HKUST Professor Honored by World's Leading Authority on Computational Linguistics

2011-12-19

Prof Dekai Wu, a computational linguistics and musicology researcher in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Human Language Technology Center at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), has been selected as one of the world's top researchers in the artificial intelligence and cognitive science fields of natural language processing, language engineering, and human language technology. Prof Wu was honored among the first 17 Founding Fellows of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).

The ACL is the world's largest, oldest and most prestigious international professional organization for research on making machines smart enough to learn and understand human languages, which drives the technology of leading edge companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook or IBM.

"If this field were old enough to have Nobel prizes, these are the people who would have received them during the past twenty years," said Prof Khaled Ben Letaief, HKUST's Dean of Engineering. Since this is the first time in history that ACL Fellows have ever been awarded, the 17 Founding Fellows consist of the most senior and respected members of ACL.

"This award recognizes ACL members whose contributions to the field have been most extraordinary," according to the President of the ACL, Prof Kevin Knight of the University of Southern California, "Each of these 2011 Fellows has been a major force in computational linguistics."

Prof Wu pioneered the world's first public web translation service in 1995 at HKUST, a predecessor of Google Translate and Yahoo's Babelfish. His translation engine was the first machine learning model to learn entirely by itself how to translate between Chinese and English, simply by reading many years of bilingual Hong Kong Legislative Council transcripts. He joined HKUST in the founding wave of faculty, directly from the University of California at Berkeley where his doctoral research sprang from work on the Unix Consultant, one of the seminal natural language dialog systems leading to technologies like the iPhone's Siri or IBM's Watson.

The ACL Fellow award cites Prof Wu's "significant contribution to machine translation and inversion transduction grammar", which forms the mathematical basis of most present-day state-of-the-art machine translation systems. Inversion transduction grammars pioneered the integration of syntactic and semantic models into statistical machine translation paradigms.

Prof Wu is one of the only three ACL Founding Fellows under age 50, along with Prof Christopher Manning of Stanford, and Prof Michael Collins of MIT. He is one of the only two from Asia, the only one from Greater China, and the only Chinese speaking Fellow. "To have been selected in the first round for the top 17 researchers worldwide for contribution to the field is a deep honor indeed," said Prof Wu.

 Prof Dekai Wu
Prof Dekai Wu
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