35 Innovators Under 35, Go Bears!

A Berkeley professor, graduate student and recent alumnus — all affiliated with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences — have been named to MIT Technology Review’s 2018 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.”

Assistant professor Alessandro Chiesa, Ph.D. student Chelsea Finn and 2016 Ph.D. John Schulman were selected for the prestigious honor, which recognizes exceptional young innovators whose work will influence technological advancements for years to come.

Chiesa, 30, is the co-founder of Zcash, a cryptocurrency that ensures complete privacy in online transactions. Using zero-knowledge cryptography, Zcash guarantees the validity of transactions while enabling users to shield sensitive data and protect themselves from identity theft.

Finn, 25, is working out of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab, creating algorithms that enable robots to learn as children do — by building on previous play and observations. Robots in her lab are tackling such challenges as using a wooden shape-sorting toy, and Finn plans to introduce more advanced tasks such as setting a table, in hopes of having robots master tasks by exploring and trial-and-error instead of programming.

A research scientist at OpenAI, Schulman, 30, is developing novel algorithms for reinforcement learning applications, which reward machines for a correct response. Currently, he is using the 1991 video game Sonic the Hedgehog — which emphasizes speed and physics — as an accurate way to test an algorithm’s ability to apply learned skills to different scenarios. Schulman hopes these machine-learning algorithms can eventually be used in areas such as robot locomotion.

Chiesa, Finn and Schulman are featured online at the MIT Technology Review and in the July/August print magazines, which will be available July 3. All honorees will be recognized at the annual Emerging Technologies (Emtech) Conference, September 11–14.