How Bill Marczak found spyware that could control anybody's iPhone

CS graduate student Bill Marczak (adviser: Vern Paxson) is the subject of a Vanity Fair article titled "How a grad stduent found spyware that could control anybody's iPhone from anywhere in the world."  Last summer, Bill stumbled across a program that could spy on your iPhone’s contact list and messages—and even record your calls. Illuminating shadowy firms that sell spyware to corrupt governments across the globe, Bill’s story reveals the new arena of cyber-warfare.

Bill just presented his dissertation talk and will likely stay on another year as a postdoc working with Prof. Paxson.

Scott Beamer receives 2016 SPEC Kaivalya Dixit Distinguished Dissertation Award

Dr. Scott Beamer's dissertation titled "Undertanding and Improving Graph Algorithm Performance" has been selected to receive the 2016 Standard Performance Evaluation Corp (SPEC) Kaivalya Dixit Distinguished Dissertation Award.  The award recognizes outstanding doctoral dissertations in the field of computer benchmarking, performance evaluation, and experimental system analysis in general.  Papers are evaluated on scientific originality, scientific significance, practical relevance, impact, and quality of the presentation.

Among other comments, the members of the committee were impressed with Beamer's deep understanding of open-source graphs, with the quality of the implementations, with the creation of a graph benchmark suite that is already been used, that is relevant for High Performance Computing, and that is likely to have further impact in the future. The committee also remarked on the clarity and simplicity of the ideas presented in the document.

The award will be presented at the International Conference on Performance Engineering (ICPE) in April.

Daniel Pok and Isabel Zhang on VR@Berkeley

EECS major Daniel Pok and CS major Isabel Zhang are featured in a Berkeley News article titled “Seeing is believing”. They are the co-founders of a student organization called VR@Berkeley. The club provides students access to virtual reality equipment and training and charters project teams to explore the applications and implications of virtual reality in diverse fields through research and development. The VR (virtual reality) club started with a handful of members in early 2015 and has grown to 200 members across campus who are working on a range of projects including an augmented 3-D virus model that pops off the page of a biology textbook and the use of virtual reality to play the Campanile’s carillon.

Berkeley Blue team advances to World Finals

On Saturday, November 5, Berkeley hosted the 2016 Pacific Northwest Regional Programming Contest, part of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest.  In Division I, the Berkeley Blue team, comprising Keyhan Vakil, Evan Limanto, and Ruichao Chen, took second place, behind a team from the University of British Columbia (and ahead of the top Stanford team). In Division II, the Berkeley Ursi team, comprising Michael Luo, Larry Yang, and Eric Sheng, took first place.

The Berkeley Blue team now advances to the World Finals to be held in Rapid City, South Dakota in May 2017.

Alexandria Finley's graceful pas de deux of ballet and EECS

EECS sophomore Alexandria Finley has been selected to compete in the 2016 Genée International Ballet Competition as one of the 10 participants sponsored by the Royal Academy of Dance.  One hundred dancers will compete over 10 days this December in Sydney, Australia, at the Genée,  one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.  Alexandria describes how she balances her passions for dance, computer science, and physics in an interview with Heather Levien.

Looking at the Top in Tech: Virginia Smith

Grad student Virginia Smith has experienced periods where she felt somewhat isolated during her study of CS, a field that still has relatively few women. She recently joined forces with Ph.D. alumna Gitanjali Swamy and former Chair Tsu-Jae King Liu to form a round table of influential women in tech to think about how to increase diversity at the top levels. She has also written an article about this work.  Read about Virginia's experiences and endeavors.

Berkeley EECS at 2016 ACM Richard Tapia Diversity in Computing Conference

Last week 18 undergraduates, three graduate students, two faculty, and four staff from UC Berkeley’s EECS Department attended the 2016 ACM Richard Tapia Diversity in Computing Conference in Austin, Texas.  In addition to making new connections with diversity leaders in academia and industry, Berkeley EECS participants reconnected with several EECS alumni: Jeffrey Forbes (Associate Dean at Duke University), Beth Trushkowsky (Assistant Professor at Harvey Mudd College), Valerie Taylor (Associate Dean at Texas A & M), and Hakim Weatherspoon (Associate Professor at Cornell). Teaching Professor Dan Garcia co-led a birds-of-a-feather session for Hispanics in Computing, and was a panelist on a session titled “Engaging Students of Color in Computer Science", which reflected on the department's recent efforts to broaden participation in computing.  *Dr. Raquel Romano of Google, and former LBL Postdoc, delivered a Keynote on "Redefining Inclusion: Technology as an Act of Service." *  EECS Director of Diversity Tiffany Reardon presented a poster highlighting the department’s support of women in undergraduate computing.  A highlight of the conference for many of us was seeing David Patterson receive the Richard Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing.  For years Professor Patterson has been an ardent supporter of the Tapia Conference as past Conference Chair, serving on the steering committee and funding large UC Berkeley contingents to attend the event. Well deserved, Dave! Berkeley students and faculty have attended every Tapia conference since the first one, in 2001. 

Haile Shavers is the Literal Face of Diversity in Tech

CS Scholar Haile Shavers is the subject of an interview by Youth Radio/The Huffington Post in which she discusses her experiences as a black woman undergraduate studying computer science.  Haile graces a billboard on Broadway and 22nd Street in Oakland, sponsored by the Kapor Center for Social Impact, which reads "As Oakland becomes more tech, let’s ensure tech becomes more Oakland."

HKN holds town hall to address department concerns

EECS honor society Eta Kappa Nu (HKN)  hosted a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, to discuss concerns created by long waitlists for some EECS classes.  The town hall was attended by EECS Chair Jitendra Malik, CS Chair James Demmel, and EE Chair Jan Rabaey, as well as a variety of faculty, staff, and students in the department.  The meeting was prompted by a dramatic increase in the number of undergraduates taking computer science classes over the past three years which resulted in waitlists of around 2,600 students at the beginning of this semester.   Although generous private donations, which were applied to short term funding for additional GSIs, helped alleviate the worst of the problem by the third week of classes, a longer-term strategy needs to be devised.

Paul Bramsen and Wesley Hsieh

Paul Bramsen and Wesley Hsieh named 2017 Siebel Scholars

EECS graduate students Paul Bramsen and Wesley Hsieh have been selected as Siebel Scholars for 2017. The Siebel Scholars program promotes leadership, academic achievement and “the collaborative search for solutions to the world’s most critical issues." Paul builds data structures and Wesley leverages human intuition and demonstrations to improve robot learning.  Siebel Scholars are recognized as exceptional graduate students in business, computer science, bioengineering and energy science and comes with an award of $35,000.