News

Shruti Agarwal and Hany Farid use facial quirks to unmask ‘deepfakes’

CS graduate student Shruti Agarwal and her thesis advisor Prof. Hany Farid have created a new weapon in the war against "deepfakes," the hyper-realistic AI-generated videos of people appearing to say and do things they never actually said or did.  The new forensic technique, which uses the subtle characteristics of how a person speaks to recognize whether a new video of that individual is real, was presented this week at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Long Beach.  “The basic idea is we can build these soft biometric models of various world leaders, such as 2020 presidential candidates," said Farid, "and then as the videos start to break, for example, we can analyze them and try to determine if we think they are real or not.”

Berkeley distinguished by number of graduating startup founders

According to Crunchbase News,  UC Berkeley graduated 108 startup founders--not including business school graduates --who raised $1M or more after May 1, 2018.   This makes Berkeley the top-ranked public university, and the third-ranked university of any kind after Stanford and MIT, in founding graduates.  In the Crunchbase tally of all funded founders graduating from public universities (including those with business school degrees), Berkeley (with 240) had more than three times the number of funded founders than second-ranked UCLA (with 85).  Berkeley News notes that you would have to combine the second- through fifth-ranked schools (UCLA, Michigan, Illinois and Washington)  to get to Berkeley’s level. “Berkeley is the original question-the-status-quo, do-disruptive-thinking place,” says Caroline Winnet of Berkeley SkyDeck. “I like to say that we don’t just think outside the box. There is no box.”

Elizaveta Tremsina is 2019 ACM SRC Grand Finals Winner

A paper written by recent graduate Elizaveta Tremsina (B.S. '19 CS/Physics/Applied Math) has taken third place in the undergraduate category of the 2019 ACM Student Research Competition (SRC) Grand Finals.  The paper, titled "Your Story Recorded in a Magnet: Micromagnetic Simulations of Spin-Orbit Torque in Multi-layer Structures," was a continuation of the first place poster she presented at the 2018 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.    "I am extremely thankful to the Berkeley EECS department for the amazing 4.5 years and for the unique chance to participate in cutting-edge research with Dr. Salahuddin's group and also attend the Tapia conference (my first one back in 2016 and last year)," she said. "I hope that more Berkeley undergrads participate in this competition in the future, be it at Tapia or other ACM conferences."  Tremsina was presented with her award at the ACM awards banquet last weekend.

Tianshi Wang and Jaijeet Roychowdhury win UCNC 2019 Best Paper Award

A paper co-authored by freshly minted alumnus Tianshi Wang (Ph.D. '19, winner of the 2019 EECS David Sakrison Memorial Prize for "truly outstanding research") and Prof. Jaijeet Roychowdhury has won Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Unconventional Computation and Natural Computation (UCNC) 2019.  The paper, titled "OIM: Oscillator-based Ising Machines for Solving Combinatorial Optimisation Problems" will be presented at the conference in Japan next week.

Moses Surumen plugs Kenya’s skills gap with peer to peer learning

Moses Surumen, who graduated with a degree in EECS this week, has been sharing his knowledge with peers in Kenya for the past two years, helping them develop the skills to solve challenges back home.  Surumen, who has 10 siblings, grew up in Kajiado, a Masai area south of Nairobi.  In 2017, he implemented a program called M-Soma, running a six-week summer course for Kenyan high school graduates in computer science.  “We were building skills the way Berkeley does, providing the best skeletal code for setting up the platform and building onto that several features they wanted to use,” he explains.  Surumen has accepted a position at Qualcomm but plans to continue to explore how to scale his project to work in different African countries.

Chelsea Finn wins 2018 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

Recent graduate Chelsea Finn (Ph.D. '18, advisors: Pieter Abbeel and Sergey Levine), has won the prestigious ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award. This award is presented annually to "the author(s) of the best doctoral dissertation(s) in computer science and engineering."  In her dissertation, "Learning to Learn with Gradients," Finn introduced algorithms for meta-learning that enable deep networks to solve new tasks from small datasets, and demonstrated how her algorithms can be applied in areas including computer vision, reinforcement learning and robotics.  Finn  is currently a research scientist at Google Brain, a post-doc at the Berkeley AI Research Lab (BAIR), and an acting assistant professor at Stanford.  Last year's recipient, Aviad Rubinstein, was also a Berkeley EECS alum.

Caroline Lemieux and Daniel Fried named 2019 Google PhD Fellows

CS graduate students Caroline Lemieux (adviser: Koushik Sen) and Daniel Fried (adviser: Daniel Klein) have won 2019 Google PhD Fellowships.  The Google PhD Fellowship Program was created to recognize outstanding graduate students doing exceptional work in computer science and related research areas.  Fellowships are awarded to students who "represent the future of research" in those fields. Lemieux, who won in the field of Programming Technology and Software Engineering, has interests which center around improving, or helping developers to improve, the correctness, reliability, and understanding of software systems.  Fried, who won in the Natural Language Processing category,  is interested in grounding language in perception and interaction, and in structured prediction.

Nolan Pokpongkiat wins third place David L. Kirp Prize

Third-year Computer Science undergraduate Nolan Pokpongkiat is the third place winner of the KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize, funded by the U.C. Berkeley Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.  The prize recognizes "students who have developed innovative strategies to increase opportunities for children and youth, as well as students who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the future of children and youth."  Pokpongkiat co-founded Helix, a non-profit organization with the goal of diversifying the healthcare field by empowering young people to pursue futures in medicine. As Managing Director, Nolan brought together a team to design a month-long summer program where high school students spend a week living at UC Berkeley training in basic clinical skills, getting CPR-certified, and learning about possible healthcare careers. Then, through partnerships with UCSF Health, John Muir Health, and Kaiser Permanente, along with a network of over 160 medical professionals, students rotate through shadowing placements in the hospital, on the ambulance, and in community clinics for the remainder of the month.

Meet Blue, the low-cost, human-friendly robot designed for AI

Meet Blue, a new low-cost, human-friendly robot conceived and built by a team of researchers led by CS Prof. Pieter Abbeel, postdoc Stephen McKinley, and grad student David Gealy. Blue was designed to use recent advances in AI and deep reinforcement learning to master intricate human tasks, all while remaining affordable and safe enough that every artificial intelligence researcher — and eventually every home — could have one.  “AI has done a lot for existing robots, but we wanted to design a robot that is right for AI,” Abbeel said. “Existing robots are too expensive, not safe around humans and similarly not safe around themselves – if they learn through trial and error, they will easily break themselves. We wanted to create a new robot that is right for the AI age rather than for the high-precision, sub-millimeter, factory automation age.”

A Salute to Early Women in STEM at UC Berkeley

In celebration of Women's History Month, Sheila Humphreys, the EECS Emerita Director of Diversity, has published an essay in the EECS Newsletter titled "A Salute to Early Women in STEM at UC Berkeley."  This essay is the first part of a series of writings about the history of diversity in engineering at UC Berkeley, seen primarily through the lens of  Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences.  It covers the first women researchers, faculty, and grad students in STEM at UC Berkeley including Agnes Morgan, Marian Diamond, Susan Graham, Avideh Zakhor, Lillian Gilbreth, and Kawthar Zaki.