News

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.

Rod Bayliss and Vivek Nair win 2022 Hertz Fellowships

EECS graduate students Roderick Bayliss III (advisor: Robert Pilawa-Podgurski) and Vivek Nair (advisor: Dawn Song) have been selected to receive 2022 Hertz Fellowships.  One of the most prestigious awards of its kind, Hertz Fellowships support PhD students whose research show "the greatest potential to tackle society's most urgent problems." Bayliss is developing more efficient and power-dense types of power converters—devices that change the current, voltage or frequency of electrical energy—and inductors, which store energy, to help reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. He earned his B.S. and M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from MIT.  Nair is developing cutting-edge cryptographic techniques to defend digital infrastructure against sophisticated cyberthreats. He was the youngest-ever recipient of a B.A. and Master's in computer science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is the founder of Multifactor.com.  Their fellowships will fund up to five years of graduate research with "the freedom to pursue innovative ideas wherever they may lead."  Hertz Fellows also receive lifelong professional support, including mentoring and networking with a powerful community of more than 1,200 researchers.

BAIR Climate Initiative creates partnerships to fight climate change

Berkeley Artificial Intelligence researchers are joining forces with climate experts, government agencies, and industry, as part of the new Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) Climate Initiative, a multi-disciplinary student-led hub dedicated to fighting climate change.  The effort is being led by co-founding director CS Prof. Trevor Darrel and organized by three of his graduate students, Colorado Reed (co-advised by Kurt Keutzer), who will help lead the initiative, Medhini Narasimhan, and Ritwik Gupta (co-advised by Shankar Sastry).  Their objective is to develop AI techniques that address problems with data processing, particularly involving massive data sets. To maximize the benefit to other researchers studying the same problems around the world, all work done by the initiative will be openly published and available without exclusive or proprietary licensing.  One of their first projects, “The Fate of Snow,” will be a collaboration between BAIR Climate Initiative researchers and other scientists and policy experts on the Berkeley campus, Berkeley Lab (LBNL), Meta AI (which belongs to Meta Platforms, Inc.) and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes. The researchers plan to apply AI methods to a multitude of openly available weather and satellite data sources to estimate how much water is in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and forecast what that will mean for streadmflow in the region.

Pratul Srinivasan and Benjamin Mildenhall jointly awarded honorable mention for 2021 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

Two of EECS Prof. Ren Ng's former graduate students, Pratul Srinivasan and Benjamin Mildenhall, jointly received an honorable mention for the 2021 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Doctoral Dissertation Award.  This award is presented annually to the "author(s) of the best doctoral dissertation(s) in computer science and engineering."  Srinivasan and Mildenhall, who both currently work at Google Research,  were recognized "for their co-invention of the Neural Radiance Field (NeRF) representation, associated algorithms and theory, and their successful application to the view synthesis problem."  Srinivasan’s dissertation, "Scene Representations for View Synthesis with Deep Learning," and Mildenhall’s dissertation, “Neural Scene Representations for View Synthesis,” addressed a long-standing open problem in computer vision and computer graphics called the "view synthesis" problem:  If you provide a computer with just a few of photographs of a scene, how can you get it to predict new images from any intermediate viewpoint?  "NeRF has already inspired a remarkable volume of follow-on research, and the associated publications have received some of the fastest rates of citation in computer graphics literature—hundreds in the first year of post-publication."

Stuart Russell wins the IJCAI-22 Award for Research Excellence

CS Prof. Stuart Russell has won the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence  (IJCAI) 2022 Award for Research Excellence.  This award is one of the IJCAI's highest honors and recognizes "a scientist who has carried out a program of research of consistently high quality throughout an entire career yielding several substantial results."   Russell was cited for "fundamental contributions to the development of Bayesian logic to unify logic and probability, the theory of bounded rationality and optimization, and learning and inference strategies for operations in uncertain environments."  Stuart is also an Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at UCSF and founder and vice-president of Bayesian Logic, Inc.  He founded and leads the UC Berkeley Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (CHAI) and is the co-author of one the most popular AI textbooks in the world, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach.

New Sky Computing Lab aims to revolutionize the cloud industry

Sky Computing Lab, the latest 5-year collaborative research lab launched out of Berkeley EECS, aims to build a new backbone for interconnected cloud computing, a milestone that would revolutionize the industry. The lab will leverage distributed systems, programming languages, security, and machine learning to decouple the services that companies want to implement from the choice of a specific cloud, with the goal of transforming the cloud into an undifferentiated commodity, much like the Internet. Google, IBM, Intel, Samsung SDS, and VMware are among the founding sponsors of the lab. The lab's team is comprised of over 60 members, including students, staff, and EECS faculty like Alvin Cheung, Natacha Crooks, Ken Goldberg, Joseph Gonzalez, Joe Hellerstein, Mike Jordan,  Anthony Joseph, Raluca Ada Popa, Koushik Sen, Scott Shenker, and Dawn Song. CS Prof. Ion Stoica, who will lead the lab, says “Sky will knock out current barriers and accelerate the transition to the cloud, which will accelerate the progress across different fields.”

 

Angjoo Kanazawa wins Society of Helman Fellows Evergreen Fellowship

CS Assistant Prof. Angjoo Kanazawa has won the Society of Hellman Fellows Evergreen Fellowship.  The Society of Hellman Fellows is an endowed UC program administered by the Vice Provost for the Faculty that provides research funding "to promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their chosen fields."  Kanazawa's research lies at the intersection of computer vision, computer graphics, and machine learning. She is focused on building a system that can capture, perceive, and understand the complex ways that people and animals interact dynamically with the 3-D world--and can use that information to correctly identify the content of 2-D photos and video portraying scenes from everyday life.

Prof. Raluca Ada Popa

Raluca Ada Popa wins 2021 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award

EECS Associate Prof. Raluca Ada Popa is the recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Grace Murray Hopper Award.  This award recognizes an outstanding young computer professional who has made a single recent major technical or service contribution to the field of computer science before the age of 35.  Popa was recognized for her work in the area of design of secure distributed systems, specifically systems that "protect confidentiality against attackers with full access to servers while maintaining full functionality."  Her approach focuses on protecting the confidentiality of data stored on remote servers by providing confidentiality guarantees for areas where servers need to store encrypted data, thus allowing data to be processed without decrypting.  Although computing on encrypted data is still only theoretical, Popa's solution involves building systems for a broad set of applications with common traits, and then utilizing encryption schemes on just these traits so that they can perform most computations on encrypted data.  Some of her systems have been adopted into or inspired systems such as SEEED of SAP AG, Microsoft SQL Server’s Always Encrypted Service, and others.  The award comes with a prize of $35,000.

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."

Rediet Abebe named 2022 Carnegie Fellow

CS Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe has been named to the 2022 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows.  This fellowship recognizes "scholars and writers in the humanities and social sciences" who are addressing "important and enduring issues confronting our society."  Abebe’s research is in algorithms and artificial intelligence, with a focus on inequality and distributive justice concerns.  Her project, “Algorithms on Trial: Interrogating Evidentiary Statistical Software,” will shed light on the ubiquitous and improper use of software tools as evidence in the U.S. criminal legal system. "The project will use a mix of algorithmic and qualitative techniques to analyze large legal databases, with a focus on admissibility hearings. The results will coalesce in the form of a public platform containing thousands of tools, alongside known issues and resources like ready-to-file affidavits to empower public defenders."  Abebe is a co-founder and co-organizer of both the MD4SG research initiative and the nonprofit organization Black in AI, where she also sits on the board of directors and co-leads the Academic Program.  Carnegie Fellows, who each receive a $200K award, are selected by a panel of jurors based on the originality and potential impact of their proposal as well as their capacity to communicate their findings to a broad audience.