AI and Data Science at Berkeley

Exciting opportunities for the schools’ freshmen and HIDA on moving-in day

Red in Berkeley. Photo: Hemholtz / D. Bengsch
Red in Berkeley. Photo: Hemholtz / D. Bengsch

I wore a bright red dress to Berkeley. I didn’t know better, but I’ve since learned that the university’s color is blue and Stanford’s, its “rival” school’s color, is red. My color choice didn’t represent my feelings toward Berkeley (or Stanford for that matter) in any way though, quite the opposite.
Berkeley left me with a feeling of excitement and opportunity for two reasons. It was moving-in day and freshmen were shoving carts and carrying boxes into their new dorms, exhilarated about their new college life. I was excited about the people I met, and their role in the world of data science.

At the UC Berkeley Center for Human Compatible AI (CHAI), I met with Caroline Jeanmaire and Mark Nitzberg. Jeanmaire, as CHAI’s director for partnership and external relations strategy, focuses on building a research community around AI safety and researches models of international coordination to ensure the safety and reliability of AI systems. Nitzberg serves as CHAI’s executive director. He’s been researching A.I. since the early 1980s, has founded and lead several companies and advises industry and governments, including members of the German parliament, on AI.

CHAI and Helmholtz make a great fit in their missions. CHAI’s mission is “to develop the conceptual and technical wherewithal to reorient the general thrust of AI research towards provably beneficial systems.” Helmholtz conducts research to solve grand challenges of our time. That’s why we’ll explore potential research collaborations and exchanges between HIDA, the Helmholtz incubator and CHAI.
Just a few beautiful buildings away on the lively Berkeley campus sits BIDS, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. Now in its seventh year, BIDS educates and facilitates data science research with it community of interdisciplinary fellows. They join the institute for two years and work on data intensive problems in all sorts of scientific disciplines, honing their methodology and skills together. In this way, BIDS is like the Helmholtz Information Data Science Academy and its interdisciplinary data schools all in one.

David Mongeau, the institutes executive director, kindly invited me to the BIDS weekly team lunch, where I met him and the current group of fellows. Mongeau, before heading the data science institute st Berkeley, co-lead the data analytics institute at Ohio State and worked for many years at Bell Labs, where he lead a team that introduced the first C++ compiler and commercial release of Unix System V. Today he works with a diverse group of interdisciplinary data scientists, who combine data science with everything from ethics to health and physics. Some of then have already spent some time conducting research in Germany and they and others were interested to do so (again) – an interest that would be matched by our students, I’m sure.

My dress may be red, but my heart is blue because I’m leaving Berkeley. Tomorrow, I’ll be visiting Stanford. Let‘s see how this will influence my color preference. Perhaps I’ll develop a taste for purple? (By Danielle Bengsch)