Nir Shavit
Visiting Professor, Nir Shavit

Nir Shavit Appointed as Visiting Professor

The Department of EECS is pleased to announce the appointment of Nir Shavit as Visiting Professor, effective July 1, 2018. Shavit is a leading researcher in the field of distributed and parallel computation. The central issue in this area is managing a shared memory across a number of processors while maintaining consistency and avoiding conflicts. Shavit has made foundational contributions to this field, ranging from abstract theorems introducing a topological framework for analyzing these issues to providing a practical, and widely used, realization of a transactional memory technique for multiprocessor synchronization. A recent focus of Shavit’s work has been the application of parallel computation to “connectomics”: the creation of detailed maps of the connections in the brain.

Shavit received the M.Sc. in 1985 from Technion and the Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1990 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is on the faculty of  Tel Aviv University, where he began as a Lecturer in 1992 and rose through the ranks to full professor in 2007. Since 2011, he has also been a full professor at MIT .

 Two of Shavit’s co-authored papers have received distinguished prizes from the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science and the Association for Computing Machinery: The Gödel Prize in 2004 for the paper “The Topological Structure  of Asynchronous Computation”  and the Dijkstra Prize in 2012 for the paper “Software Transactional Memory.” The massive textbook, The Art of Multiprocessor Programming,” by Maurice Herlihy and Shavit (2008) is the most authoritative treatment of this subject.

 In view of his outstanding conceptual and practical achievements and his exceptional skills as an expositor Shavit will be a major contributor to Berkeley’s efforts in parallel and distributed computing.

NexGen 7T fMRI scanner

NIH bestows $13.4 million grant to build NexGen 7T fMRI brain scanner

A team of U.C. Berkeley researchers including Associate Prof. Chunlei Liu, Prof. Ana Arias, and Associate Prof. Michael Lustig, has been awarded a $13.43 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative.  The team will use the money to build the NexGen 7T, an innovative functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner designed to provide the highest resolution images of the brain ever obtained.  Liu, an MR imaging specialist,  is the project co-leader along with physicist David Feinberg of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.  The new scanner, which will boost resolution by a factor of 20, will give neuroscientists the ability to focus on cortical layers where most neuronal circuitry resides as well as to better identify large-scale circuitry connecting different regions of the brain.   Arias is an expert on flexible electronics and Lustig has developed new ways to speed up MRI scanning. The researchers will collaborate with Siemens to insure that the design can be quickly ramped up to produce next-generation scanners for researchers around the world.

Musa and Liu (photo: Mujahid Zaman)

Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa build the future

CS majors Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa are featured in a Berkeley News article titled "In undergrad startup class, students learn to build the future."  Liu and Musa co-founded a startup called Bash while still in high school.  When they came to Cal, they partnered with CS Prof. Scott Shenker to launch a student-run DeCal class on Berkeley's startup ecosystem last spring, called "How to Build the Future."  The course gives students direct experience with world-renowned entrepreneurs and faculty founders.

Brett and Chelsea Finn

The education of Brett the robot

CS Prof. Pieter Abbeel, graduate student Chelsea Finn, and Brett the robot are featured in a Wired article titled "The Education of Brett the Robot" which delves into some of the nuts and bolts of machine learning.  Brett (short for Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks) is using a reinforcement learning algorithm to allow it to learn from its mistakes.  Abbeel will speak on "Deep Learning-to-Learn Robotic Control" at the EECS Colloquium on October 11th.

Lotfi Zadeh's farewell ceremony (photo: Azeri News)

President Aliyev attends farewell ceremony for Lotfi Zadeh

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended a farewell ceremony for Prof. Emeritus Lotfi Zadeh, held at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) in Baku.  The ceremony was attended by many prominent Azerbaijani state and government officials, scientists, and public figures.  Education Minister Mikayil Jabbarov said that his last wish was to be buried in his homeland. “This shows that he lived with Azerbaijan in his heart till his last breath. His contributions to world science are unparalleled.”  Zadeh passed away on September 6, at the age of 96.  He was laid to rest in the 1st Alley of Honor in Baku.

CS major Saloni Shah

Saloni Shah and Dan Garcia talk about challenges for women in CS

Senior CS major Saloni Shah and Teaching Prof. Dan Garcia are featured in a TechRepublic cover story titled "The state of women in computer science: An investigative report."   They discuss some of the challenges of attracting and retaining women students in computer science, and some of the efforts that Berkeley has made to bridge the gap.  Shah has interned at Google the past two summers and has participated in—and won—several collegiate hackathons.  She describes instances where her fellow students have suggested that her achievements were the result of affirmative action.  "I have all of these projects," she says. "I have definitely shown I can do it."  "I don't think they actually believe that women don't belong in computer science," she adds. But when they say that her accomplishments were possible only because she received special treatment as a woman, she explains that it's usually "a means of justifying why they didn't get something."

Dust in the Machine

Chancellor's Professor of Electrical Engineering and Neuroscience Jose Carmena, and Prof. Michel Maharbiz, are the subjects of a California Magazine article titled "Dust in the Machine," about brain-machine interface (BMI) research.  In 2013, Carmena, Maharbiz, then-graduate student Dongjin Seo (Ph.D. '16), Prof. Jan Rabaey, and Prof. Elad Alon published a paper on a new kind of implantable bioelectronics--a neural interface called "neural dust"--that was the size of a 1-millimeter cube, wireless, battery-less, and small enough to be placed in the peripheral nervous system and muscles.  The article describes BMI systems and subsequent technological advances and challenges.  Carmena is also co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses at Berkeley and UCSF.

CS Prof. Lotfi Zadeh, 1921-2017

Lotfi Zadeh wins 2017 Golden Goose Award

CS Prof. Emeritus Lotfi Zadeh has posthumously won a 2017 Golden Goose Award for "Fuzzy Logic, Clear Impact," sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The award honors teams of scientists whose silly-sounding taxpayer-funded research has returned serious benefits to society.  "Zadeh proposed these revolutionary concepts in 1965 to deal with the mathematics and logic of imprecise information, receiving a skeptical response and howls of 'complete nonsense.' He even drew the attention of Senator William Proxmire and the infamous Golden Fleece Award. But since the concept's debut, the original research paper has become one of the most widely cited in history, used in more than 16,000 patents and applied to efficiency improvements for HVAC systems, healthcare devices and more."  The winners will be honored at a ceremony at the Library of Congress this evening."  Prof. Zadeh passed away earlier this month.

CS Assistant Prof. Anca Dragan

Anca Dragan wants autonomous cars to understand people

CS Assistant Prof. Anca Dragan is one of the subjects of a San Francisco Chronicle article titled "Humanizing cars, sensitizing humans,"  about how the rise of robot vehicles will require reprogramming our relationship with them.  Dragan was interviewed for the section on "emotional intelligence" and what a robot car sees.  She said driverless cars will need to predict what humans on the road will do — and figure out how to behave appropriately around them.  Dragan is testing a computer model of an autonomous vehicle which nudges toward the adjacent lane and detects whether the simulated human driver hits the brakes or the accelerator, fairly similar to how most people change lanes.  “Those reactions tell it about your driving style, so it can anticipate whether it should merge or let you go first,” she said. “We’re excited to see that the car can ‘reason’ properly about people.”

Pulkit Agrawal (photo: Nitesh Mor)

Pulkit Agrawal is teaching machines how to be curious

CS Ph.D. student Pulkit Agrawal (advisers: Jitendra Malik and Jack Gallant) is the subject of a Quant Magazine article titled "Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious."  Agrawal is working at the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab with CS grad student Deepak Pathak, Pathak's adviser Prof. Trevor Darrell, and CS Prof. Alexei A. Efros,  to design experimental machine-learning algorithms which aim to "make a machine curious."  They equipped their learning agent with what they call an intrinsic curiosity module (ICM) designed to pull it forward through a video game without going haywire, despite having no prior understanding of the game. “You can think of curiosity as a kind of reward which the agent generates internally on its own, so that it can go explore more about its world,” Agrawal said.