Robots, AI and podcasting: a Q&A with Pieter Abbeel

EECS Prof. Pieter Abbeel launched “The Robot Brains Podcast” in the spring of 2021.   In each episode, he is joined by leading experts in AI Robotics from around the world to explore how far humanity has come in its mission to create conscious computers, mindful machines and rational robots.  Abbeel sits down for a Q&A with Berkeley Engineering, in which he discusses his experience with podcasting and how it has shaped his own thinking about communicating AI to a broader audience.

3 UC Presidents and Gary S. May

UC Davis Chancellor and EECS alumnus Gary S. May (M.S. '88/Ph.D. '91, advisor: Costas Spanos) took the stage with UC President Michael V. Drake and Presidents Emeriti Janet S. Napolitano and Mark G. Yudof  for the UCD Chancellor's Colloquium on March 8th.  The four discussed the challenges they faced and lessons learned during their tenures in office.  Topics included the impact of the pandemic on campus communities, the importance of public health, and the efficacy of remote learning; the university's federal lawsuit over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; approaches to managing UC funding cuts, including maintaining access to retirement plans and student aid;  and America's cultural and democratic future, including ways that universities might help shape it.

Tiny switches give solid-state LiDAR record resolution

A new type of high-resolution LiDAR chip developed by EECS Prof. Ming Wu could lead to a new generation of powerful, low-cost 3D sensors for autonomous cars, drones, robots, and smartphones. The paper, which appeared in the journal Nature, was co-authored by his former graduate students Xiaosheng Zhang (Ph.D. '21) and Johannes Henriksson (Ph.D. '21), current graduate student Jianheng Luo, and postdoc Kyungmok Kwon, in the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center (BSAC).  Their new, smaller, more efficient, and less expensive LiDAR design is based on a focal plane switch array (FPSA) with a resolution of 16,384 pixels per 1-centimeter square chip, which dwarfs the 512 pixels or less currently found on FPSA.  The design is scalable to megapixel sizes using the same complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology used to produce computer processors.   Additionally, large, slow and inefficient thermo-optic switches are replaced by microelectromechanical system (MEMS) switches, which are traditionally used to route light in communications networks.  If the resolution and range of the new system can be improved, conventional CMOS production technology can be used to produce the new, inexpensive chip-sized LiDAR.

Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli awarded AGH UST Honorary Doctorate

EECS Prof. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli will receive an Honorary Doctorate, or Doktor Honoris Causa, from AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland on March 18th.  AGH UST includes engineering disciplines, exact sciences, Earth sciences, and social sciences, with an emphasis on current priorities of economy and business, and it regularly ranks first among Polish technical universities in international rankings. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, an expert in electronic design automation, co-founded both Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys, Inc.  He has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the combined EE and CS departments of the University of Aalborg in Denmark (2009) and from KTH in Sweden (2012).

Chandan Singh is 2022 Berkeley Grad Slam Competition semi-finalist

CS graduate student Chandan Singh (advisor: Bin Yu) has made it to the semi-finals of the 2022 Berkeley Grad Slam Competition, a UC showcase for graduate student research presented in three-minute talks for a general audience, likened to short Ted Talks.  In "Unlocking Scientific Secrets by Distilling Neural Networks," Singh hopes to build on recent advances in machine learning to improve the world of healthcare.   His research focuses on how to build trustworthy machine-learning systems by making them more interpretable through partnerships with domain experts (e.g. medical doctors and cell biologists). These collaborations give rise to useful methodology that both build more transparent models as well as improve the trustworthiness of black-box models. He hopes to help bridge the gap between both types of models so that they can be reliably used to improve real-world healthcare.

Lucas Spangher brings musicians together for Ukraine benefit concert

CS graduate student Lucas Spangher (advisor: Costas Spanos) gathered musicians from all over the Bay Area to perform a benefit concert in support of Ukraine on March 13th.  Opera and gospel singers, violists, pianists and harpists, were among the more than one dozen volunteers to participate in the Benefit Concert for Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine at Herbst Hall in San Francisco.  Spangher, who plays the cello, reached out to other local musicians on social media to ask if anyone would be interested in participating in an informal, online musical performance in honor of Ukraine, and it expanded from there. “It turned into this amazing professional operation,” said Spangher, “which I think just speaks to the energy and communal desire to do something. This is more than just a fundraiser. It’s a political statement and a way to honor Ukraine’s amazing contributions to classical music that can’t be erased by a vicious autocrat.”  Spangher is a committed climate change activist whose research focuses on how to make artificial intelligence become more flexible for a transition to green energy.  All proceeds from the performance have been donated to Nova Ukraine.

Steven Conolly awarded 2022 Bakar Prize

EECS and Bioengineering Prof. Steven Conolly has been awarded the 2022 U.C. Berkeley Bakar Prize.  This prize is given annually to former Bakar Program Fellows whose technological innovations promise to deliver solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.  Funds are provided to help new technologies transition from an academic setting to industrial applications.  The objective of Conolly's project, titled Rapid in vivo optimization of solid tumor CAR-T cell therapies using advanced magnetic particle imaging (MPI),  is to determine whether a particular CAR-T cell cancer immunotherapy is working in hours rather than months.  CAR-T cells are tagged with safe magnetic nanoparticles before a treatment is administered so that oncologists can view how well they are targeting cancer cells using high resolution imaging technology.

Colin Parris elected to the NAE

EE alumnus Colin Parris (M.S. '87, Ph.D. '94, advisor: Domenico Ferrari) has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).  After a career at IBM Systems & Technology and General Electric (GE) Research, Parris is currently Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at GE.  He is known for his life-long commitment to "the development and enhancement of STEM programs across minority communities," and serves as a board member of the Annual Multicultural Business Youth Educational Services Embarkment (Ambyese), which prepares multicultural secondary school students for the challenges of pursuing careers in the corporate sector through self-esteem-building and exposure to successful role models in industry.  While a student Berkeley, Parris helped start the Summer Undergraduate Program in Engineering Research at Berkeley (SUPERB) and was deeply involved with the group Black Graduate Engineering and Science Students (BGESS).  At GE, Parris, whose expertise spans engineering, software, and AI-driven analytics, leads teams that leverage digital technologies in the energy industry and other industrial environments.  He created and leads the Digital Twin Initiative company-wide and is currently working to "accelerate business impact and transformation by combining lean principles with digital solutions."

Scott Shenker National Academy of Sciences

Scott Shenker wins 2022 Fiat Lux Faculty Award

CS Prof. Emeritus and Prof. in the Graduate School Scott Shenker has won the 2022 UC Berkeley Fiat Lux Faculty Award.  This achievement award, which is co-presented by the UC Berkeley Foundation and the Cal Alumni Association, recognizes a "faculty member whose extraordinary contributions go above and beyond the call of duty to advance the university’s philanthropic mission and transform its research, teaching, and programs."  Shenker, who is the Research Director of Extensible Internet at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), is known for his research contributions in the areas of energy-efficient processor scheduling, resource sharing, and software-defined networking.  He is a leader in the software-defined networking (SDN) technology movement and a co-founder of the open-source non-profit Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which sets standards and promotes SDN in anticipation of problems that arise when cloud computing blurs distinctions between computers and networks.  Shenker is also known for his philanthropic support of the university, including a donation of $25M toward the construction the new Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) building last June.  The award will be presented at the Berkeley charter Gala on May 12th.

Kathy Yelick wins 2022 CRA Distinguished Service Award

EECS Prof. Katherine Yelick has won the 2022 CRA Distinguished Service Award.  This award recognizes "a person or organization that has made an outstanding service contribution" with a major impact "to the computing research community" in the areas of government, professional societies, publications, conferences, or leadership.  Yelick has been a professor in the department since 1991,  and was the Associate Laboratory Director for Computing Sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).  She is known as the co-inventor of the UPC and Titanium languages and demonstrated their applicability through the use of novel runtime and compilation methods.  She also co-developed techniques for self-tuning numerical libraries.  She is the co-author of two books and more than 100 refereed technical papers on parallel languages, compilers, algorithms, libraries, architecture, and storage.