News

Andrea Goldsmith named ACM Athena Lecturer

2018 EE Distinguished Alumna Andrea Goldsmith (B.A. ’86/M.S. ’91/Ph.D. ’94) has been named the 2018-19 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Athena Lecturer for contributions to the theory and practice of adaptive wireless communications, and for the successful transfer of research to commercial technology.  Goldsmith, who is currently the Stephen Harris Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford,  introduced innovative approaches to the design, analysis and fundamental performance limits of wireless systems and networks. The Athena Lecturer Award, which was initiated by the ACM Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), celebrates women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to computer science. The award carries a cash prize of $25,000, with financial support provided by Google.

Michael Jordan explains why the AI revolution hasn’t happened yet

In an Op-Ed piece for Medium, CS and Statistics Prof. Michael Jordan examines the limits of AI and argues for the creation of an engineering discipline encompassing data science, intelligent infrastructure (II), and intelligence augmentation (IA).   Principles of analysis and design must be applied when building planetary-scale inference-and-decision-making systems because they will have a profound effect on human lives.   "We need to realize that the current public dialog on AI — which focuses on a narrow subset of industry and a narrow subset of academia — risks blinding us to the challenges and opportunities that are presented by the full scope of AI, IA and II," he writes.

James Demmel and Eric Brewer elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

EECS Chair Prof. James Demmel (Ph.D. '83) and CS Prof. Emeritus Eric Brewer (B.S. '89) have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The academy is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States and serves the nation as a champion of scholarship, civil dialogue and useful knowledge.  Members are nominated and elected by peers, and membership has been considered a high honor of scholarly and societal merit ever since the academy was founded in 1780. Demmel, who holds joint appointments in the EECS Department and the Department of Mathematics, won the ACM Paris Kannelakis Theory and Practice Award in 2014 and the IEEE Computer Society Sydney Fernbach Award in 2010 for "computational science leadership in creating adaptive, innovative, high performance linear algebra software." Brewer, who now serves as VP of Infrastructure at Google, is one of the 2018 CS Distinguished Alumni as well as the 2009 recipient of the ACM Prize in Computing for his "design and development of highly scalable internet services and innovations in bringing information technology to developing regions"

Michael Laskey talks DART in Robohub podcast

EECS graduate student Michael Laskey (advisor: Ken Goldberg) is interviewed by Audrow Nash for a Robohub podcast titled "DART: Noise injection for robust imitation learning."  Laskey works in the AUTOLAB where he develops new algorithms for Deep Learning of robust robot control policies and examines how to reliably apply recent deep learning advances for scalable robotics learning in challenging unstructured environments.  In the podcast, he discusses how DART relates to previous imitation learning methods, how this approach has been used for folding bed sheets, and on the importance of robotics leveraging theory in other disciplines.

Lea Kissner leads Google's internal privacy strike force

EECS alumna Lea Kissner (B.S. '02) is the subject of a Gizmodo article describing her visit to a class at Berkeley this week where she discussed her job as a Principal Engineer at Google leading the security and privacy teams for infrastructure and social products.  One team of 90 employees with different backgrounds and skill sets, called NightWatch, reviews almost all of the products that Google launches for potential privacy flaws.  The article also covers some of the obstacles she has faced and her involvement chairing a discussion topic on Practical Privacy Protection at the OURSA conference in San Francisco today. “I want to tell people things we’ve learned. I want to build the world I want to live in, and the world I want to live in includes things like products being designed respectfully of users and systems being designed respectfully for users. I don’t think everybody has to learn everything the hard way,” Kissner tells me later. Then, the mathematician in her kicks in and she adds, “It’s very inefficient if nothing else.”

Allan Jabri named 2018 Soros Fellow

CS graduate student Allan Jabri has been named a 2018 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow.   Soros Fellowships are awarded to outstanding immigrants and children of immigrants from across the globe who are pursuing graduate school in the United States.  Recipients are chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to US society, culture, or their academic fields, and will receive up to $90K in funding over two years.  Jabri was born in Australia to parents from China and Lebanon and was raised in the US.   He received his B.S. at Princeton where his thesis focused on probabilistic methods for egocentric scene understanding, and worked as a research engineer at Facebook AI Research in New York before joining Berkeley AI Research (BAIR).  He  is interested in problems related to self-supervised learning, continual learning, intrinsic motivation, and embodied cognition. His long-term goal is to build learning algorithms that allow machines to autonomously acquire visual and sensorimotor common sense. During his time at Berkeley, he also hopes to mentor students, contribute to open source code projects, and develop a more interdisciplinary perspective on AI.

Linda Huang publishes award-winning book of short stories

EECS instructional system administrator Linda Huang (who publishes under the name Yang Huang) has just released her second book, a collection of short stories titled "My Old Faithful: Stories" (University of Massachusetts Press).   The ten interconnected stories, which take place in China and the United States over a thirty-year period, merge to paint a nuanced portrait of family life, full of pain, surprises, and subtle acts of courage. Richly textured narratives from the mother, father, son, and daughters of a close-knit Chinese family play out against the backdrop of China's social and economic change.  "My Old Faithful" won the 2017 Juniper Prize for Fiction , an award established by the University of Massachusetts Press to honor outstanding novels and short story collections.  Mrs. Dalloway's bookstore in Berkeley is hosting an event, "Yang Huang in Conversation with Kaitlin Solimine," on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 pm.  Huang's debut novel, "Living Treasures," won the Nautilus Book Award Silver Medal in Fiction in 2014.

Berkeley boosts female computing grads

Assistant Teaching Prof. John DeNero and CS major Tammy Nguyen are featured in a Mercury News article titled "Forget tech’s bad bros: Stanford, Berkeley boost female computing grads."   Between 2010 and 2017, UC Berkeley doubled the percentage of women receiving degrees in CS, from 11% to 22%, which runs counter to a national trend in which the proportion of women receiving degrees in computer and information sciences dropped from a high of 37% in 1984 to about 18% in 2016.  DeNero talks about some of the hurdles women must overcome if they are interested in pursuing careers in computer science.  The problems facing women in the tech industry, brought to light by the "Me Too" movement, is a concern. “It comes up even on the first day of class,” he said. “The students are very keen to talk about it, understand it. They really want to know, ‘Are all companies the same? Is this something I’m going to see everywhere?'”  Berkeley has taken a number of steps to improve the representation of women in the field.  “We have invested a lot of time and energy in figuring out what our introductory curriculum should look like, how we teach our courses, and in particular what kind of support mechanisms can we put in place to make sure that somebody who wants to study computer science has a good chance of being successful,” he said.

Stephen Tu wins Google Fellowship

EE graduate student Stephen Tu (advisor: Ben Recht) has been awarded a 2018 Google Fellowship.  Google Fellowships are presented to exemplary PhD students in computer science and related areas to acknowledge contributions to their chosen fields and provide funding for their education and research. Tu's current research interests "lie somewhere in the intersection of machine learning and optimization" although he previously worked on multicore databases and encrypted query processing.  Tu graduated with a CS B.A./ME B.S. from Berkeley in 2011 before earning an EECS S.M. from MIT in 2014.

Making computer animation more agile, acrobatic — and realistic

Graduate student Xue Bin “Jason” Peng (advisors Pieter Abbeel and Sergey Levine) has made a major advance in realistic computer animation using deep reinforcement learning to recreate natural motions, even for acrobatic feats like break dancing and martial arts. The simulated characters can also respond naturally to changes in the environment, such as recovering from tripping or being pelted by projectiles.  “We developed more capable agents that behave in a natural manner,” Peng said. “If you compare our results to motion-capture recorded from humans, we are getting to the point where it is pretty difficult to distinguish the two, to tell what is simulation and what is real. We’re moving toward a virtual stuntman.”  Peng will present his paper at the 2018 SIGGRAPH conference in August.