News

Ling-Qi Yan helps to improve computer rendering of animal fur

CS graduate student Ling-Qi Yan (advisors: Ravi Ramamoorthi/Ren Ng) and researchers at U.C. San Diego are the subject of an article in TechXplore titled "Scientists improve computer rendering of animal fur."  He is part of a team that developed a method for dramatically improving the way computers simulate fur, and more specifically, the way light bounces within an animal's pelt.  The researchers are using a neural network to apply the properties of a concept called subsurface scattering to quickly approximate how light bounces around fur fibers.  The neural network only needs to be trained with one scene before it can apply subsurface scattering to all the different scenes with which it is presented. This results in simulations running 10 times faster than current state of the art.  "We are converting the properties of subsurface scattering to fur fibers," said Yan. "There is no explicit physical or mathematical way to make this conversion. So we needed to use a neural network to connect these two different worlds."  The researchers recently presented their findings at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Thailand.

Dan Wallach to testify about election security and voting machines in Texas

EECS alumnus Dan Wallach (B.S. '93) will testify before the Texas Senate Select Committee on Election Security at a hearing about recent election irregularities in Texas, a review of voting security protocols and the responsibilities and duties of members of the Electoral College.  Specifically, the hearing will examine the use of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections, and the voting requirements of presidential electors.  Wallach is widely regarded as an expert on voting machine security.  He is currently an EECS professor at Rice University and a scholar at Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy. 

Steve Wozniak emphasizes people over technology

CS alumnus Steve Wozniak (B.A.'86) was the inaugural speaker in the Business Thought Leader series at the University of South Florida College of Business.  He answered pre-submitted questions that asked for his best advice for college students and what he might tell his younger self.  He shared his "smiles minus frowns" happiness equation and said that how one feels is paramount to success.  While passion and vision are key, he stressed the importance of always choosing people over technology and cautioned students that ”the purpose [of your work] should never be, this is how I’m going to make a lot of money.”  Instead, if you think about how you can make the world a better place you will never regret the outcome.  He said that he was so famous when he came back to study at Berkeley, after taking time off to found Apple Computers, that he went by the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark.

UC Berkeley wins 2018 Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship

For the second year running, UC Berkeley has won the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship, sweeping UC Irvine 3-0.  CS majors Kevin "SlurpeeThief" Royston and Gandira “Syeikh” Prahandika were on the Berkeley team, which battled in front of a sold-out crowd at the game in Tempe, Arizona, the first partnership between a collegiate bowl game and eSports tournament.  Royston, who was profiled in on Overwatch Wire article before the tournament, is in the top 1% of all players worldwide, has had a peak skill rating of 4626, and was on the winning team last year.  He notes that the balance between esports and school has been a tough road.  “It’s definitely rough, this week is the first time I had a homework assignment slip because of Overwatch. (Laughs) Hear me out! It’s for Machine Learning which is the hardest class at Berkeley. We had to travel (for the Fiesta Bowl) and I worked sixteen hours on an assignment and didn’t even get halfway through it.”  Overwatch is a team-based shooter game that was created by Blizzard Entertainment and released in 2016.  Teams are made up of six players, who select different characters, known in the game as “heroes,” to complete different objectives. The Berkeley team won $42,000 of the $100,000 total in scholarships and other prizes.

Security for data analytics – gaining a grip on the two-edged sword

Prof. Dawn Song and graduate student Noah Johnson are taking a new approach to enable organizations to follow tight data security and privacy policies while enabling flexible data analysis, as well as machine learning for analysts.  Working with Uber, they tested their system using a dataset of 8 million queries written by the company’s data analysts. The system is currently being integrated into Uber’s internal data analytics platform.  With help from the Signatures Innovation Fellows program, they are advancing the system to provide the same level of security and flexibility for a broad range of data analysis and machine learning, whether needed in basic and medical research or business analytics.

Teresa Meng (photo: EE Times)

Teresa Meng on winning the game in a male-dominated industry

EECS distinguished alumna Teresa Meng (M.S. '85/Ph.D. '88) is the subject of an article in the EE Times about a keynote presentation she recently gave at the  International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) on sexism in her profession.   Meng, who was the first female professor in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1988 (she retired in 2013) and also co-founded Atheros Communications (later acquired by Qualcomm), was named one of the top 10 entrepreneurs by Red Herring in 2001.    The title of her speech was “Winning the game in a male-dominated industry” and she said that she was initially very reluctant to speak because the subject was “just too painful.”  She discussed when and how gender discrimination happens, describing “unconscious” male behaviors that hurt women and discourage female engineers from pursuing higher positions in their organizations. She also discussed how women must pick their battles.  Her talk was nothing like what anyone in the audience would have expected in the semiconductor industry — especially at a highly technical conference like ISSCC, where only 2 percent of attendees are women.

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa win Sloan Research Fellowships

Assistant Profs. Anca Dragan and Raluca Ada Popa have been awarded 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships.  They are among 126 early-career scholars who represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Winners receive $65,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.  Popa and Dragan were both selected in the Compter Science category.   Popa is a co-founder of the RISELab where she is trying to develop a learning and analytics framework that can run on encrypted data.  Dragan runs the InterACT lab and is a PI for the Center for Human-Compatible AI.  Her goal is to enable robots to work with, around and in support of people, autonomously generating behavior in a way that formally accounts for their interactions with humans. “The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said foundation president Adam Falk. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – fellows are quite literally the future of 21st century science.”

Computer Vision to Protect Patients — and Budgets

Prof. Alexandre Bayen and PhD student Pulkit Agrawal developed a computer vision-based system to help memory care centers monitor patient falls and to reduce them where possible.  State regulations require an MRI of the head any time a patient suffers an unwitnessed fall, and about a fourth of all Alzheimer’s-related hospital visits are triggered by a fall. With five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s, the task of preventing, tracking and treating fall-related injuries has become daunting and costly, with more than a $5 billion annual cost to medicare--and the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to double in the next 15 years.   A system capable of detecting falls by autonomously monitoring patients and sending therapists video clips could improve the monitoring process immensely  “There are no effective drugs yet to treat Alzheimer’s,” Agarwal says. “Until we have them, we have to help patients where they are. Developing computer vision systems to detect falls and fall vulnerability seemed like a good way to improve healthcare for a growing patient population.”

Berkeley's HKN Mu Chapter wins IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award

UC Berkeley's Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Mu Chapter has won the 2016-17 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award.  The Berkeley Mu Chapter of HKN, the the national Electrical and Computer Engineering honor society, is among the most active engineering societies on campus and provides many services to the undergraduate student community including course surveys and a course guide, tutoring and review sessions,  industrial infosessions and a career fair, and department tours for prospective students.   The Outstanding Chapter Award is conferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)-HKN Board of Governors and is presented to HKN chapters in recognition of excellence in their chapter administration and programs.  Berkeley HKN, which has won the Outstanding Chapter Award every year since 1998-99, is advised by Prof. Anant Sahai.  The award will be presented at a conference in Monterey in March.

Edward Lee awarded Berkeley Citation

Prof. Edward Lee is a 2018 recipient of the Berkeley Citation, which was awarded at the 2018 Berkeley Annual Research Symposium (BEARS).  The Berkeley Citation 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.  Lee, who is the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professor in EECS, has been on the faculty since 1986.  He was the EE division and EECS department Chair from 2005-2008, the director of the nine-university TerraSwarm Research Center, a director of the Berkeley Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems Research Center, and the director of the Berkeley Ptolemy project.  He recently published Plato and the Nerd - The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology (MIT Press, 2017).