Mike Nelson joins Xcalar as Chief Scientist

CS alumnus Mike Nelson (Ph.D. '88, advisor: John Ousterhout), has become Chief Scientist at Xcalar, a fast-growing big data processing and virtual data warehouse platform.  While at Berkeley, Neslon was a key member of the team that developed the Sprite Distributed Operating System.  He was a fellow and one of the first engineers at VMware, where he was the lead architect of VMkernel, an operating system designed to run virtual machines that is the foundation for all VMware server products. At Xcalar, he will be responsible for spearheading the company's Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) efforts.

Berkeley computer theorists show path to verifying that quantum beats classical

UC Berkeley computer theorists led by CS Prof. Umesh Vazirani,  published a proof of random circuit sampling (RCS) as a verification method to prove quantum supremacy in a paper published Monday, Oct. 29, in the journal Nature Physics.  Quantum supremacy is the term that describes a quantum computer’s ability to solve a computational task that would be prohibitively difficult for any classical algorithm.  “Besides being a milestone on the way to useful quantum computers, quantum supremacy is a new kind of physics experiment to test quantum mechanics in a new regime. The basic question that must be answered for any such experiment is how confident can we be that the observed behavior is truly quantum and could not have been replicated by classical means. That is what our results address,” said Vazirani.

Barbara Simons to be awarded Athena Lifetime Achievement Award

2005 CS Distinguished Alumna Barbara Simons (Ph.D. '81) will be receiving the Athena Lifetime Achievement Award at the CITRIS Women in Tech Symposium on Friday, 11/16.  Simons, who is a past president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), is board chair of Verified Voting, a non-partisan organization that advocates for reliable and secure voting practices.  She is the author of “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” and is a long-time champion for programs to increase diversity in computer science and engineering.  She will not be able to attend the conference but will make an appearance in a short video.

IP paper wins 2018 ACM SenSys Test of Time Award

A paper written by CS Prof. David Culler and alumnus Jonathan Hui (M.S. '05/Ph.D. '08) in 2008 titled "IP is Dead, Long Live IP for Wireless Sensor Networks" has won the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems (SenSys) 2018 Test of Time Award.  The paper dispelled the notion that IP cannot run on wireless embedded sensors and made a long term impact  on standards like 6LoWPAN and platforms like Thread.  The award recognizes papers that are at least 10 years old and have had long lasting impact on networked embedded sensing system science and engineering.  Culler previously won this award in both 2014 and 2015.

"Graphical Lasso and Thresholding" wins 2018 Data Mining Best Paper Award

A paper titled “Graphical Lasso and Thresholding: Equivalence and Closed-form Solutions” by IEOR PhD candidate Salar Fattahi and EE Assistant Prof. Somayeh Sojoudi has won the 2018 Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Data Mining (DM) Best Paper Award.   The paper compares the computationally-heavy Graphical Lasso (GL) technique, a popular method for learning the structure of an undirected graphical model, with a numerically-cheap heuristic method that is based on simply thresholding the sample covariance matrix.  By analyzing the properties of this conic optimization problem, the paper shows that its true complexity is indeed linear (both in time and in memory) for sparse graphical models and solves instance as large as 80,000×80,000 (more than 3.2 billion variables) in less than 30 minutes on a standard laptop computer, while other state-of-the-art methods do not converge within 4 hours.  The award recognizes excellence among DM members, particularly its student members, and was announced at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5th.

Berkeley announces transformative Division of Data Science and Information

UC Berkeley today announced its plan to form a new interdisciplinary academic unit to coordinate and foster the growth of various programs related to informatics — which encompasses computing as well as societal implications of information technologies — across the campus. This new unit, provisionally named the Division of Data Science and Information, will provide a framework to facilitate collaborations between researchers from different disciplines.  A global search has begun for a new associate provost to head the new division beginning on July 1, 2019.   

Machine Learning to Help Optimize Traffic and Reduce Pollution

CS Prof. Alexandre Bayen, the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies,  is leading a traffic-smoothing project dubbed CIRCLES (Congestion Impact Reduction via CAV-in-the-loop Lagrangian Energy Smoothing) that applies deep reinforcement learning to self-driving cars to smooth traffic, reduce fuel consumption, and improve air quality.  The potential for cities is enormous,” said Bayen. “Experiments have shown that the energy savings with just a small percentage of vehicles on the road being autonomous can be huge. And we can improve it even further with our algorithms.”

Stuart Russell named Honorary Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford

Prof. Stuart Russell has been elected as an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College at Oxford University, his alma mater.  Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC praised Russell for his scholarship in the field of Artificial Intelligence, his work with the United Nations and with former US President, Barack Obama.  Russell has devoted his career to the study of AI, including such topics as the interaction of knowledge and machine learning, the unification of logic and probability, and metareasoning (reasoning about reasoning).   Other Wadham Fellows include the late Jeremy Knowles, chemist and former Dean of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican communion.

Berkeley’s SkyDeck Offers Chip Design Support Worth Millions to Startups

Chip Track, the microchip design innovation segment of Berkeley startup accelerator SkyDeck, is profiled in an Xconomy article titled "Berkeley’s SkyDeck Offers Chip Design Support Worth Millions to Startups."  Unlike software developers, chip inventors need cash up front to produce prototypes to show how they run.  “We’re talking about many millions of dollars,” says SkyDeck's Chong Tang. “Very few investors are willing to give you many millions of dollars just to hit run.”  SkyDeck has enlisted two companies that will give its chip startups access to an array of services that would ordinarily cost customers as much as $2 million.  Advisors to Chip Track's startups include CS Profs. Krste Asanović and David Patterson (emeritus).

EECS grad students, faculty, and alumni to participate in 2018 Rising Stars

CS graduate students Sarah Chasins (advisor: Ras Bodik), Orianna DeMasi (BIDS), Sandy Huang (advisors: Anca Dragan/Pieter Abbeel), and postdoc Angjoo Kanazawa (advisors: Jitendra Malik/Alyosha Efros/Trevor Darrell) will be participating in the Rising Stars career-building workshop for women in EECS, which will be held from Oct. 28-30, 2018 at MIT in Cambridge, Massachussetts.    Chasin's topic is “Helena: A Web Automation Language for End Users,” DeMasi's is " Developing a Dialog System to Augment SMS Helpline Counselor Training,” Huang's is “Enabling Robot Transparency with Informative Actions,” and Kanazawa's is “Perceiving Deformable Shapes: Humans, Animals, and Birds.”  Speakers include EECS Profs. Laura Waller and Katherine Yelick, as well as postdoc Farnaz Niroui and alumnus Anantha Chandrakasan (B.S. '89/M.S. '90/Ph.D. '94).