Four EECS undergraduate researchers recognized by CRA

All four EECS students nominated for this year's Computing Research Association (CRA) Undergraduate Researcher Award were recognized by the selection committee.  Senior CS/Math major Garrett Thomas (nominated by Pieter Abbeel) and EECS junior Peter Manohar (nominated by Alessandro Chiesa) were named as finalists.  Senior CS major Siqi Liu (nominated by Sanjam Garg) and CS/Statistics/Math senior Tianhe Yu (nominated by Sergey Levine and Pieter Abbeel) merited honorable mentions.  This award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.

Rikky Muller flanked by Wang and Grubb

Daniel Grubb and Ruocheng Wang win EE140/240A Keysight design competition

Daniel Grubb (EE140) and Ruocheng Wang (EE240A) have won an Analog Integrated Circuits I class design competition sponsored by Keysight technologies. The students designed low-power and high-speed LCD display drivers for a smartwatch display for the classes taught by Assistant Prof. Rikky Muller. Competition finalists gave presentations to a panel of judges that included three Berkeley alumni who are now Keysight engineers.  Grubb and Wang won hand-held digital multimeters generously donated by Keysight.

Sameera Vemulapalli named runner-up for 2018 Alice T. Schafer Prize

Math and L&S CS major Sameera Vemulapalli has been named Runner-up for the 2018 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman. The Schafer Prize is awarded annually by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) to the most outstanding woman mathematics undergraduate in the United States.  Vemulpalli, who is currently finishing her senior year, was judged on  the quality of her performance in advanced mathematics courses and special programs,  her demonstrated real interest in mathematics ability for independent work in mathematics, and her performance in mathematical competitions at the local or national level.

Allen Tang (second from left) and team (David Filiberti via Citadel)

Allen Tang's team wins data science competition

EECS Master's student Allen Tang (also alumnus, B.A. CS/Statistics/ORMS) and his Berkeley teammates have won the Data Open Championship at the New York Stock Exchange.  The winners receive a $100,000 cash prize and possible job interviews with Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund firm. The competition was comprised of 20 one-day competitions from Stanford to MIT to Oxford, with the best performers competing in the week-long finale.  The Berkeley team of four applied data science to a meaningful problem in education--the impact of opening charter schools--to find where more funding would have the biggest effect. They worked 16-hour days during the week and produced a 20-page report and presentation on how charter schools have a negative impact in the short-term but outperform public schools in the long-term because of a survivorship bias. Only good charters stay in the system while bad ones close.

A “blankie” that contains printed MRI coils (Usha Lee McFarling/STAT)

Ana Claudia Arias, Miki Lustig, and Joe Corea's printable, wearable devices

Prof. Ana Claudia Arias, Prof. Miki Lustig, and graduate student Joseph Corea, are featured in a STAT article titled "Electronics ‘like a second skin’ make wearables more practical and MRIs safer for kids."  The team is using printers loaded with a variety of high-tech inks (liquid silver nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes and semiconducting plastics) to make a new generation of medical devices, from wearables to barely noticeable MRI hardware for kids.  They have created light, flexible MRI coils that will improve image quality as well as patient comfort, and  have spun off a company called InkSpace Imaging to speed development.  “What would be best would be electronics that were almost like a second skin,” Arias said. “No adhesive. No straps. Almost like underwear — you forget that you’re wearing it.”

Doug Tygar's class of "ethical hackers" learns to wage cyberwar

Prof. Doug Tygar and his CS 194 Cybewar class are the focus of a New Yorker article titled "At Berkeley, a New Generation of “Ethical Hackers” Learns to Wage Cyberwar." The students have teamed up with the white hat hackers at HackerOne, a vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform.  Companies, organizations, and government agencies use HackerOne to solicit help identifying vulnerabilities in their products––or, as Tygar put it, “subject themselves to the indignity of having undergraduate students try to hack them.”  Junior Vy-An Phan decided to focus on various secretary-of-state Web sites around the country, which house tools central to the electoral process—voter registration, ballot measures, candidate information, Election Day guidelines.  She has already found eight bugs spread across four sites.  “I could trick someone into registering for the wrong party, or not registering at all,” Phan said.

Embodied Intelligence raises $7M in seed round

Start-up Embodied Intelligence,  founded by Prof. Pieter Abbeel and his grad students Peter Chen, Rocky Duan, and Tianhao Zhang, raised $7M in a seed round yesterday led by venture capital firm Amplify Partners.  VC firms Lux Capital, SV Angels, FreeS, 11.2 Capital, and A. Capital also supplied capital.  Embodied Intelligence is building AI software to enable robots to learn tasks performed by the user via a virtual reality headset.  It claims existing robots will be compatible with the "robot brain," which would supplant coding scripts tailored to each task.  Embodied will use the seed capital to write its first robotics applications.

Bhat and Phadte (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Students help debunk fake news surrounding Texas shooting

EECS junior Rohan Phadte and fellow student Ash Bhat launched their Chrome browser extension,, on Halloween and it is already proving invaluable.   The app determines whether news posts on Twitter likely came from real people or were generated by a bot.  When an armed gunman attacked the congregants of a Texas church this weekend, all legitmate news accounts agreed that neither race nor religion appeared to play a role.  But a barrage of bots immediately started spreading rumors that the shooter had recently converted to Islam or was a member of Antifa.   According to a simple random sample of 1,500 political propaganda Twitter bots the students posted on their site, #texaschurchmassacre was the bot world’s third favorite hashtag on Monday, after #maga and #antifa.

Students learn to think like hackers for 'cyberwar' course

CS students enrolled in CS 194, an experimental “cyberwar” course led by Prof. Doug Tygar,  have joined forces with the white hat hackers at HackerOne, a vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform.  This is the first time that HackerOne--which connects hackers with tech companies, private businesses and federal agencies to hunt for vulnerabilities--has partnered with a university.  Students are gaining real-world cyberwar experience. “Unless students can learn to ‘think like a hacker,’ they will not be able to effectively defend systems” says Tygar.

BRETT training with VR

EECS-affiliated startup uses virtual reality to show robots how to perform

The start-up Embodied Intelligence and its founders, Prof. Pieter Abbeel and grad students Peter Chen, Rocky Duan, and Tianhao Zhang, are the focus of two news articles: one from the New York Times titled "A.I. Researchers Leave Elon Musk Lab to Begin Robotics Start-Up," and one from Berkeley News titled "Berkeley startup to train robots like puppets."  The start-up is backed by $7 million in funding from Amplify Partners and other investors and will specialize in complex algorithms that allow machines to learn new tasks on their own through extreme trial and error.  The researchers are augmenting the algorithms with a wide range of techniques, like using virtual reality tools to show a robot how to perform a task--translating the movements into digital data.  “With our advances in machine learning, we can write a piece of software once — machine learning code that enables the robot to learn — and then when the robot needs to be equipped with a new skill, we simply provide new data.” Abbeel explains.