News

The Berkeley Campus is Open

Visit the UC Berkeley COVID-19 resources website for the latest testing and access information.  Cory and Soda Halls are open but we will likely have limited in-person/on-site staffing during the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester.  Although most classes will be conducted remotely during this time, we anticipate in-person instruction to resume on January 31st.

Leslie Field wins 2022 Mark Shannon Grand Challenges Award

EECS alumna Leslie Field (M.S. '88/Ph.D. 91, advisor: Richard White), the first woman to earn a doctorate from the Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center (BSAC), has won the 2022 Mark Shannon Grand Challenges Award.  This award recognizes "long-term contributions of members of our technical community with a vision to address humanity's pressing issues."  Field is the Founder and CEO of Bright Ice Initiative, Inc., an environmental nonprofit which aims to address the urgent need for terrestrial glacial ice preservation.  During her career, she has developed new formulations for unleaded gasoline, new silicon-glass bonding processes, and pioneered surface micromachining and microfluidic systems.  She also contributed to the development of microwave and optical cross-point switches. She turned her attention to climate change in 2006 and founded Ice911 Research (later renamed AIP) two years later.   Field received a B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from MIT prior to enrolling at Berkeley.  She is the founder and a managing member of SmallTech Consulting, LLC, where she leads a diverse collaborative team working on MEMS and nanotechnology-based challenges.  She also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer and Consulting Professor Stanford University.

Dan Klein and Angjoo Kanazawa win 2022 Bakar Fellows Spark Awards

EECS Prof. Dan Klein and Assistant Prof. Angjoo Kanazawa have won 2022 Bakar Fellows Spark Awards.  These awards are designed to accelerate Berkeley faculty-led research "to tangible, positive societal impact through commercialization."  Bakar Fellows become part of a campus ecosystem that provides support and programs to assist them in introducing discoveries to the market.  Klein is developing a device that will allow users to communicate through computers by "silent speech"--that is, mouthing words without vocalizations. This technology, which may take the form of a headset that can track a user's facial muscles and translate it into sound, would benefit people with special needs as well as make it easier for everyone to hold private phone conversations in public.  Kanazawa plans to build 360 consumer cameras that can capture 4K video at 90 frames per second using an artificial intelligence framework and the latest volumetric neural rendering techniques.

Ruzena Bajcsy and Klara Nahrstedt first mother-daughter pair elected to NAE

EECS Prof. Emerita Ruzena Bajcsy and her daughter, Klara Nahrstedt, are the first mother-daughter pair to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).  Bajcsy has been a member of the NAE since 1997 and Nahrstedt, the Chair of the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was elected in February.  The two sat down for a Fireside Chat at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications last month to discuss the accomplishment.  “I’m a proud mother,” Bajcsy said. “And I’m thrilled to have been in this profession we have both shared.”  Bajcsy is known for her work in human-centered computer control, cognitive science, robotics, image processing, and artificial vision, as well as her cross-disciplinary leadership.  Nahrstedt researches security across shared systems, including multimedia distributed systems, wired and wireless networks, mobile systems, power grids, and edge-cloud systems.  Both women faced daunting challenges during  their careers. “We were ridiculed, and we were doubted. But you have to be strong,” Bajcsy said.  They emphasized that building a strong support network was critical to success.  “I learned that because of my mother,” said Nahrsted, "and through it I quickly believed I could do whatever I put my mind to.”  Following in their footsteps, Bajcsy's granddaughter and Nahrstedt's niece, Andrea Bajcsy, is currently a doctoral candidate at Berkeley EECS, in her final term.  She is slated to start as an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon in Fall 2023.

Kam Lau named 2022 Caltech Distinguished Alumni

EECS Prof. Emeritus Kam Lau has received the 2022 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA).  Caltech's highest honor, the DAA is presented each year "to a small number of alumni in recognition of personal and professional accomplishments that have made a noteworthy impact in a field, on the community, or in society more broadly."  Lau was cited for "his innovations in and commercialization of laser diode and radio-over-fiber technologies that broadly enable today's wireline and wireless high-speed internet access as well as enabling progress in interplanetary exploration, radio astronomy, and particle physics research, and for his remarkable artistic contributions to the Chinese ink painting movement." While still in high school, Lau joined the first wave of the New Ink Painting Movement in Hong Kong, blending traditional Chinese ink and wash painting with a modern sensibility.   He earned three degrees from Caltech: a B.S. and M.S. in 1978,  and a Ph.D. in 1981.  He joined Ortel Corporation as a founding staff member and taught at Columbia University for two years before coming to Berkeley. His development of the ultra-stable radio frequency (RF) over fiber system made ultra-precise, long-distance synchronization of antennas possible, and enabled both ground-based communication networks and spaceborne planetary radar imaging systems.

Dave Smith, synthesizer and MIDI developer, dies at 72

Groundbreaking synthesizer designer and EECS alumnus Dave Smith (B.S. 1971),  died on May 31st at the age of 72.  As an undergraduate, Smith wrote a program to compose music as a class project.  "The computers were huge," he said. "You wrote programs on punched cards, and you had to turn them into the computer center and wait a few hours to get it back to see if it compiled or not. It was a slow process." He had to print out his scores on a plotter.  "I remember my senior year, one of my professors predicted that one day that the power of one of these [room-sized] computers would only cost $1000, and of course, everybody’s like, 'No, no way, it couldn’t be.'"  After graduation, Smith took a job developing microprocessors at Lockheed Martin and, in his spare time, built an analog sequencer for a Minimoog synthesizer, allowing it to play more than one note at a time. He founded the company Sequential Circuits in 1974 and introduced the first polyphonic and programmable synthesizer four years later, the Prophet-5.  Because it used microprocessors to control its functions, it could store settings in memory, play harmonies by generating five notes at once, and was portable.  It generated what is called "the signature sound of the 1980s" and shaped the music of bands like of Pink Floyd, Parliament, Genesis, Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, the Cars, Madonna, the Talking Heads, and the Cure.  Smith co-developed the Universal Synthesizer Interface (USI) in 1981 which, for the first time, allowed musicians to communicate digitally with multiple instruments through a single interface.  He convinced four Japanese companies to cooperate on a shared standard, which became MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) 1.0 in 1982.  “We made it low-cost so that it was easy for companies to integrate into their products. It was given away license-free because we wanted everyone to use it.”  In 1997, as president of Seer Systems, Smith introduced the first professional software synthesizer, a Windows program called "Reality."  Over the decades, instruments designed by Smith were embraced by groups like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Dr. Dre, and Arcade Fire.  MIDI 1.0 has remained ubiquitous for forty years.

Pravin Varaiya has died

EECS Prof. Emeritus and alumnus Pravin Varaiya (Ph.D. 1966, advisor: Lotfi Zadeh) passed away on June 10th from injuries sustained when a truck hit him as he was walking in his neighborhood on April 1.  He was 81 years old.  A Professor in the Graduate School at the time of his death, he was known for his pioneering work in sensing and controls in intelligent transportation systems, and is credited with spearheading the self-driving car revolution in the 1990s.  Pravin Pratap Varaiya was born in India in 1940 and received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bombay in 1960.  He moved to Berkeley to attend graduate school and married Ruth Kosh, a fellow social activist, in 1963. In addition to teaching EE, he was a Professor of Economics from 1975 to 1992.  As the visionary director of the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) project at Berkeley from 1994 to 1997, he led the construction of the National Automated Highway System (NAHSC) and the development of the first generation of modern self-driving cars.  These were the first autonomous vehicles tested live on California freeways.  His group also built the PeMS system, which revolutionized sensor networks for transportation, and which remains the largest sensor network for highways in the US.  PeMS enabled the California Department of Transportation and dozens of other agencies to finally see, measure, and assess traffic congestion in real-time.  He won the the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal (2022),  AACC O. Hugo Schuck Award (2020), IEEE ITS Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), IEEE Outstanding Research Award (2009), Bellman Control Heritage Award (2008), IEEE CSS Hendrik W. Bode Lecture Prize (2005), IEEE Control Systems Award (2002), and was a fellow of the IEEE and IFAC, and a member of both the AAAS and the NAE.  Varaiya was known for his calm and gentle demeanor, and his passionate and elegant approach to algorithms, control problems, games and strategies. He will be deeply missed.

Rod Bayliss and Vivek Nair win 2022 Hertz Fellowships

EECS graduate students Roderick Bayliss III (advisor: Robert Pilawa-Podgurski) and Vivek Nair (advisor: Dawn Song) have been selected to receive 2022 Hertz Fellowships.  One of the most prestigious awards of its kind, Hertz Fellowships support PhD students whose research show "the greatest potential to tackle society's most urgent problems." Bayliss is developing more efficient and power-dense types of power converters—devices that change the current, voltage or frequency of electrical energy—and inductors, which store energy, to help reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. He earned his B.S. and M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from MIT.  Nair is developing cutting-edge cryptographic techniques to defend digital infrastructure against sophisticated cyberthreats. He was the youngest-ever recipient of a B.A. and Master's in computer science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is the founder of Multifactor.com.  Their fellowships will fund up to five years of graduate research with "the freedom to pursue innovative ideas wherever they may lead."  Hertz Fellows also receive lifelong professional support, including mentoring and networking with a powerful community of more than 1,200 researchers.

Shiekh Zia Uddin wins 2022 MRS Graduate Student Gold Award

EECS graduate student Shiekh Zia Uddin (advisor: Ali Javey) has won a Materials Research Society (MRS) 2022 Graduate Student Gold Award.  These awards recognize "students of exceptional ability who show promise for significant future achievement in materials research."  Uddin works in the areas of photophysics and optoelectronics of low dimensional semiconductors, with a focus on the photophysics of low-dimensional excitonic materials.  He was honored for research which demonstrated that two-dimensional monolayer semiconductors can be defective yet perfectly bright.   The award, which comes with comes with a $400 prize, will be presented at the 2022 MRS Fall Meeting in November.

Kam Lau wins Caltech Distinguished Alumni Award

EECS Prof. Emeritus Kam Lau, has won the 2022 California Institute of Technology Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor presented by Caltech to its alumni.  He was cited "for extraordinary contributions to society as an engineer, entrepreneur, and artist." Lau is known for his pioneering developments and commercialization of RF over fiber devices, systems and applications, which helped launch the microwave photonics industry.  He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D degrees from Caltech in 1978, 1978 and 1981, respectively.  Before coming to Berkeley in 1990, he was founding chief scientist of Ortel Corporation, and a professor at Columbia University.  He subsequently  co-founded LGC Wireless with some of his Berkeley colleagues.  Lau is also an accomplished ink painting artist.  At age 16, his work was accepted into the 1972 Hong Kong Contemporary Art Exhibition, a venue for professional artists, and one of his pieces was acquired by the Hong Kong Museum of Art for its permanent collection.

Finsen Chiu wins BSA Excellence in Management Award

Finsen Chiu, the EECS Instructional Support Group Manager, has won a Berkeley Staff Assembly (BSA) 2022 Excellence in Management (EIM) Award.  This award "honors exemplary non-academic managers and supervisors who have led their teams and team members to meaningful accomplishments this past year."  The 2022 theme, building and maintaining community, highlights leaders "who demonstrate and encourage flexibility, adaptiveness, supportiveness, compassion, understanding, work-life balance, and well-being."  Chiu was presented with his award at the 34th annual EIM Award Ceremony on May 3rd.