News

Michael Jordan wins 2021 AMS Ulf Grenander Prize

CS Prof. Michael I. Jordan has been awarded the 2021 American Mathematical Society (AMS) Ulf Grenander Prize in Stochastic Theory and Modeling.   The prize, which was established in 2016, recognizes "exceptional theoretical and applied contributions in stochastic theory and modeling." It is awarded for "seminal work, theoretical or applied, in the areas of probabilistic modeling, statistical inference, or related computational algorithms, especially for the analysis of complex or high-dimensional systems." Jordan, who has a split appointment in Statistics, was cited for "foundational contributions to machine learning, especially unsupervised learning, probabilistic computation, and core theory for balancing statistical fidelity with computation."  He is known for his work on recurrent neural networks as a cognitive model in the 1980s, formalizing various methods for approximate interference, and popularizing Bayesian networks and the expectation-maximization algorithm in machine learning.  The prize is awarded every three years, making Jordan the second recipient of the honor.

EECS 150W: Cecilia Aragon

2013's CS Distinguished Alumna, Cecilia Aragon (M.S. '87/Ph.D. '04, advisors: Shankar Sastry and Marti Hearst), the first Latina pilot on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team, and the first Latina full professor at the University of Washington, is the subject of an EECS 150W profile by Sheila Humphreys.  The child of immigrants, Aragon dreamed of one day becoming a professor.  By the time she had earned her Master's degree , however, her self-confidence had taken a beating from years of racist and sexist antagonism, and she needed to take some time off. She learned to fly, joined the US Unlimited Aerobatic Team, and helped bring home a world championship medal.  She returned to Berkeley invigorated, and became an expert in human-centered data science.  She currently holds multiple appointments at the University of Washington, remains actively engaged in efforts to support women and other underrepresented groups in computing, and has recently published a memoir.   Learn more about Cecilia's journey.

150W: Bin Yu's "most successful failure"

EECS Prof. Bin Yu is the subject of a 150W profile by the Department of Statistics, where she holds a joint appointment. Yu found refuge from the tumult of Mao Tse Tung's Cultural Revolution in the orderly tables of a math textbook.  Although she placed first in the math section of the graduate school entrance exam, she failed to be accepted as a pupil by the professor she hoped to work with at Peking University because she was a woman.  As a result of this difficult rejection, she switched to studying probability and statistics, where a new world of new opportunities opened to her.  The profile covers Bin Yu's journey from her childhood in China to her days as a graduate student at UC Berkeley,  a career in both academia and industry on the east coast, her return to Berkeley as a professor, and her important contributions to the field of data science.  150W is the year-long celebration of 150 years of women at UC Berkeley. 

Dawn Song wins 2020 ACM SIGSAC Outstanding Innovation Award

CS Prof. and alumna Dawn Song (Ph.D. '02, advisor: Doug Tygar) has won the 2020 ACM Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control (SIGSAC) Outstanding Innovation Award.  This award recognizes "outstanding and innovative technical contributions to the field of computer and communication security that have had lasting impact in furthering or understanding the theory and/or development of commercial systems."  Song was cited "for contributions to systems and software security, in particular, dynamic taint analysis for vulnerability discovery and malware detection."  She pioneered the BitBlaze Binary Analysis Infrastructure, a unified binary program analysis platform used to provide novel solutions to computer security problems, including automatic vulnerability discovery and defense, in-depth malware analysis, and automatic extraction of security models for analysis and verification.

Natacha Crooks wins 2020 ACM SIGOPS Dennis M. Ritchie dissertation award

CS Assistant Prof. Natacha Crooks has won the 2020 ACM Special Interest Group on Operating Systems (SIGOPS) Dennis M. Ritchie dissertation award for her thesis titled "A Client-Centric Approach to Transactional Datastores."  The award, which recognizes creative research in software systems, was bestowed upon a dissertation which a colleague described as "a landmark, with deep and beautiful results in transactions and distributed consistency, and systems that exploit them."  The award committee commented that "Natacha Crooks’ thesis achieves something rare: a new conceptual framework for client-centric consistency and two efficient systems built on those insights. The document for this attractive package is accessible (in part) to undergraduates and the advanced material is very clearly written. With the enduring popularity of consistency as a research topic in distributed systems for the past several decades it is surprising that a breakthrough as large as Natacha’s took as long as it did."  The work was done at the University of Texas, Austin, advised by Lorenzo Alvisi and Simon Peter.

GRE-blind graduate admissions, expanded fee waivers highlight EECS focus on equity and diversity

As the largest department at UC Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) [over 130 faculty, 730 graduate students, and 3,450 undergraduates] has long recognized the challenge of attracting, admitting, and graduating doctoral students who will enrich the diversity of the field.

In the context of the recently heightened awareness of the damage caused by structural racism nationwide, Black student leaders, among others, have suggested a number of improvements to address racial climate challenges and other sources of inequity in the department. In response, EECS has stepped up its equity and inclusion efforts in all aspects of Department operations—teaching, research, graduate student recruitment and retention, and faculty recruitment and retention.   A task force, consisting of student leaders, faculty, staff, and Department leadership, has been assembled to provide continuity and accountability across all our diversity efforts on an ongoing basis, particularly efforts to address racism and social justice in EECS.

In response to growing concerns that hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic would further disadvantage applicants who do not have equal access, the Department has decided to completely remove the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) from consideration for graduate applicants for 2021 admission. This decision is consistent with a number of our peer institutions in the Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance.  According to data collected by the Black In AI mentoring program, co-founded by new Berkeley EECS faculty member Rediet Abebe, many qualified candidates do not actually apply to many graduate programs due to the financial and logistical burdens of taking the exam and submitting scores. Next Spring, EECS will review the impact of this decision on graduate applications and admissions for 2021, and then make a decision regarding GRE use for Fall 2022 and subsequent years.

In addition, fee waivers for application to graduate school have been expanded across campus to allow more students to afford an application to Berkeley. The Department hopes these efforts will attract more talented minority students to apply, and will determine how effective these measures  have been during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.

Gabe Fierro wins inaugural Google - CMD-IT FLIP Dissertation Fellowship

EECS graduate student Gabriel Fierro (B.S. c. 2014, Ph.D. advisor: David Culler) has won an inaugural Google - CMD-IT FLIP Dissertation Fellowship.   He is one of 11 computer science scholars from underrepresented groups who were recognized this year for "positively influencing the direction and perspective of technology."   The award is part of a joint effort by Google Research, the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), and the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology (CMD-IT) Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance to increase the diversity of doctoral graduates in computing.  After completing his Ph.D., Fierro aspires to "a faculty position in a computer science department where I am able to pursue non-traditional and cross-disciplinary approaches to long-standing problems of sustainability and the built environment."  Fierro is currently working on the Buildings, Energy and Transportation Systems project in conjunction with the RISE Lab.

"Extreme MRI" chosen as ISMRM Reproducible Research pick

"Extreme MRI: Large‐scale volumetric dynamic imaging from continuous non‐gated acquisitions,” a paper by EECS alumnus Frank Ong (B.S. '13, Ph.D. '18) and his advisor, Prof. Miki Lustig, has been chosen as October's Reproducible Research pick by the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM).  The paper, in which the researchers attempt to reconstruct a large-scale dynamic image dataset while pushing reconstruction resolution to the limit, was chosen "because, in addition to sharing their code, the authors also shared a demo of their work in a Google Colab notebook."  Lustig and Ong, now a research engineer at Stanford, participated in a Q&A in which they discussed how they became interested in MRI, what makes Extreme MRI "extreme," the culture and value of open science, and why Lustig's grad school paper on compressed sensing became the most cited paper in MRM.  ISMRM is an international nonprofit association that promotes research development in the field of magnetic resonance in medicine to help facilitate continuing education in the field.

Mike Stonebraker wins 2020 C&C Prize

EECS Prof. Emeritus Michael Stonebraker has won the prestigious NEC Computers and Communications (C&C) Prize "For Pioneering Contributions to Relational Database Systems." The prize is awarded "to distinguished persons in recognition of outstanding contributions to research and development and/or pioneering work in the fields of semiconductors, computers, and/or telecommunications and in their integrated technologies."  In the early 1970's, Stonebraker and Prof. Eugene Wong began researching Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), which culminated in the creation of the Interactive Graphics and Retrieval System (INGRES), a practical and efficient implementation of the relational model running on Unix-based DEC machines.  It included a number of key ideas still widely used today, including B-trees, primary-copy replication, the query rewrite approach to views and integrity constraints, and the idea of rules/triggers for integrity checking in an RDBMS.  Stonebraker, Wong, and Prof. Larry Rowe, founded a startup called Relational Technology, Inc. (renamed Ingres Corporation), which they sold to Computer Associates in the early 1990's for $311M.  Stonebraker's student, Robert Epstein (Ph.D. '80), founded the startup Sybase, which created the code used as a basis for the Microsoft SQL Server.  Stonebraker also created Postgres in the late 1980's, which made it easier for programmers to modify or add to the optimizer, query language, runtime, and indexing frameworks.  It broadened the commercial database market by improving both database programmability and performance, making it possible to push large portions of a number of applications inside the database, including geographic information systems and time series processing.  Stonebraker retired from Berkeley in 2000 to found more companies and become an adjunct professor at MIT.  His achievements have been recognized with an IEEE John von Neumann Medal in 2005, ACM A.M. Turing Award in 2014, and ACM SIGMOD Systems Award in 2015.

Sheila Humphreys to join Carol Christ for Campus Conversation on 150W History Project

EECS Director Emerita of Diversity, Sheila Humphreys, will be joining Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Prof. Emerita Catherine Gallagher for a Campus Conversation about the 150 Years of Women at Berkeley (150W) History Project, which Humphreys and Gallagher currently co-chair.  October marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ unanimous approval of a resolution by Regent Samuel F. Butterworth: “That young ladies be admitted into the University on equal terms in all respects with young men.” This conversation on the 150W History Project will be the highlight of a year celebrating watershed moments of the remarkable women who have made immeasurable contributions to our campus and beyond.