Gireeja Ranade honored for outstanding mentorship of GSIs

EECS Teaching Professor Gireeja Ranade has received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. The annual award, which is sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, recognizes faculty who have provided GSIs outstanding teaching and pedagogical mentorship at Berkeley and in preparing for teaching in future careers.


EECS Alumna Leslie Field featured in The New Yorker

EECS Alumna Leslie Field (Ph.D. ‘91, M.S. ‘89) was featured in The New Yorker, highlighting a novel approach to combating one of the most proximate effects of climate change: the melting of polar ice caps and mountain glaciers. In work formalized in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Field and her colleagues applied a thin layer of glass microspheres on top of a frozen lake and demonstrated that such materials can slow the melting of ice over the thawing season by absorbing additional solar radiation. These methods proposed by Field and promoted by her non-profit organization, Ice911, aim to address the near-term effects of climate change by delaying melting ice and therefore sea level rise, knowing “that their approach [is] not a substitute for the larger undertaking of cutting climate pollution to near-zero. … ” The article further raised probing and vexing questions about the costs, benefits, and complex moral calculus of this and other proposed large-scale geoengineering projects aimed at the climate crisis, such as whether those efforts may unfairly burden indigenous communities in the Arctic or inadvertently deprioritize other environmental concerns brought on by introducing new substances into delicate ecosystems. “Action is risky, but so is inaction; geoengineering highlights the tension between speed and safety […] meanwhile, the climate crisis will grow more urgent with every day that passes—until, one day, the melting of the cryosphere makes our questions moot.”

Chancellor Christ, Dean Liu and others breaking ground with shovels at the new site of the Engineering Center
(Berkeley Engineering photo by Adam Lau)

COE celebrates groundbreaking of new Engineering Center

The College of Engineering held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Engineering Center on April 21. The new building, which is scheduled for completion in 2025, will be a hub for student collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The building will serve as a space for students across different disciplines and perspectives to connect, learn from each other, and build community. Thus far, 85% of the funds required to complete the project have been raised through the support of the Engineering Advisory board and key benefactors. The ceremony was attended by hundreds, including faculty, staff and students, and featured remarks by Dean Liu and Chancellor Christ. “We need to provide intellectual and actual physical space for engineers to become entrepreneurs, for climate scientists to partner with public health experts, and for computer scientists to work with legal scholars,” said Chancellor Christ. “This will be a place of possibility where, each year, thousands of engineering students and their peers from across the campus will converge, hear diverse perspectives, and skills will be melded, multiplied and brought to bear on the biggest challenges of our day, from climate change to global health to misinformation.”


Berkeley EECS graduate programs lead US News Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report ranked both the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate programs at Berkeley EECS among the top three graduate programs in the nation for 2023. Computer Science is ranked #1, tied with MIT and Stanford. Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering are ranked #2, tied with Stanford. The magazine based its rankings on responses from 202 engineering schools across the country, including data from fall 2022 and early 2023. This year, U.S. News included non-responders from the 220 schools surveyed, so long as they reported enough data to be eligible in 2022.


NSF-IUSE awards Narges Nourozi $4M in research grants

Two proposals led by CS Teaching Professor Narges Nourozi have won $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation Directorate for STEM Education (NSF-IUSE). The proposals, “Transforming Introductory Computer Science Instruction with an AI-Driven Classroom Assistant” and “CUE-P: Establishing Servingness in Computing through Baskin Engineering Excellence Scholars Program” have been awarded approximately $2 million over four years, and $1.9 million over five years, respectively. The first proposal, INSIGHT, is a collaboration between North Carolina State University and UC Berkeley focusing on an AI-driven classroom assistant that holds significant transformative potential for yielding a deeper understanding of how students learn computer science with AI-driven classroom assistants and producing a set of practical instructional support principles for coding-enriched classroom interactions. The second proposal is a CUE Pathways project, wherein researchers from the Universities of California collaborate with eight California community colleges to study the effects of operationalizing servingness and transfer pathways between two- and four-year institutions to increase persistence, knowledge attainment, belongingness, graduation, and post-graduation outcomes.


Venkatesan Guruswami wins 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship

CS Professor Venkatesan Guruswami has won the 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship for his research proposal on mathematical computer science titled, “Mathematical Structure and Efficient Algorithms:  The Polymorphic Gateway.” The fellowship is awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation on the basis of "prior achievement and exceptional promise." Professor Guruswami is a Chancellor’s Professor and a senior scientist at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. “I’m really delighted and grateful to be chosen for this Fellowship, and honored to join its distinguished roster of past recipients,” said Guruswami.

Jelani Nelson receives ACM-SIGACT Distinguished Service Award

CS Professor Jelani Nelson has won the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group for Algorithms and Computation Theory (ACM-SIGACT) Distinguished Service Award. Nelson was cited “for outstanding contributions to broadening participation in computer science, and in theoretical computer science in particular.” Awarded annually, the SIGACT Distinguished Service Award is given to those who have made "substantial contributions to the Theoretical Computer Science community.” Nelson founded AddisCoder, a summer program that aims to introduce high school students in developing countries to the fundamentals of computational thinking. The program, which began in Ethiopia, has educated more than 500 students and has recently extended to Jamaica. Nelson also co-founded the David Harold Blackwell Summer Research Institute, whose internship opportunities serve undergraduates across the U.S. with the goal of increasing African American students that pursue graduate studies in mathematical sciences.

Left to right: Phoebe Cheng, Manager Civil/Structural Engineering, BART; EECS Chair Claire Tomlin; Nikhila Pai, Sr. Manager of On Call Professional Service Agreements, BART; (photo: EECS)

Berkeley EECS and BART celebrate Women's History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, Berkeley EECS and BART worked together to Embrace Equity in STEM. Over the course of 50 years, both organizations have strived to be engines of societal change and social mobility, and they continue to do so today: BART, by providing fast, reliable transportation to the public; Berkeley EECS through its mission to educate leaders, create knowledge, and serve society. The World Economic Forum has estimated that only 20% of engineering graduates are women, and women of color represent only 2% of all engineering professionals. Women are particularly underrepresented in leadership roles, comprising 24% in technology and 16% in infrastructure. To bridge the gap, Berkeley EECS is committed to promoting access to education and careers in STEM for women and girls. BART is a vital part of the transportation infrastructure in the Bay Area, and it plays a key role in ensuring that everyone has access to education and impactful careers in STEM. EECS Chair Claire Tomlin served as a special guest and ambassador for women in engineering, and participated in a panel discussion with BART engineers and Berkeley Engineering alumnae to promote early access to education for young women aspiring to make a greater impact on society. “It’s important that there are women role-models and people you can relate to,” said Professor Tomlin. “The number of women in engineering is still too low and I think we should be striving for a percentage of women that’s representative of the population.”

(Photo by Michael Ball)

Berkeley EECS leads strong showing at SIGCSE

Berkeley EECS led a strong showing at the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Technical Symposium. SIGCSE, held last week in Toronto, Canada, is the premier venue for innovations in CS education and pedagogy. The event boasts attendance of over 1000 computer scientists from around the world, representing CS education research in all levels of CS teaching, including K-12, higher education and professional education. This year, EECS faculty and students contributed four papers, two posters, two workshops, and two panels, led by faculty members such as Michael Ball, Armando Fox, Dan Garcia, Peyrin Kao, Narges Norouzi, Gireeja Ranade, and Lisa Yan. Professor Ranade and her group presented their work on inclusive group formation. Dan Garcia’s presentation, “A’s for All” detailed how Berkeley EECS is pivoting toward mastery learning. Professor Fox and graduate student Victor Huang presented their use of a “climate-first lens” to train first-time TAs in CS teaching techniques. “I'm proud to be among such a high-powered group that is advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of CS pedagogy,” said Fox.


EECS Faculty to explore implications of ChatGPT in new AI lecture series

EECS Faculty will headline a new AI lecture series to explore the “paradigm shift” that ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs) have catalyzed. CS Professors Jitendra Malik, Stuart Russell and Michael Jordan are among the seven speakers scheduled this spring to address the sensation that is ChatGPT and other related LLMs. CS Professor Ken Goldberg, who organized the lecture series on behalf of Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR), said, “Something changed very dramatically with the performance of ChatGPT, compared with previous large language models, and everyone, including experts, is asking, ‘What does it mean? Where do we go from here?’” The series will also feature John Schulman (Ph.D. ‘16; advisor: Pieter Abbeel), a co-founder of OpenAI and the primary architect of ChatGPT. “Everyone wants to hear from the experts,” Goldberg said. “There are so many misconceptions out there. In the series, we’ll hear from those who have been working in the field for many years who can provide valuable perspectives on the importance of ChatGPT.”