News

The tale of Lester Mackey's pursuit of the Netflix Prize

In October 2006, Netflix announced "The Netflix Prize," a $1M competition where teams of programmers raced to make the Netflix recommendation engine 10% more accurate.  The nail-biting competition is profiled in an article for Thrilllist which prominently features participant and CS alumnus Lester Mackey (Ph.D. '12), then an undergraduate at Princeton.   "It was so much fun," he said. "The contest was structured so well. We had to learn so much to be competitive and I met so many people along the way."  The winners beat the second place team by only 20 minutes.   Mackey is now a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and an adjunct professor of Statistics at Stanford University.

Paul Jacobs is UC Berkeley's 2017 Alumnus of the Year

EECS alumnus Paul E. Jacobs (B.S. '84/M.S. '86/Ph.D. '89) has been named U.C. Berkeley's 2017 Alumnus of the Year.  After graduating from Berkeley, Paul rose up the ranks at Qualcomm, which had been co-founded by his father, and is currently serving as Executive Chairman.  He won the IEEE Weber Managerial Leadershiip Award in 2014 and the Distinguished Industry Leader Award in 2015.  Paul has donated millions of dollars to the College of Engineering and CITRIS, endowed an engineering professorship, served on a number of important University boards, and funded the creation of the eponymous Jacob's Hall.

Anca Dragan awarded 2017 Okawa Foundation Research Grant

CS Assistant Prof. Anca Dragan has been selected to receive a 2017 Okawa Foundation Research Grant.  This award recognizes promising young faculty members in the fields of information and telecommunications, and comes with a $10K prize.  The presentaton ceremony will be held on September 20th in San Francisco.

CS Assistant Teaching Prof. Josh Hug

Thank you, Josh Hug

In an article for the Daily Cal, undergraduate Taylor Choe thanks CS Assistant Teaching Prof. Josh Hug for helping her overcome her negative first impression of Berkeley and discover what makes it so special.   "My mindset going into CS 61B was definitely not a positive one. I struggled with 61A and felt discouraged, making me really come to dislike computer science." she wrote.  But Dr. Hug made her fall in love with computer science and helped her find faith in the public school system.   "You could tell that he wanted to be at lecture and wasn’t thinking about being somewhere else. His projects, homeworks and labs were entertaining and engaging, displaying the time and thought that went into each of them. He constantly emphasized the importance of being an honest person in addition to being an honest programmer. He was somehow able to make a 1,400-person class feel a little smaller. And I don’t think there is anything more you can ask of a professor, especially at a school as large as UC Berkeley."

CS faculty and alumni participate in Turing Award 50th Anniversary

The Turing Award 50th Anniversary celebration was held at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco on June 23-24, 2017.   CS Professors Stuart Russell and Michael Jordan participated on a panel discussion about advances in deep neural networks, Prof. Umesh Vazirani moderated a panel on quantum computing.  Prof. Emeritus and Turing winner Michael Stonebraker discussed the legal ramifications of collecting data from a growing number of devices with different encoding formats, and alumnus and Turing winner Butler Lampson (Ph.D. '67) participated on a panel about the end of Moore's Law.

The ACM A.M. Turing Award is considered the "Nobel prize of computing," and comes with a $1 million prize for contributions of lasting and major technical importance to the computing field.   EECS faculty have won four:  Richard Karp for theory and efficiency of algorithms (NP-completeness) in 1985, William Kahan for numerical analysis (floating-point) in 1989, Manuel Blum for computational complexity theory and cryptography in 1995, and Michael Stonebraker for modern database systems in 2014.  EECS alumni have won seven: Ken Thompson (B.S. '65/M.S. '66) for operating systems theory (UNIX) in 1983, Niklaus Wirth (Ph.D. '63) for computer languages (EULER/Pascal, etc.) in 1984, Butler Lampson (Ph.D. '67) for distributed, personal computing (workstations, networks, etc.) in 1992, Douglas Englebart (MS. '53/Ph.D. '55) for interactive computing in 1997, Leonard Adleman (Ph.D. '76) for public-key cryptography in 2002, and Shafi Goldwasser (M.S. '81/Ph.D. '84) with Silvio Micali (Ph.D. '82) for cryptography and complexity theory in 2012.

Vasuki Narasimha Swamy and César Torres win Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants

EE graduate student Vasuki Narasimha Swamy (adviser: Anant Sahai) and CS graduate student César Torres (adviser: Eric Paulos) have won inaugural Microsoft Research Dissertation Grants.  These grants offer financial support to selected doctoral students from groups that are under-represented in the field of computing.  Of the 200 applicants, only 12 were chosen.  Vasuki's research topic is “Real-time Ultra-reliable Wireless Communication” and César's is “Hybrid Aesthetics – A New Media Framework for the Computational Design of Creative Materials, Tools, and Practices within Digital Fabrication.”

Edgar Solomonik wins Householder Prize for best dissertation in numerical linear algebra

Alumnus Edgar Solomonik (CS Ph.D. '14,  adviser: James Demmel) has won the Alston S. Householder Prize XX (2017)  for the best dissertation in numerical linear algebra.  The Householder prize, which is presented once every three years at a Symposium held in cooperation with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and the SIAM Activity Group on Linear Algebra, has two winners this year.  Edgar's dissertation,  titled "Provably Efficient Algorithms for Numerical Tensor Algebra," also won the EECS Department's David J. Sakrison Memorial Prize for truly outstanding research. Edgar is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Alistair Sinclair named recipient of the 2017 ACM Distinguished Service Award.

Alistair Sinclair has been awarded the 2017 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Distinguished Service Award. This award is presented on the basis of value and degree of services to the computing community including activities on behalf of the ACM, other computer organizations, and/or other entities. Prof. Sinclair is recognized for his role in the spectacular success of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing in taking collaboration in the field to an entirely new level.

Aaron Wagner selected winner of the IEEE 2017 James L. Massey Research and Teaching award.

EECS alumni Aaron Wagner has been selected as the winner of the 2017 James L. Massey Research and Teaching award for young scholars of the IEEE Information Theory Society. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in research and teaching by Society members under 40 years of age in the Information Theory community. Currently he is an Associate Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences in 2005 (advisor was Prof. Venkatachalam Anantharam). His current research interests are at the intersection of information theory and other fields including networking, statistics, queueing theory, security, computational linguistics, and learning. He is particularly interested in network information theory, distributed compression and its application to peer-to-peer networks, secure communication over timing and photonic channels, and communication and classification in learning-limited environments.

Warren Hoburg selected by Nasa for 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class

EECS alumni Warren Hoburg has been selected by NASA to be one of 12 people to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. Hoburg received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences in 2015 (advisor Associate Prof. Pieter Abbeel). Currently he is a Boeing Assistant Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Center for Computational Engineering Operations Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research focuses on efficient methods for design of engineering systems. His group produced and maintains the open-source software tool GPkit, which is a Python package for geometric programming. His group's tools were used to design a five-day endurance UAV currently under development for the US Air Force.