Dave Smith, synthesizer and MIDI developer, dies at 72

Groundbreaking synthesizer designer and EECS alumnus Dave Smith (B.S. 1971),  died on May 31st at the age of 72.  As an undergraduate, Smith wrote a program to compose music as a class project.  "The computers were huge," he said. "You wrote programs on punched cards, and you had to turn them into the computer center and wait a few hours to get it back to see if it compiled or not. It was a slow process." He had to print out his scores on a plotter.  "I remember my senior year, one of my professors predicted that one day that the power of one of these [room-sized] computers would only cost $1000, and of course, everybody’s like, 'No, no way, it couldn’t be.'"  After graduation, Smith took a job developing microprocessors at Lockheed Martin and, in his spare time, built an analog sequencer for a Minimoog synthesizer, allowing it to play more than one note at a time. He founded the company Sequential Circuits in 1974 and introduced the first polyphonic and programmable synthesizer four years later, the Prophet-5.  Because it used microprocessors to control its functions, it could store settings in memory, play harmonies by generating five notes at once, and was portable.  It generated what is called "the signature sound of the 1980s" and shaped the music of bands like of Pink Floyd, Parliament, Genesis, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, the Cars, Madonna, the Talking Heads, and the Cure.  Smith co-developed the Universal Synthesizer Interface (USI) in 1981 which, for the first time, allowed musicians to communicate digitally with multiple instruments through a single interface.  He convinced four Japanese companies to cooperate on a shared standard, which became MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) 1.0 in 1982.  “We made it low-cost so that it was easy for companies to integrate into their products. It was given away license-free because we wanted everyone to use it.”  In 1997, as president of Seer Systems, Smith introduced the first professional software synthesizer, a Windows program called "Reality."  Over the decades, instruments designed by Smith were embraced by groups like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Dr. Dre, and Arcade Fire.  MIDI 1.0 has remained ubiquitous for forty years.

Pravin Varaiya has died

EECS Prof. Emeritus and alumnus Pravin Varaiya (Ph.D. 1966, advisor: Lotfi Zadeh) passed away on June 10th from injuries sustained when a truck hit him as he was walking in his neighborhood on April 1.  He was 81 years old.  A Professor in the Graduate School at the time of his death, he was known for his pioneering work in sensing and controls in intelligent transportation systems, and is credited with spearheading the self-driving car revolution in the 1990s.  Pravin Pratap Varaiya was born in India in 1940 and received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bombay in 1960.  He moved to Berkeley to attend graduate school and married Ruth Kosh, a fellow social activist, in 1963. In addition to teaching EE, he was a Professor of Economics from 1975 to 1992.  As the visionary director of the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) project at Berkeley from 1994 to 1997, he led the construction of the National Automated Highway System (NAHSC) and the development of the first generation of modern self-driving cars.  These were the first autonomous vehicles tested live on California freeways.  His group also built the PeMS system, which revolutionized sensor networks for transportation, and which remains the largest sensor network for highways in the US.  PeMS enabled the California Department of Transportation and dozens of other agencies to finally see, measure, and assess traffic congestion in real-time.  He won the the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal (2022),  AACC O. Hugo Schuck Award (2020), IEEE ITS Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), IEEE Outstanding Research Award (2009), Bellman Control Heritage Award (2008), IEEE CSS Hendrik W. Bode Lecture Prize (2005), IEEE Control Systems Award (2002), and was a fellow of the IEEE and IFAC, and a member of both the AAAS and the NAE.  Varaiya was known for his calm and gentle demeanor, and his passionate and elegant approach to algorithms, control problems, games and strategies. He will be deeply missed.

Divya Periyakoil named Bloomberg Fellow

EECS alumna and former Regents Chancellor's Scholar Divya Periyakoil (B.S. 2020) has won a Bloomberg Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Bloomberg fellows are awarded full scholarships to pursue a Master or Doctor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins to tackle one of five critical health issues: addiction and overdose, adolescent health, environmental challenges, obesity and the food system, or violence. Periyakoil's fellowship is in the area of Environmental Challenges. As an undergrad, she was a Population Health Data Science Researcher in a project that focused on developing and applying machine learning, deep learning, and other forms of advanced analytic techniques and methodologies to advance environmental health research and devise innovative solutions to overcome environmental challenges to promote health equity. The project was part of a collaboration between two Berkeley groups, the Research in Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Energy (RAISE) Lab, which develops and integrates tele-health, sensors, analytics, and smart device technologies to lower health costs and improve outcomes, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health's Bixby Center for Population, Health, and Sustainability, which studies how environmental exposures, like those resulting from climate change, impact the most vulnerable members of our community, such as children, pregnant women, people of low socioeconomic status, and laborers.

Putri Karunia's Typedream allows users to build no-code websites

EECS alumna Putri Karunia (B.S. '19) who co-founded 2022 Forbes 30-Under-30 Enterprise Tech company "Typedream," is the subject of a profile titled "Putri Karunia proves that women not only belong in tech startups, but will actually make them more successful and profitable." Karunia, who was raised in Indonesia, graduated cum laude from Cal in 2019 and joined a team that included fellow EECS student Anthony Christian (B.S. '19) to found start-up Cotter, a passwordless authentication service that allows users to add a one-tap login to websites and apps in less than 15 minutes.  While developing Cotter, they came up with the idea for Typedream, a fast, user-friendly website-building tool that enables Notion (platform) customers to publish attractive websites in just 10 minutes, without prior coding experience. The design offers an intuitive text-editing interface with enriched web3 functionality, like gradients, blur navigation bars, cards, and text or buttons over images. "With a community-driven approach, our users help us prioritize the features we build and define our roadmap for the foreseeable future," said Karunia. "Listening and observing our community also led us to see glimpses of what the web could be like in the next 5-10 years."

Noam Nisan, Kimberly Keeton, Bruce Hajek and Nickhil Jakatdar named 2022 Berkeley EECS Distinguished Alumni

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 EECS Distinguished Alumni Awards!  The CS winners are Noam Nisan (academia) and Kimberly Keeton (industry); and the EE winners are Bruce Hajek (academia) and Nickhil Jakatdar (industry). Noam Nisan (Ph.D. 1988, advisor: Richard Karp), currently a CS professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was cited "For fundamental contributions to computational complexity theory and the creation of the field of algorithmic mechanism design;" Kimberly Keeton (M.S. 1994/Ph.D. 1999, adviser: David Patterson), currently a principal engineer at Google, was cited "For leadership in the research and the production of computer data and storage systems, and for mentoring the next generation of computer scientists and engineers;"  Bruce Hajek (Ph.D. 1979, advisor: Eugene Wong), currently an ECE professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was cited "For his prodigious and fundamental research contributions to stochastic processes, information theory, and communications and computer networks; for his sustained and worldwide influence as a beloved teacher and mentor; and for his major leadership role in electrical and computer engineering;" and Nickhil Jakatdar (Ph.D. 2000, advisor: Costas Spanos), currently the CEO of GenePath Diagnostics, was cited for "For serial entrepreneurship and visionary leadership across several sectors, with profound impact to the microelectronics industry and to the developing world." Their awards will be presented at the 2022 Berkeley EECS Annual Research Symposium (BEARS) on April 25th.

‘Off label’ use of imaging databases could lead to bias in AI algorithms, study finds

A paper with lead author EECS postdoc Efrat Shimron and co-authors EECS graduate student Ke Wang, UT Austin professor Jonathan Tamir (EECS PhD ’18), and EECS Prof. Michael Lustig shows that algorithms trained using "off-label" or misapplied massive, open-source datasets are subject to integrity-compromising biases.  The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), highlight some of the problems that can arise when data published for one task are used to train algorithms for a different one.  For example, medical imaging studies which use preprocessed images may result in skewed findings that cannot be replicated by others working with the raw data.  The researchers coined the term “implicit data crimes” to describe research results that are biased because algorithms are developed using faulty methodology. “It’s an easy mistake to make because data processing pipelines are applied by the data curators before the data is stored online, and these pipelines are not always described. So, it’s not always clear which images are processed, and which are raw,” said Shimron. “That leads to a problematic mix-and-match approach when developing AI algorithms.”

3 UC Presidents and Gary S. May

UC Davis Chancellor and EECS alumnus Gary S. May (M.S. '88/Ph.D. '91, advisor: Costas Spanos) took the stage with UC President Michael V. Drake and Presidents Emeriti Janet S. Napolitano and Mark G. Yudof  for the UCD Chancellor's Colloquium on March 8th.  The four discussed the challenges they faced and lessons learned during their tenures in office.  Topics included the impact of the pandemic on campus communities, the importance of public health, and the efficacy of remote learning; the university's federal lawsuit over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; approaches to managing UC funding cuts, including maintaining access to retirement plans and student aid;  and America's cultural and democratic future, including ways that universities might help shape it.

Black Women Matter: Arlene Cole Rhodes, Valerie Taylor and Melody Ivory

Three EECS alumnae are featured in a 150W Black Women Matter web page recognizing the legacies of Black women at Cal as part of the 2022 Black History Month celebrations.  The web page, which was put together by EECS Emerita Director of Diversity Sheila Humphreys, highlights 31 Cal pioneers whose lives spanned the past 120 years.  The EECS Department is represented by: Arlene Cole Rhodes (Ph.D. '89, advisor: S. Shankar Sastry), the first Black woman to earn an EE doctorate from Berkeley; 2020 EE Distinguished Alumna Valerie Taylor (M.S. '86 / Ph.D. '91, advisor: David G. Messerschmitt ), the first Black chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University; and Melody Ivory (M.S. '96/Ph.D. '01, advisor: Marti Hearst), the first Black woman to earn a CS doctorate in from Berkeley.

EECS Black History Month: Lee Julian Purnell (EE M.S. 1929)

Lee Julian Purnell is the first Black student who is known to have graduated from the EECS department. He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1896, graduated from Berkeley High in 1915, was a superb track athlete, and earned a B.A. from Cal in 1919.  He got his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at MIT in 1921, where he and another student were said to be the first pair of Black students to graduate from MIT in the same class together.  He received his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Berkeley in 1929, and eventually settled into a career at Howard University, where he served as the Dean of Engineering for 20 years.  Learn more about Lee Purnell in the EECS Newsletter.

Marti Hearst inducted into 2021 ACM SIGIR Academy inaugural class

CS alumna Prof. Marti Hearst (B.A. '85/M.S '89./Ph.D. '94,  advisor: Robert Wilensky), whose primary appointment is in the School of Information, has been named to the 2021 inaugural class of the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) Academy. SIGIR Academy membership recognizes the "principal leaders in IR" who have made "significant, cumulative contributions" to the development of the field, and whose "efforts have shaped the discipline and/or industry through significant research, innovation, and/or service."  Hearst literally wrote the first book on Search User Interfaces in 2009.   She is known for her early work on automating sentiment analysis and word sense disambiguation, including the invention of an algorithm known as "Hearst patterns" which is widely used in commercial text mining applications including ontology learning.  She also developed a now well-known approach to automatic segmentation of text into topical discourse boundaries, called TextTiling.  Hearst is an Edge Foundation contributing author and a member of the Usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Her current research interests include user interfaces for search engines, information visualization, natural language processing, and MOOCs.