HKN receives 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award

The UC Berkeley chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) has been named recipient the 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award. This award is presented to IEEE-HKN chapters in recognition of excellence in their chapter administration and programs. Main criteria for being selected for this award are to improve professional development; raise instructional and institutional standards; encourage scholarship and creativity; provide a public service, and generally further the established goals of IEEE-HKN.

Tobias Boelter finds vulnerability in WhatsApp

Computer Science graduate student Tobias Boelter has found a security loophole in the popular messaging app WhatsApp that could allow encrypted messages to be read and  intercepted.  Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, had emphasized security and end-to-end encryption as a primary selling point.  This flaw may be an inadvertent error or a deliberate backdoor.  Tobias writes "Facebook does not deny that there is a vulnerability that can be used to 'wiretap' targeted conversations by, for example, governments with access to WhatsApp’s servers. And despite WhatsApp’s recent public statements, the vulnerability cannot be avoided by verifying fingerprints or checking a checkbox in the WhatsApp settings."

Algorithm probes how AIs reason

Quartz  explores an algorithm devised by CS Prof. Trevor Darrell, L&S CS undergraduate student Dong Huk Park, CS grad student Lisa Anne Hendricks, and postdoc Marcus Rohrbach, along with researchers in the Max Planck Institute for Informatics,  in an article titled "We don’t understand how AI make most decisions, so now algorithms are explaining themselves." Engineers have developed deep learning systems that ‘work’ without necessarily knowing why they work or being able to show the logic behind a system’s decision.   The algorithm uses a “pointing and justification” system, to point to the data used to make a decision and justify why it was used that way.

Jun-Yan Zhu creates algorithms for the artistically challenged

CS graduate student Jun-Yan Zhu (adviser: Alexei Efros) is the subject of an article in California Magazine titled "Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged."  Zhu and his team apply the tools of machine learning to computer graphics.  For example, in the team's most recent project, they developed software that lets users easily create realistic images from the crudest brushstrokes.  Their research projects have yielded potential applications from improving online searching and e-commerce to art and fashion.

EECS students win four CRA outstanding undergraduate research awards

All four EECS undergraduates nominated for 2017 Computing Research Association (CRA) research awards were recognized this year.  EECS undergraduate Smitha Milli won the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for the female category, Jingyi Li won 2nd place nationally, receiving Runner-up in the female category, Ashvin Nair received Finalist recognition for the male category, and L&S CS undergraduate Xinyang (Young) Geng received Honorable Mention for the male category.

UC Berkeley is ranked #1 school for coding in the US

According to Business Insider, most college computer science rankings only include factors like the number of research papers published, global reputation, etc., while ignoring practical coding skills. HackerRank, a free coding practice website that allows developers to hone their coding skills by solving challenges, launched a University Rankings Competition to figure out which schools produce the best coders.  Berkeley was ranked #1 in America and #4 internationally out of over 5,000 participants from 126 schools. 

Salto the wall-jumping robot is the most vertically agile ever built

EECS Prof. Ronald Fearing, EECS PhD student Justin Yim, post doc Dr. Mark Plecnik, and ME PhD student Duncan Haldane have created Salto, the most vertically agile jumping robot.  Salto can repeatedly jump 1 meter vertically at almost two times per second.  Salto is featured in the premier issue of Science Robotics (Dec. 6).

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.