News

EECS expands efforts to diversify professoriate by increasing retention of underrepresented undergraduates

The Diversifying LEAdership in the Professoriate (LEAP) Alliance (formerly called the FLIP Alliance), is one of the benefactors of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Computing and Information Technology (CMD-IT) to support the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance (BPC-A).  UC Berkeley is a founding member of the LEAP Alliance, the goal of which is to increase diversity in the field of computing by expanding the number of professors from underrepresented communities at research Universities.  Diversifying the computing professoriate is critical to providing influential role models, shaping departmental programs and policies, and bringing diverse perspectives into research projects and programs.  As part of the first cohort, Berkeley has been partnering with 10 other institutions to focus on increasing the diversity of graduate student populations.  Thanks to their success, the new grant expands the Alliance to 4 cohorts, and Berkeley is now also part of Cohort 4, which is aimed at diversifying undergraduate student populations.  EECS representatives Prof. Armando Fox and Director of Diversity Audrey Sillers have started a mentoring program across institutions, participate in monthly cohort conference calls, attend many professional development events including two All Hands Meetings per year where cohort universities share best practices, and present what they have learned at the annual CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference.

Tsu-Jae King Liu

Tsu-Jae King Liu wins 2021 IEEE EDS Education Award

EECS Prof. Tsu-Jae King Liu has been selected to receive the 2021 IEEE Electron Devices Society (EDS) Education Award.  This award is presented annually by EDS to honor "an individual who has made distinguished contributions to education within the field of interest of the Electron Devices Society."  Liu, who is currently the dean of Berkeley Engineering, was cited “For outstanding contributions to education in the field of electron devices and achievements on diversity and inclusion.”  She has been a strong advocate for fostering inclusion and respect for women and members of underrepresented minorities in engineering.  She was the first woman to Chair the EECS department (2014), the second woman to join Intel's board of directors (2016), and the first woman elected dean of the Berkeley College of Engineering (2018).  She won the Chang-Lin Tien Leadership in Education Award in 2020.   Liu is also renowned for her research into novel semiconductor devices, non-volatile memory devices, and M/NEMS technology for ultra-low power circuits.  She is probably best known for the development of polycrystalline silicon-germanium thin film technology for applications in integrated circuits and microsystems; and as the co-inventor of the three-dimensional FinFET transistor  which is the design that is used in all leading microprocessor chips today.

Matthew Anderson wins 2021-22 Google-CMD-IT LEAP Fellowship Award

EECS Ph.D. student Matthew Anderson (advisors: Jan Rabaey and Ali Niknejad) has won the Google-CMD-IT LEAP Fellowship Award for 2021-22.  The award recognizes computer science scholars from underrepresented groups who are "positively influencing the direction and perspective of technology."  Anderson, who also won the 2021 Berkeley EECS Eugene L. Lawler Prize, has been a pioneer in the department's anti-racism efforts, including taking a leadership position in the EECS and Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) faculty/staff/student Anti-Racism Committee. His research interests include design of mixed-signal and wireless circuits for bio-sensing, brain machine interfaces, and accelerated neural networks.  This 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 LEAdership in the Professoriate (LEAP) Alliance to increase the diversity of doctoral graduates in computing.  Anderson is one of three winners of this year's award. Last year's inaugural award was won by EECS grad student Gabriel Fierro.

Hani Gomez, Ph.D.: Computing Pedagogy at the Nexus of Technology and Social Justice

EECS alumna Hani Gomez (Ph.D. '20, advisor: Kris Pister) is the subject of a Berkeley Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) profile titled "Hani Gomez, Ph.D.: Computing Pedagogy at the Nexus of Technology and Social Justice."  Gomez was born in Bolivia and earned her B.S. in EE at the University of South Carolina before coming to Berkeley for her graduate studies.  She has merged social justice and technology into a post-doc research position at Berkeley, split between EECS and the Human Contexts and Ethics (HCE) program in CDSS.  Gomez helped develop the course CS 194-100 EECS for All: Social Justice in EECS last spring, was one of three presenters in a June HCE workshop titled "Towards Social Justice in the Data Science Classroom," and serves on the EECS Anti-Racism Committee.  She says the preoccupation with perfectionism at Berkeley "doesn’t leave room [for you] to learn from your mistakes...You need to give yourself room to learn or unlearn, to grow and relearn.”

NSF awards $20M for researchers to launch National AI Institute for Advances in Optimization

A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and USC, have been awarded $20M by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch an institute which will deploy AI to tackle massive optimization challenges.  The researchers hope the new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Advances in Optimization will deliver a paradigm shift in automated decision-making by fusing AI and optimization to address grand challenges in highly constrained settings, such as logistics and supply chains, energy and sustainability, and circuit design and control.  EECS/IEOR Prof. Pieter Abbeel will lead the Reinforcement Learning Team, and EECS/IEOR Prof. Laurent El Ghaoui will be on both the End to End Optimization and the New Learning Methods Teams.  EECS Profs. Borivoje Nikolic and Vladimir Stojanovic will also be participating.  The group intends to integrate ethics and values into their complex systems design, from inception through operation, to ensure that all scientific advances will ultimately serve the interests of society.  The institute also plans to partner with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia, and Hispanic-serving community colleges in California, to build longitudinal education and workforce development programs.  Partners include Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

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.  

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: 

https://eecs.berkeley.edu/academics/graduate/research-programs/admissions

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."

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.