNero talks about some of the hurdles women must overcome if they are interested in pursuing careers in computer science.  The problems facing women in the tech industry, brought to light by the "Me Too" movement, is a concern. “It comes up even on the first day of class,” he said. “The students are very keen to talk about it, understand it. They really want to know, ‘Are all companies the same? Is this something I’m going to see everywhere?'”  Berkeley has taken a number of steps to improve the representation of women in the field.  “We have invested a lot of time and energy in figuring out what our introductory curriculum should look like, how we teach our courses, and in particular what kind of support mechanisms can we put in place to make sure that somebody who wants to study computer science has a good chance of being successful,” he said.

5 questions for Randy Katz

EECS professor and UC Berkeley's new Vice Chair for Research, Randy Katz, is interviewed in Cal Alumni's California Magazine about his approach to his new job.  The article covers how one might go about creating a nurturing environment for pursuing innovative research, his predictions about future technologies, the integration of Big Data in new research, examples of some exciting projects,  and the problem of funding.

Data 8X is the fastest-growing course in Berkeley's history

The Foundations of Data Science (Data 8X), which is being offered free online this spring for the first time through the campus’s online education hub, edX, is the fastest-growing course in UC Berkeley’s history.  Taught by Prof. David Wagner,  Assistant Teaching Prof. John DeNero (recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award), and a statistics professor, Data 8X is based on CS C8: Foundations of Data Science and now has more than 1,000 students enrolling every semester.  “You’ll learn to program when studying data science — but not for the primary purpose of building apps or games,” says DeNero. “Instead, we use programming to understand the world around us.”

EE and CE grad programs place #1 and #2 in 2019 US News rankings

The Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering programs have been ranked #1 and #2 respectively by U.S.News & World Report, continuing our tradition as one of the best EECS graduate programs the world.  In the 2019 rankings, Electrical/Electronic/Communications Engineering moved up from #3 to #1, tying with MIT and Stanford.  Computer Engineering held the #2 spot between MIT and UI Urbana-Champaign.  The College of Engineering graduate programs held the #3 spot under MIT and Stanford, with #1 rankings in Civil and Environmental/Environmental Health, a #2 ranking in Chemical Engineering, #3 rankings in Industrial/Manufacturing/Systems, Materials,and Mechanical, and a #4 ranking in Biomedical/Bioengineering.

Amal El-Ghazaly forges a path in higher education

EE postdoctoral fellow Amal El-Ghazaly, who works with the Nanoelectronics and Nanostructures Group, is featured in a Berkeley News article as one of the 25 scholars from Berkeley, Stanford, Caltech and UCLA who’ve won postdoctoral fellowships from the NSF-sponsored California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP).  The alliance was formed to address the seemingly intractable ethnic underrepresentation in key STEM fields in the postdoctoral and faculty ranks at prestigious universities.  Aspiring professor El-Ghazaly, a hijab-wearing Muslim of African heritage, was often the only underrepresented minority student, and sometimes the only woman, in her specialized applied physics courses at CMU and Stanford.  The Berkeley-led Alliance will share its challenges and successes at the Pathways to a Diverse Professoriate conference on campus this week.

John DeNero wins 2018 UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award

Assistant Teaching Prof. John DeNero has won the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award.   The award, presented by the Academic Senate, recognizes U.C. Berkeley's brightest teaching stars for their inspiring and transformational teaching.  DeNero says his teaching goal is not necessarily to make students happy but to help them learn how to solve problems that they thought they couldn't solve.  He has a knack for grabbing attention, exciting students, and in many ways, serving as a pioneer.  He teaches his introductory course for computer science majors, CS 61A, to nearly 1,600 students in 47 sections with the help of a course staff of 95 undergraduates. Distinguished Teaching Award winners are frequently called upon by the campus to provide a voice on issues related to teaching. They serve on forums, panels, and committees involving teaching issues, and they are advocates for excellence in teaching at Berkeley.

Shankar Raman named 2018 MIT MacVicar Fellow

Alumnus Shankar Raman (EE M.S. '88), now a professor of literature at MIT, has been named a 2018 MacVicar Fellow.  The MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program recognizes professors who are champions of teaching and advising, and who engage with students to advance the mission of the Institute.  After obtaining his B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT and master's from Berkeley, Raman changed fields and received a master's and Ph.D. in English literature from Stanford.  His research ranges from Renaissance and late-Medieval literature and culture to post-colonialism and literary theory.  His unconventional career path has proven particularly beneficial to his students. “One of the most unique and helpful aspects of Prof. Raman’s advising,” one former student wrote, “was his ability to leverage his own unique life trajectory, which enables him to connect with MIT students on their own technically-minded terms better than most.”

Dawn Song participates in 'first US-China' Blockchain conference

CS Prof. Dawn Song participated in a panel discussion at the Blockchain Connect conference in San Francisco last week, an event designed to unite the U.S. and China Blockchain communities. Song leads the BitBlaze: Binary Analysis for Computer Security project, an analysis platform that will incorporate various AI and Blockchain applications, including in healthcare and smart building with IoT technologies.  She is also teaching CS 294-144. Blockchain, CryptoEconomics, and the Future Directions of Technology, Business, and Law, a “first of its kind” interdisciplinary course on Blockchain. "It’s extremely popular, " she said.  "We’re limited by room capacity, so it’s 70+ students. But it’s a 4:1 ratio, so basically for every four students applying, we can only select one."