EECS' Raluca Ada Popa and mechanical engineering's Grace Gu are among MIT Tech Reviews 35 innovators under 35

Berkeley professors named innovators under 35

Two Berkeley Engineering professors — mechanical engineering’s Grace Gu and EECS’ Raluca Ada Popa — were included in MIT Technology Review’s list of “innovators under 35” today. This honor is given annually to technologists whose work has great potential to change the world.

Gu’s work is inspired by natural materials such as seashells and bamboo, in which the structure of the base constituents results in strength and other desirable properties. Her team at UC Berkeley uses machine learning algorithms to discover new composite structures based on nature’s examples. This approach allows her to design materials that are superstrong and yet lightweight. These designs are then 3D-printed and tested to validate the algorithm, to make sure that the hypothetical materials work in the real world.

Popa a found a fix for one of cybersecurity’s most fundamental challenges: securing computer systems without employing firewalls to keep hackers out. Her breakthrough work started with practical database management systems that could work on encrypted data. Though encrypting data had worked for simple messaging applications like WhatsApp, it was too sluggish for systems that needed to also run calculations on the data, like databases and web applications. But Popa found a way to make computation on encrypted data practical. Today, her encryption systems work with a range of applications and provide a level of protection that firewalls cannot: even if attackers break in, they have no way to decipher the data.

See the entire 35 innovators under 35 list.

Topics: Berkeley Engineering in the News, EECS, Mechanical engineering, Honors & awards