Ling-Qi Yan helps to improve computer rendering of animal fur

CS graduate student Ling-Qi Yan (advisors: Ravi Ramamoorthi/Ren Ng) and researchers at U.C. San Diego are the subject of an article in TechXplore titled "Scientists improve computer rendering of animal fur."  He is part of a team that developed a method for dramatically improving the way computers simulate fur, and more specifically, the way light bounces within an animal's pelt.  The researchers are using a neural network to apply the properties of a concept called subsurface scattering to quickly approximate how light bounces around fur fibers.  The neural network only needs to be trained with one scene before it can apply subsurface scattering to all the different scenes with which it is presented. This results in simulations running 10 times faster than current state of the art.  "We are converting the properties of subsurface scattering to fur fibers," said Yan. "There is no explicit physical or mathematical way to make this conversion. So we needed to use a neural network to connect these two different worlds."  The researchers recently presented their findings at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Thailand.

Dan Wallach to testify about election security and voting machines in Texas

EECS alumnus Dan Wallach (B.S. '93) will testify before the Texas Senate Select Committee on Election Security at a hearing about recent election irregularities in Texas, a review of voting security protocols and the responsibilities and duties of members of the Electoral College.  Specifically, the hearing will examine the use of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections, and the voting requirements of presidential electors.  Wallach is widely regarded as an expert on voting machine security.  He is currently an EECS professor at Rice University and a scholar at Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy. 

Steve Wozniak emphasizes people over technology

CS alumnus Steve Wozniak (B.A.'86) was the inaugural speaker in the Business Thought Leader series at the University of South Florida College of Business.  He answered pre-submitted questions that asked for his best advice for college students and what he might tell his younger self.  He shared his "smiles minus frowns" happiness equation and said that how one feels is paramount to success.  While passion and vision are key, he stressed the importance of always choosing people over technology and cautioned students that ”the purpose [of your work] should never be, this is how I’m going to make a lot of money.”  Instead, if you think about how you can make the world a better place you will never regret the outcome.  He said that he was so famous when he came back to study at Berkeley, after taking time off to found Apple Computers, that he went by the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark.

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,

Dawn Song participates in 'first US-China' Blockchain conference

CS Prof. Dawn Song participated in a panel discussion at the Blockchain Connect conference in San Francisco last week, an event designed to unite the U.S. and China Blockchain communities. Song leads the BitBlaze: Binary Analysis for Computer Security project, an analysis platform that will incorporate various AI and Blockchain applications, including in healthcare and smart building with IoT technologies.  She is also teaching CS 294-144. Blockchain, CryptoEconomics, and the Future Directions of Technology, Business, and Law, a “first of its kind” interdisciplinary course on Blockchain. "It’s extremely popular, " she said.  "We’re limited by room capacity, so it’s 70+ students. But it’s a 4:1 ratio, so basically for every four students applying, we can only select one."

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.