Prasad Raghavendra wins inaugural NAS Michael and Sheila Held Prize

CS Associate Prof. Prasad Raghavendra has won the inaugural Michael and Sheila Held Prize.  The award, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), honors  outstanding, innovative, creative, and influential research in the areas of combinatorial and discrete optimization, or related parts of computer science, such as the design and analysis of algorithms and complexity theory.  Raghavendra and co-recipient David Steurer are being recognized "For a body of work which revolutionizes our understanding of optimization and complexity. It better explains the exact limits to efficient approximation of NP-hard problems. It provides better understanding of the computational assumptions underlying hardness of approximation. And it develops a structure theory of linear and semi-definite programming and their hierarchies, which leads to new algorithms and new lower bounds."  The prize comes with $100,000 and will be presented at the NAS annual meeting in April.

Ben Recht wins NIPS Test of Time Award

Prof. Ben Recht has won the Neural Information Processing System (NIPS) 2017 Test of Time Award for a paper he co-wrote with Ali Rahimi in 2007 titled "Random Features for Large-Scale Kernel Machines."   Deep learning, which involves stacking many neural networks on top of one another to learn the features of giant databases and develop clever algorithms, is being used to carry out more and more tasks in an expanding number of areas.  In their acceptance speech at the NIPS conference, Recht and Rahimi posited that more theory is needed to understand the state-of-the-art empirical performance of deep learning, and called for simple theorems and simple, easily reproducible experiments.  "We are building systems that govern healthcare and mediate our civic dialogue, we influence elections," said Rahimi. "I would like to live in a society where systems are built on top of verifiable, rigorous thorough knowledge and not alchemy."

Four EECS undergraduate researchers recognized by CRA

All four EECS students nominated for this year's Computing Research Association (CRA) Undergraduate Researcher Award were recognized by the selection committee.  Senior CS/Math major Garrett Thomas (nominated by Pieter Abbeel) and EECS junior Peter Manohar (nominated by Alessandro Chiesa) were named as finalists.  Senior CS major Siqi Liu (nominated by Sanjam Garg) and CS/Statistics/Math senior Tianhe Yu (nominated by Sergey Levine and Pieter Abbeel) merited honorable mentions.  This award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.

Ming Lin Named Chair of UMD Department of Computer Science

EECS alumna Ming C. Lin (B.S./M.S./Ph.D. '86-'93) has been named Chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland (UMD).  Lin,  a noted educator and expert in virtual reality, computer graphics and robotics, will assume the role of Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science with a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). The department includes more than 50 tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 11 full-time professional track instructional faculty members. “One of my primary goals is to ensure that our students will be successful in their careers when they graduate,” Lin said. “They are going to be the leaders in a society where practically every aspect of daily life is enabled and impacted by computing. Giving them the knowledge and skills to excel in a technology-empowered world is a mission I take very seriously.”

Harold Pimentel selected as HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow

CS alumnus Harold Pimentel (Ph.D. '16, advisor: Lior Pachter), now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, has been chosen as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Hanna H. Gray Fellow.  The goal of the fellows program is to "recruit and retain individuals who are from gender, racial, ethnic, and other groups underrepresented in the life sciences, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, early in their careers."  Pimentel is researching what happens when cells fail to prune RNA copies of genes. These copies contain interrupting sequences called introns that are usually spliced out before an RNA molecule serves as a template for protein production. Neglecting to trim away introns is sometimes associated with abnormal cellular behavior and disease. Pimentel plans to use computational methods he developed to analyze a vast set of RNAs in healthy and cancerous tissues to discover whether lingering introns play a part in cancer.   He says he will use the $1.4M award to start a new lab.

EECS advisors at CS Education Day

EECS Departmental Advising staff win 2017 Excellence in Advising Team Award

EECS Center for Student Affairs (CSA) undergraduate advisers Cindy Conners, Charlene Hughes, Carol Marshall, Andrea Mejia Valencia, Nicole McIntyre, Lydia Raya, Michael-David Sasson, and Lily Zhang, have won the UC Berkeley Excellence in Advising 2017 Team Award.  The team award recognizes exceptional performance and innovation in advising on campus and is presented to members of a group who have made a significant positive impact on the students and programs they support. The achievements of the EECS team are particularly impressive in a time of unprecedented growth that saw their advising pool expand to include over 2,850 students.

Yi Ma and Shafi Goldwasser named 2017 ACM Fellows

Incoming EECS faculty Yi Ma and Shafi Goldwasser have been named 2017 Fellows by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).  “To be selected as a Fellow is to join our most renowned member grade and an elite group that represents less than 1 percent of ACM’s overall membership,” explains ACM President Vicki L. Hanson.  "The Fellows program allows us to shine a light on landmark contributions to computing, as well as the men and women whose tireless efforts, dedication, and inspiration are responsible for groundbreaking work that improves our lives in so many ways.  Goldwasser was selected "For transformative work that laid the complexity-theoretic foundations for the science of cryptography," and Ma was selected "For contributions to theory and application of low-dimensional models for computer vision and pattern recognition."

Randy Katz named Berkeley’s next Vice Chancellor for Research

United Microelectronics Corporation Distinguished Prof. Randy Katz (also alumnus, Ph.D. '80) has been appointed Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley.  Katz helped pioneer many technologies that are ubiquitous today, like  wide-area wireless networks for mobile devices, cloud-based applications and cloud storage,  and ways of managing and protecting computer networks.  The vice chancellor for research search committee was impressed with Katz’s "vision, his ability to lead the campus in identifying new research and funding opportunities, and his dedication to providing outstanding research administration support to our community."  “Trust in higher education, the level of support for public higher education and belief in the importance of research to the excellence of an institution like ours are being undermined in the current social and political context,” he said. “I am very excited to be given the responsibility as vice chancellor for research, and hopefully I can make some positive advances in reversing that direction.”   He will begin his tenure on Jan. 1, 2018.

Diane Greene makes 2017 Bloomberg 50

CS alumna Diane Greene (M.S. '88) is ranked 12 on Bloomberg Businessweek's list of the 50 people who defined global business in 2017.   Greene is the senior vice president and cloud chief at Google.  Although the Google Cloud Platform currently has only about 5% of the cloud market, it grew more than 80% in the past year under her management--outpacing industry leader Inc.  Greene thinks Google Cloud could surpass Amazon Web Services by 2022 as it sells more software tools and services and becomes Google’s chief vehicle for bringing advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing to market.

Sameera Vemulapalli named runner-up for 2018 Alice T. Schafer Prize

Math and L&S CS major Sameera Vemulapalli has been named Runner-up for the 2018 Alice T. Schafer Prize for Excellence in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Woman. The Schafer Prize is awarded annually by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) to the most outstanding woman mathematics undergraduate in the United States.  Vemulpalli, who is currently finishing her senior year, was judged on  the quality of her performance in advanced mathematics courses and special programs,  her demonstrated real interest in mathematics ability for independent work in mathematics, and her performance in mathematical competitions at the local or national level.