News

Hany Farid is fighting back against coronavirus misinformation

CS Prof. Hany Farid is launching a major survey of people in the United States and Western Europe to determine how far COVID-19 misinformation has penetrated the population. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk survey software, he and his research team hope to interview thousands of people in an effort to better understand how misinformation is being distributed, consumed, and spread.  Farid will work with other researchers and social media platforms to develop strategies on how to stop misinformation before it can take hold.

Enabling robots to learn from past experiences

EECS Prof. Pieter Abbeel and Assistant Prof. Sergey Levine are developing algorithms that enable robots to learn from past experiences — and even from other robots.  They use deep reinforcement learning to bring robots past a crucial threshold in demonstrating human-like intelligence: the ability to independently solve problems and master new tasks in a quicker, more efficient manner.  An article in the Berkeley Engineer delves into the innovations and advances that allow Abbeel and Levine help robots make "good" choices, generalize between tasks, improvise with objects, multi-task, and manage unexpected challenges in the world around them.

Using machine-learning to reinvent cybersecurity two ways: Song and Popa

EECS Prof. and alumna Dawn Song (Ph.D. '02, advisor: Doug Tygar) and Assistant Prof. Raluca Ada Popa are featured in the cover story for the Spring 2020 issue of the Berkeley Engineer titled "Reinventing Cybersecurity."  Faced with the challenge of protecting users' personal data while recognizing that sharing access to that data "has fueled the modern-day economy" and supports scientific research, Song has proposed a paradigm that involves "controlled use" and an open source approach utilizing a new set of principles based on game theory.  Her lab is creating a platform that applies cryptographic techniques to both machine-learning models and hardware solutions, allowing users to keep their data safe while also making it accessible.  Popa's work focuses on using machine-learning algorithms to keep data encrypted in cloud computing environments instead of just surrounding the data with firewalls.  "Sharing without showing" allows sensitive data to be made available for collaboration without decryption.  This approach is made practical by the creation of a machine-learning training system that is exponentially faster than other approaches. "So instead of training a model in three months, it takes us under three hours.”

Pieter Abbeel and Sergey Levine: teaching computers to teach themselves

EECS Prof. Pieter Abbeel and Assistant Prof. Sergey Levine both appear in a New York Times article titled "Computers Already Learn From Us. But Can They Teach Themselves?" which describes the work of scientists who "are exploring approaches that would help machines develop their own sort of common sense."  Abbeel, who runs the Berkeley Robot Learning Lab, uses reinforcement-learning systems that compete against themselves to learn faster in a method called self-play.  Levine, who runs the Robotic AI & Learning Lab, is using a form of self-supervised learning in which robots explore their environment to build a base of knowledge.

Susan Graham: the sole woman professor in Berkeley EECS for 17 years

CS Prof. Emerita Susan Graham, the first and only woman professor in the EECS department for 17 years,  is the subject of a profile in the Daily Cal in honor of the 150th anniversary of women at Berkeley.  Graham arrived in the CS department (then part of the College of Letters & Science) in 1971, became the first woman professor in the College of Engineering in 1973 when the CS department merged with the EECS department, and remained the only woman on the EECS faculty until the arrival of Avideh Zakhor in 1988.  Graham, who played a key role in the development of Berkeley Unix, is known for her work in software tools, programming language implementation, high-performance computing and software development environments.  She is the "Ace of Diamonds" in the "Notable Women in Computing" playing cards and appears in the "Notable Women in Tech" online solitaire game.

Arthur Gill has passed away

EECS Prof. Emeritus  and alumnus Arthur Gill (Ph.D. '59, advisor: Aram Thomasian) died on March 21, 2020, at the age of 90.  Gill joined the EECS faculty in 1960, just after earning his doctorate, and was one of the first professors at Berkeley to hold positions in both EE and CS before the formation of the EECS department in 1968.   His research focused on network analysis and synthesis, communication theory, system theory, and computer science.  He was an active member of the Electronics Research Laboratory for the duration of his 30 year career, and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Engineering from 1981 to 1991.  He was the first faculty ‘supervisor’ of the Computer Science Reentry Program, an early, innovative, and successful effort to increase the number of women and minority students studying CS at Berkeley.  Gill is survived by his children, Jonathan and Leori Gill, their children and grandchildren, and his long-time partner in life and travel, Marijke Van Doorn (widow of EECS Prof. Eugene Lawler).

Women In Tech at Berkeley

The 4th Annual Women In Tech Symposium, part of the Women In Tech Initiative (WITI) will be held at UC Berkeley on Friday, March 6, 2020.  The theme will be "Reimagining Cybersecurity for All."  Many members of the EECS community will be involved, including: alumna and Prof. Dawn Song (PhD '02) - opening remarks; WITI@UC co-founder and dean of Engineering Prof. Tsu-Jae King Liu - fireside chat; Prof. Raluca Ada Popa - Panel: What’s at Stake? Global and Systemic Cyber Threats;  and CITRIS Director Prof. Costas Spanos - Athena Awards presentation. Tickets will be available until Monday, March 2nd.

Aditya Parameswaran and Sanjam Garg win 2020 Sloan Research Fellowships in Computer Science

Assistant Profs. Aditya Parameswaran and Sanjam Garg hav been selected 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows in Computer Science.  These awards recognize distinguished performance by young American scientists who show "unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field."   Parameswaran develops systems for "human-in-the-loop" data analytics, and Garg's research interests are in cryptography and security.  As two of the nine UC Berkeley researchers to win the highly competitive fellowship this year, they will each receive a $75,000 award.

Alvin Cheung wins VMware Early Career Faculty Award

CS Assistant Prof. Alvin Cheung has won a VMware Early Career Faculty Award.  The award recognizes recently appointed faculty "whose research interests and accomplishments seem poised to have significant impact within the industry and academia."  Cheung's research interests include program analysis, program synthesis, improving database application performance, and building large-scale data systems in general. The award comes with a $50K grant and opportunities to collaborate with VMware.

Covariant-enabled robots go live

Pieter Abbeel, the co-founder, president and chief scientist of the start-up Covariant, is featured in a number of articles appearing in major publications this week.  The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine, the Verge, the MIT Technology Review, and the IEEE Spectrum all feature articles about robots trained using Covariant's AI technologies that will be deployed  to perform complex tasks in live warehouse environments in the next few years.  Covariant uses deep reinforcement learning techniques to train robots to distinguish between materials that are particularly difficult to discern through a lens, like highly reflective metallic surfaces, transparent plastics, and easily deformable surfaces like cloth and polypropylene, with an unparalleled 99% accuracy.