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Three EE Affiliate Professors Receive IEEE Landmark Awards!

November 7, 2014

UW Electrical Engineering Affiliate Professor Li Deng received an IEEE Region 6 Outstanding Engineer Award for his contributions to deep machine learning and neural networks with applications to speech and language processing.

“This award recognizes the achievement of deep learning and the science of big data in industry-scale tasks such as speech recognition that took place in our Northwest region in recent years,” said Deng, who accepted the award at the IEEE Seattle 110th Anniversary Gala on October 19.

Deng, a Principal Research Manager of the Deep Learning Technology Center at Microsoft Research, teaches a graduate course on Computer Speech Processing. Deng’s technical work and leadership in industry-scale deep learning has greatly impacted speech recognition and areas of information processing and is used in major Microsoft speech products and in several text and data related products.

In 2009, Deng worked with Professor Geoffrey Hinton to pioneer the application of deep neural network and other deep learning methods to speech analysis and recognition. They discovered that deep learning produces significantly better results than then-prevailing statistical methods.

“Since then, with rapidly growing amounts of data to support learning of bigger and bigger models, deep learning took off in industry as well as in academia like wildfire,” Deng said. “The landscape of speech recognition and related fields has been undergoing fundamental changes.”

Deng was the recipient of the 2013 IEEE SPS Best Paper Award, Microsoft Goldstar Awards and Technology Transfer Awards. He has published more than 300 papers in leading journals and conferences and authored or co-authored five books. He is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, a Fellow of IEEE and a Fellow of the International Speech Communication Association. He has been granted more than 70 U.S. or international patents in acoustics/audio, speech/language technology, large-scale data analysis and machine learning.

UW Electrical Engineering Affiliate Professor Henrique (Rico) Malvar received an IEEE 20th Century Landmark Award for his contributions to multiresolution signal processing and media compression standards.

“I feel humbled and honored to have been selected to receive this award from IEEE, especially in the company of Bishnu Atal, who also received the same award,” said Malvar, who accepted the award at the IEEE Seattle 110th Anniversary Gala on October 19.

Malvar remembers studying Atal’s papers as a graduate student in Brazil in the late 1970s, which he said were influential in his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in signal processing. A Chief Scientist for Microsoft Research and a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer, Malvar also chairs the UWEE Advisory Board.

Malvar’s contributions to engineering include developing lapped transforms, which are used in media formats and many communications systems. He also worked on the video compression format H.264, which is now the most widely used video format for digital TV and Internet video such as YouTube and Netflix.

“Considering that every smartphone and every personal computing device has H.264 decoding built-in, and that almost two-thirds of all Internet traffic is video streams in that format, I am very happy about the impact,” Malvar said.

Malvar received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT. He is the inventor or co-inventor of 117 issued U.S. patents.

With the proliferation of cell phones, having a hand in the mobile revolution is more than noteworthy— it’s award worthy. UW Electrical Engineering Affiliate Professor Bishnu Atal received an IEEE 20th Century Landmark Award in recognition of his contributions to mobile technology.

“I feel good that I am able to take part in this big celebration,” said Atal, who accepted the award at the IEEE Seattle 110th Anniversary Gala on October 19.

Inspired by the high cost of long-distance phone calls to his family in India when he first moved to the U.S., Atal’s research led to the invention of efficient digital speech encoding, which produces high-quality speech while compressing the bandwidth. This is now the standard for all modern digital voice coding for cell phones, Skype and more. As a result, wireless networks use less spectrum space and fewer towers, enabling even countries without substantial fiber-optic infrastructures to join the mobile revolution.

“If not for Bishnu’s voice coding inventions, we might not have the current hand-held computing revolution,” Electrical Engineering Professor Les Atlas said.

Born in India, Atal received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Lucknow and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He joined Bell Laboratories in 1961, where he researched speech and acoustics until retiring in 2002. Atal holds more than 16 patents.

Atal received the IEEE Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal in 2013, the Thomas Edison Patent Award in 1994 and New Jersey Hall of Fame Inventor of the Year Award in 2000. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.