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.”

Harold Pimentel selected as HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow

CS alumnus Harold Pimentel (Ph.D. '16, advisor: Lior Pachter), now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, has been chosen as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Hanna H. Gray Fellow.  The goal of the fellows program is to "recruit and retain individuals who are from gender, racial, ethnic, and other groups underrepresented in the life sciences, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, early in their careers."  Pimentel is researching what happens when cells fail to prune RNA copies of genes. These copies contain interrupting sequences called introns that are usually spliced out before an RNA molecule serves as a template for protein production. Neglecting to trim away introns is sometimes associated with abnormal cellular behavior and disease. Pimentel plans to use computational methods he developed to analyze a vast set of RNAs in healthy and cancerous tissues to discover whether lingering introns play a part in cancer.   He says he will use the $1.4M award to start a new lab.

Stuart Russell's Slaughterbots video gains political traction

In response to the video Slaughterbots, created by Prof. Stuart Russell and,  San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa has introduced a resolution to ban autonomous weapons.  If the resolution is adopted, San Mateo County would be the first in the United States to urge Congress and the United Nations to restrict the development of weaponized robotic technology.  Slaughterbots, which shows the damage autonomous drones could cause if they continue to be developed without regulation, went viral when it was released in November.  “As policy makers, for us to catch up with technology we ourselves have to be out in front of it,” said Canepa. “So that’s why we’re working on this issue.”

EECS advisors at CS Education Day

EECS Departmental Advising staff win 2017 Excellence in Advising Team Award

EECS Center for Student Affairs (CSA) undergraduate advisers Cindy Conners, Charlene Hughes, Carol Marshall, Andrea Mejia Valencia, Nicole McIntyre, Lydia Raya, Michael-David Sasson, and Lily Zhang, have won the UC Berkeley Excellence in Advising 2017 Team Award.  The team award recognizes exceptional performance and innovation in advising on campus and is presented to members of a group who have made a significant positive impact on the students and programs they support. The achievements of the EECS team are particularly impressive in a time of unprecedented growth that saw their advising pool expand to include over 2,850 students.

Yi Ma and Shafi Goldwasser named 2017 ACM Fellows

Incoming EECS faculty Yi Ma and Shafi Goldwasser have been named 2017 Fellows by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).  “To be selected as a Fellow is to join our most renowned member grade and an elite group that represents less than 1 percent of ACM’s overall membership,” explains ACM President Vicki L. Hanson.  "The Fellows program allows us to shine a light on landmark contributions to computing, as well as the men and women whose tireless efforts, dedication, and inspiration are responsible for groundbreaking work that improves our lives in so many ways.  Goldwasser was selected "For transformative work that laid the complexity-theoretic foundations for the science of cryptography," and Ma was selected "For contributions to theory and application of low-dimensional models for computer vision and pattern recognition."

EECS FLIP alliance faculty & alumni

Berkeley FLIPs for Diversity

When Dan Garcia first attended UC Berkeley as a graduate student, he was amazed at the many different faces and key spaces that make up the world's top public research university.  “I can’t imagine being anywhere else," says Garcia, adding that part of what makes Berkeley special is the confluence of its diverse urban setting, large size, and a campus culture that fosters and celebrates diversity.  Today, as a professor, Garcia is passionate about broadening participation in computer science: “If you want to move the needle on diversity, come join us at UC Berkeley!” The university just announced its membership in the NSF-funded FLIP Alliance (Diversifying Future Leadership In the Professoriate), which consists  of eleven top Computer Science departments that produce over half of new URM CS faculty. FLIP aims to quickly and radically change the demographic diversity of the CS professoriate by sharing best practices for recruiting, retaining, and developing URM graduate students at member institutions. Current Berkeley faculty and students talk about the Department’s welcoming and collaborative atmosphere, and why Berkeley is eager to attract talented URM applicants and stop “leaving so much talent on the table,” in the words of Cuban-American professor Armando Fox.

Randy Katz named Berkeley’s next Vice Chancellor for Research

United Microelectronics Corporation Distinguished Prof. Randy Katz (also alumnus, Ph.D. '80) has been appointed Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley.  Katz helped pioneer many technologies that are ubiquitous today, like  wide-area wireless networks for mobile devices, cloud-based applications and cloud storage,  and ways of managing and protecting computer networks.  The vice chancellor for research search committee was impressed with Katz’s "vision, his ability to lead the campus in identifying new research and funding opportunities, and his dedication to providing outstanding research administration support to our community."  “Trust in higher education, the level of support for public higher education and belief in the importance of research to the excellence of an institution like ours are being undermined in the current social and political context,” he said. “I am very excited to be given the responsibility as vice chancellor for research, and hopefully I can make some positive advances in reversing that direction.”   He will begin his tenure on Jan. 1, 2018.

Vestri the robot playing and learning

New robots predict their future by learning like babies

Prof. Sergey Levine and grad students Chelsea Finn and Frederik Ebert have developed a robotic learning technology called visual foresight that enables robots to imagine the future of their actions so they can figure out how to manipulate objects they have never encountered before. “This can enable intelligent planning of highly flexible skills in complex real-world situations," Levine says.  In the future, this technology could help self-driving cars anticipate future events on the road and produce more intelligent robotic assistants in homes, but the initial prototype focuses on learning simple manual skills entirely from autonomous play--like children do.  

Diane Greene makes 2017 Bloomberg 50

CS alumna Diane Greene (M.S. '88) is ranked 12 on Bloomberg Businessweek's list of the 50 people who defined global business in 2017.   Greene is the senior vice president and cloud chief at Google.  Although the Google Cloud Platform currently has only about 5% of the cloud market, it grew more than 80% in the past year under her management--outpacing industry leader Inc.  Greene thinks Google Cloud could surpass Amazon Web Services by 2022 as it sells more software tools and services and becomes Google’s chief vehicle for bringing advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing to market.

Harlan Yu shines a light on the civil-rights dimensions of a wired world

EECS alumnus and civil rights leader Harlan Yu (B.S. '04) is appealing to CS departments to show students how they can “pull on various levers of policy" to keep the public protected.  Yu, who is now the Executive Director of a non-profit tech-policy consulting group called Upturn, is the focus of a Princeton Alumni Weekly article describing how he, and Upturn co-founder David Robinson, are working to shape the future of technology.  They helped draft the influential “Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data,” as well as a set of principles to specifically address the use of body cameras by police.  They also helped curb the proliferation of targeted online ads for payday loans and are involved in the fight for internet freedom abroad.  In the future, they plan to tackle social equity in the development of self-driving cars, like the potential for carmakers’ mapping technology to restrict where autonomous vehicles can and cannot drive.  “We need many more computer scientists and technologists focusing on the core social problems — in housing, in education policy, in health policy, in all sorts of core areas where new technologies are going to shift the landscape,” Yu says. “As technology continues to permeate all aspects of our society, there’s just going to be a greater need for this kind of work.”