News

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.

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

Gloria Tumushabe cultivates women coders in Africa

EECS alumna and current Master's student Gloria Tumushabe (B.S. ’20) is the subject of an article in the Spring 2021 Berkeley Engineer titled "Cultivating female coders in Africa."  During the COVID pandemic shutdown, Tumushabe developed a program called Afro Fem Coders to allow her to remotely teach computer programming to girls in Uganda from her home in Walnut Creek.  Two weeks after reaching out by word-of-mouth and social media, she had heard back from more than 40 girls who were eager to participate.  She sent them money to pay for laptops and internet service, and formed an international network of women professionals to provide one-on-one mentoring.  In the year since the program began, it has grown to 120 girls from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and Ethiopia. “The more of us women in this space, the better,” she said.  Tumushabe is leading the EECS Anti-Racism Committee meetings this semester, and was awarded the 2021 EECS Eugene L. Lawler Prize for her "amazing work and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, and improving the EECS Department for students who come after her."

John DeNero named CDSS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies

EECS alumnus and Associate Teaching Prof. John DeNero (CS Ph.D. '10, advisor: Dan Klein) has been named the new Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).   DeNero earned a B.S. in Mathematical & Computational Science and Symbolic Systems, and an M.A. in Philosophy, from Stanford before coming to Berkeley.  After receiving his doctorate, he took a job as a Senior Research Scientist at Google where he worked on Google Translate and natural language processing. He came back to campus in 2014 to focus on teaching and education.  His work at Berkeley has centered on facilitating large-scale delivery of computing content, and he co-developed and teaches two of the largest courses on campus: CS 61A and Data 8. He has been honored with the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award (2018), the Jim and Donna Gray Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Computer Science (2017), the Diane S. McEntyre Award for Excellence in Teaching Computer Science (2016), and the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Faculty of the Year Award (2015).  He has served as the EECS vice chair for undergraduate matters, the chair of the EECS Data Science Degree Committee, and a member of the Data Science Governance Committee.

The Harvard Data Science Review spotlights Berkeley CDSS

The Harvard Data Science Review (HDSR) has thrown a spotlight on UC Berkeley's Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) and its leadership. In "A Conversation with Michael V. Drake and Jennifer Chayes" HDSR takes a comprehensive look at data science at Berkeley from a variety of perspectives.  UC President Drake discusses the role of data in society, and the importance of values and equity as a key part of UC's mission as California's premier public higher educational institution. Chayes, who is the Associate Provost of CDSS and Dean of the School of Information, explores CDSS’s pioneering vision, and the progress being made to build a university-wide entity to help address the opportunities and challenges created by the recent seismic advances in data science and computing.

Leyla Kabuli wins 2021 University Medal

Senior undergraduate and future graduate EECS student Leyla Kabuli has won the University Medal, UC Berkeley's highest honor.  She is the daughter of EECS alumna A. Nazli Gündes (Ph.D. ’88, advisor: Charles Desoer), now an ECE professor at UC Davis.  Kabuli, who will graduate with a 4.0 GPA, attended Berkeley on a prestigious Regents' and Chancellor's scholarship, and earned simultaneous degrees in EECS and Music.  Her research interests lie in diagnostic imaging, vision and perception, and are focused on super-resolution microscopy and magnetic particle imaging.  Her other honors include a Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts Ignite Grant, an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, a Samuel Silver Memorial Scholarship Award, an Edward Frank Kraft Award for Freshmen, and a California Seal of Biliteracy in French and Turkish. The University Medal recognizes a graduating student’s outstanding research, public service and strength of character.  She will be funding her graduate education with a Berkeley Fellowship for Graduate Study, as well as a National Science Foundation fellowship for outstanding graduate students in STEM fields.  Kabuli was offered full graduate fellowships to attend Stanford and MIT but chose Berkeley because “I might be biased, but Berkeley has the best electrical engineering program in the country,” she said.

Anthony Joseph named Director of Fung Institute

EECS Prof. Anthony Joseph has been name the next Director of the Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership.  After earning his degrees at MIT, Joseph was hired as a professor of Computer Science at Berkeley in 1998. His primary research interests are in Genomics, Secure Machine Learning, Datacenters, mobile/distributed computing, and wireless communications (networking and telephony). His research also includes adaptive techniques for cloud computing, distributed network monitoring and triggering, cybersecurity, and datacenter architectures. He is the former Director of Berkeley Intel Lab, the co-founder of two startup companies, and a committed teacher who has experience developing and teaching five successful massive, open online courses (MOOC) on Big Data and Machine Learning offered through the BerkeleyX platform. Joseph is noted for his commitment to access and inclusion, and has worked to recruit and mentor a diversity of students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  He will begin his directorship on July 1st.

Ranade, Shrivastava, Monga, Yang, Rampure and Shen win Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times Awards

EECS alumna and Assistant Teaching Prof. Gireeja Ranade (M.S. '09/Ph.D. '14, advisor: Anant Sahai), and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) Ritika Shrivastava, Jay Monga, Maxson Yang, Suraj Rampure and Allen Shen have won UC Berkeley Extraordinary Teaching in Extraordinary Times awards.  They are among 59 people from of pool of over 500 nominees honored at Berkeley by the Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching for embracing the challenges posed by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and engaging in or supporting excellent teaching. "These instructors and staff used innovative methods and worked beyond their traditional roles to ensure that students remained engaged and supported, and were challenged to do meaningful work under extraordinary circumstances."

Shrivastava, a fall GSI for EECS C106A/206A Introduction to Robotics, provided a warm, supportive, and positive environment for her students, developed new materials, and used tools to promote inclusiveness and overcome technological differences.  Jay Monga, also a fall GSI and lab TA for EECS 106A/206A, helped students with their lab-focused robotics class by creating a video walkthrough and slides demonstrating procedures and assignments, recording a presentation to promote asynchronous instruction, helping to design a more accessible lab, and creating a Discord server for better virtual learning. Yang, who was a summer GSI for CS 10 The Beauty and Joy of Computing,  released a comprehensive student survey to guide course policy and focused on  reducing common stressors (like deadlines), implementing weekly check-ins, and creating ways to improve the students' virtual experience (like memes).  Rampure, who was a fall GSI and summer instructor for Data C100 Principals & Techniques of Data Science, and Shen, who was a fall GSI and summer instructor for CS 186 Introduction to Data Systems, won the award together for teaching two of Berkeley’s flagship undergraduate data science courses.  They introduced new applications of course material, prioritized accessibility in lectures, designed assessments, and used real-world examples to promote engagement. 

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).