News

"The Tale of a Success" with Ali Ghodsi

CS Prof. Ali Ghodsi will be the inaugural speaker for "The Tale of a Success" entrepreneurship series, hosted by the Iranian Students of California (ISC) in collaboration with the Berkeley Iranian Students Association in America (ISAA).  Ghodsi is a co-founder and the CEO of enterprise software company Databricks, a start-up which grew out of the AMPLab project that is now valued at $38B. He was one of the original creators of the open source project Apache Spark, and "the ideas from his academic research in resource management and scheduling and data caching have been applied to Apache Mesos and Apache Hadoop."  The lecture series features stories by successful Iranian-American entrepreneurs "who have all built category-defining tech companies."  Ghodsi will give his presentation via Zooom webinar on October 14th.

EPIC Lab receives $2M NSF grant to build tools for criminal justice big datasets

CS Prof. Joseph Hellerstein, and Assistant Profs. Aditya Parmeswaran and Sarah Chasins, are among the principal investigators of a new lab that has just received a $2M grant from the National Science Foundation to make big datasets used by the criminal justice system more accessible to non-technical researchers.  The Effective Programming, Interaction, and Computation with Data (EPIC) Lab will create tools that utilize machine learning, program synthesis, and human-centered design, to improve the ability of public defenders, investigators and paralegals to research police misconduct, judicial decision-making, and related issues, for their cases.  The tools, which will initially be used in San Francisco, Alameda and Sacramento, are designed to address systemic power and resource disparities in California by helping under-resourced practitioners better defend their clients.

Gopala Anumanchipalli named Rose Hills Innovator

EECS Assistant Prof. Gopala Anumanchipalli has been selected for the Rose Hills Innovator Program which supports distinguished early-career UC Berkley faculty who are "interested in developing highly innovative research programs" in STEM fields.  The program will provide discretionary research support of up to $85,000 per year for "projects with an exceptionally high scientific promise that may generate significant follow-on funding."   Anumanchipalli's project, titled "Multimodal Intelligent Interfaces for Assistive Communication," proposes to "improve the current state of assistive communication technologies by integrating multiple neural and behavioral sensing modalities, and tightly integrating the graphical interfaces, and personalizing them to the user’s context."  His team will use "state-of-the-art neural engineering and artificial intelligence to develop novel communication interfaces" including Electrocorticography, non-invsive in-ear Electroencephalography sensors and functional near infrared spectroscopy.  They will also use on-device speech recognition and dialog management to incorporate the acoustic context of the user.

Sanjit Seshia wins Computer-Aided Verification Award

EECS Prof. Sanjit Seshia was a recipient of the CAV Award at the 2021 International Conference on Computer-Aided Verification (CAV) earlier this month.  This award is presented annually "for fundamental contributions to the field of Computer-Aided Verification," and comes with a cash prize of $10K that is shared equally among recipients.  This year's award specifically recognizes pioneering contributions to the foundations of the theory and practice of satisfiability modulo theories (SMT).”  Seshia's Ph.D. thesis work on the UCLID verifier and decision procedure helped lay the groundwork for this field.  SMT solvers are critical to verification of software and hardware model checking, symbolic execution, program verification, compiler verification, verifying cyber-physical systems, and program synthesis. Other applications include planning, biological modeling, database integrity, network security, scheduling, and automatic exploit generation.  CAV is the premier international conference on computer-aided verification and  provides a forum for a broad range of advanced research in areas ranging from model checking and automated theorem proving to testing, synthesis and related fields.

NSF awards $20M for researchers to launch National AI Institute for Advances in Optimization

A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and USC, have been awarded $20M by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch an institute which will deploy AI to tackle massive optimization challenges.  The researchers hope the new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute for Advances in Optimization will deliver a paradigm shift in automated decision-making by fusing AI and optimization to address grand challenges in highly constrained settings, such as logistics and supply chains, energy and sustainability, and circuit design and control.  EECS/IEOR Prof. Pieter Abbeel will lead the Reinforcement Learning Team, and EECS/IEOR Prof. Laurent El Ghaoui will be on both the End to End Optimization and the New Learning Methods Teams.  EECS Profs. Borivoje Nikolic and Vladimir Stojanovic will also be participating.  The group intends to integrate ethics and values into their complex systems design, from inception through operation, to ensure that all scientific advances will ultimately serve the interests of society.  The institute also plans to partner with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia, and Hispanic-serving community colleges in California, to build longitudinal education and workforce development programs.  Partners include Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

New AI system allows legged robots to navigate unfamiliar terrain in real time

A new AI system, Rapid Motor Adaptation (RMA), enhances the ability of legged robots, without prior experience or calibration, to adapt to, and traverse, unfamiliar terrain in real time.  A test robot figured out how to walk on sand, mud, and tall grass, as well as piles of dirt, pebbles, and cement, in fractions of a second.  The project is part of an industry-academic collaboration with the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) group and the Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) lab that includes CS Prof. Jitendra Malik as Principal Investigator, his grad student Ashish Kumar as lead author, and alumnus Deepak Pathak (Ph.D. 2019, advisors: Trevor Darrell and Alexei Efros), now an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, among others.  RMA combines a base policy algorithm that uses reinforcement learning to teach the robot how to control its body, with an adaptation module that teaches the robot how to react based on how its body moves when it interacts with a new environment.  “Computer simulations are unlikely to capture everything,” said Kumar. “Our RMA-enabled robot shows strong adaptation performance to previously unseen environments and learns this adaptation entirely by interacting with its surroundings and learning from experience. That is new.”  RMA's base policy and adaptation module run asynchronously and at different frequencies so that it can operate reliably on a small onboard computer.  

Armando Fox, John DeNero, and Kathy Yelick named CDSS associate deans

Three EECS faculty have been named associate deans for the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS).  CS Prof. Armando Fox is the associate dean of online programs; CS Prof. John DeNero is the associate dean of undergraduate studies; and EE Prof. Katherine Yelick is transitioning from her role as CDSS’s associate dean for research to the CDSS executive associate dean.  Berkeley launched CDSS in 2018 to expand teaching and research in data science, and to bring together programs, schools, and departments across campus to tackle the technical, scientific, social, and human dimensions of urgent challenges in biomedicine and human health, climate and sustainability, and human welfare and social justice.

Bin Yu awarded Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lausanne

CS Prof. Bin Yu has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland (UNIL).  Honoris causa doctorates are often conferred as a way of recognizing individuals who are unaffiliated with an institution but who have contributed to a specific field or to society in general.  Yu was cited as "one of the most influential researchers of her time" for her "international reputation," "her character and her openness to others and to the world," and "the breadth and importance of her contributions" which "are far from being confined to the scientific community" and "are part of collective efforts to build a better world."  These include her recent work predicting the severity of COVID-19 in the United States.  Yu has a shared appointment in the Department of Statistics, and is affiliated with the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) and the Berkeley Center for Computational Biology.

Ken Goldberg: Professor and Artist

CS/IEOR/Art Practice Prof. Ken Goldberg, who is also affiliated with Radiation Oncology at UCSF, is the subject of an interview with Ron Latanision and Cameron Fletcher for the National Academy of Engineering. Goldberg discusses the relationship between art and science in Western culture, the dual nature of his career trajectory, his passion for robot-related art, and why he is optimistic about the future of technology.  He also describes some of his projects, including the Telegarden installation, the African Robotics Network, and his Emmy-nominated film collaboration "Why We Love Robots."

Stuart Russell named Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

CS Prof. Stuart Russell, has been named a 2021 Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).  The Officer rank is the second of the order, and is bestowed by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom twice a year to reward valuable "services rendered to the United Kingdom and its people."  Russell, who co-authored the world's most popular AI textbook, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, and founded the Berkeley Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (CHAI), was cited for "For services to artificial intelligence research."  He is an innovator in probabilistic knowledge representation, reasoning, and learning, including its application to global seismic monitoring for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  He is also a powerful advocate for the creation of "safe AI" and is active in the movement to ban the manufacture and use of autonomous weapons.  His official title is now: Professor Stuart Russell OBE.