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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.”

Marie desJardins (photo: Anita B.org)

Marie desJardins wins A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award

CS alumna Marie desJardins (Ph.D. '92 adviser: Stuart Russell) has won the 2017 A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award. The award, named in honor of the late EE Prof. Richard Newton and presented annually at the Grace Hopper Celebration,  recognizes educators who develop innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math.  desJardins has become known nationally for her support of and commitment to improving student diversity, access, and quality of computer science courses at the high school level, and has received multiple NSF awards to support her efforts in this area.  She is currently Associate Dean and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Alex Stamos (photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Alex Stamos hunts down Russian political ads on Facebook

EECS alumnus and security expert Alex Stamos (B.S. '01) is profiled in an article in Recode about his role as Facebook's Chief Security Officer.  He is currently leading their internal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and co-authored a paper explaining how Russia carried out its misinformation campaign. The article describes Stamos's experiences as CSO of Yahoo and his efforts to protect the internet's rank-and-file users. “We’ve been asking people to pay attention to us for over 20 years. And they are,” he said. “We have the world’s attention. What are we going to do with it?”

Mark Liu, the new Chair of TSMC

Mark Liu named Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC)

Alumnus Mark Liu (EE M.S. '80/Ph.D. '83) has been named Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world's biggest foundry chipmaker.  He is succeeding Morris Chang, who is retiring.  Chang, known as the "father of Taiwan's chip industry,' built TSMC (an Apple Inc. supplier) into a business worth $185 billion.   Liu had been President and Co-CEO of TSMC since 2013.  The company, which has thrived on booming demand for chips used in smartphones, now seeks to diversify its customer base and move into emerging industries such as artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.

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.

Shahin Farshchi (Huffington Post)

Shahin Farshchi on making the ‘impossible’ possible through feats of engineering

EECS alumnus Shahin Farshchi (B.S. '02) is the subject of one of a series of Iranian Americans’ Contributions Project (IACP) interviews that explore the personal and professional backgrounds of prominent Iranian-Americans who have made seminal contributions to their fields. Farshchi is currently a Partner at Lux Capital Management where he has sourced many of the firm's investments in energy and technology.  In "Shahin Farshchi: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible Through Feats of Engineering,"  he describes his intercultural childhood in the Bay Area and Iran, and discusses his philosophy, career, and outlook on developing technologies.  Before Lux, Farshchi held engineering positions at Aurorasoft, Telegenisys, General Motors, and Intelligent Control Systems.  He has published research on wireless biosignal telemetry.

Garth Gibson, Vector Institute (Matthew Plexman)

Garth Gibson named CEO of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence

CS alumnus Garth Gibson  (M.S. '84/B.S. '91) has been named CEO of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto, Canada.  The newly-formed Vector has received $50-million funding from Ontario and $85-million-plus from more than 30 companies, including Shopify Inc., Magna International Inc., Canada's big banks and U.S. tech giants including Google Inc.  Gibson, who is a native of Canada, has held several senior positions at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a computer-science professor and established the school's Parallel Data Lab and Petascale Data Storage Institute.

Alumnus Nikunj Oza

Nikunj Oza presents NASA's perspectives on Deep Learning

CS alumnus Nikunj Oza (M.S. '98/Ph.D. '01), now a research scientist in the Intelligent Systems Division of the NASA Ames Research Center, talks about NASA's perspectives on Deep Learning for an HPC User Forum video.  He presents a broad overview of work at NASA in data sciences, data mining, and machine learning, and delineates the roles of NASA, academia, and industry in advancing machine learning to help solve NASA's problems.

Joey Davis (Photo: Mandana Sassanfar)

Joey Davis becomes assistant professor of biology at MIT

CS alumnus Joey Davis (B.A. '03) has been hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).   Davis investigates how cells maintain a delicate internal balance of assembling and dismantling their own machinery, particularly macromolecules. He is also developing a series of new research techniques, some involving cryo-electron microscopy, a method to image large macromolecules at high resolution. Davis was a dual major in CS and biological engineering while at Berkeley.

Anupama Kaul

Anupama Kaul named director of the UNT PACCAR Technology Institute

Anupama Kaul (EE Ph.D. 2000) has been named director of the University of North Texas College of Engineering’s PACCAR (Pacific Car and Foundry Company) Technology Institute.  Kaul was a task manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology before joining the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) as associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering, and the AT&T Distinguished Professor.  She will now be the PACCAR professor in engineering and a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering at UNT.  “I am honored to serve as director of the PACCAR Technology Institute and look forward to the exciting ways in which the institute will embrace interdisciplinary research in strategic areas of national and global significance, with nanotechnology as a core enabling element,” she said.