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16 / 03 / 2016
Faculty Achievements Recognized in SENG Research Excellence Awards 2015-16

Three outstanding faculty members have had their achievements recognized through the School of Engineering Research Excellence Awards 2015-16. The decisions are the result of a rigorous review by the Engineering Research Award Selection Committee, which is chaired by Prof Hoi Sing Kwok and includes Prof Guohua Chen, Prof Chung Yee Lee, Prof Irene Lo, Prof Qian Zhang and Prof Tianshou Zhao.

Distinguished Research Excellence Award
Prof Qiang Yang

This year’s Distinguished Research Excellence Award, the most prestigious accolade, was awarded to New Bright Professor of Engineering Prof Qiang Yang, Chair Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Prof Yang is a world leader in transfer learning, an important subfield of machine learning, data mining and big data. Transfer learning solves a long-standing challenge in data mining and machine learning, where it is often difficult to obtain high-quality labeled training data. Prof Yang was among the first to have designed a series of transfer learning solutions to compute the domain and dataset differences and to extract useful common knowledge to enable knowledge transfer.

Prof Yang’s solutions made use of instance-based transfer, feature-based transfer, and heterogeneous subspace transfer for transfer learning. A classic paper is his paper at the 2007 International Conference on Machine Learning, in which he and his students proposed a system known as TrAdaboost to improve the generalization ability in a target domain by boosting the weighted instances in auxiliary data. Another approach is to exploit the feature spaces and find common component subspaces to enable the transfer in transfer component analysis. His paper titled “A Survey on Transfer Learning” is a must-read in the transfer learning area, and has had 1,779 Google Scholar citations at the time of the nomination. He was also the first to propose the use of transfer learning in collaborative filtering and recommender systems, which has been applied to large-scale electronic commerce applications. His transfer learning solutions won the 2005 ACM KDDCUP competition on a dataset with over 800,000 real-world queries, as well as winning the 2012 Nokia Mobile Data Challenge in two out of three categories.

Prof Yang has also been well recognized in the engineering and science communities. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR) and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has been invited to give numerous invited and keynote talks in such top conferences as Conference of the Association for Computational Linguistics, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, and ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining. At present, he has a Google Scholar citation of more than 25,000, where many are attributed to his works on transfer learning, data mining and AI Planning. He also has a Google Scholar h-index of 77 at the time of the nomination.

Research Excellence Award
Prof Daniel P Palomar

The Research Excellence Award went to Prof Daniel P Palomar, Professor of the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering.

Prof Palomar’s research on optimization has had a profound impact on the engineering research community. He has particularly excelled at combining mathematical tools with practical engineering applications.

One example is his series of papers where he successfully employed the mathematical theory called majorization theory in the design of optimal signaling for multi-antenna communication systems. In his groundbreaking paper in 2003, he solved a long-standing open problem precisely by employing majorization theory, which at the time was an unheard of mathematical tool in his research area. That paper gained a number of awards including the 2004 Young Author Best Paper Award by the IEEE Signal Processing Society and became a Highly Cited Paper (ISI Web of Knowledge) with 1,000+ citations. More recently, his work on distributed optimization methods for big data systems is drawing significant attention from the research community and has received the 2015 Young Author Best Paper Award by the IEEE Signal Processing Society. Currently, he is exploring signal processing and optimization methods in financial engineering.

Prof Palomar has published three books, six book chapters, 74 published journal papers with an h-index of 42 and about 9,000 citations, and holds seven Highly Cited Papers (ISI Web of Knowledge). He is an IEEE Fellow for “contributions to convex optimization-based signal processing for communications” and a Fellow of the HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study.

Young Investigator Award
Prof Zhiyong Fan

The Young Investigator Award went to Prof Zhiyong Fan, Associate Professor of the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering (ECE).

Prof Fan is a rising star at SENG. He joined the ECE Department in May 2010, after three years of postdoctoral research at University of California, Berkeley. As a young and innovative scientist, he has been very active in solar energy and nanotechnology research. He has invented a number of world-leading technologies with great impact on his research field. For example, he has invented a set of technologies to harvest sunlight more efficiently using various three-dimensional nanostructures. With these technologies, the performance of solar cells can be significantly improved. He has also invented a technology that can achieve self-cleaning function on solar panels, which has attracted broad interest from solar industry. These researches have significant long-term impact on the sustainable development of Hong Kong and the rest of the world.

As an associate professor with early promotion in 2015, Prof Fan has published over 60 peer-reviewed research papers in the past five and a half years ever since he joined HKUST in 2010. Many of them were published on top-tier journals including Nature Communications, Advanced Materials, Energy and Environmental Science, Nano Letters, and IEEE Electron Device Letters. In 2014, he was named by Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) as one of the top 1% highly cited authors in the RSC journals. Including his previous publications, also on top journals such as Nature Materials and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, he has published over 100 journal articles which have received over 9,000 Google Scholar citations with an h-index of 43. This achievement is truly rare and exceptional in his age.

Acting Dean of Engineering Prof Tongxi Yu said that he was happy to see the achievements of the faculty members. “We continue to sustain our leadership position as a research powerhouse to make contribution to the humanity,” he noted. “With our top-notch faculty members, we are proud to be one of the best education hubs in Asia.”

The Engineering Research Excellence Awards scheme was established in 2011. The annual honors highlight academics who are at different stages of their careers and their contributions to respective fields. It also aims at recognizing and rewarding faculty members for their research impact and contributions in a local, regional and global context. The Distinguished Research Excellence Award honors a distinguished faculty member with exceptional research achievements and significant impact at the local and global scenes. It is the most prestigious award among the three. The Research Excellence Award recognizes the efforts of an outstanding faculty member with a proven record of research excellence. The Young Investigator Research Award recognizes the achievements of a promising and rising faculty member.

Criteria for the awards include originality of research output, impact on society and the field, research training provision for students, and leadership in national and international collaborative partnerships.