Sam Kumar is 2017 University Medal runner up

EECS major Sam Kumar is a runner up for the 2017 University Medal.  Candidates for the University Medal must have overcome significant challenges, made a difference in the lives of others and carry a GPA of 3.96 or higher.  Sam is involved in research related to software-defined buildings, has spent each semester volunteering time as a tutor, allowing him to give back to a community that he said has been instrumental to his time as a student. One of his favorite memories from Cal involves a class in Sanskrit.  "Before we got to the literature, we had to learn the basics. We started were reading simple passages and doing vocabulary exercises to get the basics, but eventually I was able to read authentic texts from thousands of years ago. Being able to read an ancient language – after only two semesters of studying – was a breathtaking moment for me.”    Sam will receive a $500 award as a tribute to his academic efforts and, after graduation, he plans to work on a Ph.D. in computer science.

Tomás Vega Gálvez and Corten Singer chosen Lemelson-MIT “Drive it!” Undergraduate Team Winners

CS undergraduates Tomás Vega Gálvez and Corten Singer have been chosen the $10,000 Lemelson-MIT “Drive it!” Undergraduate Team Winner for an open-source smart add-on system for wheelchairs. Vega and Singer created WheelSense, a modular, customizable add-on system for wheelchairs that provides spatial awareness for visually impaired users to identify obstacles and ease their navigation. It has three features: frontal staircase detection through auditory feedback, backward obstacle-avoidance assistance through auditory feedback, and lateral ramp-edge detection through haptic feedback. They hope to disrupt the expensive market for assistive technologies for the disabled community by making their technology open source.  The “Drive it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize rewards students working on technology-based inventions that can improve transportation.

Meet Ray, the Real-Time Machine-Learning Replacement for Spark

CS Prof. Michael Jordan, graduate students Philipp Moritz and Robert Nishihara, and research in the RISELab are featured in a Datanami article titled "Meet Ray, the Real-Time Machine-Learning Replacement for Spark."  Ray is one of the first technologies to emerge from RISELab, the successor to AMPLab and its host of influential distributed technologies including Spark, Mesos, and Tachyon. Ray is a new distributed framework designed to enable Python-based machine learning and deep learning workloads to execute in real-time with MPI-like power and granularity. This framework is ostensibly a replacement for Spark, which is seen as too slow for some real-world AI applications.

BiasBusters at the Community Grants Showcase

BiasBusters @ Cal EECS will make a presentation at this year's Community Grants Showcase:  Changing Social Norms on April 19, 2017.  BiasBusters @ Cal EECS focuses on engaging EECS faculty, staff, and students to shift culture and increase the inclusion of women and underrepresented minorities in our community.   The program, modeled on Google’s Bias Busting @ Work program, was initiated by Director of Diversity and Achievement Tiffany Reardon and is organized by graduate students Vasuki Swamy and Regina Eckert.  Regular workshops are led by volunteers in the EECS community who have been trained as program facilitators in an effort to promote self-awareness about unconscious bias and teach how to address it in our department and daily lives.  The grant was sponsored by the PATH to Care Center with support from the Violence Prevention Collaborative.

Radhika Mittal and Sam Chiu-Wai Wong win 2017 Google PhD Fellowships

Graduate students Radhika Mittal (advisors: Sylvia Ratnasamy and Scott Shenker) and Sam Chiu-Wai Wong (advisor: Christos Papadimitriou) have won 2017 Google PhD Fellowships. This is one of the highest honors available for Computer Science graduate students.  Each selected university is permitted to nominate two students and Google awards approximately 15 named fellowships per year.  Radhika, whose area is Computer Networking, was awarded a Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship in 2013.  Sam, who is interested in the area of Algorithms and Complexity, won Best Paper at the IEEE FOCS Symposium in 2015 and has been awarded an IBM Scholarship.

Matthias Vallentin and Vern Paxson take a “VAST” Step Forward in Cyber Security

Postdoctoral researcher Matthias Vallentin is developing VAST,  a  forensic analysis tool  designed to help prioritize the investigation of computer security breaches.  It complements Bro, a security tool  devised by Prof. Vern Paxson when he was a graduate student 22 years ago and which is now used worldwide, to instantly collect huge volumes of log data that a hack might compromise.  “Maybe the external machine also appeared in a phishing email, which contained a PDF attachment. Not only that, but the PDF also includes a malicious payload, which upon opening, sends sensitive information from the employee’s computer to a cyber criminal.  VAST supports this iterative process to reconstruct the complete picture and presents it on a platter” explains Vallentin.  The function, development, and industrial potential of these tools are discussed in a Berkeley Research article.

Baiyu Chen awarded top prize at Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge

CS graduate student Baiyu Chen (advisor: Alexei Efros) and Anthony Barrs were awarded top prize and $50,000 for their design at the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge.  Their idea, profiled in an article for Fortune, was to construct a "Hyperlane," or a single platform the size of four interstate lanes that would run parallel to pre-existing highways in order for self-driving cars to travel at high speeds with no chance of getting into a jam.

Tomás Vega rises to a disability challenge

Tomás Vega, a senior computer science and cognitive science major, was part of a team that participated in the first collegiate Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) event and which was profiled in a Jewish News article titled "Cal students pull a marathon to engineer disability solutions."  His team, led by Berkeley alumnus Pierluigi Mantovani, designed a special pair of gloves to help a Berkeley filmmaker with very limited use of his hands navigate a computer screen.  The filmmaker, who had to use a joystick with his lower lip to navigate, can now perform the same task by just slightly moving his wrists.  The gloves use electromyography, which detects signals from his muscles.   “When someone tells you, ‘Thank you for changing my life, for improving the quality of my life,’ there’s nothing like that,” Vega said.

Dan Garcia's research group GameCrafters featured in PBS Newshour article

Prof. Dan Garcia was interviewed in a PBS Newshour article titled “This Pi Day, use math to beat your friends at classic toy games”. To celebrate Pi Day, mathematicians and physicists explored three classic toys, hula hoops, yo-yo’s and Connect Four on ways to be the most successful with each toy. To count how many possible ways a real game of Connect Four could end, Prof. Garcia’s  research group called GamesCrafters created a program to simulate all the moves. GamesCrafters “strongly solved” the game and found 4,531,985,219,092, or 4.53 trillion combinations to Connect Four are possible.

Student startup culture is in The House

A number of EECS alumni and faculty have been invited to guest lecture for a DeCal course called "Build the Future" (CS 198), designed in collaboration with startup institute The House, to get undergraduate students engaged with the Berkeley entrepreneurial ecosystem and to use their time on campus creatively.  CS majors Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa (who run a company called Bash) helped develop the course, CS Prof. Scott Shenker is the faculty advisor, and Cameron Baradar (B.S.’15 EECS) is executive director of The House.  Speakers will include CS Prof. Joe Hellerstein, EE Prof. Kurt Keutzer, co-founder of Oculus Jack McCauley (B.S.’86, EECS), and founder of inDinero Jessica Mah (B.S.’10 EECS).