News

Jonathan Ragan-Kelley wins ACM SIGGRAPH 2021 Significant New Researcher Award

EECS Assistant Prof. Jonathan Ragan-Kelley is the recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH) 2021 Significant New Researcher Award.  The award honors researchers who are new to the field of computer graphics and who have made "recent, significant contributions to the field."  Ragan-Kelley, who was instrumental in the development of the language and compiler Halide, was cited for “outstanding contributions to systems and compilers in rendering and computational photography.” Halide is now the industry standard for providing fast, efficient and portable computation on images and tensors.  Ragan-Kelley is also an Assistant EECS professor at MIT.

Five projects led by EECS faculty win AI for Energy and Climate Security Awards

Five projects led by EECS faculty have won C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (DTI) AI for Energy and Climate Security Awards. The awards recognize projects that are using AI techniques and digital transformation to advance energy efficiency and lead the way to a lower-carbon, higher-efficiency economy that will ensure energy and climate security.  "C3.ai DTI selects research proposals that inspire cooperative research and advance machine learning and other AI subdisciplines. Projects are peer-reviewed on the basis of scientific merit, prior accomplishments of the principal investigator and co-principal investigators, the use of AI, machine learning, data analytics, and cloud computing in the research project, and the suitability for testing the methods at scale." Each project was awarded $100,000 to $250,000, for an initial period of one year.  The winning proposals were:

Offline Reinforcement Learning for Energy-Efficient Power GridsSergey Levine, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
We propose to develop offline RL algorithms to incorporate real-world data in training an RL agent to reduce emissions associated with running an electrical grid.

Sharing Mobile Energy Storage: Platforms and Learning Algorithms - Kameshwar Poolla, Cadence Design Systems Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering
This proposal aims to design, validate, and test platforms and learning algorithms for mobile storage applications, which can simultaneously serve the role of generation (supplying energy) and distribution (reticulating energy).

Reinforcement Learning for a Resilient Electric Power SystemAlberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, Edgar L. and Harold H. Buttner Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Harnessing the potential of AI techniques to make the power system resilient against such extreme cases is crucial. We propose to develop AI-based methods, and corresponding testing strategies, to achieve this goal.

Affordable Gigaton-Scale Carbon Sequestration: Navigating Autonomous Seaweed Growth Platforms by Leveraging Complex Ocean Currents and Machine LearningClaire Tomlin, Charles A. Desoer Chair in the College of Engineering
A promising approach to carbon sequestration utilizes seaweed, which fixates dissolved CO2 into biomass. Floating platforms that autonomously grow and deposit seaweed could scale this natural process to the open ocean, where the carbon is confined for millennia.

Interpretable Machine Learning Models to Improve Forecasting of Extreme-Weather-Causing Tropical Monster Storms - Da Yang, Faculty Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Bin Yu, Chancellor's Distinguished Professor and Class of 1936 Second Chair Departments of Statistics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
We propose to develop interpretable, machine-learning (ML) models to forecast the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) — the Storm King in Earth’s tropics.

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.  

Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker donate $50M for construction of new CDSS building

CS Profs. Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker have each donated $25M toward the construction of The Gateway, the new building that will house the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  The Gateway is conceived as "a planned nexus for collaborative, integrated data science and computing education and research to solve societal problems," and will be located on Hearst Avenue near the Scenic Avenue intersection.  The combined gift of $75M, which includes an equal share from a third anonymous donor, will support the development and construction of the building, and the creation of two new full-time faculty positions.  The project also received a windfall in February 2020 when another anonymous donor contributed $252M to the project. “These generous gifts are so inspiring and represent great momentum for the Gateway,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ. “The gifts from faculty speak not only to the power of Berkeley’s vision of data science and computing but also to the unique impact of our faculty in driving innovation and change from the ground up.

EECS department welcomes new leadership

The EECS department will be welcoming three new chairs, all of whom are EECS alumni, to guide the department for the next two years.  The new tripartite structure reflects the growth and changing needs of the department, which has been managed by a two-person leadership team for over 20 years.   Prof. Claire Tomlin (Ph.D. '98, advisor: Shankar Sastry), the new EECS department chair, will be largely responsible for outward-facing communications and strategic matters.  She will be just the second woman to hold this position since the EECS department formed 90 years ago (Tsu-Jae King Liu was the first in 2014).  Tomlin is known for her outstanding research in control systems and robotics, and is currently the Faculty Director of the CITRIS Sustainable Infrastructures Initiative.  The division chairs will be responsible for day to day operations and academic matters: Prof. Clark Nguyen (B.S. '89/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94, advisor: Jitendra Malik), a pioneer in micro electromechanical systems, will be the new EE division Chair; and Prof. David Wagner (M.S. '99/Ph.D. '00, advisor: Eric Brewer), an expert in cryptography and computer security, will be the new CS division chair.  Outgoing EECS chair Jeff Bokor and CS chair John Canny successfully shepherded EECS through the COVID-19 pandemic with vision and resourcefulness.  They greatly expanded faculty diversity by overseeing the recruitment of 19 new members, and were behind the initiative to reform the L&S CS undergraduate admissions process.  They also actively mobilized the department during the Black Lives Matter movement, engaging with students and the EECS community to identify cultural and institutional problems, and finding ways to effectively address them.  Two results of this effort were the indefinite suspension of the GRE requirement for graduate admissions, and a revision of the EECS publication guidelines to allow for a more open and critical discussion of department policies and practices with regard to race.  The new chairs will take the helm on July 1, 2021.

Shankar Sastry wins 2021 ASME Rufus Oldenburger Medal

EECS Prof. S. Shankar Sastry has won the 2021 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Rufus Oldenburger Medal for significant contributions and outstanding achievements to the field and profession of automatic control.  Sastry, who was dean of Berkeley Engineering for over ten years, was cited “For fundamental contributions to the foundations of nonlinear, adaptive and hybrid control, control of robots and vehicles, and for contributions to control and robotics education.”  EECS Prof. Lotfi Zadeh (1921-2017) previously won this award in 1993.  The medal will be presented at the ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Division Awards ceremony and dinner, which will take place at the newly instituted Modeling, Estimation and Control Conference (MECC 2021), in Texas in October.

NLP team helps a computer win the 2021 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

A team at the Berkeley Natural Language Processing Group (NLP) helped augment an AI system named "Dr. Fill" that has won the 2021 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT).  This is the first time in the contest's history that an AI has trumped its human competitors.  The team, which included CS Prof. Dan Klein, graduate students Nicholas Tomlin, Eric Wallace, and Kevin Yang, and undergraduate students Albert Xu and Eshaan Pathak, approached Matthew Ginsberg, who created the Dr. Fill algorithm in 2012, and offered to join forces by contributing their machine learning system  called the Berkeley Crossword Solver (BCS).  BCS employs a neural network model to combine general language understanding with more "creative" crossword puzzle clues, then applies its knowledge to practice puzzles, improving as it learns.  “We had a state-of-the-art natural language understanding and question-answering component but a pretty basic crossword handler, while Matt had the best crossword system around and a bunch of domain expertise, so it was natural to join forces,” said Klein. “As we talked, we realized that our systems were designed in a way that made it very easy to interoperate because they both speak the language of probabilities.”  ACPT is the oldest and biggest tournament of its kind, consisting of seven qualifying puzzles and a final playoff puzzle; solvers are ranked using a formula that balances accuracy and speed. Although Dr. Fill made three errors, it completed most puzzles in well under a minute, and ultimately outscored its top human competitor, who made zero errors, by 15 points.  The contest was held online this year and attracted more than 1,100 contestants vying for the $3K grand prize. 

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

David Culler EECS Berkeley Citation

David Culler awarded Berkeley Citation

Prof. Emeritus David Culler is a 2021 recipient of the Berkeley Citation, which is awarded to distinguished individuals whose contributions to UC Berkeley go beyond the call of duty and whose achievements exceed the standards of excellence in their fields. Prof. Culler has been on the faculty since 1989 and is the founding Director of Intel Research, UC Berkeley and was Associate Chair of the EECS Department, 2010-2012 and Chair from 2012 through June 30, 2014. He is an NAE member, a Fellow at both ACM and IEEE, and won the Okawa Prize in 2013. Most recently, Prof. Culler served as the inaugural interim dean of the Division of Data Sciences known today as the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).

Michael I. Jordan elected 2021 Foreign Member of the Royal Society

CS Prof. Mike Jordan has been elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.  The Royal Society began as an "'invisible college' of natural philosophers and physicians," which opened its first meeting in 1660 with a lecture by acclaimed scientist Christopher Wren.  Their mission is "to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity."  Jordan joins an elite group of 8,000 Fellows elected over the past 400 years that includes Isaac Newton (1672), Charles Darwin (1839), Albert Einstein (1921), Stephen Hawking (1974), and EECS Prof. Eli Yablonovitch (2013). Fellows and Foreign members must be nominated by at least two Fellows of the Royal Society, and must have made "a substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science."  Jordan is known as one of the leading figures in machine learning, and one of the world's most influential computer scientists.  New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admission Day ceremony in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society.