Prof. Shih-Fu Chang Receives Honorary Doctorate from the University of Amsterdam

Shih-Fu Chang, senior executive vice dean, the Richard Dicker Professor of Telecommunications, and professor of electrical engineering and of computer science at Columbia Engineering, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) “in recognition of his pioneering contribution to our understanding of the digital universe, particularly in the areas of imagery, language, and sound.”

—Photo by Eileen Barroso

The honorary degree was conferred during the UvA’s Foundation Day on January 8, 2016. Celebrating the University’s 384th anniversary, the Foundation Day ceremony was live streamed and recorded; the awarding of honorary doctorates is an integral part of the ceremony’s focus on education and research.

“I am deeply honored and moved to receive this recognition from the University of Amsterdam, and to join the distinguished list of past recipients,” said Chang. “I am excited about the opportunity of collaborating with world-class leading researchers in the University of Amsterdam in the strategic field of data science, focusing on multimedia content understanding and its many transformative applications impacting almost every aspect of our lives and society.” Among the past recipients of the honorary doctorate are Columbia Engineering Icon inaugural speaker Ratan Tata, a 2012 recipient, and Columbia Engineering alumnus and Nobel Laureate Alvin E. Roth, a 2013 recipient.

The University of Amsterdam called Chang one of the driving forces for scientific and social innovation in data science today. “Chang has played a pivotal role in this with his research on multimedia information retrieval, including computer vision, machine learning, and signal processing. . . . Many fields in the arts and sciences, including sociology, political science, the humanities, and engineering, will profit from these advances in data science, which will lead to novel ways of doing research and novel results. . . . Chang’s work spans the entire spectrum, from fundamental research in data science to the valorization of research results in education and business (startups and established companies),” the University said in its press release announcing the honorary degree.

Chang’s research is focused on multimedia content understanding, computer vision, machine learning, and signal processing. A primary goal of his work is to develop intelligent systems that can harness rich information from the vast amount of visual data such as those emerging on the web, collected through pervasive sensing, or stored in gigantic content archives. A consistent theme of his research is turning unstructured multimedia data into useful and searchable information.

His work on content-based visual search in the early 90’s, VisualSEEk and VideoQ, set the foundation of this vibrant area. Over the years, he has continued to develop new theories, algorithms, and systems for image/video recognition, multimodal analysis, multimedia knowledge construction, graph-based semi-supervised learning, and compact hashing for big data indexing. He also developed novel applications for multi-source news video aggregation, mobile visual search, and brain machine interfaces for large-scale information triage. With a large number of high-impact publications and more than 30 issued patents, results of his group have been broadly distributed as open research resources and incorporated in practical systems in industry and government.

For his pioneering contributions, Chang has been awarded the IEEE Signal Processing Society Technical Achievement Award, the ACM Multimedia Special Interest Group Technical Achievement Award, the IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award, and the IBM Faculty Award. For his dedicated contributions to education, he received the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates in 2013.

Chang served as chair of Columbia’s Electrical Engineering Department (2007-2010), the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine (2006-2008), and adviser for several international research institutions and companies. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and IEEE.

As Columbia Engineering’s senior executive vice dean, he plays a key role in the School’s strategic planning, special research initiatives, international collaborations, and faculty development.

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