Deep learning helps robots grasp and move objects with ease

CS Prof. Ken Goldberg is the co-author of a study published in Science Robotics which describes the creation of a new artificial intelligence software that gives robots the speed and skill to grasp and smoothly move objects, making it feasible for them to soon assist humans in warehouse environments.  He and postdoc Jeffrey Ichnowski had previously created a Grasp-Optimized Motion Planner that could compute both how a robot should pick up an object and how it should move to transfer the object from one location to another, but the motions it generated were jerky.  Then they, along with EECS graduate student Yahav Avigal and undergraduate (3rd year MS) student Vishal Satish, integrated a deep learning neural network into the motion planner, cutting the average computation time from 29 seconds to 80 milliseconds, or less than one-tenth of a second.  Goldberg predicts that, with this and other advances in robotic technology, robots could be assisting in warehouse environments in the next few years.

Jake Tibbetts wins Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ 2020 Leonard M. Rieser Award

EECS grad student and alumnus Jake Tibbetts (B.S. EECS/Global Studies '20) has won the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ 2020 Leonard M. Rieser Award.   Winners of the award have published essays in the Bulletin's Voices of Tomorrow column, and are selected by the Bulletin’s editorial team for recognition as "outstanding emerging science and security experts passionate about advancing peace and security in our time."  Tibbetts received the award for his article “Keeping classified information secret in a world of quantum computing,” published in the Bulletin on February 11, 2020.  “In his piece, Jake Tibbetts accomplished the kind of deep, thoughtful, and well-crafted journalism that is the Bulletin's hallmark," said editor-in-chief John Mecklin. "Quantum computing is a complex field; many articles about it are full of strange exaggerations and tangled prose. Tibbetts' piece, on the other hand, is an exemplar of clarity and precision and genuinely worthy of the Rieser Award.”  Tibbetts is a fellow at the NNSA-supported Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, and has previously worked as a research assistant at the LBNL Center for Global Security Research.  He has made contributions to the Nuclear Policy Working Group and the Project on Nuclear Gaming at Cal, and made the EECS news last year for his involvement in creating the online three-player experimental wargame "SIGNAL," which was named the Best Student Game of 2019 by the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge (SGS&C).  The Rieser Award comes with a $1K prize.

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.

Rising Stars 2020, Berkley EECS, November 9-10, 2020

EECS to host Rising Stars 2020

UC Berkeley has been selected to host the Rising Stars 2020 Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS, which will be held virtually on November 9-10, 2020.  Born at MIT in 2013 and last hosted by Berkeley in 2014, Rising Stars is an intensive workshop for women graduate students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing academic careers in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering.  It will bring together senior-level PhD students, postdocs, faculty and special guests and  for a two-day intensive virtual workshop on the faculty search process.  Female-identifying EE and CS PhD graduate students who are within ~1-2 years of graduating, as well as postdocs who have obtained a PhD no earlier than 2017, are encouraged to apply.  The application deadline is deadline is September 7, 2020.

EECS 150W: Sheila Humphreys and WiCSE

In celebration of 150 Years of Women at Berkeley, the EECS Director Emerita of Diversity (and Berkeley 150W History Project co-chair) Sheila Humphreys tells the story of  Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (WiCSE), the first student group at an American university created to support and increase the number of women in those fields.   WiCSE was born when the political foment of 1970s Berkeley met the burgeoning field of computer science in Evans Hall.  Humphreys charts WiCSE's path from the formation of the first women's clubs at Berkeley one hundred years before, to its 40th reunion in 2018.  WICSE has established itself as a permanent force in EECS: a powerful voice for women students, a model of peer engagement and support, and a pipeline for women into the fields of EE and CS.  Humphreys' life-long mission to diversify the global population of computer scientists and engineers is the subject of July's Notable Women of EECS profile.

Tijana Zrnic wins Apple PhD fellowship in AI/ML

Graduate student Tijana Zrnic (advisors:  Moritz Hardt and Michael Jordan) has won an Apple PhD fellowship in Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML).  Scholars from invited institutions are selected for this program based on their "innovative research, record as thought leaders and collaborators in their fields, and unique commitment to take risks and push the envelope in machine learning and AI."  Zrnic, who is affiliated with BAIR, the Statistical AI Learning group, and RISELab, was selected for "Fundamentals of Machine Learning."  Winners receive financial support for their research and academic travel for two years, internship opportunities, and a two-year mentorship with an Apple researcher in their field.   Apple says these scholars are "advancing the field of machine learning and AI to push the boundaries of what’s possible, and Apple is committed to supporting the academic research community and their invaluable contributions to the world."

Monday, June 15: Celebrate the 2020 Computer Science Graduates

We invite all graduates, their families and friends, and the university community to join us remotely on Monday, June 15th, for a Celebration of the Computer Science 2020 Graduates. The online celebration is intended to acknowledge and celebrate our graduate’s accomplishments, but its format is not intended to replace a live commencement ceremony. The self-guided program will include recorded video remarks from the CS Division Chair, the Departmental Citation recipient, and faculty, as well as personalized slides for each graduate. The site will go live on June 15th and visitors will be allowed to engage with the content as they wish. This includes deciding which video greetings and slides they view at their convenience. If you have any questions regarding the postponed ceremony or the online celebration, please contact Antoine Davis (  We look forward to having you join us when the celebratory site debuts on June 15th. Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Go Bears!

Eden McEwen awarded SPIE 2020 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship

Eden McEwen, a fourth year undergraduate double-majoring in Computer Science and Physics, has been awarded a 2020 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by the international Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), for her potential contributions to the field of optics and photonics.  McEwen's research interests focus on predictive control and hardware design of adaptive optics systems for ground based astronomical observing in the optical and near-infrared. She has worked with groups at Berkeley, Keck II Observatory, NASA JPL, Caltech, and the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy. McEwen is a 2020 Goldwater Scholar and hopes to continue her studies in optics with a graduate degree in astrophysics.

Meena Jagadeesan named 2020 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow

Incoming CS graduate student Meena Jagadeesan has won a 2020 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.  The fellowship program honors the contributions of immigrants and children of immigrants to the United States by investing in the education of a select group of new Americans who are "poised to make significant contributions to US society, culture or their academic field." Jagadeesan, whose parents emigrated from India, is a senior in a joint B.A./M.A. program at Harvard University where she is studying algorithmic questions, especially those arising in machine learning and economics.  She has won a CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award and one of her papers, which involved the study of a dimensionality reduction scheme, was selected as an oral presentation at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS).  Each Fellow will receive up to $90K in financial support over two years.

Michael McCoyd uses polio history to shed light on Coronavirus vaccine in NY Times Op-Ed

CS graduate student Michael McCoyd (advisor: David Wagner) has co-authored an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled "What to Expect When a Coronavirus Vaccine Finally Arrives," which offers sobering lessons from the history of the polio vaccine. It took over 60 years from the onset of the first polio epidemic for a safe and effective vaccine to be developed and attempts to hasten the process often led to tragedy. McCoyd, who is in the Secure Computing group, says the article arose from a class he took in the J-school to learn more about fighting disinformation titled "Science Denial: Role of the Media."  When the J-school shifted focus to COVID-19 coverage, Prof. Elena Conis, an historian of vaccination, suggested story ideas for the students to pitch.  With their pitch accepted by the New York Times, McCoyd and classmate Jessie Moravek, a graduate student in environmental science, wrote what became the op-ed with Prof. Conis.