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.”

Jinwen Xiao and the culture of Silicon Labs

EE alumna Jinwen Xiao (Ph.D. '03), now a senior director of engineering at Silicon Laboratories in Austin, Texas, is featured in a My Statesman article titled "Silicon Labs focuses on ‘mature, respectful’ workplace environment."  A computer chip design company, Silicon Labs ranks No. 1 among large employers in the American-Statesman’s 2017 Top Workplaces of Greater Austin project.  Xiao, who was born in China, now heads the 'Internet of Things' product development team of more than 40 people who come from 11 different countries.  The company places a priority on the intellectual development of its employees, providing a mentorship program and encouraging professional expansion.  It also actively fosters a culture of international inclusion and cooperation,  providing support and legal services for employees affected by the Muslim travel ban. "That is part of why this is a great place to work," Xiao says. "The company takes care of its people.”

Pramod Subramanyan and Rohit Sinha

"A Formal Foundation for Secure Remote Execution of Enclaves" wins Best Paper Award at ACM CCS 2017

A paper co-authored by postdoc Pramod Subramanyan, grad student Rohit Sinha, alumnus Ilia Lebedev (B.S. '10), alumnus and MIT Prof. Srinivas Devadas (M.S. '86/Ph.D. '88), and EECS Prof. Sanjit A. Seshia has won Best Paper Award at the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS).  The paper, A Formal Foundation for Secure Remote Execution of Enclaves, introduces a formal modeling and verification methodology for secure remote execution based on the notion of a trusted abstract platform.  CCS is the flagship annual conference of the Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control (SIGSAC) of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Sam Wood (left)

Sam Wood, Jim Welsh and the birth of KALX radio

Two EECS alumni were instrumental in the creation and establishment of KALX radio on campus in the 1960s.  Jim Welsh (B.S.’67), along with geology major Marshall Reed, started what was then known as Radio Kal in the basement of the Unit 2 dorm with a disposable collection of records, a couple mics, a cheap recorder and the semblance of a mixing board built into an old cigar box.  Sam Wood (B.S.’68) helped run midnight reconnaissance missions to salvage resistors, capacitors, tubes and transformers from various departments on campus, for use in constructing consoles, transmitters and other radio equipment.   “The rule was, the university wouldn’t let you do anything, but after 10 or 11 at night, everybody went home,” Wood says. “If wires somehow got into conduits, then nobody cared how they got there.”  The adventure is detailed in an article titled Berkeley sounds: The early days of KALX.

EECS Accel Scholars

Amit Kumar and Accel launch Accel Scholars EECS mentorship program

EECS alumnus Amit Kumar (B.S. '03) and the venture firm Accel are launching a mentorship program called Accel Scholars to support EECS undergraduates.  Accel will work with a select group of students over the course of a year, hosting networking dinners and also guaranteeing the students an internship at a portfolio company.  Kumar initiated the program because he felt there wasn’t enough career guidance for students at Berkeley and that venture firms that ignore the ecosystem are missing out.  Chair James Demmel says EECS is grateful for the opportunity to “partner with Accel and its network to provide a fast-track for an exceptionally talented and diverse cohort of undergraduates, who will benefit from mentorship by Accel but also by and from one another.”

Eric Schmidt to keynote HIMSS18

EECS alumnus Eric Schmidt (M.S. '79/Ph.D. '82) will deliver the opening keynote address at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in March 2018.  Schmidt worked at Bell Labs and Xerox PARC before becoming president of Sun in the 1980s.  Over the next two decades, Schmidt  becamed the CEO of Novel and co-founded Google.  He is currently the Executive Chairman of Alphabet.  His keynote, titled "Technology for a healthier future: Modernization, machine learning and moonshots," will discuss how technological advancements such as cloud computing and machine learning are transforming healthcare.

(photo Tiberio Uricchio)

Caffe team wins Everingham Prize at ICCV 2017

The Caffe team researchers ('13 alumnus and current GSR Yangqing Jia, grad student Evan Shelhamer,  '17 alumnus Jeff Donahue, '15 alumnus Sergey Karayev, grad student Jonathan Long, former postdocs Ross Girshick and Sergio Guadarrama, and Prof. in Residence Trevor Darrell) have been awarded the Mark Everingham Prize at the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) 2017.  Caffe is a deep learning framework made with expression, speed, and modularity in mind,  developed by Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) and by community contributors. The Everingham Prize is bestowed by the IEEE technical committee on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI) and is given to individuals or groups "who have made a selfless contribution of significant benefit to other members of the computer vision community."  The Caffe team won "for providing an open-source deep learning framework that enabled the community to use, train and share deep convolutional neural networks. Caffe has had a huge impact, both academic and commercial. "

Bryan Catanzaro talks AI

EECS alumnus Bryan Catanzaro (Ph.D. '11) is interviewd by Byron Reese for episode 13 of his series Voices in AI.  Catanzaro, who is the head of Applied AI Research at NVIDIA, discusses sentience, transfer learning, speech recognition, autonomous vehicles, and economic growth.  "I like to think about artificial intelligence as making tools that can perform intellectual work.  Hopefully, those are useful tools that can help people be more productive in things that they need to do," he says.

OSA Honorary Member Amnon Yariv

Amnon Yariv named 2017 Honorary Member of the Optical Society

EE alumnus Amnon Yariv (B.S '54/M.S. '56/Ph.D. '58) has been named a 2017 Honorary Member of the Optical Society (OSA).  Honorary Membership is the most distinguished of all OSA Member categories and is awarded to individuals who have made unique, seminal contributions to the field of optics.  Yariv was elected for pioneering scientific and engineering contributions to photonics and quantum electronics that have profoundly impacted lightwave communications and the field of optics as a whole. His research has focused on creating the mathematical tools and building blocks underpinning guided wave optics, the backbone of today's optoelectronic technologies. This endeavor led to the proposal and demonstration of the distributed feedback laser -- the main light source and information carrier of internet traffic -- and started the field of optoelectronic integrated circuits.  Yariv, who is currently a professor at the California Institute of Technology, received the National Medal of Science in 2010.

Shafi Goldwasser, Newly Appointed Director of Berkeley Simons Institute
Shafi Goldwasser, Director, Simons Institute

Shafi Goldwasser appointed Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing

Turing Award-winning computer scientist Shafi Goldwasser will become the new Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley, on January 1, 2018. The Simons Institute is the world's leading venue for collaborative research in theoretical computer science. Established on July 1, 2012 with a grant of $60 million from the Simons Foundation, the Institute is housed in Calvin Lab, a dedicated building on the UC Berkeley campus. The Simons Institute brings together the world's leading researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields, as well as the next generation of outstanding young scholars, to explore deep unsolved problems about the nature and limits of computation.

Professor Shafi Goldwasser is one of the giants of theoretical computer science, and one of its most original thinkers. She has made foundational contributions to the field of cryptography – for which she received the 2012 Turing Award – including inventing semantically secure probabilistic encryption, pseudorandom functions, and zero-knowledge proofs. She has also made outstanding contributions to computational complexity theory, including the development of interactive proof systems, and the discovery of their connection to the complexity of approximation, for which she received the Gödel Prize in 1993 and 2001.

“Algorithms govern our computing-based world in the same way that the laws of nature govern the physical one,” says Goldwasser. “Their mathematical underpinnings are thus as important to modern society as the periodic table, relativity, or the genome. The Simons Institute at Berkeley, under my leadership, will continue its dedication to the discovery of the fundamentals of computation and to findings that enable technological progress and positive social change.”

 In addition to her appointment as Director of the Simons Institute, Professor Goldwasser will be a faculty member in Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, and in both places she will continue her track record of outstanding mentorship; her former students rank among the leaders of the field of theoretical computer science.

 Goldwasser has been a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1983, and in 1997 became the first holder of the RSA Professorship (named after the inventors of the first public-key cryptosystem, Rivest, Shamir and Adleman). Concurrently with her professorship at MIT, she has been a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science since 1993. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, and the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. Her awards include the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award (1996), the RSA Award In Mathematics (1998), the ACM Athena Lecturer Award (2009), the Benjamin Franklin Award in Computer and Cognitive Science (2010), and the IEEE Emanuel Piore Award (2011).

 Goldwasser’s appointment is the culmination of a worldwide search for the next Director of the Simons Institute, to replace Founding Director Richard Karp, who steps down at the end of this year after a five-year term. Goldwasser will take the helm as Director of the Institute in January, and will relocate to Berkeley from Cambridge, Massachusetts in the summer of 2018.

 “We are delighted that someone of Shafi's formidable intellect and capacity for innovation will be joining the UC Berkeley community. We are excited for her contributions to campus intellectual life,” says UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. “In the five years since its founding, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing has become a flagship institution on campus, and a worldwide center of excellence in theoretical computer science. We’re certain that under Shafi's leadership, the Institute will be on a trajectory to make an even deeper impact on the theory of computing and related areas in computer science, engineering, and the physical and social sciences.”

 Also new to the Institute’s leadership team is Berkeley computer science and statistics professor Peter Bartlett, who took over as Associate Director on July 1, 2017. The position was formerly held by Alistair Sinclair, the Institute’s Founding Associate Director, who stepped down at the end of his second term this summer. Bartlett is a world leader in statistical learning theory, a field that provides the theoretical underpinnings of machine learning. While his work focuses on the underlying theory, it has in many cases influenced practical applications as well.

Bartlett has contributed to many areas of statistical learning theory, including large margin classifiers, boosting methods, kernel methods, reinforcement learning, Rademacher averages, online learning methods, and neural networks. He has published over 150 papers and is co-author of the book, Learning in Neural Networks. He has held a visiting Miller Professorship at Berkeley, an honorary professorship at the University of Queensland, and a visiting professorship at the University of Paris. Bartlett was awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year in Australia in 2001, and was chosen as an Institute of Mathematical Statistics Medallion Lecturer in 2008, and an IMS Fellow and Australian Laureate Fellow in 2011. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2015.

 Continuing on as a permanent member of the Institute’s scientific leadership is Senior Scientist Luca Trevisan, a distinguished complexity theorist and Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, whom Berkeley recruited from Stanford to play a leading role at the Simons Institute.

 This summer, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing marked the five-year anniversary of its founding in 2012. During this initial period, the Institute has established itself as the world’s preeminent center for collaborative research in theoretical computer science.

 Over a thousand visiting scientists have participated in the Institute’s semester-long research programs exploring foundational questions in data science, machine learning, evolutionary biology, quantum computing, genomics, computational economics, and many other topics. An announcement from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation (SIGACT) this summer praised “the spectacular success of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing in taking collaboration in our field to an entirely new level,” describing it as “a game-changer for Theory.”