The shutdown and Berkeley: Q&A with Vice Chancellor Randy Katz

EE Prof. Randy Katz, now the Vice Chancellor for Research at Berkeley, answers questions  about how the standoff over President Trump’s border wall is affecting UC Berkeley’s research enterprise so far, and what will happen if the shutdown continues much longer.  "If people decide to leave the field, the scientific brain trust, we will sacrifice our ability to be in the forefront of science and scholarship. Once we cede leadership in science, we will handicap our nation’s ability to stay ahead," he said.

Students take another step toward an autonomous future

A team of Berkeley undergraduates that includes CS major Gan Tu,  EECS majors Philipp Wu (EE/ME), Malhar Patel, and Bradley Qu, and EECS minor Travis Brashears (Engineering Physics major), are building autonomous backpack-sized mobile robots for a project called Autonomous Motion at Cal (AMAC).  Their aim is to create autonomous vehicles that will be able to navigate the densely populated UC Berkeley campus.

Lydia Liu wins inaugural Ada Lovelace Fellowship

CS grad student Lydia Liu (advisers: Michael Jordan and Moritz Hardt) has won the inaugural Microsoft Research Ada Lovelace Fellowship.  The new three-year fellowship is for PhD students at North American universities who are members of groups underrepresented in computing and pursuing research aligned to the topics carried out by Microsoft Research.  Liu's research aims to establish theoretical foundations for machine learning algorithms to achieve reliable and robust performance. The fellowship comes with a $42K stipend, tuition for three years, and an invitation to the PhD Summit, a two-day workshop where fellows will meet with Microsoft researchers and other top students to share their research.

'Ambidextrous' robots could dramatically speed e-commerce

CS Prof. Ken Goldberg and members of the AUTOLAB including postdoc Jeffrey Mahler (Ph.D. '18), grad students Matthew Matl and Michael Danielczuk, and undergraduate researcher Vishal Satish, have published a paper in Science Robotics which presents new algorithms to compute robust robot pick points, enabling robot grasping of a diverse range of products without training.  They trained reward functions for a parallel-jaw gripper and a suction cup gripper on a two-armed robot, and found that their system cleared bins with up to 25 previously unseen objects at a rate of over 300 picks per hour with 95 percent reliability.

Pulkit Agrawal, Jacob Andreas, and Cathy Wu join MIT faculty

CS alumni Pulkit Agrawal (M.S. '14/Ph.D. '18, adviser: Jitendra Malik) and Jacob Andreas (Ph.D. '18, adviser: Daniel Klein ) will join the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,  and EE alumna Cathy Wu (Ph.D. '18, adviser: Alexandre Bayen)  will join the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as assistant professors.  Agrawal, who co-founded SafelyYou, Inc., studies topics spanning robotics, deep learning, computer vision, and computational neuroscience.  Andreas, who was a member of the Berkeley Natural Language Processing Group and the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab, focuses on using language as a scaffold for more efficient learning and as a probe for understanding model behavior.  Wu, who was recently awarded the Milton Pikarsky Memorial Award, focuses on research involving machine learning, robotics, intelligent systems, and mixed-autonomy mobility.

Ken Thompson to be inducted into 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame

CS alumnus Ken Thompson (B.S.‘65/M.S.‘66) is a member of the 2019 class of inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for creating the UNIX Operating System. Thompson and Dennis Ritchie's creation of the UNIX operating system and the C programming language were pivotal developments in the progress of computer science. Today, 50 years after its beginnings, UNIX and UNIX-like systems continue to run machinery from supercomputers to smartphones. The UNIX operating system remains the basis of much of the world's computing infrastructure, and C language -- written to simplify the development of UNIX -- is one of the most widely used languages today.

All four 2019 EECS student nominees recognized by CRA

All four students who were nominated for Computing Research Association (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards in 2019 were recognized:  Dibya Ghosh (nominated by Sergey Levine), Hong Jun Jeon (nominated by Anca Dragan), and  Jonathan Lee (nominated by Ken Goldberg) were named as finalists, and Annie Xie (nominated by Sergey Levine) was named a runner up.  The CRA award program recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research.

Barbara Grosz joins the Embedded EthiCS team

1997 Distinguished CS Alumna Barbara Grosz (M.S. '71/Ph.D. '77, adviser: Martin Graham), the Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences at Harvard, is part of the Embedded EthiCS @ Harvard team, which aims to bring  "ethical reasoning into the computer science curriculum."  Embedded EthiCS  is a collaboration between philosophers and computer scientists at Harvard, led by faculty from both fields. Post-doctoral fellows and advanced graduate students meet weekly for a teaching lab to develop Embedded EthiCS modules.  The aim of Embedded EthiCS is to teach students to consider not merely what technologies they could create, but whether they should create them.  "The Embedded EthiCS distributed pedagogy embeds philosophers directly into computer science courses to teach students how to think through the ethical and social implications of their work."

Bin Yu looks at AlphaZero

CS Prof. Bin Yu was interviewed by PBS Nova about AlphaZero, Google’s self-teaching artificial intelligence software.   The article probes whether there's more to human intelligence than can be mastered by learning how to win games--which AlphaZero can teach itself to do in a matter of hours.   The process requires a great deal of computing power and uses a lot more energy than the human brain.  Yu observes that absolute energy consumption must be considered when evaluating the software, although AlphZero is clearly very fast and flexible.   “It’s impressive that AlphaZero was able to use the same architecture for three different games,” she says.

"Mother of All Demos" 50th anniversary

On December 9, 2018, the Computer History Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famous presentation by alumnus Douglas Engelbart dubbed the "Mother of All Demos."  On December 9, 1968, Engelbart (BS ‘52/MS ‘53/Ph.D. '55, adviser: Paul Morton) demonstrated real-time human interaction with a computer for the first time.  His radical presentation introduced the world to the computer mouse, word processing, and clickable hypertext links, and became the benchmark for how entrepreneurs pitch ideas to investors.  The museum is holding an all-day symposium to honor the event.