Courant professor to receive award in Beijing

Courtesy of Yann LeCun
Courtesy of Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun, a professor at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, has been named the recipient of the Neural Networks Pioneer Award by the Computational Intelligence Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the field of neural networks for at least 15 years. LeCun will receive the award in July during the 2014 World Congress on Computational Intelligence in Beijing.

“[The award] recognized work I did early in my career, between the mid-1980s, when I was a Ph.D. student in France, and the mid-1990s, when I was a research scientist at AT&T Bell Laboratories,” LeCun said.

While at AT&T, LeCun developed the convolutional network model, a pattern-recognition model with architecture that mimics, in part, the visual cortex of animals and humans — an unusual concept for its time. AT&T eventually used this model to develop a check-reading system.

In the early 2000s, LeCun worked on deep learning methods like convolutional networks, first at the NEC Research Institute at Princeton, then at NYU in 2003. LeCun said he and his team promoted deep learning, a way for machines to learn data recognition, within the artificial intelligence community.

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“For example, building a system to detect pedestrians in street images would use a large collection of images, some with pedestrians in them, some without,” LeCun said. “The machine is shown each image and is told if there is a pedestrian or not in it. After each image, it adjusts its internal parameters to produce the correct answer next time it sees the same image or a similar one.”

Earlier this year, LeCun became the founding director of NYU’s Center for Data Science, a research and education institution that focuses on harnessing big data.

Pierre Sermanet, a doctoral student at NYU studying deep learning, said LeCun’s award was well deserved.

“[LeCun receiving this award] reminds us that breakthroughs often come from disruptive ideas rather than mainstream ones,” Sermanet said.

Michael Overton, a chairman in Computer Science Department, said he is thrilled LeCun is receiving recognition for his important research.

“His work has consistently been at the forefront of the field, from the first check-reading algorithms … to the recent resurgence of interest in his models for image recognition,” Overton said.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Su Sie Park is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]

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