EECS celebrates International Women's History Month

In an effort to facilitate the conversation about diversity and inclusion in the field of EECS, undergraduate students Neha Hudait and Prachi Deo have put together a web page and calendar of events for March 2021 and beyond.  The web page will feature a series of profiles, the first of which is of EECS graduate student Xinyun Chen, who is working with Prof. Dawn Song at the intersection of deep learning, programming languages, and security.  Their events are organized around a different theme every week, and will encompass community building, the tech industry, academia, personal projects, and achievements in tech.  They will also host daily giveaways and social media challenges, and encourage everyone in the community to join in the celebration.

Rediet Abebe to participate in NSF/CEME Decentralization 2021

CS Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe will be moderating a problem solving session at the 2021 NSF/CEME Decentralization Conference.  The theme of this year's conference is "Mechanism Design for Vulnerable Populations." Abebe's session will be designed to help academics understand the challenges facing refugees and practitioners working on refugee issues globally, and to facilitate a dialog between these practitioners and experts in the academic community. Abebe is co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG).  The 2021 conference will be hosted in April by the Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation (CAASI) in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at the University of Pittsburgh.  The conference series is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of Conferences on Econometrics and Mathematical Economics (CEME), and administered through the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Rediet Abebe and Jelani Nelson to participate in U-M Africa Week

CS Prof. Jelani Nelson and Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe will be participating on a panel about the "Role of Computing in Africa's Economic Future" at the University of Michigan Africa Week conference on Tuesday, February 16th, from 9:30 am to 10:45 (EST).  U-M Africa Week brings together "thought leaders in higher education, industry, and government for a series of discussions on the key issues and opportunities that will shape Africa in the coming decades."  Nelson is a member of the UC Berkeley Theory Group and is the founder and co-organizer of AddisCoder, a free intensive 4-week summer program which introduces Ethiopian high schoolers to programming and algorithms.  Abebe studies artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns.  She is co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG).  The conference will run from February 15 to 19, 2021.

Gloria Tumushabe offers young Ugandan women a chance to code during the pandemic

EECS 5th Year Master's student Gloria Tumushabe is the subject of a Berkeley News article titled "COVID Stories: The chance to teach young Ugandan women to code."  A MasterCard Foundation Scholar from Uganda, Tumushabe had always wanted to teach.   When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, she realized that many Ugandan schools were closed, remote learning opportunities would be scarce, and there would be even fewer programs to motivate and empower young women to learn code in her native country.  So she created a pilot program called Afro Femm Coders, which targeted promising 19- and 20-year-olds who had finished high school but whose educational opportunities had evaporated because of the pandemic.   Overcoming challenges, like a shortage of laptops and poor Wi-Fi connectivity, and drafting other graduate students to help as tutors, she began teaching 13 young women the skills that would allow them to create computer software, apps and websites, free from the intimidation and danger that they would usually have to face.

Rediet Abebe and Shafi Goldwasser to speak at Women in Data Science 2021

Computer Science Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe and Prof. and alumna Shafi Goldwasser (M.S. '81/Ph.D. '84, advisor: Manuel Blum) are slated to speak at the inaugural  24-hour virtual Women in Data Science (WiDS) conference, hosted by Stanford University on International Women's Day, March 8th.  WiDS first took shape at Stanford in 2015 as a way to inspire and educate data scientists worldwide, regardless of gender, and to support women in the field.  Abebe, who began at Berkeley this spring, is a specialist in artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns.  Goldwasser, currently the Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, is a pioneer in probabilistic encryption, interactive zero knowledge protocols, elliptic curve primality and combinatorial property testings, and hardness of approximation proofs for combinatorial problems.   Andrea Goldsmith (B.A. '86/M.S. '91/Ph.D. '94, advisor: Pravin Varaiya), the 2018 Berkeley EE Distinguished Alumna and Dean of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, and Meredith Lee, the Berkeley CDSS Chief Technical Advisor, will also be speaking.  The WiDS Berkeley regional event will follow the WiDS Worldwide event, featuring additional speakers on March 9-10.   Register for the WiDS conference now!

Randy Katz to step down as Vice Chancellor for Research

EECS Prof. and alumnus Randy Katz (M.S. '78 / Ph.D. '80) has announced that he will be retiring in June 2021, and will step down as UC Berkeley's Vice Chancellor for Research.  During his tenure as vice chancellor, Katz demonstrated a deep commitment to research excellence at Berkeley, helping to expand the annual research funding budget from $710M to over $800M by vigorously supporting major, multi-year, federally and industrially funded research centers. Philanthropic support for research on campus has also greatly expanded under his guidance with the creation of the Weill Neurohub and Bakar BioEnginuity Hub.   He established the position of a central chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer and encouraged new approaches to managing the University’s intellectual property assets, thereby generating substantial campus revenue.  He oversaw the repatriation of sacred belongings to the Native American community, and revitalized the leadership of campus Organized Research Units (ORUs); leading the campus through complex but orderly ramp-down and ramp-up of research activities in the face of major disruptions, including Public Safety Power Shutdowns, air quality emergencies, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  He also helped lead the International Engagement Policy Task Force to foster international collaboration while safeguarding the campus against undue foreign influence.  During his time in the EECS department, Katz oversaw 52  Ph.D. dissertations and has been honored with the campus Distinguished Teach Award.

Jelani Nelson shrinks Big Data and expands CS learning opportunities

Since computers cannot store unlimited amounts of data, it is important to be able to quickly extract patterns in that data without having to remember it in real time. CS Prof. Jelani Nelson, who is profiled in a Q&A session for Quanta magazine, has been expanding the theoretical possibilities for low-memory streaming algorithms using a technique called sketching, which compresses big data sets into smaller components that can be stored using less memory and analyzed quickly.  He has used this technique to help devise the best possible algorithm for monitoring things like repeat IP addresses accessing a server.  “The design space is just so broad that it’s fun to see what you can come up with,” he said.  Nelson also founded AddisCoder, a free summer program which has taught coding and computer science to over 500 high school students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  "A lot of the students have never been outside of their town, or their region," he said.  "So AddisCoder is the first time they’re seeing kids from all over the country, and then they’re meeting instructors from all over the world.  It’s very eye-opening for them."

GRE-blind graduate admissions, expanded fee waivers highlight EECS focus on equity and diversity

As the largest department at UC Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) [over 130 faculty, 730 graduate students, and 3,450 undergraduates] has long recognized the challenge of attracting, admitting, and graduating doctoral students who will enrich the diversity of the field.

In the context of the recently heightened awareness of the damage caused by structural racism nationwide, Black student leaders, among others, have suggested a number of improvements to address racial climate challenges and other sources of inequity in the department. In response, EECS has stepped up its equity and inclusion efforts in all aspects of Department operations—teaching, research, graduate student recruitment and retention, and faculty recruitment and retention.   A task force, consisting of student leaders, faculty, staff, and Department leadership, has been assembled to provide continuity and accountability across all our diversity efforts on an ongoing basis, particularly efforts to address racism and social justice in EECS.

In response to growing concerns that hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic would further disadvantage applicants who do not have equal access, the Department has decided to completely remove the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) from consideration for graduate applicants for 2021 admission. This decision is consistent with a number of our peer institutions in the Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance.  According to data collected by the Black In AI mentoring program, co-founded by new Berkeley EECS faculty member Rediet Abebe, many qualified candidates do not actually apply to many graduate programs due to the financial and logistical burdens of taking the exam and submitting scores. Next Spring, EECS will review the impact of this decision on graduate applications and admissions for 2021, and then make a decision regarding GRE use for Fall 2022 and subsequent years.

In addition, fee waivers for application to graduate school have been expanded across campus to allow more students to afford an application to Berkeley. The Department hopes these efforts will attract more talented minority students to apply, and will determine how effective these measures  have been during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.

Cecilia Aragon: Flying Free

CS alumna Cecilia Aragon (Ph.D. '04, advisors: Shankar Sastry and Marti Hearst) has written a memoir titled "Flying Free," which describes how she shook off the tethers of discrimination and her debilitating fear of heights to become the first Latina pilot to win a spot on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team, which represented the U.S. at the World Aerobatic Championships in 1991.  The daughter of a Chilean father and Filipina mother, Aragon earned her B.S. in Mathematics at Caltech before coming to Berkeley.  She was president of the student organization Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WICSE) in 1985 before dropping out.  After conquering her fears, she returned to Berkeley to complete her dissertation, "Improving Aviation Safety with Information Visualization:  Airflow Hazard Display for Helicopter Pilots," in 2004.  Aragon then spent nine years at the NASA Ames Research Center designing software for projects that included missions to Mars, before leaving to be a staff scientist/visiting faculty at LBNL for another 15 years. She then became the first Latina full professor at the University of Washington (UW), where has worked for the past ten years in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, founding and co-directing the UW Data Science Masters Degree program.  Aragon was named Berkeley Computer Science Distinguished Alumna in 2013.  She co-authored a previous book, "Writers in the Secret Garden:  Fanfiction, Youth, and New Forms of Mentoring," released by MIT Press in 2019.

Dan Garcia in his home studio

Dan Garcia's creative video lessons keep students engaged

CS Teaching Prof. Dan Garcia is featured in NBC Bay Area for his innovative teaching style which keep his students engaged in online learning.  He has "transformed his mancave into a studio," where he films and edits his creative virtual lessons, and then uploads them for students to watch.  Known for rapping his own lyrics to songs from the musical Hamilton in giant lecture halls, Garcia has adapted to using a green screen to film and edit his one hour video lessons, incorporating a variety of voices.  His extra efforts have been lauded by students stuck in their rooms during the fall semester.