News

Campus Reopening Notice

Starting June 16th, vaccinated EECS faculty, staff, and students can voluntarily return to their offices, labs and other research spaces in Cory and Soda Halls if they follow the procedures outlined in the EECS Safety Manual.  Building restrictions for non-affiliated collaborators, event attendees, and visitors will continue but be loosened over time. Cory and Soda Halls will open during the first week in August.  We are not hosting events or activities until we receive more clarity about regulatory requirements and are able to resume full operations. Most employees will return to campus on July 12th, and in-person instruction will resume for the Fall semester on August 25th, unless otherwise specified by campus. Please continue to check the University Coronavirus Updates and Resources for latest information.

NLP team helps a computer win the 2021 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

A team at the Berkeley Natural Language Processing Group (NLP) helped augment an AI system named "Dr. Fill" that has won the 2021 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT).  This is the first time in the contest's history that an AI has trumped its human competitors.  The team, which included CS Prof. Dan Klein, graduate students Nicholas Tomlin, Eric Wallace, and Kevin Yang, and undergraduate students Albert Xu and Eshaan Pathak, approached Matthew Ginsberg, who created the Dr. Fill algorithm in 2012, and offered to join forces by contributing their machine learning system  called the Berkeley Crossword Solver (BCS).  BCS employs a neural network model to combine general language understanding with more "creative" crossword puzzle clues, then applies its knowledge to practice puzzles, improving as it learns.  “We had a state-of-the-art natural language understanding and question-answering component but a pretty basic crossword handler, while Matt had the best crossword system around and a bunch of domain expertise, so it was natural to join forces,” said Klein. “As we talked, we realized that our systems were designed in a way that made it very easy to interoperate because they both speak the language of probabilities.”  ACPT is the oldest and biggest tournament of its kind, consisting of seven qualifying puzzles and a final playoff puzzle; solvers are ranked using a formula that balances accuracy and speed. Although Dr. Fill made three errors, it completed most puzzles in well under a minute, and ultimately outscored its top human competitor, who made zero errors, by 15 points.  The contest was held online this year and attracted more than 1,100 contestants vying for the $3K grand prize. 

Tsu-Jae King Liu, Chenming Hu, and Leon Chua featured as luminaries on IEEE EDS podcast

Dean of Berkeley Engineering and EECS Prof. Tsu-Jae King Liu, and EECS Profs. Emeritus Leon Chua and Chenming Hu (also Professor in the Graduate School), are featured as luminaries in an IEEE Electron Devices Society (EDS) Podcast Series.  Considered among "the most successful members of the [Electron Devices] Society," these three professors share their insights and wisdom in interviews designed to provide "invaluable inspiration and knowledge for those in the engineering field."  Liu, the first and only woman to chair the EECS Department, leads a research team that explores the development of novel semiconductor devices, non-volatile memory devices, and M/NEMS technology for ultra-low power circuits.  Hu is considered a “microelectronics visionary" whose seminal work on metal-oxide semiconductor MOS reliability and device modeling has had enormous impact on the continued scaling of electronic devices.  Chua is an expert in nonlinear circuit theory and cellular neural network theory, the inventor of the eponymous Chua's circuit, and the first person to postulate the existence of the memristor.  Liu and Hu are among the co-inventors of the three-dimensional FinFET transistor, which is used in all leading microprocessor chips today.

EECS Faculty votes to drop GRE requirement indefinitely

After intensive debate spanning 2020 and 2021, and careful analysis of a trial cycle of GRE-free admissions for Fall 2021, the EECS Department has voted to drop the GRE requirement for graduate admissions indefinitely. Effective immediately, and beginning with the Fall 2022 cohort, whose application window opens in September 2021, the application requirements for all graduate research degree programs in EECS will neither require, nor accept, GRE scores.

In 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the EECS faculty temporarily suspended the GRE requirement for graduate admissions for the 2020-21 cycle, i.e., for those admitted for Fall 2021, primarily due to the challenges posed by COVID. The department subsequently observed a 30% increase in applications from groups historically underrepresented in EECS, a 47% increase in admittance of those applicants, and a 150% increase in yield from those populations. Not only did we attract and admit more high-performing underrepresented students, but a higher percentage of those admitted decided to attend UC Berkeley to study EECS.

The graduate admissions process in EECS is a holistic review involving the following factors: transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statements, statements about intended research, publications (if any), and for applicants evaluated favorably on these factors, one or more phone conversations with EECS faculty.  Since applicants come from a wide range of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, we also consider the applicant's demonstrated ability and motivation taken in the context of the opportunities they had available. Given this thorough, multifaceted review, the majority of EECS faculty concluded, after extensive discussion, that the GRE does not add much value, relative to the harm it does to diversity and equity. 

Diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is a longstanding challenge. For example, nationally, fewer than 22% of computer science PhD degrees are awarded to women students, and only 4% to Black students. GRE scores show significant gender and race-based differences, but these differences do not correlate with later success in graduate school, much less with undergraduate grade point average (GPA) in many cases. Therefore, using GRE scores as a “cutoff” disadvantages women and underrepresented minorities applying to graduate programs. The UC Regents recently voted to drop ACT/SAT scores from undergraduate admissions for the UC system for similar reasons.

For these reasons, along with the financial burden GRE testing fees place on economically disadvantaged applicants across the globe, the EECS Department has concluded that the GRE score has limited benefit in evaluating PhD and masters degree applicants, and that the exam itself, as well as the administration of it, harms diversity and equity.

For more information about Berkeley EECS graduate admissions, please visit our website: 

https://eecs.berkeley.edu/academics/graduate/research-programs/admissions

David Culler EECS Berkeley Citation

David Culler awarded Berkeley Citation

Prof. Emeritus David Culler is a 2021 recipient of the Berkeley Citation, which is awarded to distinguished individuals whose contributions to UC Berkeley go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standards of excellence in their fields. Prof. Culler has been on the faculty since 1989 and is the founding Director of Intel Research, UC Berkeley and was Associate Chair of the EECS Department, 2010-2012 and Chair from 2012 through June 30, 2014. He is an NAE member, a Fellow at both ACM and IEEE, and won the Okawa Prize in 2013. Most recently, Prof. Culler served as the inaugural interim dean of the Division of Data Sciences known today as the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).

Michael I. Jordan elected 2021 Foreign Member of the Royal Society

CS Prof. Mike Jordan has been elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.  The Royal Society began as an "'invisible college' of natural philosophers and physicians," which opened its first meeting in 1660 with a lecture by acclaimed scientist Christopher Wren.  Their mission is "to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity."  Jordan joins an elite group of 8,000 Fellows elected over the past 400 years that includes Isaac Newton (1672), Charles Darwin (1839), Albert Einstein (1921), Stephen Hawking (1974), and EECS Prof. Eli Yablonovitch (2013). Fellows and Foreign members must be nominated by at least two Fellows of the Royal Society, and must have made "a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science."  Jordan is known as one of the leading figures in machine learning, and one of the world's most influential computer scientists.  New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admission Day ceremony in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society.

2-D semiconductor contact resistances approach the quantum limit

A paper co-authored by Berkeley EECS Prof. Jeffrey Bokor, his postdoc Yuxuan Lin, Berkeley Physics Prof. Alex Zettl, his postdoc Cong Su, and researchers at MIT, among others, describes a more efficient method of connecting atomically thin 2-D materials to other chip elements, making them a more promising alternative to 3-D silicon-based transistors.  The paper, which was published in Nature, is titled "Ultralow contact resistance between semimetal and monolayer semiconductors." It describes how using the element bismuth (in the place of ordinary metals) for connections in monolayer materials can create contact resistances that approach the quantum limit and make it possible to develop smaller devices.  “We resolved one of the biggest problems in miniaturizing semiconductor devices, the contact resistance between a metal electrode and a monolayer semiconductor material,” says Su. "Through this approach," the paper states, "we achieve zero Schottky barrier height, a contact resistance of 123 ohm micrometres and an on-state current density of 1,135 microamps per micrometre on monolayer MoS2; these two values are, to the best of our knowledge, the lowest and highest yet recorded, respectively."

John DeNero named CDSS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

EECS alumnus and Associate Teaching Prof. John DeNero (CS Ph.D. '10, advisor: Dan Klein) has been named the new Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).   DeNero earned a B.S. in Mathematical & Computational Science and Symbolic Systems, and an M.A. in Philosophy, from Stanford before coming to Berkeley.  After receiving his doctorate, he took a job as a Senior Research Scientist at Google where he worked on Google Translate and natural language processing. He came back to campus in 2014 to focus on teaching and education.  His work at Berkeley has centered on facilitating large-scale delivery of computing content, and he co-developed and teaches two of the largest courses on campus: CS 61A and Data 8. He has been honored with the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award (2018), the Jim and Donna Gray Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Computer Science (2017), the Diane S. McEntyre Award for Excellence in Teaching Computer Science (2016), and the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award (2015).  He has served as the EECS vice chair for undergraduate matters, the chair of the EECS Data Science Degree Committee, and a member of the Data Science Governance Committee.

The Harvard Data Science Review spotlights Berkeley CDSS

The Harvard Data Science Review (HDSR) has thrown a spotlight on UC Berkeley's Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) and its leadership. In "A Conversation with Michael V. Drake and Jennifer Chayes" HDSR takes a comprehensive look at data science at Berkeley from a variety of perspectives.  UC President Drake discusses the role of data in society, and the importance of values and equity as a key part of UC's mission as California's premier public higher educational institution. Chayes, who is the Associate Provost of CDSS and Dean of the School of Information, explores CDSS’s pioneering vision, and the progress being made to build a university-wide entity to help address the opportunities and challenges created by the recent seismic advances in data science and computing.

Alvin Cheung and Somayeh Sojoudi named ONR 2021 Young Investigators

EECS Assistant Profs. Somayeh Sojoudi and Alvin Cheung have received Office of Naval Research (ONR) 2021 Young Investigator Program Awards (YIP). The ONR YIP is one of the nation’s oldest and most selective basic-research, early-career awards in science and technology. It recognizes new-career faculty—who obtained their Ph.D. on or after 2013—for prior academic achievement and their potential to make significant scientific contributions in the future. Sojoudi's award is for "High-performance Computational Methods for Nonlinear Machine Learning Problems" in the area of Machine Learning, Reasoning and Intelligence; Cheung's award is for "A Framework for Automatic Leveraging of Trusted Execution Environments" in the area of Cyber Security and Complex Software Systems. They are among 38 recipients who will share $20M in funding to provide laboratory equipment, postdocs, graduate student stipends/scholarships, and other expenses critical to conducting innovative scientific research that will benefit the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Charles Dalziel's Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters still make plugging in safer

EE alumnus and Prof. Charles Dalziel (1904-1986, B.S./M.S./E.E. 1935 ), the inventor of the Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI),  is the subject of an article in the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Spring 2021 Consumer Connection.  Patented in 1965 by Dalziel, a professor in the department for 35 years (1932-1967), GFCIs are built into electrical systems and power cords to monitor the current flowing through them.  If the incoming current differs from the returning current, the GFCI interrupts the power "to prevent a lethal dose of electricity, specifically before the electricity can affect your heartbeat."  Besides protecting users against severe electrical shock, a particular hazard in wet environments, GFCIs prevent surges that can cause electrical fires.  The U.S. National Economic Council (NEC) now mandates GFCI protection in many areas of the home as part of their standards for modern building construction.  The article explores GFCI's importance, their California connection, and how to ensure one's home is up to current safety standards.