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.

NSF awards $20M for researchers to launch National AI Institute for Advances in Optimization

A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and USC, have been awarded $20M by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch an institute which will deploy AI to tackle massive optimization challenges.  The researchers hope the new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Advances in Optimization will deliver a paradigm shift in automated decision-making by fusing AI and optimization to address grand challenges in highly constrained settings, such as logistics and supply chains, energy and sustainability, and circuit design and control.  EECS/IEOR Prof. Pieter Abbeel will lead the Reinforcement Learning Team, and EECS/IEOR Prof. Laurent El Ghaoui will be on both the End to End Optimization and the New Learning Methods Teams.  EECS Profs. Borivoje Nikolic and Vladimir Stojanovic will also be participating.  The group intends to integrate ethics and values into their complex systems design, from inception through operation, to ensure that all scientific advances will ultimately serve the interests of society.  The institute also plans to partner with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia, and Hispanic-serving community colleges in California, to build longitudinal education and workforce development programs.  Partners include Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Deanna Gelosi wins Best Full Paper Award at ACM IDC 2021

"PlushPal: Storytelling with Interactive Plush Toys and Machine Learning," co-authored by CS Masters student Deanna Gelosi (advisor: Dan Garcia), has won the Best Full Paper Award at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Interaction Design for Children (IDC) conference 2021.  IDC is "the premier international conference for researchers, educators and practitioners to share the latest research findings, innovative methodologies and new technologies in the areas of inclusive child-centered design, learning and interaction."  The paper, which was presented in the "Physical Computing for Learning" conference session, describes PlushPal, "a web-based design tool for children to make plush toys interactive with machine learning (ML). With PlushPal, children attach micro:bit hardware to stuffed animals, design custom gestures for their toy, and build gesture-recognition ML models to trigger their own sounds."  It creates "a novel design space for children to express their ideas using gesture, as well as a description of observed debugging practices, building on efforts to support children using ML to enhance creative play."  Gelosi's degree will be in the field of Human-Computer Interaction and New Media, and her research interests include creativity support tools, traditional craft and computing technologies, digital fabrication, and equity in STEAM.  She is a member of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), the Berkeley Institute of Design (BID), and the Tinkering Studio--an R&D lab in the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Armando Fox, John DeNero, and Kathy Yelick named CDSS associate deans

Three EECS faculty have been named associate deans for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  CS Prof. Armando Fox is the associate dean of online programs; CS Prof. John DeNero is the associate dean of undergraduate studies; and EE Prof. Katherine Yelick is transitioning from her role as CDSS’s associate dean for research to the CDSS executive associate dean.  Berkeley launched CDSS in 2018 to expand teaching and research in data science, and to bring together programs, schools, and departments across campus to tackle the technical, scientific, social, and human dimensions of urgent challenges in biomedicine and human health, climate and sustainability, and human welfare and social justice.

Jennifer Chayes wins 2020 ACM Distinguished Service Award

CS Prof. Jennifer Chayes, who is also the Associate Provost for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS), is the recipient of the 2020 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Distinguished Service Award.  She was selected for the award, which recognizes outstanding career-long "contributions to the computing community at large," for "her effective leadership, mentorship, and dedication to diversity during her distinguished career of computer science research, teaching, and institution building."  Chayes' contributions include leadership at both Microsoft Research (where she founded and led the Theory Group, and Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal) and UC Berkeley (where she is also the Dean of the School of Information); service to many computing and science organizations (including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, and the ACM A.M. Turing Award Committee); expanding the diversity of the computing field through mentorship of women, underrepresented racial minorities and other disadvantaged groups; and making important research contributions in machine learning.  

Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker donate $50M for construction of new CDSS building

CS Profs. Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker have each donated $25M toward the construction of The Gateway, the new building that will house the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  The Gateway is conceived as "a planned nexus for collaborative, integrated data science and computing education and research to solve societal problems," and will be located on Hearst Avenue near the Scenic Avenue intersection.  The combined gift of $75M, which includes an equal share from a third anonymous donor, will support the development and construction of the building, and the creation of two new full-time faculty positions.  The project also received a windfall in February 2020 when another anonymous donor contributed $252M to the project. “These generous gifts are so inspiring and represent great momentum for the Gateway,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ. “The gifts from faculty speak not only to the power of Berkeley’s vision of data science and computing but also to the unique impact of our faculty in driving innovation and change from the ground up.

EECS department welcomes new leadership

The EECS department will be welcoming three new chairs, all of whom are EECS alumni, to guide the department for the next two years.  The new tripartite structure reflects the growth and changing needs of the department, which has been managed by a two-person leadership team for over 20 years.   Prof. Claire Tomlin (Ph.D. '98, advisor: Shankar Sastry), the new EECS department chair, will be largely responsible for outward-facing communications and strategic matters.  She will be just the second woman to hold this position since the EECS department formed 90 years ago (Tsu-Jae King Liu was the first in 2014).  Tomlin is known for her outstanding research in control systems and robotics, and is currently the Faculty Director of the CITRIS Sustainable Infrastructures Initiative.  The division chairs will be responsible for day to day operations and academic matters: Prof. Clark Nguyen (B.S. '89/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94, advisor: Jitendra Malik), a pioneer in micro electromechanical systems, will be the new EE division Chair; and Prof. David Wagner (M.S. '99/Ph.D. '00, advisor: Eric Brewer), an expert in cryptography and computer security, will be the new CS division chair.  Outgoing EECS chair Jeff Bokor and CS chair John Canny successfully shepherded EECS through the COVID-19 pandemic with vision and resourcefulness.  They greatly expanded faculty diversity by overseeing the recruitment of 19 new members, and were behind the initiative to reform the L&S CS undergraduate admissions process.  They also actively mobilized the department during the Black Lives Matter movement, engaging with students and the EECS community to identify cultural and institutional problems, and finding ways to effectively address them.  Two results of this effort were the indefinite suspension of the GRE requirement for graduate admissions, and a revision of the EECS publication guidelines to allow for a more open and critical discussion of department policies and practices with regard to race.  The new chairs will take the helm on July 1, 2021.

Shankar Sastry wins 2021 ASME Rufus Oldenburger Medal

EECS Prof. S. Shankar Sastry has won the 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Rufus Oldenburger Medal for significant contributions and outstanding achievements to the field and profession of automatic control.  Sastry, who was dean of Berkeley Engineering for over ten years, was cited “For fundamental contributions to the foundations of nonlinear, adaptive and hybrid control, control of robots and vehicles, and for contributions to control and robotics education.”  EECS Prof. Lotfi Zadeh (1921-2017) previously won this award in 1993.  The medal will be presented at the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Division Awards ceremony and dinner, which will take place at the newly instituted Modeling, Estimation and Control Conference (MECC 2021), in Texas in October.

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

Gloria Tumushabe cultivates women coders in Africa

EECS alumna and current Master's student Gloria Tumushabe (B.S. ’20) is the subject of an article in the Spring 2021 Berkeley Engineer titled "Cultivating female coders in Africa."  During the COVID pandemic shutdown, Tumushabe developed a program called Afro Fem Coders to allow her to remotely teach computer programming to girls in Uganda from her home in Walnut Creek.  Two weeks after reaching out by word-of-mouth and social media, she had heard back from more than 40 girls who were eager to participate.  She sent them money to pay for laptops and internet service, and formed an international network of women professionals to provide one-on-one mentoring.  In the year since the program began, it has grown to 120 girls from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and Ethiopia. “The more of us women in this space, the better,” she said.  Tumushabe is leading the EECS Anti-Racism Committee meetings this semester, and was awarded the 2021 EECS Eugene L. Lawler Prize for her "amazing work and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, and improving the EECS Department for students who come after her."