UC Berkeley wins 2018 Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship

For the second year running, UC Berkeley has won the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship, sweeping UC Irvine 3-0.  CS majors Kevin "SlurpeeThief" Royston and Gandira “Syeikh” Prahandika were on the Berkeley team, which battled in front of a sold-out crowd at the game in Tempe, Arizona, the first partnership between a collegiate bowl game and eSports tournament.  Royston, who was profiled in on Overwatch Wire article before the tournament, is in the top 1% of all players worldwide, has had a peak skill rating of 4626, and was on the winning team last year.  He notes that the balance between esports and school has been a tough road.  “It’s definitely rough, this week is the first time I had a homework assignment slip because of Overwatch. (Laughs) Hear me out! It’s for Machine Learning which is the hardest class at Berkeley. We had to travel (for the Fiesta Bowl) and I worked sixteen hours on an assignment and didn’t even get halfway through it.”  Overwatch is a team-based shooter game that was created by Blizzard Entertainment and released in 2016.  Teams are made up of six players, who select different characters, known in the game as “heroes,” to complete different objectives. The Berkeley team won $42,000 of the $100,000 total in scholarships and other prizes.

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa win Sloan Research Fellowships

Assistant Profs. Anca Dragan and Raluca Ada Popa have been awarded 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships.  They are among 126 early-career scholars who represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Winners receive $65,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.  Popa and Dragan were both selected in the Compter Science category.   Popa is a co-founder of the RISELab where she is trying to develop a learning and analytics framework that can run on encrypted data.  Dragan runs the InterACT lab and is a PI for the Center for Human-Compatible AI.  Her goal is to enable robots to work with, around and in support of people, autonomously generating behavior in a way that formally accounts for their interactions with humans. “The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said foundation president Adam Falk. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – fellows are quite literally the future of 21st century science.”

Edward Lee awarded Berkeley Citation

Prof. Edward Lee is a 2018 recipient of the Berkeley Citation, which was awarded at the 2018 Berkeley Annual Research Symposium (BEARS).  The Berkeley Citation 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.  Lee, who is the Robert S. Pepper Distinguished Professor in EECS, has been on the faculty since 1986.  He was the EE division and EECS department Chair from 2005-2008, the director of the nine-university TerraSwarm Research Center, a director of the Berkeley Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems Research Center, and the director of the Berkeley Ptolemy project.  He recently published Plato and the Nerd - The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology (MIT Press, 2017).

Jiawang Nie wins the 2018 SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra Best Paper Prize

Alumnus Jiawang Nie (Ph.D. '06, co-advisors: James Demmel and Bernd Sturmfels) has won the 2018 Best Paper Prize from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Linear Algebra (SIAG/LA).  His paper, Generating Polynomials and Symmetric Tensor Decompositions, Foundations of Computational Mathematics, was deemd the most outstanding paper, as determined by the prize committee, on a topic in applicable linear algebra published in English in a peer-reviewed journal.  8 out of 11 of the previous awards, which are  chosen every 3 years, have gone to EECS faculty, postdocs, and graduate students.  Nie is now a Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego.  He will present his work in Hong Kong on May 4-8 at the SIAM Conference on Applied Linear Algebra (SIAM-ALA18).

Laura Waller wins 2018 SPIE Early Career Achievement Award

Associate Prof. Laura Waller has won the 2018 Early Career Achievement Award--Academic focus--from the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The award, which is paired with an industry-focused award, is presented annually in recognition of significant and innovative technical contributions in the engineering or scientific fields of relevance to SPIE.  Waller, who heads the Computational Imagaing Lab, was recognized for "her contributions to biomedical and industrial science through development of computational imaging hardware and software for phase retrieval, 3D imaging and partially coherent systems."  The award was presented at the Opto Symposium, co-chaired by colleague Prof. Connie Chang-Hasnain, on January 29th,

Introducing the 2018 EE and CS distinguished alumni

The 2018 EECS Distinguished Alumni are Prof. Marie desJardins , Prof. Andrea Goldsmith, Richard Ruby, and our own EECS Prof. Emeritus Eric Brewer.  CS alumna desJardins (Ph.D. '92), currently a Professor of Computer Science & Electrical Engineering, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering & Information Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, is being honored “For distinguished research and teaching, innovations in pre-college computer science curricula, and effective mentoring of students and junior faculty.”  EE alumna Goldsmith (B.A. '86/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94), who is currently the Stephen Harris Professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford, is being honored “For excellence in research and teaching, and for tireless commitment to the advancement of women in the profession.”   EE alumnus Ruby (Ph.D. '84), Director of Technology (FBAR & Orthogonal Markets) at Broadcom, is being honored “For inventions and groundbreaking technology advancements in FBARs making possible the remarkable success of smart phones and miniature communication links.”  And CS alumnus Brewer (B.S. '89), who contributed to the foundations of cloud computing and formulated the CAP Theorem, is being honored “For research and industrial leadership in scalable distributed systems, used by millions of people daily.”  The 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented at the Berkeley EECS Annual Research Symposium (BEARS) on February 8, 2018.

Prasad Raghavendra wins inaugural NAS Michael and Sheila Held Prize

CS Associate Prof. Prasad Raghavendra has won the inaugural Michael and Sheila Held Prize.  The award, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), honors  outstanding, innovative, creative, and influential research in the areas of combinatorial and discrete optimization, or related parts of computer science, such as the design and analysis of algorithms and complexity theory.  Raghavendra and co-recipient David Steurer are being recognized "For a body of work which revolutionizes our understanding of optimization and complexity. It better explains the exact limits to efficient approximation of NP-hard problems. It provides better understanding of the computational assumptions underlying hardness of approximation. And it develops a structure theory of linear and semi-definite programming and their hierarchies, which leads to new algorithms and new lower bounds."  The prize comes with $100,000 and will be presented at the NAS annual meeting in April.

Ben Recht wins NIPS Test of Time Award

Prof. Ben Recht has won the Neural Information Processing System (NIPS) 2017 Test of Time Award for a paper he co-wrote with Ali Rahimi in 2007 titled "Random Features for Large-Scale Kernel Machines."   Deep learning, which involves stacking many neural networks on top of one another to learn the features of giant databases and develop clever algorithms, is being used to carry out more and more tasks in an expanding number of areas.  In their acceptance speech at the NIPS conference, Recht and Rahimi posited that more theory is needed to understand the state-of-the-art empirical performance of deep learning, and called for simple theorems and simple, easily reproducible experiments.  "We are building systems that govern healthcare and mediate our civic dialogue, we influence elections," said Rahimi. "I would like to live in a society where systems are built on top of verifiable, rigorous thorough knowledge and not alchemy."

Four EECS undergraduate researchers recognized by CRA

All four EECS students nominated for this year's Computing Research Association (CRA) Undergraduate Researcher Award were recognized by the selection committee.  Senior CS/Math major Garrett Thomas (nominated by Pieter Abbeel) and EECS junior Peter Manohar (nominated by Alessandro Chiesa) were named as finalists.  Senior CS major Siqi Liu (nominated by Sanjam Garg) and CS/Statistics/Math senior Tianhe Yu (nominated by Sergey Levine and Pieter Abbeel) merited honorable mentions.  This award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.

Ming Lin Named Chair of UMD Department of Computer Science

EECS alumna Ming C. Lin (B.S./M.S./Ph.D. '86-'93) has been named Chair of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland (UMD).  Lin,  a noted educator and expert in virtual reality, computer graphics and robotics, will assume the role of Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science with a joint appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). The department includes more than 50 tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 11 full-time professional track instructional faculty members. “One of my primary goals is to ensure that our students will be successful in their careers when they graduate,” Lin said. “They are going to be the leaders in a society where practically every aspect of daily life is enabled and impacted by computing. Giving them the knowledge and skills to excel in a technology-empowered world is a mission I take very seriously.”