New program fosters next generation of climate change, AI thought leaders

Meiqing Li came to UC Berkeley to study sustainable transportation. While completing her College of Environmental Design doctoral program, she collaborated with artificial intelligence (AI) experts and saw how these methods expanded the possibilities and impact of her work. Earlier this year, Li was looking for more people who were open to multidisciplinary partnerships. She found that in the inaugural Climate Change AI Summer School, which ran virtually for two weeks this summer. This summer program gives up-and-coming machine learning and climate experts a common language for understanding one another. It also creates opportunities for teamwork across disciplines, which can generate new ideas to understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

How a student found purpose using data science in journalism

Data scientists don’t just work in the field of data science. As big data tools permeate more and more of our social structure, they can also play a valuable role in communicating about how technological systems work and what they mean for the public. The UC Berkeley course Digital Accountability: Exploring Section 230 provided an opportunity for data science students and others to do just that. We spoke with Ian Castro, a second-year UC Berkeley School of Information graduate student who participated in this class. Castro spoke about the narrative he reported, how his data science background affected his approach to storytelling and what he learned from the experience about data science’s role in journalism.

Massive traffic experiment pits machine learning against ‘phantom’ jams

Many traffic jams are caused by human behavior: a slight tap on the brakes can ripple through a line of cars, triggering a slowdown — or complete gridlock — for no apparent reason. But in a massive traffic experiment that occurred outside of Nashville last week, scientists tested whether introducing just a few AI-equipped vehicles to the road can help ease these “phantom” jams and reduce fuel consumption for everyone. The answer seems to be yes.

Alex Hanna considers impact of Twitter takeover

Tesla founder Elon Musk took over Twitter last month and installed himself as its chief executive officer. Then he laid off half the social media platform’s workforce. Amidst these changes, he’s discussed charging users $8 per month to be verified on the platform and putting Twitter behind a paywall. UC Berkeley's Alex Hanna explains how how social media impacts our democracy; how Twitter has affected past U.S. elections; and how Musk’s most recent changes to the platform could affect the flow of disinformation moving forward.

National, global momentum show it's time for open science action, experts say

The federal government and research institutions must make science more accessible, reproducible and inclusive, NASA and UC Berkeley leaders said at an Oct. 26 event on campus hosted by the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at Berkeley. It’s also urgent to diversify who is doing the scientific work, NASA and Berkeley experts said. While these aren’t new calls to action, national and global momentum makes it the right moment to take decisive action, they said.

Berkeley robots learn to walk on their own in record time

Berkeley researchers may be one step closer to making robot dogs our new best friends. Using advances in machine learning, two separate teams have developed cutting-edge approaches to shorten in-the-field training times for quadruped robots, getting them to walk — and even roll over — in record time. In a first for the robotics field, a team led by Sergey Levine, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, demonstrated a robot learning to walk without prior training from models and simulations in just 20 minutes. The demonstration marks a significant advancement, as this robot relied solely on trial and error in the field to master the movements necessary to walk and adapt to different settings.

In a Q&A, Karthik Ram discusses his journey from ecology researcher to open science leader

For years, researchers have advocated for scientific results to be more publicly accessible. Amid decreased public trust, open science practices make scientific studies more transparent and reproducible. They can also help accelerate discovery by offering access to the data, code, software and hardware that underpin findings. In a win for open science advocates, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently announced new policy guidance that would make federally-funded research publicly accessible more quickly. We spoke with Karthik Ram, a senior research data scientist at UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) and co-founder and director of the nonprofit rOpenSci. His career offers a lens into the role computing and data science plays in open science work. 

Aaron Streets honored by Popular Science's Brilliant 10

UC Berkeley’s Aaron Streets, associate professor of bioengineering, computational biology and biophysics, has been named to Popular Science’s Brilliant 10, a list honoring trailblazing early-career scientists and engineers who are tackling pressing challenges with innovative solutions. The publication noted Streets’ contributions to the Human Cell Atlas, an international research effort to catalog the types and properties of all cells found in the human body. This project aims to provide unprecedented insights into how the human body functions across ages and diverse global populations and to identify new pathways for monitoring health and treating disease. 

Colette Patt joins CDSS as Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Justice

UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) has hired Colette Patt as its first-ever assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice (DEIBJ). Patt, a nationally renowned diversity, equity and inclusion scholar and leader, will use a data-driven approach and the CDSS community’s expertise and experiences to help the division incorporate DEIBJ into its education, research and institution. Patt will work collaboratively with CDSS Associate Provost Jennifer Chayes and Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at Berkeley who joined CDSS as associate dean for DEIBJ in July 2021. Patt comes to CDSS at a pivotal moment while the division is under consideration by the University of California to become a college. 

A digital revival: Startup Blackbook University continues Berkeley legacy

As a child growing up in Oakland, Miya Hayes remembers the prestige and allure that UC Berkeley represented in her community. Being one of the best academic institutions in the nation, it had a reputation for producing innovative research and changemaking leaders with global impact. Hayes, who hoped to attend Berkeley as an undergraduate, took advanced-level courses at the university in middle school and high school and would often stroll through Sather Gate with her classmates. When she was admitted in fall 1988, Hayes reveled in excitement for her journey at Berkeley to begin, yet also wondered how she would fit in as a mixed-race Black student at a predominantly white school.