New & noteworthy

June 2, 2018
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2018

Professors Pieter Abbeel and Michael Jordan, experts in machine learning, have been appointed as joint faculty in industrial engineering and operations research in addition to their appointments in electrical engineering and computer sciences.

Rebecca Abergel has joined the Department of Nuclear Engineering as an assistant professor. She is a world-renowned scientist in actinide chemistry as well as the expanding research field of actinide biology.

Electrical engineering and computer sciences professors Ana Arias, Chunlei Liu and Michael Lustig are part of a research team developing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner that will provide the highest resolution images of the brain ever obtained. Using a new $13.43 million BRAIN Initiative grant from the National Institutes of Health, they plan to build the NexGen 7T by 2019.

Mark Asta, professor of materials science and engineering, became the new Materials Sciences Division Director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He stepped down as chair of the materials science and engineering department in order to begin the new position.

Ruzena Bajcsy, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, has won a John Scott Award, bestowed since 1834 by the city of Philadelphia on those who have improved “the comfort, welfare and happiness of mankind.” She was honored for her contributions to robotics and engineering science.

Constance Chang-Hasnain

New National Academy of Engineering member

The National Academy of Engineering elected electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Constance Chang-Hasnain to its ranks in February. A nano-optoelectronics expert, she was cited for her contributions to wavelength tunable diode lasers and multi-wavelength laser arrays. The selection brings the number of active and emeriti Berkeley Engineering faculty members in the academy to 74. The recognition is considered one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer working in the United States. (Photo by Noah Berger)

Undergraduate students Ash Bhat of interdisciplinary studies and Rohan Phadte of electrical engineering and computer sciences have launched a Google Chrome browser extension that can help spot fake Twitter accounts. uses advanced machine learning to detect and tag posts from political propaganda bots.

Gabrielle Boisramé (M.S.’12, Ph.D.’16 CEE) published “A Tale of Two Fires: How Wildfires Can Both Help and Harm our Water Supply” on the California WaterBlog in December.

Matthew Brueckmann (B.S.’15 ME) returned to campus last summer to share his engineering expertise with PREP students and give them a guided tour of California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara. He works for The Nassal Company, which specializes in themed environment design for rides or attractions at amusement parks, zoos and museums.

Anca Dragan, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, landed a spot on the MIT Tech Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” list for her work in distilling complicated or vague human behavior into simple mathematical models that robots can understand.

Max Fratoni (M.S.’07, Ph.D.’08 NE), professor of nuclear engineering, was awarded the American Nuclear Society’s Early Career Reactor Physicist Award.

Robert Full, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and of integrative biology, was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professorship, which comes with a $1 million grant to develop innovative classes. He plans to teach students how to design products for humans based on biological innovations made by plants and animals.

Allen Goldstein, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of environmental science, has been awarded a prestigious research grant from the Humboldt Foundation, which promotes collaborative research with German scientists.

Shafi Goldwasser (M.S.’81, Ph.D.’84 CS), a Turing Award-winning computer scientist, became the new director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, replacing founding director Richard Karp. An expert in cryptography and complexity theory, she also joined the electrical engineering and computer sciences faculty.

Michael Hemati (M.T.M.’14 BioE), senior R&D engineer at Theranova, has been named one of Medtech’s Rising Stars of 2017. He currently leads medical device startup Handl Medical and was one of the founders of SmartDerm, a startup founded to commercialize an M.T.M. project.

Bioengineering professor Amy Herr and electrical engineering and computer sciences professor Scott Shenker were among the inaugural winners of the Berkeley Visionary Awards, an honor created by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce to recognize innovative leaders in the city whose work is creating an economic impact.

Randy Katz (M.S.’78, Ph.D.’80 EECS), electrical engineering and computer sciences professor, has been appointed vice chancellor for research at Berkeley. Last year, he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame for his groundbreaking research, national service and “exemplary mentorship and teaching.”

Branko Kerkez (M.S.’08, Ph.D.’12 CEE; M.S.’12 EECS) and Dan Work (M.S.’07, Ph.D.’10 CEE) were selected as National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lecturers and will make presentations on their research at the annual meeting. Kerkez, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and Work, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University, were also named to Connected World’s list of 2018 M2M Pioneers, which recognizes top technology leaders under the age of 40.

Ronald Ketchum (B.S.’75 EECS) has established the Ronald E. and Harold E. Ketchum EECS Scholarship, supporting exceptional undergraduate students in the EECS Department. “Berkeley Engineering taught me perseverance, discipline and how to work hard to achieve your dreams,” he said. “As a student with limited resources, I was able to overcome obstacles and work my way toward a successful career. I am hopeful that this endowment will support future generations of talented, driven Berkeley engineers.”

Kunwoo Lee (Ph.D.’16 BioE) and Siddarth Satish (M.T.M.’11 BioE) have been named to the 2018 Forbes “30 Under 30” list. Lee, a former student in professor Niren Murthy’s lab and founder of the startup GenEdit, developed a way to deliver muscular dystrophy-curing CRISPR edits to the body using nanoparticles (see page 6). Satish is the founder and CEO of Gauss Surgical, a company that has developed technology to monitor blood loss in the operating room.

Ann Lee-Karlon (B.S.’89 BioE) has been elected to the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2018. A senior vice president at Genentech, she was recognized for “outstanding leadership in successful drug development and business operations in Genentech and for enhancing diversity of future BME leaders.”

Civil and environmental engineering professor Shaofan Li was selected to receive a 2017 International Association for Computational Mechanics Fellows Award.

Professors Tsu-Jae King Liu and Eli Yablonovitch of electrical engineering and computer sciences were named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, an organization that champions the societal benefits of university research.

Warren “Woody” Hoburg (M.S.’11, Ph.D.’13 EECS) had an eventful 2017. Not only was he selected for NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class, he also was recognized as R&D Magazine’s 2017 Inventor of the Year for his achievements in drone technology. Prior to joining NASA, he was an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, where he led a team that devised a lightweight and inexpensive unpiloted aerial vehicle (UAV) that could stay airborne for more than five days. Currently under development for the Air Force, this technology could be used to provide critical communications support for regions impacted by a natural disaster, among other applications. (Photo courtesy NASA)

Berkeley’s grand prize for lab safety has been awarded to Lane Martin (M.S.’06, Ph.D.’08 MSE), associate professor of materials science and engineering, plus lab safety coordinators Arvind Dasgupta and Margaret McCarter and their research colleagues in the Prometheus Group.

Teresa Meng (M.S.’84, Ph.D.’88 EECS) delivered a keynote address at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. In her speech, “Winning the game in a male-dominated industry,” she spoke candidly about pervasive gender discrimination as well as her own experiences with sexism throughout her career. Meng, the co-founder of Atheros Communications and the first female professor in electrical engineering at Stanford, also offered practical advice and encouragement to audience members.

A team of four Berkeley graduate students — including Eric Munsing of civil and environmental engineering, Allen Tang of electrical engineering and computer sciences and Sören Künzel and Jake Soloff of statistics — won first place and a $100,000 prize in the final round of the Data Open, a yearlong series of data analysis competitions.

Ashley Muspratt (M.S.’05 CEE, Ph.D.’09 Energy and Resources Group) is the founder and CEO of Pivot, a six-year-old company offering an alternative to the infrastructure-intensive Western model of sanitation for large cities in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Last summer, she was a development engineering fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Negah Nafisi (M.S.’16 CEE) recently co-founded Easel, a company that connects artists and buyers in commissioning original artwork. Showcasing a range of mediums and styles, Easel’s website aims to help artists manage the business side of commissions.

Joshua Nixon (B.S.’16 BioE) has co-founded a startup, Terramino Foods, with Kimberlie Le, a fellow graduate of the Alternative Meat Lab at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. The company, which uses fungi and algae to create alternatives to seafood, has launched a salmon alternative line of products, which they plan to start selling to restaurants by the end of the year.

Mechanical engineering assistant professor Grace O’Connell has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation as a part of its Faculty Early Career Development Program.

Prasad Raghavendra, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, was honored by the National Academy of Sciences, sharing the inaugural Michael and Sheila Held Prize with David Steurer of ETH Zurich, for “revolutionary contributions to the understanding of optimization and complexity in computer science, work that has relevance for solving the most difficult and intractable of computing problems.”

Rama Ranganathan (B.S.’85 BioE), professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago, will lead their new Center for Physics of Evolving Systems, which spans the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Institute for Molecular Engineering.

Boris Rubinsky, professor of mechanical engineering, will be honored at the Eighth World Conference of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland, as well as the Symposium on Innovations in Bioengineering Technologies in the Service of Humanity and Society in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Civil and environmental engineering professor and California PATH program manager Alexander Skabardonis has been awarded the Traffic Simulation Lifetime Achievement Award by the Transportation Research Board.

Mark Velednitsky, graduate student in industrial engineering and operations research, has reduced the 28-page proof for the classic operations research challenge known as the “traveling salesman problem” to just a few lines. He initially worked on the proof as a homework problem.

Bioengineering professor Michael Yartsev has been awarded the prestigious 2017 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering to pursue research into how brains develop the ability to acquire language.

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Topics: Alumni, Faculty