Wu-Fu Chen elected to Crown Bioscience Board of Directors

CS alumnus Wu-Fu Chen (Ph.D. '77) has been elected to the Board of Directors of Crown Bioscience Inc., a global drug discovery and development company.  Chen is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Acorn Campus Ventures and Partner Emeritus at Mobility Ventures LLC.  He started more than a dozen companies, including Cascade Communications (IPO in Nasdaq, $10B) and Xinwei Telecom (IPO in China, near $30B).  Forbes Magazine ranked Chen as one of the Top 100 Venture Investors in the U.S. and he was recognized by Red Herring magazine as one of the “Top Ten Entrepreneurs of 2000”.   He has been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and was once called the “Most Influential Person” in optical networking by Light Reading magazine.

UC Berkeley ranks #3 in 2017 U.S. and global CSRankings

UC Berkeley is ranked #3 overall in the U.S. and global computer science rankings (CSRankings) for 2017.  CSRankings is designed as a more meaningful and transparent alternative to the US News and World Report computer science ranking system--which is entirely reputation-based and relies on surveys sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies.  The CSRankings system is entirely metrics-based: it weighs departments by their presence at the most prestigious publication venues.    Berkeley ranked in the top 10 in all 4 fields:  Theory (1), Artificial Intelligence (3), Systems (6) and Interdisciplinary Areas (6).  And of the 26 areas ranked, Berkeley made the top 10 in 11 of them: computer vision(2), robotics(2), machine learning and data mining(3), computer security(3), cryptography(3), design automation(3), operating systems(4), natural language processing(5), software engineering(6), algorithms & complexity(7), computer networks(8).

Chancellor Gary May (Jesse Steshenko / Aggie)

Gary May confirmed as UC Davis chancellor

The Investiture of EECS alumnus Gary May (M.S. ’88 and Ph.D. ’92) as the seventh chancellor of UC Davis took place on Oct. 27 in the Mondavi Center, the first event in UC Davis’ annual Homecoming weekend.  May was presented with the Chancellor’s Medal by UC President Janet Napolitano, officially inaugurating him into his new position.  One of May's plans will be to develop Aggie Square — a technology and innovation hub in Sacramento.  “With diversity comes a wider and more interesting range of experiences, ideas, opinions and perceptions,” he said. “The greater the mix, the more likely we will make discoveries and solve problems — the hallmark of academic excellence.”

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.

David Sontag named to GNS Healthcare Strategic Advisory Board

CS alumnus David Sontag (B.A. '05), now an assistant professor of EECS at MIT, has been appointed to the Strategic Advisory Board of GNS Healthcare, one of the world's leading precision medicine companies.  Sontag is also the Hermann L.F. von Helmholtz Career Development Professor in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), and principal investigator in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT.  "GNS Healthcare's approach is at the forefront of machine learning, working to truly unlock the full potential of patient data to determine the best available therapy and treatment options. I look forward to working closely with the GNS team and the Strategic Advisory Board," said Sontag.

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.

Illustration by John Cuneo for The Atlantic

Barbara Simon's fight for paper ballots

CS alumna Barbara Simons (Ph.D. '81) is the subject of an article in The Atlantic titled "The Computer Scientist Who Prefers Paper," which explores her conviction that there is only one safe voting technology: paper ballots.  Simons, a pioneer at IBM Research, spent years trying to warn the public of problems with electronic voting systems--which she claimed were shoddy and hackable  She remained resolute, despite heavy criticism and a great deal of political pressure, until Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election became public and perceptions about her changed.  “Many of the leading opponents of paperless voting machines were, and still are, computer scientists, because we understand the vulnerability of voting equipment in a way most election officials don’t," she said. "The problem with cybersecurity is that you have to protect against everything, but your opponent only has to find one vulnerability.”

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.

Case studies in forward thinking: Pieter Abbeel, Claire Tomlin, Alexandre Bayen, Ken Goldberg, Ren Ng, and Ana Claudia Arias

Six EECS faculty are profiled in a Berkeley Engineering article titled "Case studies in forward thinking."  Pieter Abbeel's vision of the future is one of goal-oriented AI, where machines are learning responsibly.  Claire Tomlin envisions a future of airspace management, where intelligent robots can quickly and safely react to dynamic situations, and maybe even deliver packages on time.   Alexandre Bayen sees transit data trends, where data is used to reveal the previously unobservable.  Ken Goldberg envisions a future of dexterous robots, where machines work together with humans to refine their respective skills sand expertise.  Ren Ng's vision of the future is one where better optics--integrating both hardware and software--improve everything from computer vision and medical diagnostics to family photos and immersive entertainment.   Ana Claudia Arias sees a future which includes electronics and diagnostic equipment that fits the body of a patient and is capable of quickly producing high resolution images, all the while providing a more comfortable experience, particularly for children.