News

Nancy Amato is first woman to lead UI computer science department

CS alumna Nancy Amato (M.S. '88, advisor: Manuel Blum) has been chosen to lead the highly ranked University of Illinois Department of Computer Science — the first woman to hold that position.  She will oversee a fast-growing department that has 80 faculty members and more than 2,400 students, plus 700 online, and is ranked fifth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.  As a professor at Texas A&M, Amato's research focused on motion planning in robotics, parallel algorithms and bio-informatics.  She led an influential group within the Computing Research Association (CRA) to bring more women into the field and runs an undergraduate summer research program that matches students from underrepresented groups with faculty members. She received the CRA Habermann Award in 2014 for her efforts to involve more women and underrepresented minorities in computing research.

Dawn Tilbury: Shaping engineering research

EECS alumna Dawn Tilbury (M.S. '92/Ph.D. '94) is the subject of a Berkeley Engineering profile in honor of  the campus's year-long 150th anniversary celebration.  As head of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Engineering, which provides academic institutions with more than 40% of the federal grants for fundamental engineering research, Tilbury exemplifies the type of leadership nurtured through a Berkeley Engineering education.  “As the primary funder of basic research, NSF is uniquely positioned to bring people together to discover new approaches to renewable energy, reliable transportation, enhanced health and safety, and other national challenges," she said.

RAFAR wins Best Student Paper Award at MARSS 2018

"Bidirectional thin-film repulsive-/attractive-force electrostatic actuators for a crawling milli-robot," written by recent EE alumnus Ethan Schaler (Ph.D. '18), his advisor Prof. Ron Fearing, and two undergraduates from other departments (Loren Jiang in BioE and Caitlyn  Lee in E3S), received the Best Student Paper Award  from the International Conference on Manipulation, Automation, and  Robotics at Small Scales (MARSS) 2018 in Nagoya, Japan in July. The authors demonstrated a new thin-film electrostatic actuator (RAFA)  capable of generating bidirectional repulsive- and attractive-forces:  156 Pa in repulsion and 352 Pa in attraction, when operating at up to  1.2 kV. They used this actuator to power RAFAR, a 132 mg milli-robot  that crawls at 0.32 mm/s with anisotropic friction feet.   Schaler will be joining NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) this summer.

Tawfiq Mossadak named sales and marketing manager of Sensortech Systems

EECS alumnus Tawfiq Mossadak (B.S. '97, member of HKN) has been named sales and marketing manager of Sensortech Systems, a manufacturer of measurement and control instruments.  Tawfiq, who has 15 years of experience at Avnet, Madell Technology, and Altera,  will be responsible for leadership of the business development team, driving revenue, marketing and business strategy.  This appointment is part of Sensortech Systems’ expansion, which includes a new larger building, higher capacity production line with state-of-the-art environmental product testing.

Larry Nagel wins IEEE Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits

EECS alumnus Larry Nagel (B.S. '69/M.S. '70/Ph.D. '75) has won the 2019 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Donald O. Pederson Award in Solid-State Circuits, named for his graduate advisor EECS Prof. Donald O. Pederson.  The award recognizes outstanding contributions to solid-state circuits and has previously been presented to five EECS professors: Paul Gray, Robert Brodersen, Ping Ko, Chenming Hu and Robert Meyer.  Nagel was cited "for the development and demonstration of SPICE as a tool to design and optimize electronic circuits."  His Ph.D. dissertation was on SPICE2 and he founded Omega Enterprises in 1998 to consult on analog circuit design, circuit simulation, and semiconductor device modeling.

Startup Elph secures $875K in pre-seed funding

The House Fund has backed a $875,000 pre-seed round for Elph, a startup co-founded by two EECS alumni:  Ritik Malhotra (B.S. '15) and Tanooj Luthra (B.S. '13).  Elph operates a portal for accessing decentralized apps known as Ethereum dApps.  It provides a place to store digital assets (cryptocurrencies, tokens, collectibles), find dApps without having to scour the web, and use them natively.  Elph also plans to roll out a software development tool to simplify the process of building dApps.  The House Fund is a berkeley-based AI-focused startup accelerator.

AJ Shankar's startup Everlaw raises $25M in series B funding

Everlaw, a legal-tech startup founded by alumnus AJ Shankar (CS Ph.D. '09, advisor: Rastislav Bodik), has raised $25 million in a series B funding round.  Berkeley-based Everlaw was established in 2011 as a cloud-based e-discovery platform that lets lawyers easily organize and search through millions of documents, videos, emails, and pictures exchanged between legal teams before a trial.  Shankar, the company's CEO, said the money will be used to invest in AI which which they hope can be used to determine what documents will be a priority or what documents should be looked at next. The funding round was led by existing investors and Silicon Valley venture firm Andreeseen Horowitz.

Andrea Goldsmith wins IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award

2018 Distinguished Alumna Andrea Goldsmith (B.A. '86/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94, advisor: Pravin Varaiya) has won the IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award "for contributions to the fundamental understanding and innovation in adaptive and multiple antenna techniques for wireless communication networks."    The Sumner Award is sponsored by Nokia Bell Labs and recognizes outstanding contributions to communications technology. Goldsmith, who is the Stephen Harris Professor of Electrical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, is an expert in the design, analysis and fundamental performance limits of wireless systems and networks, and in the application of communication theory and signal processing to neuroscience.

John Schulman named MIT TR Pioneering Innovator Under 35

CS alumnus John Schulman (Ph.D. '16, adviser: Pieter Abbeel) has been named to MIT Technology Review's 2018 list of "35 Innovators Under 35," an honor which recognizes "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Schulman, whose dissertation was on "Optimizing Expectations: From Deep Reinforcement Learning to Stochastic Computation Graphs," is cited in the Pioneer category for "training AI to be smarter and better, one game of Sonic the Hedgehog at a time."   He is the co-founder of OpenAI, where he has created some key algorithms in reinforcement learning: he trains AI agents in the same way you might train a dog, by offering a treat for a correct response--in this case, by racking up a high score in a video game.  These algorithms, once trained, might be applied in the real world, where they can be used to improve robot locomotion.

Siemens to acquire startup Comfy

German conglomerate Siemens announced it will acquire Comfy, an Oakland-based startup co-founded in 2012 by two CS alumni, Andrew Krioukov (M.S. '13) and Stephen Dawson-Haggerty (Ph.D. '14).  Both students were advised by David Culler.  Comfy (formerly named Building Robotics) is an end-to-end solution utilizing sensors and smart technology to control all aspects of the workplace environment, allowing office workers to not just control temperature and lighting but determine whether a room is currently empty.  This comprehensive approach has helped Comfy land numerous tech giant clients, including Microsoft, Intel, Salesforce and Infosys.  "Our unique strength is that we have, from the beginning, focused on the end user experience," explained Krioukov. "The building of the future that we envision is one that from the moment you walk into work, it knows who you are and what you're doing that day."  The purchase is part of Siemens' expansion into smart building strategies.