RISELab researchers investigate how to build more secure, faster AI systems

Computer Science faculty in the Real-Time Intelligent Secure Execution Lab (RISELab) have outlined challenges in systems, security and architecture that may impede the progress of Artificial Intelligence, and propose new research directions to address them.  The paper, A Berkeley View of Systems Challenges for AI, was authored by Profs. Stoica, Song, Popa, Patterson, Katz, Joseph, Jordan, Hellerstein, Gonzalez, Goldberg, Ghodsi, Culler and Abbeel, as well as Michael  Mahoney in Statistics/ICSI. Some of the challenges outlined include AI systems that make timely and safe decisions in unpredictable environments, that are robust against sophisticated adversaries, and that can process ever increasing amounts of data across organizations and individuals without compromising confidentiality.

Shafi Goldwasser, Newly Appointed Director of Berkeley Simons Institute
Shafi Goldwasser, Director, Simons Institute

Shafi Goldwasser appointed Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing

Turing Award-winning computer scientist Shafi Goldwasser will become the new Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley, on January 1, 2018. The Simons Institute is the world's leading venue for collaborative research in theoretical computer science. Established on July 1, 2012 with a grant of $60 million from the Simons Foundation, the Institute is housed in Calvin Lab, a dedicated building on the UC Berkeley campus. The Simons Institute brings together the world's leading researchers in theoretical computer science and related fields, as well as the next generation of outstanding young scholars, to explore deep unsolved problems about the nature and limits of computation.

Professor Shafi Goldwasser is one of the giants of theoretical computer science, and one of its most original thinkers. She has made foundational contributions to the field of cryptography – for which she received the 2012 Turing Award – including inventing semantically secure probabilistic encryption, pseudorandom functions, and zero-knowledge proofs. She has also made outstanding contributions to computational complexity theory, including the development of interactive proof systems, and the discovery of their connection to the complexity of approximation, for which she received the Gödel Prize in 1993 and 2001.

“Algorithms govern our computing-based world in the same way that the laws of nature govern the physical one,” says Goldwasser. “Their mathematical underpinnings are thus as important to modern society as the periodic table, relativity, or the genome. The Simons Institute at Berkeley, under my leadership, will continue its dedication to the discovery of the fundamentals of computation and to findings that enable technological progress and positive social change.”

 In addition to her appointment as Director of the Simons Institute, Professor Goldwasser will be a faculty member in Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, and in both places she will continue her track record of outstanding mentorship; her former students rank among the leaders of the field of theoretical computer science.

 Goldwasser has been a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1983, and in 1997 became the first holder of the RSA Professorship (named after the inventors of the first public-key cryptosystem, Rivest, Shamir and Adleman). Concurrently with her professorship at MIT, she has been a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science since 1993. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, and the National Academy of Engineering in 2005. Her awards include the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award (1996), the RSA Award In Mathematics (1998), the ACM Athena Lecturer Award (2009), the Benjamin Franklin Award in Computer and Cognitive Science (2010), and the IEEE Emanuel Piore Award (2011).

 Goldwasser’s appointment is the culmination of a worldwide search for the next Director of the Simons Institute, to replace Founding Director Richard Karp, who steps down at the end of this year after a five-year term. Goldwasser will take the helm as Director of the Institute in January, and will relocate to Berkeley from Cambridge, Massachusetts in the summer of 2018.

 “We are delighted that someone of Shafi's formidable intellect and capacity for innovation will be joining the UC Berkeley community. We are excited for her contributions to campus intellectual life,” says UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. “In the five years since its founding, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing has become a flagship institution on campus, and a worldwide center of excellence in theoretical computer science. We’re certain that under Shafi's leadership, the Institute will be on a trajectory to make an even deeper impact on the theory of computing and related areas in computer science, engineering, and the physical and social sciences.”

 Also new to the Institute’s leadership team is Berkeley computer science and statistics professor Peter Bartlett, who took over as Associate Director on July 1, 2017. The position was formerly held by Alistair Sinclair, the Institute’s Founding Associate Director, who stepped down at the end of his second term this summer. Bartlett is a world leader in statistical learning theory, a field that provides the theoretical underpinnings of machine learning. While his work focuses on the underlying theory, it has in many cases influenced practical applications as well.

Bartlett has contributed to many areas of statistical learning theory, including large margin classifiers, boosting methods, kernel methods, reinforcement learning, Rademacher averages, online learning methods, and neural networks. He has published over 150 papers and is co-author of the book, Learning in Neural Networks. He has held a visiting Miller Professorship at Berkeley, an honorary professorship at the University of Queensland, and a visiting professorship at the University of Paris. Bartlett was awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year in Australia in 2001, and was chosen as an Institute of Mathematical Statistics Medallion Lecturer in 2008, and an IMS Fellow and Australian Laureate Fellow in 2011. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2015.

 Continuing on as a permanent member of the Institute’s scientific leadership is Senior Scientist Luca Trevisan, a distinguished complexity theorist and Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, whom Berkeley recruited from Stanford to play a leading role at the Simons Institute.

 This summer, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing marked the five-year anniversary of its founding in 2012. During this initial period, the Institute has established itself as the world’s preeminent center for collaborative research in theoretical computer science.

 Over a thousand visiting scientists have participated in the Institute’s semester-long research programs exploring foundational questions in data science, machine learning, evolutionary biology, quantum computing, genomics, computational economics, and many other topics. An announcement from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computation (SIGACT) this summer praised “the spectacular success of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing in taking collaboration in our field to an entirely new level,” describing it as “a game-changer for Theory.”

Marie desJardins (photo: Anita

Marie desJardins wins A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award

CS alumna Marie desJardins (Ph.D. '92 adviser: Stuart Russell) has won the 2017 A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award. The award, named in honor of the late EE Prof. Richard Newton and presented annually at the Grace Hopper Celebration,  recognizes educators who develop innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math.  desJardins has become known nationally for her support of and commitment to improving student diversity, access, and quality of computer science courses at the high school level, and has received multiple NSF awards to support her efforts in this area.  She is currently Associate Dean and Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Musa and Liu (photo: Mujahid Zaman)

Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa build the future

CS majors Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa are featured in a Berkeley News article titled "In undergrad startup class, students learn to build the future."  Liu and Musa co-founded a startup called Bash while still in high school.  When they came to Cal, they partnered with CS Prof. Scott Shenker to launch a student-run DeCal class on Berkeley's startup ecosystem last spring, called "How to Build the Future."  The course gives students direct experience with world-renowned entrepreneurs and faculty founders.

Brett and Chelsea Finn

The education of Brett the robot

CS Prof. Pieter Abbeel, graduate student Chelsea Finn, and Brett the robot are featured in a Wired article titled "The Education of Brett the Robot" which delves into some of the nuts and bolts of machine learning.  Brett (short for Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks) is using a reinforcement learning algorithm to allow it to learn from its mistakes.  Abbeel will speak on "Deep Learning-to-Learn Robotic Control" at the EECS Colloquium on October 11th.

Lotfi Zadeh's farewell ceremony (photo: Azeri News)

President Aliyev attends farewell ceremony for Lotfi Zadeh

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attended a farewell ceremony for Prof. Emeritus Lotfi Zadeh, held at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) in Baku.  The ceremony was attended by many prominent Azerbaijani state and government officials, scientists, and public figures.  Education Minister Mikayil Jabbarov said that his last wish was to be buried in his homeland. “This shows that he lived with Azerbaijan in his heart till his last breath. His contributions to world science are unparalleled.”  Zadeh passed away on September 6, at the age of 96.  He was laid to rest in the 1st Alley of Honor in Baku.

CS major Saloni Shah

Saloni Shah and Dan Garcia talk about challenges for women in CS

Senior CS major Saloni Shah and Teaching Prof. Dan Garcia are featured in a TechRepublic cover story titled "The state of women in computer science: An investigative report."   They discuss some of the challenges of attracting and retaining women students in computer science, and some of the efforts that Berkeley has made to bridge the gap.  Shah has interned at Google the past two summers and has participated in—and won—several collegiate hackathons.  She describes instances where her fellow students have suggested that her achievements were the result of affirmative action.  "I have all of these projects," she says. "I have definitely shown I can do it."  "I don't think they actually believe that women don't belong in computer science," she adds. But when they say that her accomplishments were possible only because she received special treatment as a woman, she explains that it's usually "a means of justifying why they didn't get something."

Garth Gibson, Vector Institute (Matthew Plexman)

Garth Gibson named CEO of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence

CS alumnus Garth Gibson  (M.S. '84/B.S. '91) has been named CEO of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto, Canada.  The newly-formed Vector has received $50-million funding from Ontario and $85-million-plus from more than 30 companies, including Shopify Inc., Magna International Inc., Canada's big banks and U.S. tech giants including Google Inc.  Gibson, who is a native of Canada, has held several senior positions at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a computer-science professor and established the school's Parallel Data Lab and Petascale Data Storage Institute.

Berkeley EECS ranks 3rd in 2017 list of 50 Best Master's in Computer Science

U.C. Berkeley is #3 in the Best Computer Science Schools rankings of the 50 Best Master’s in Computer Science Degrees for 2017. The rankings were based on a methodology which aggregates data from Payscale, U.S. News and World Report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as information from the schools.  It measures institutional strength, return on tuition investment, and student happiness.  MIT and Stanford took first and second place.  They state "The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) at UC Berkeley offers one of the most brilliant research and instructional programs anywhere in the world."

CS Prof. Lotfi Zadeh, 1921-2017

Lotfi Zadeh wins 2017 Golden Goose Award

CS Prof. Emeritus Lotfi Zadeh has posthumously won a 2017 Golden Goose Award for "Fuzzy Logic, Clear Impact," sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The award honors teams of scientists whose silly-sounding taxpayer-funded research has returned serious benefits to society.  "Zadeh proposed these revolutionary concepts in 1965 to deal with the mathematics and logic of imprecise information, receiving a skeptical response and howls of 'complete nonsense.' He even drew the attention of Senator William Proxmire and the infamous Golden Fleece Award. But since the concept's debut, the original research paper has become one of the most widely cited in history, used in more than 16,000 patents and applied to efficiency improvements for HVAC systems, healthcare devices and more."  The winners will be honored at a ceremony at the Library of Congress this evening."  Prof. Zadeh passed away earlier this month.