Atlas Wang recognized by Chinese government, Baidu, and Illinois


Ashish Valentine, ECE ILLINOIS

ECE PhD student Zhangyang Wang has won a Baidu Research Award, a Chinese government award for outstanding graduates abroad, the Thomas and Margaret Huang award for graduate research, and the Illinois graduate college’s dissertation completion fellowship. The awards recognized accomplishments ranging from his excellent academic record to his research into deep learning and computer vision. Wang is a fourth-year graduate student working under Professor Thomas S Huang planning on defending his thesis early this Fall, and has accepted an offer as a tenure-track assistant professor at Texas A&M University’s department of computer science and engineering.

Wang’s research focuses on deep learning and machine learning, and a significant component of his work is on improving the interpretability of deep learning models. He recently developed the DeepFont system for Adobe that uses machine learning algorithms to recognize fonts in images, which has been shipped within the Photoshop software. 
Chinese search engine giant Baidu awarded Wang the Baidu Research Award in November 2015 for a combination of his academics and leadership. Wang was one of ten awardees worldwide, winning two yearly installments of 100,000 yuan (roughly $15,000) in funding, and a possible research internship offer with the company. 

Earlier this year, Wang also won the Chinese Government award for outstanding graduates abroad, a distinction conferred upon Chinese students who pursue graduate study outside of the country. Any Chinese graduate student abroad was eligible for the $6,000 award, including those outside STEM fields. Wang was one of just 166 selected from the entire United States, one of four from the University of Illinois, and the only one from the ECE department.

In addition to his prestigious national awards, Wang has earned distinction at the University of Illinois. Wang won the Thomas and Margaret Huang award for graduate research from the Beckman Institute in April, which annually recognizes research in Human-Computer Intelligent Interaction, and provides awardees with $3,500 of funding. He also won the Illinois graduate college’s dissertation completion fellowship in May, an award conferred upon 29 graduate students across the university, again as the only ECE recipient. The fellowship provides $20,000 of funding that allows graduate students with promising research topics to focus more on their work, without needing to devote as much of their time to making their ends meet with assistantships. 

“The past year has been a very fruitful one, and I feel really happy and also very lucky,” Wang said. “I’m excited to start work, and will be continuing my research into machine learning, and applications in computer vision and image processing. Though tenure-track faculty are research-focused, teaching is also essential. I have already been in touch with the teaching director about creating new courses in Texas A&M’s computer science and engineering curriculum.”