News

Stewart Russell selected as 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer

CS Prof. Stewart Russell has been selected as the 2021 BBC Reith Lecturer.  Considered among the most prestigious lecture series across all fields, Reith Lectures are delivered annually by leading authorites invited by the BBC "to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest."   Russell will deliver four lectures this fall, held in four locations across the UK, on the subject of "Living With Artificial Intelligence." The series, which will be and broadcast on Radio 4 and the World Service as well as made available on BBC Sounds, will "explore the impact of AI on our lives and discuss how we can retain power over machines more powerful than ourselves."  The first lecture, titled "The Biggest Event in Human History," will be held in London and will cover the birth of AI; the second lecture, in Manchester, will cover "AI in Warfare;" the third, in Ediburgh, will cover "AI in the Economy;" and the final lecture, in Newcastle, is titled "AI: A Future for Humans?"  Russell, who is the Director of the Berkeley Center for Human-Compatible AI, has developed a new global seismic monitoring system for the nuclear-test-ban treaty and is currently working to ban lethal autonomous weapons.  His book "Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach" is the standard text in AI, used in 1500 universities in 135 countries.

Anca Dragan, Raluca Popa, and Thomas Courtade win 2020 EECS Teaching Awards

The 2019-20 EECS Teaching Awards recognize three members of our faculty whose extraordinary performances kept students focused and engaged during a particularly difficult year.  The CS Diane McEntyre Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Anca Dragan in the spirit of McEntyre who was know for her "dedication to teaching and her innovative programs for women in mathematics and computer science." Students said Dragan was "passionate, dedicated, inclusive, and enthusiastic," and "literally the most entertaining and helpful professor I’ve ever had." The CS Jim and Donna Gray Faculty Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching went to Raluca Ada Popa. She was commended by students for her passion, clarity, care, and enthusiasm, and was described as an "AMAZING" and entertaining lecturer who "encourages a lot of class discussion and gets us involved, even over zoom."   The EE Award for Outstanding Teaching, which recognizes innovation and excellence in curriculum and teaching methods, publication of quality textbooks, graduate and undergraduate advising, and personal inspiration of students, was presented to Thomas Courtade.  He was described by students as "a brilliant instructor" whose "ability to teach the fundamental core concepts of this content is incredible." He was also said to be "amazing when it comes to interacting with students. It is hard to believe how many people are in the class, because he makes it feel very personal."

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.

Sumit Gulwani wins Max Planck-Humboldt Medal

Sumit Gulwani (Ph.D. '05, advisor: George Necula), now a Partner Research Manager at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, has been selected to receive the 2021 Max Planck-Humboldt Medal for "automatic programming and computational education."  Gulwani, who won the ACM SIGPLAN Doctoral Dissertation award and the MSR Ph.d. Fellowship while at Berkeley, is an expert in program analysis and artificial intelligence.  He shaped the field of program synthesis, which emerged around 2010, by developing algorithms that can efficiently generate computer programs from very few input-output examples, natural-language-based specification, or from just the code and data context. His work made it possible for non-programmers to program tedious, repetitive spreadsheet tasks, and enabled productivity improvements for data scientists and developers for data wrangling and software engineering tasks. Recently, Gulwani has also been using the tools of program synthesis for computer-aided education of pupils and students. Starting from the automatic correction of learners' work in programming education, he further evolved this line of work to detect misunderstandings and give learning feedback and grades, also in subjects like mathematics and language learning. He is also the inventor of the popular Flash Fill feature in Microsoft Excel.  The award will be presented during a ceremony in Berlin on November 3, 2022.

Kathy Yelick named UC Berkeley’s new vice chancellor for research

CS Prof. Katherine Yelick has been named UC Berkeley's next vice chancellor for research.  She will take over the role from EECS Prof. Randy Katz on January 1, 2022.  Yelick is an expert in the field of parallel computing and currently serves as executive associate dean in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  “Kathy Yelick is one of the most talented leaders I have ever worked with — she listens, sees the big picture, and co-creates and implements phenomenal solutions,” said Jennifer Chayes, the CDSS Associate Provost. “I cannot imagine a better vice chancellor for research, and we at CDSS look forward to working with Kathy in her new role.” Yelick spent 11 years in leadership and management roles at Berkeley Lab (LBNL), where she oversaw a variety of initiatives, including the opening of new computing facility Shyh Wang Hall, the founding of the Berkeley Quantum collaboration, the formation of the lab’s machine learning for science initiative, and the launch of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project.  “UC Berkeley’s research community is uniquely positioned to tackle some of the world’s most important social and scientific problems, from climate change and public health to equity and social justice,” Yelick said. “I think it’s important to bring together diverse expertise and perspectives, and I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues across academic disciplines, from the humanities and social sciences to the physical and biological sciences, engineering, professional schools and beyond.”

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.

Deanna Gelosi wins Best Full Paper Award at ACM IDC 2021

"PlushPal: Storytelling with Interactive Plush Toys and Machine Learning," co-authored by CS Masters student Deanna Gelosi (advisor: Dan Garcia), has won the Best Full Paper Award at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Interaction Design for Children (IDC) conference 2021.  IDC is "the premier international conference for researchers, educators and practitioners to share the latest research findings, innovative methodologies and new technologies in the areas of inclusive child-centered design, learning and interaction."  The paper, which was presented in the "Physical Computing for Learning" conference session, describes PlushPal, "a web-based design tool for children to make plush toys interactive with machine learning (ML). With PlushPal, children attach micro:bit hardware to stuffed animals, design custom gestures for their toy, and build gesture-recognition ML models to trigger their own sounds."  It creates "a novel design space for children to express their ideas using gesture, as well as a description of observed debugging practices, building on efforts to support children using ML to enhance creative play."  Gelosi's degree will be in the field of Human-Computer Interaction and New Media, and her research interests include creativity support tools, traditional craft and computing technologies, digital fabrication, and equity in STEAM.  She is a member of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), the Berkeley Institute of Design (BID), and the Tinkering Studio--an R&D lab in the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Armando Fox, John DeNero, and Kathy Yelick named CDSS associate deans

Three EECS faculty have been named associate deans for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  CS Prof. Armando Fox is the associate dean of online programs; CS Prof. John DeNero is the associate dean of undergraduate studies; and EE Prof. Katherine Yelick is transitioning from her role as CDSS’s associate dean for research to the CDSS executive associate dean.  Berkeley launched CDSS in 2018 to expand teaching and research in data science, and to bring together programs, schools, and departments across campus to tackle the technical, scientific, social, and human dimensions of urgent challenges in biomedicine and human health, climate and sustainability, and human welfare and social justice.