Jennifer Chayes wins 2020 ACM Distinguished Service Award

CS Prof. Jennifer Chayes, who is also the Associate Provost for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS), is the recipient of the 2020 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Distinguished Service Award.  She was selected for the award, which recognizes outstanding career-long "contributions to the computing community at large," for "her effective leadership, mentorship, and dedication to diversity during her distinguished career of computer science research, teaching, and institution building."  Chayes' contributions include leadership at both Microsoft Research (where she founded and led the Theory Group, and Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal) and UC Berkeley (where she is also the Dean of the School of Information); service to many computing and science organizations (including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, and the ACM A.M. Turing Award Committee); expanding the diversity of the computing field through mentorship of women, underrepresented racial minorities and other disadvantaged groups; and making important research contributions in machine learning.  

Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker donate $50M for construction of new CDSS building

CS Profs. Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker have each donated $25M toward the construction of The Gateway, the new building that will house the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  The Gateway is conceived as "a planned nexus for collaborative, integrated data science and computing education and research to solve societal problems," and will be located on Hearst Avenue near the Scenic Avenue intersection.  The combined gift of $75M, which includes an equal share from a third anonymous donor, will support the development and construction of the building, and the creation of two new full-time faculty positions.  The project also received a windfall in February 2020 when another anonymous donor contributed $252M to the project. “These generous gifts are so inspiring and represent great momentum for the Gateway,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ. “The gifts from faculty speak not only to the power of Berkeley’s vision of data science and computing but also to the unique impact of our faculty in driving innovation and change from the ground up.

EECS department welcomes new leadership

The EECS department will be welcoming three new chairs, all of whom are EECS alumni, to guide the department for the next two years.  The new tripartite structure reflects the growth and changing needs of the department, which has been managed by a two-person leadership team for over 20 years.   Prof. Claire Tomlin (Ph.D. '98, advisor: Shankar Sastry), the new EECS department chair, will be largely responsible for outward-facing communications and strategic matters.  She will be just the second woman to hold this position since the EECS department formed 90 years ago (Tsu-Jae King Liu was the first in 2014).  Tomlin is known for her outstanding research in control systems and robotics, and is currently the Faculty Director of the CITRIS Sustainable Infrastructures Initiative.  The division chairs will be responsible for day to day operations and academic matters: Prof. Clark Nguyen (B.S. '89/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94, advisor: Jitendra Malik), a pioneer in micro electromechanical systems, will be the new EE division Chair; and Prof. David Wagner (M.S. '99/Ph.D. '00, advisor: Eric Brewer), an expert in cryptography and computer security, will be the new CS division chair.  Outgoing EECS chair Jeff Bokor and CS chair John Canny successfully shepherded EECS through the COVID-19 pandemic with vision and resourcefulness.  They greatly expanded faculty diversity by overseeing the recruitment of 19 new members, and were behind the initiative to reform the L&S CS undergraduate admissions process.  They also actively mobilized the department during the Black Lives Matter movement, engaging with students and the EECS community to identify cultural and institutional problems, and finding ways to effectively address them.  Two results of this effort were the indefinite suspension of the GRE requirement for graduate admissions, and a revision of the EECS publication guidelines to allow for a more open and critical discussion of department policies and practices with regard to race.  The new chairs will take the helm on July 1, 2021.

Shankar Sastry wins 2021 ASME Rufus Oldenburger Medal

EECS Prof. S. Shankar Sastry has won the 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Rufus Oldenburger Medal for significant contributions and outstanding achievements to the field and profession of automatic control.  Sastry, who was dean of Berkeley Engineering for over ten years, was cited “For fundamental contributions to the foundations of nonlinear, adaptive and hybrid control, control of robots and vehicles, and for contributions to control and robotics education.”  EECS Prof. Lotfi Zadeh (1921-2017) previously won this award in 1993.  The medal will be presented at the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Division Awards ceremony and dinner, which will take place at the newly instituted Modeling, Estimation and Control Conference (MECC 2021), in Texas in October.

EECS Faculty votes to drop GRE requirement indefinitely

After intensive debate spanning 2020 and 2021, and careful analysis of a trial cycle of GRE-free admissions for Fall 2021, the EECS Department has voted to drop the GRE requirement for graduate admissions indefinitely. Effective immediately, and beginning with the Fall 2022 cohort, whose application window opens in September 2021, the application requirements for all graduate research degree programs in EECS will neither require, nor accept, GRE scores.

In 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the EECS faculty temporarily suspended the GRE requirement for graduate admissions for the 2020-21 cycle, i.e., for those admitted for Fall 2021, primarily due to the challenges posed by COVID. The department subsequently observed a 30% increase in applications from groups historically underrepresented in EECS, a 47% increase in admittance of those applicants, and a 150% increase in yield from those populations. Not only did we attract and admit more high-performing underrepresented students, but a higher percentage of those admitted decided to attend UC Berkeley to study EECS.

The graduate admissions process in EECS is a holistic review involving the following factors: transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statements, statements about intended research, publications (if any), and for applicants evaluated favorably on these factors, one or more phone conversations with EECS faculty.  Since applicants come from a wide range of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, we also consider the applicant's demonstrated ability and motivation taken in the context of the opportunities they had available. Given this thorough, multifaceted review, the majority of EECS faculty concluded, after extensive discussion, that the GRE does not add much value, relative to the harm it does to diversity and equity. 

Diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is a longstanding challenge. For example, nationally, fewer than 22% of computer science PhD degrees are awarded to women students, and only 4% to Black students. GRE scores show significant gender and race-based differences, but these differences do not correlate with later success in graduate school, much less with undergraduate grade point average (GPA) in many cases. Therefore, using GRE scores as a “cutoff” disadvantages women and underrepresented minorities applying to graduate programs. The UC Regents recently voted to drop ACT/SAT scores from undergraduate admissions for the UC system for similar reasons.

For these reasons, along with the financial burden GRE testing fees place on economically disadvantaged applicants across the globe, the EECS Department has concluded that the GRE score has limited benefit in evaluating PhD and masters degree applicants, and that the exam itself, as well as the administration of it, harms diversity and equity.

For more information about Berkeley EECS graduate admissions, please visit our website:

Gloria Tumushabe cultivates women coders in Africa

EECS alumna and current Master's student Gloria Tumushabe (B.S. ’20) is the subject of an article in the Spring 2021 Berkeley Engineer titled "Cultivating female coders in Africa."  During the COVID pandemic shutdown, Tumushabe developed a program called Afro Fem Coders to allow her to remotely teach computer programming to girls in Uganda from her home in Walnut Creek.  Two weeks after reaching out by word-of-mouth and social media, she had heard back from more than 40 girls who were eager to participate.  She sent them money to pay for laptops and internet service, and formed an international network of women professionals to provide one-on-one mentoring.  In the year since the program began, it has grown to 120 girls from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and Ethiopia. “The more of us women in this space, the better,” she said.  Tumushabe is leading the EECS Anti-Racism Committee meetings this semester, and was awarded the 2021 EECS Eugene L. Lawler Prize for her "amazing work and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, and improving the EECS Department for students who come after her."

John DeNero named CDSS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

EECS alumnus and Associate Teaching Prof. John DeNero (CS Ph.D. '10, advisor: Dan Klein) has been named the new Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).   DeNero earned a B.S. in Mathematical & Computational Science and Symbolic Systems, and an M.A. in Philosophy, from Stanford before coming to Berkeley.  After receiving his doctorate, he took a job as a Senior Research Scientist at Google where he worked on Google Translate and natural language processing. He came back to campus in 2014 to focus on teaching and education.  His work at Berkeley has centered on facilitating large-scale delivery of computing content, and he co-developed and teaches two of the largest courses on campus: CS 61A and Data 8. He has been honored with the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award (2018), the Jim and Donna Gray Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Computer Science (2017), the Diane S. McEntyre Award for Excellence in Teaching Computer Science (2016), and the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award (2015).  He has served as the EECS vice chair for undergraduate matters, the chair of the EECS Data Science Degree Committee, and a member of the Data Science Governance Committee.

The Harvard Data Science Review spotlights Berkeley CDSS

The Harvard Data Science Review (HDSR) has thrown a spotlight on UC Berkeley's Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) and its leadership. In "A Conversation with Michael V. Drake and Jennifer Chayes" HDSR takes a comprehensive look at data science at Berkeley from a variety of perspectives.  UC President Drake discusses the role of data in society, and the importance of values and equity as a key part of UC's mission as California's premier public higher educational institution. Chayes, who is the Associate Provost of CDSS and Dean of the School of Information, explores CDSS’s pioneering vision, and the progress being made to build a university-wide entity to help address the opportunities and challenges created by the recent seismic advances in data science and computing.

Leyla Kabuli wins 2021 University Medal

Senior undergraduate and future graduate EECS student Leyla Kabuli has won the University Medal, UC Berkeley's highest honor.  She is the daughter of EECS alumna A. Nazli Gündes (Ph.D. ’88, advisor: Charles Desoer), now an ECE professor at UC Davis.  Kabuli, who will graduate with a 4.0 GPA, attended Berkeley on a prestigious Regents' and Chancellor's scholarship, and earned simultaneous degrees in EECS and Music.  Her research interests lie in diagnostic imaging, vision and perception, and are focused on super-resolution microscopy and magnetic particle imaging.  Her other honors include a Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts Ignite Grant, an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, a Samuel Silver Memorial Scholarship Award, an Edward Frank Kraft Award for Freshmen, and a California Seal of Biliteracy in French and Turkish. The University Medal recognizes a graduating student’s outstanding research, public service and strength of character.  She will be funding her graduate education with a Berkeley Fellowship for Graduate Study, as well as a National Science Foundation fellowship for outstanding graduate students in STEM fields.  Kabuli was offered full graduate fellowships to attend Stanford and MIT but chose Berkeley because “I might be biased, but Berkeley has the best electrical engineering program in the country,” she said.

Anthony Joseph named Director of Fung Institute

EECS Prof. Anthony Joseph has been name the next Director of the Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership.  After earning his degrees at MIT, Joseph was hired as a professor of Computer Science at Berkeley in 1998. His primary research interests are in Genomics, Secure Machine Learning, Datacenters, mobile/distributed computing, and wireless communications (networking and telephony). His research also includes adaptive techniques for cloud computing, distributed network monitoring and triggering, cybersecurity, and datacenter architectures. He is the former Director of Berkeley Intel Lab, the co-founder of two startup companies, and a committed teacher who has experience developing and teaching five successful massive, open online courses (MOOC) on Big Data and Machine Learning offered through the BerkeleyX platform. Joseph is noted for his commitment to access and inclusion, and has worked to recruit and mentor a diversity of students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  He will begin his directorship on July 1st.