Alumni notes

November 1, 2015
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2015


John C. Duchi (Ph.D.’14 CS) won a 2014 Association for Computing Machinery Doctoral Dissertation honorable mention for his work “Multiple Optimality Guarantees in Statistical Learning.” He is now an assistant professor of statistics and electrical engineering at Stanford University. His research interests include computation, statistics, optimization and machine learning. He also spends time working at Google Research.

Rikky MullerFor her pioneering work in the field of engineering and medicine, Rikky Muller (Ph.D.’13 EECS) co-founder of Cortera Neurotechnologies, has been recognized as an honoree on MIT Technology Review’s 2015 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.” Muller and her colleagues — including co-founders Peter Ledochowitsch (Ph.D.’13 BioE) and EECS professors Jan Rabaey and Michel Maharbiz — are focused on developing innovative medical devices to study and treat neurological disorders. Under Muller’s leadership as chief technology officer, Cortera is a key contributor to a DARPA program (as part of President Obama’s BRAIN initiative) aimed at developing neurotechnology as a therapy to treat neuropsychiatric disorders, such as major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, Cortera has developed a catalog of unique and commercially available products for neuroscientific research and discovery. (Photo courtesy Rikky Muller)

Wenchao Li (Ph.D.’13 EECS) received the 2015 SIGDA Outstanding Dissertation Award, presented every year in recognition of a dissertation that makes the most substantial contribution to the theory and/or application in the field of electronic design.

Sophi Martin (B.S.’05 Eng.Physics, Ph.D.’10 MSE) serves as the associate director of institutional relations at the Development Impact Lab (DIL), where she builds and maintains relationships with companies, practitioners and organizations looking to partner with the DIL consortium. Previously, she worked for the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in corporate relations and research administration.

Gregory McLaskey (Ph.D.’11 CEE) received the 2014 American Geophysical Union’s Keiiti Aki Young Scientist Award. Each year, the award is given to just one young scientist in the field of seismology in recognition of their accomplishments within three years of receiving a Ph.D.

Jack Reilly (Ph.D.’14 CEE) received the Milton Pikarsky Memorial Award in Science and Technology from the Council of University Transportation Centers for his dissertation, which focused on new methods for decentralized freeway traffic control to help create connected corridors and increased traffic flow. “Knowing that your research has real-world impact gives much more weight and longevity to your work,” he says. He now works at Google in the maps data group.

Matei Zaharia (Ph.D.’13 EECS) won the 2014 Association for Computing Machinery Doctoral Dissertation Award for his thesis, “An Architecture for Fast and General Data Processing on Large Clusters.” He is now an assistant professor at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He is also co-founder and chief technology officer of Databricks, the big data company commercializing Apache Spark.


Dan Garcia (M.S.’95, Ph.D.’00 CS), computer science professor at Berkeley Engineering, recently consulted on a documentary film addressing the digital divide of gender and ethnicity in the tech industry. CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap reveals the scarcity of women and minority software engineers and examines the reasons for this gap. The film premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Arjun Gupta (B.S.’08 CEE) received a 2015 Climate Fellowship from Echoing Green. The fellowship, given to next-generation social entrepreneurs committed to working on innovations in mitigation and adaptation to climate change, will support his efforts to eliminate wasted fossil fuels in India by offering affordable clean energy to large buildings and factories.

Daniel Kim (B.S.’03 ME) joined the Los Angeles office of the engineering firm Arup in 2008 as a mechanical engineer. He now has 12 years of experience in the field, with an emphasis in sustainable, low-energy and LEED-certified projects.

Lane Martin (M.S.’06, Ph.D.’08 MSE) has received the 2015 American Associate for Crystal Growth Young Author Award, which is presented to those under 35 years of age who have shown outstanding achievement in the field of crystal growth and epitaxy. He was selected for this award based on his research on heteroepitaxial crystal growth of complex oxide thin films. Last April, he also received the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He joined Berkeley’s materials science and engineering faculty as an associate professor in 2014.

Andrew Minor (M.S.’99, Ph.D.’02 MSE), professor of materials science and engineering, has been appointed facility director of the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A leading researcher in nanoscale mechanical behavior of materials, Minor pioneered an analytical and imaging approach combining nanoindentation-based in situ testing with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). He has recently applied TEM to a broader range of materials.

Scott Moura (B.S.’06 ME), assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, was honored with a Hellman Fellows Award to support the battery-side of his research laboratory, Energy, Controls & Applications Lab (eCAL). Moura teaches in the department’s Systems and Energy, Civil Infrastructure and Climate programs.

Sylvia Ratnasamy (Ph.D.’02 CS) is an assistant professor of computer science at Berkeley, where she focuses primarily on the design and implementation of networked systems. She was given the 2014 Association for Computing Machinery Grace Murray Hopper Award for her contributions to the first efficient design for distributed hash tables, a critical element in large-scale distributed and peer-to-peer computing systems. Her innovative design and implementation of networked systems enables a data object in a network to be located quickly without requiring a central registry. Her recent research introduces RouteBricks, an approach that makes networks easier to build, program and evolve, and is used as a way to exploit parallelism to scale software routers.

Athulan Vijayaraghavan (M.S.’05, Ph.D.’09 ME) is the chief technology officer and co-founder of System Insights, as well as a lecturer in Berkeley’s mechanical engineering department. While at Berkeley, he was an early developer of the MTConnect standard, and built and deployed the first suite of MTConnect-enabled applications in research and industrial environments. He is currently a member of the Technical Advisor Group of the MTConnect Institute and is an active participant in the development of the standard.

Junqiao Wu (Ph.D.’02 AS&T),
associate professor of materials science and engineering at Berkeley, was honored at the White House last April. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Margret Schmidt

Margret Schmidt (B.S.’92 EECS) has a wealth of good business advice — as one would expect from the chief design officer and vice president of design and engineering at TiVo, a company which is changing the television landscape.

After college, Schmidt made the surprising decision to become a real estate broker. She liked the independence, but it wasn’t really what she wanted to do. So Schmidt moved on to jobs more firmly on the technological side of home selling. Then, in 2001, she landed a job as TiVo’s UI (user interface) manager and found herself doing what she was truly passionate about: design. In 2006, Schmidt and her TiVo team won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television.

Schmidt speaks passionately about the dynamic and fulfilling nature of product creation — of making something beautiful and new that truly delights someone — and says there is no better place for participating in that future than Berkeley and the Bay Area. “At the end of the day,” she says, “what we’re trying to do is put something wonderful out in the world that makes people go ‘Wow, this makes my life so much easier. I love this.’” (By Miyako Singer, photo courtesy Margret Schmidt)


Jonathan Bray (Ph.D.’90 CE), Berkeley’s Faculty Chair in Earthquake Engineering Excellence, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2015 for his contributions to earthquake engineering and advances in mitigation of surface faulting, liquefaction and seismic slope failure. He joined the Berkeley Engineering faculty in 1993.

Gerbrand Ceder (Ph.D.’91 MSE) joined the college’s materials science and engineering faculty in July. His research interests lie in the computationally-driven design of novel materials for energy generation and storage. He has worked for 18 years in the battery field, optimizing several new electrodes materials, and has regularly served as scientific advisor to companies and investors in this area. He has published over 300 scientific papers and holds several U.S. patents.

Tejal Desai (Ph.D.’98 BioE), professor and chair of the Department of
Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF, was awarded the 2015 Brown Engineering Alumni Award Medal in recognition of her career achievements. She is an expert in therapeutic micro-scale and nanoscale technologies and uses semiconductor manufacturing tools from Silicon Valley to make drug delivery devices capable of pinpoint accuracy. Results from her lab include the use of silicon nanowire coated silica beads as adhesive drug-delivery vehicles, especially to the human gut; the micro/nanoscale cage or biocapsule for controlled drug delivery; and nanostructured thin-film devices for controlled ocular drug delivery.

Raymond Lai (M.S.’99 CEE) is a structural engineer in Arup’s San Francisco office. He has worked as a project engineer through all phases of design throughout his 14 years in the field. He has also worked in several other Arup offices, including its London and Hong Kong branches.


Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos (Ph.D.’08 CE) received the 2015 Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award from ASCE’s Geo-Institute. She and civil and environmental engineering professor Ray Seed (B.S.’80 CE, M.S.’81, Ph.D.’83 Geotechnical Engineering) were selected for the award on the basis of their paper, “Simplified Methodology for Consideration of Two-Dimensional Dynamic Response of Levees in Liquefaction-Triggering Evaluation,” which was published in the Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering in November 2013.

Jill Hruby

This summer, Jill Hruby (M.S.’82 ME) became the president and director of Sandia National Laboratories and the first woman to lead one of the three National Nuclear Security Administration laboratories. Hruby most recently served as a vice president overseeing Sandia’s efforts in nuclear, biological and chemical security; homeland security; counterterrorism and energy security.

“Leading Sandia is a tremendous responsibility because of its importance to the security of our nation and the phenomenal engineering and scientific talent here,” Hruby says. “I embrace the opportunity to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent and lead Sandia in solving the difficult security challenges we face as a nation. I’m proud to be the first woman to lead an NNSA laboratory, but mostly I’m proud to represent the people and work of this great lab.”

Hruby joined the technical staff at Sandia’s California laboratory in January 1983. During her career, she also has done research in nanoscience, hydrogen storage, mechanical-component design and microfluidics. (Photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)

Connie Chang-Hasnain (M.S.’84, Ph.D.’87 EE), the college’s associate dean for strategic alliances and John R. Whinnery professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Medal, recognizing her work in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnologies.

James Demmel (Ph.D.’83 CS) received the Association for Computing
Machinery’s Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for his work on numerical linear algebra libraries, including LAPACK (Linear Algebra Package), a standard software library that forms part of the standard mathematical libraries for many vendors. The software and standards he developed enable users to transition their computer programs to new high-performance computers without resorting to basic building blocks. He is a professor of mathematics and computer science at Berkeley.

Rhonda Righter (M.S.’82, Ph.D.’86 IEOR) co-authored this year’s International Teletraffic Congress, an annual event that provides a venue for researchers from academia and industry interested in design and control of communication networks, protocols and applications.

Eugene L. Tu (B.S.’88 ME) has been named director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. He most recently served as their director of exploration technology. After Berkeley, he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University.


Patrick D. Allen (M.S.’78 IEOR) recently published his second book, Cloud Computing 101: A Primer for Project Managers.


Robert M. Carlile (Ph.D.’63 EE) has published five young adult novels, all part of his Windwalker series. His work is available through Amazon, published by Create Space. More information can be found on his website:


Leonard C. Beanlano (B.S.’49 ME) will turn 92 this year. He retired from a career at PG&E in 1984. After many years in California, he moved to Washington to be near his son and five grandchildren. “It has been a good life,” he says, and he and his family plan to “continue to enjoy it for as long as they can.”

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Topics: Alumni