News

Peter Bartlett and Bin Yu to lead $10M NSF/Simons Foundation program to investigate theoretical underpinnings of deep learning

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Simons Foundation Division of Mathematics and Physical Sciences are partnering to award $10 million to fund research in the Mathematical and Scientific Foundations of Deep Learning, led by CS Prof. Peter Bartlett and EECS Prof. Bin Yu.  Both professors hold joint appointments in the Department of Statistics.  The researchers hope to gain a better theoretical understanding of deep learning, which is part of a broader family of machine learning methods based on artificial neural networks that digest large amounts of raw data inputs and train AI systems with limited human supervision. Most of the research and education activities will be hosted by the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, in the form of structured programs of varying themes.  Other participating institutions will include Stanford, MIT, UCI, UCSD, Toyota Tech in Chicago, EPFL in Switzerland, and the Hebrew University in Israel.

Brian Harvey wins NTLS Education Technology Leadership Award

CS Teaching Prof. Emeritus Brian Harvey has been awarded the National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) Education Technology Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who made a significant impact on the field of educational technology over the course of a lifetime.  The award is NTLS's highest honor.  Harvey wrote the "Computer Science Logo Style" textbook trilogy in the 1980s, which uses the Logo programming language (a subdialect of Lisp which had been created for elementary school children) to teach computer science concepts to more advanced students.   He designed UCBLogo in 1992, a free, open-source programming language that is now the de facto standard for Logo, and won the Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995.  He then collaborated with award co-recipient Jens Möenig to develop the block programming language Snap!, which makes advanced computational concepts accessible to nonprogrammers.  It is used in the highly successful class "Beauty and Joy of Computing," which was developed at Berkeley to introduce more diverse audiences to CS. The class is approved for AP credit and, with support from the NSF, has been provided to more than one thousand high school CS teachers nationwide.  Harvey says “Languages in the Logo family, including Scratch and Snap!, take the position that we’re not in the business of training professional computer programmers. Our mission is to bring programming to the masses.”

Rising Stars 2020, Berkley EECS, November 9-10, 2020

EECS to host Rising Stars 2020

UC Berkeley has been selected to host the Rising Stars 2020 Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS, which will be held virtually on November 9-10, 2020.  Born at MIT in 2013 and last hosted by Berkeley in 2014, Rising Stars is an intensive workshop for women graduate students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing academic careers in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering.  It will bring together senior-level PhD students, postdocs, faculty and special guests and  for a two-day intensive virtual workshop on the faculty search process.  Female-identifying EE and CS PhD graduate students who are within ~1-2 years of graduating, as well as postdocs who have obtained a PhD no earlier than 2017, are encouraged to apply.  The application deadline is deadline is September 7, 2020.

Dick White has passed away

Prof. Richard M. White, age 90, passed away this week from complications after a fall.  Born in Colorado and educated at Harvard, White joined the EECS department in 1962 after a stint doing research at General Electric.  He was a prolific researcher, publisher and inventor, who authored or co‐authored more than 90 research papers and two books. His research on micro‐sensors and actuators making use of Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) effects, earned him the UFFC Rayleigh Ultrasonics Award in 2003.  He founded the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center (BSAC) with Richard Muller in 1986, which led the creation of the field of Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS), one of the key innovations pioneered in the EECS department.  BSAC currently hosts 12 faculty and more than 100 graduate students.  White and Muller earned the James Clerk Maxwell Award for their contributions to MEMS in 2013. Full of energy and ideas, White was also a passionate instructor whose forte was introducing students to electronics (he created and taught the introductory course EE 1 for many years).  He was also one of the founders of the Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education (SESAME), which was later absorbed into the School of Education. Just before his death, White was actively engaged in the creation of a new sensor to detect COVID-19. He leaves behind two sons, Rollie and Brendan.

Josephine Williamson celebrated as influential leader

EECS director of operations Josephine Williamson is one of 18 unsung heroines at UC Berkeley being honored this month as part of the Berkeley 150W project.  Williamson, whom Vice Provost Tsu-Jae King Liu describes as “an exemplary builder of positive working relationships,” knows the department inside and out.  She began her relationship with EECS as an undergraduate workstudy, helping students, faculty, staff and visitors, behind the Soda Hall front desk.  After graduating and exploring some other career options, she returned to campus as the manager of budget and planning in the College of Engineering, and was hired away two years later to serve as EECS's manager of financial services.   She has been in her current position as director of operations for almost ten years, and was recognized for her leadership skills with a Chancellor's Outstanding Staff Award (COSA) in 2017, the Berkeley Chancellor's highest staff honor.  Williamson is treasured by her staff  as a compassionate and positive leader who has created a supportive, nurturing work environment that has remained strong even during difficult times.  She has taken steps to make the department more welcoming to a greater diversity of people, and has created a more open, convivial, and respectful culture for everyone.  "During my years at Cal, I learned that it is not only important to recognize our strengths, but also to seek out areas where we need to change and further develop," she says.  "It’s important to create a safe place for people to share stories, listen and reflect in order to come together as a team."

Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing receives new $35.5M grant

The Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, under the direction of CS Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, has been awarded a $35.5 million grant by the Simons Foundation to fund a second decade of groundbreaking research and innovation. The grant, which will begin in 2022, will support the institute's mission and activities for another ten years, and bring the Foundation's support of the institute upf to $100 million.  Launched in 2012, the Simons Institute quickly established itself as the global center for collaborative research in theoretical computer science and its impact on science, mathematics, engineering, and society.  "We owe so much to the original leadership team," said Goldwasser, "Richard Karp, Alistair Sinclair, Christos Papadimitriou, and Luca Trevisan — as well as the current associate director, Peter Bartlett, and senior scientist Prasad Raghavendra, and the numerous brilliant scientists who have led and participated in programs over the years. The Institute was originally created to strengthen the computing theory community, and the community continually pays  this back in the form of excellent work."

Umesh Vazirani to help lead $25 million quantum computing center

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded UC Berkeley $25 million over five years to help lead the establishment of a multi-university institute focused on advancing quantum science and engineering.  EECS Prof. Umesh Vazirani, who is co-director of the Berkeley Quantum Computation Center (BQIC) and leads the quantum computing effort at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing (SITC), will serve as co-director of the new institute.  Other participants from EECS will include Prof. Ming Wu, Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, Prof. John Kubiatowicz, and Associate Prof. Boubacar Kanté. The center will be one of three Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes (QLCI) designed as part of the federal government's effort to accelerate the development of quantum computers, train a future workforce to build and use them, and position them to be as ubiquitous as smart phones.  The new institute for Present and Future Quantum Computation will connect Berkeley, UCLA, UCSB, USC, Caltech, UT Austin, MIT, and UW, to combine the talents of top experimental and theoretical scientists in the fields of computer science, chemistry, physics, materials science, engineering and mathematics, to solve problems and devise strategies around this currently rudimentary technology.   Attaining a better understanding of its computational capabilities will require a major increase in the number of computer scientists involved in asking and answering questions.  “Realizing the full power of quantum computation requires development of efficient schemes for correction of errors during operation of quantum machines, as well as protocols for testing and benchmarking," said Vazirani. “Translating this remarkable ability of quantum computers into actually solving a computational problem is very challenging and requires a completely new way of thinking about algorithms.”

prof. david wagner

David Wagner testifies about remote voting security before Congress

Prof. David Wagner, whose area of expertise includes computer security and the security of electronic voting, testified before Congress at a hearing of the House Administration Committee on Friday, July 15, 2020. The hearing was called to investigate options for lawmakers in Congress to vote remotely during Covid-19. Wagner explained that while it is technologically feasible for the House to conduct roll-call votes remotely, it will come with some manageable risk.  He recommended securing the vote using "a combination of people, process, and technology," including making all votes public immediately, having the House establish policies to govern the process--including contingencies for technology failures, and specifically selecting technology to support cybersecurity. 

EECS 150W: Sheila Humphreys and WiCSE

In celebration of 150 Years of Women at Berkeley, the EECS Director Emerita of Diversity (and Berkeley 150W History Project co-chair) Sheila Humphreys tells the story of  Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (WiCSE), the first student group at an American university created to support and increase the number of women in those fields.   WiCSE was born when the political foment of 1970s Berkeley met the burgeoning field of computer science in Evans Hall.  Humphreys charts WiCSE's path from the formation of the first women's clubs at Berkeley one hundred years before, to its 40th reunion in 2018.  WICSE has established itself as a permanent force in EECS: a powerful voice for women students, a model of peer engagement and support, and a pipeline for women into the fields of EE and CS.  Humphreys' life-long mission to diversify the global population of computer scientists and engineers is the subject of July's Notable Women of EECS profile.

Stuart Russell answers 3+ questions in wake of Turing Lecture

In May 2020, CS Prof. Stuart Russell delivered the most highly attended Turing Lecture yet,  to a virtual audience of over 700 people from around the world, on the subject of provably beneficial AI.  In a follow-up article, "Three (plus) questions with Turing Lecturer Stuart Russell," he answers some of the many questions not covered during the live Q&A.  In his talk, Russell argues that "it is useful to imbue systems with explicit uncertainty concerning the true objectives of the humans they are designed to help. This uncertainty causes machine and human behaviour to be inextricably (and game-theoretically) linked, while opening up many new avenues for research."  The top three questions address how AI should make immediate choices, how to address changing preferences as society evolves, and how AI can be controlled to minimize bias.  The ideas discussed are explored in his most recent book, "Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control" (Viking/Penguin, 2019).  The Turing Lectures are hosted by The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, and should not be confused with the Turing Talks sponsored by BCS and IET.