UC Berkeley Powers Up to Lead in Data Systems

data systems

UC Berkeley has hired a cohort of new faculty in units across campus with expertise in different aspects of managing and analyzing data systems.

November 13, 2019

In recent decades, data systems have transformed from enabling basic transactions to facilitating complex interactions—from supporting “back office” record-keeping for banks and hospitals to enabling, capturing, and analyzing interchanges that power the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, and Lyft.

As the complexity and social implications of data-centric computing continue to intensify, Berkeley has redoubled its commitment and historic leadership in the field with a series of recent hires of leading faculty from across the country. This new cohort focuses on diverse facets of data systems, from protecting data security, to developing systems for massively-scalable machine learning, to working with data distributed across the globe. Combined with existing faculty, this infusion of experts places UC Berkeley at the center of academic research in systems to analyze and manage data. 

Data systems have become the foundation not only of computer science, but of modern society. And they are changing fast. This amazing new cohort is evidence of Berkeley’s commitment to drive diverse innovation and train the next generation of data systems engineers

 “We’re clearly at an inflection point,’’ said Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Professor Joseph Hellerstein, who was one of only two faculty researching and teaching database management, the basis of modern data systems, when he first arrived at Berkeley in 1995. “Data systems have become the foundation not only of computer science, but of modern society. And they are changing fast. This amazing new cohort is evidence of Berkeley’s commitment to drive diverse innovation and train the next generation of data systems engineers.” 

While there has been a long tradition of academic innovation spurring real-world impact in the field—dating back to when UC Berkeley and IBM Research pioneered relational database technology in the 1970s—many recent developments have been industry-driven, Hellerstein said. As a result, these advances have focused more on industry concerns, like advertising and ride share routes. Berkeley’s investment in a robust complement of faculty with data systems expertise positions the University to address broader issues, such as protecting privacy and enabling non-programmers to more easily and effectively use data. 

data systems

The new faculty come from institutions throughout the US, including the University of Washington (Alvin Cheung), Carnegie Mellon (Joseph Gonzalez), Harvard (Jelani Nelson), MIT (Raluca Ada Popa), the University of Massachusetts (Barna Saha), and the University of Illinois (Aditya Parameswaran). They’re based in departments across the College of Engineering, including Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and the School of Information. They've joined forces with senior faculty like Hellerstein and EECS Professor Ion Stoica to form a cross-campus research group that will investigate secure, inclusive approaches to deploy and manage data to meet societal needs on a global scale.

The team expands on the strength already present in Berkeley’s RISE (Real-Time Intelligent Secure Explainable Systems) Lab and complements the existing Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) group, to provide expertise in core data-intensive systems that underpin AI at scale and also enable human-driven data analysis and decision-making. Together, these groups form a technical heart for Berkeley’s campus-wide efforts in data science. 

Among this versatile group are a classical pianist, jazz trumpet player, one of the world’s fastest typers, co-founder of the Theoretical Computer Science Women organization, and creators of several thriving start-ups. Check out their profiles to learn more!

Berkeley's Data Systems and Foundations Group

Alvin Cheung: database management systems and programming systems

Natacha Crooks: distributed systems, databases and security

Joseph Gonzalez: artificial intelligence, database management systems, machine learning to manage big data

Joseph Hellerstein: data-centric computing—systems, theory, languages, interfaces, and applications

Jelani Nelson: sketching & streaming algorithms for big data, dimensionality reduction techniques

Aditya Parameswaran: data management, interactive data analytics

Raluca Ada Popa: security, systems and applied cryptography

Barna Saha: computer algorithms and probabilistic methods

Ion Stoica: cloud computing, big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence applications