Dean Boyce Hosts a Series of Panels for Alumni in Asia

Faculty share how AI, FinTech, and Precision Medicine will change our world

Jul 12 2018 | By Allison Elliott | Photo courtesy of Columbia Global Centers | Beijing

With over 340,000 alumni world-wide and students from across the globe, Columbia is a truly global university. This summer, Mary C. Boyce, Dean of Engineering at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, embarked on a special trip to China and other countries in Asia to moderate a series of alumni events featuring panel discussions with Columbia faculty and prominent alumni and friends of Columbia.  The discussions were focused on some of the most timely and important trends of the day. Each event was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd, with many younger alumni in the audience.

At the Columbia Global Center in Beijing, Dean Boyce discusses the potential of AI with (L to R) Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Baidu; Senior Executive Vice Dean Shih-Fu Chang; Qi Yin MS’13 of Megvii; and Professor Hod Lipson.

On June 20, Dean Boyce visited Hong Kong to moderate a panel on “The Future of Finance & Technology.” The panel featured Garud Iyengar, professor of industrial engineering and operations research, Charles Li ‘91LAW, and Sai Mao ‘14SEAS. During the session, the panelists discussed rapid changes in financial technology and the state of the credit industry in China.

Li has served as Chief Executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) since 2010 and has worked in financial services for the past 20 years. Mao currently serves as the Board Secretary of China ChengXin Group and as CFO/Managing Director of China ChengXin Credit Information Co., Ltd., the industry leader in China’s credit information business and the establishment of China’s social credit system. The panelists agreed that China is ripe for experimentation, and Mao shared how banks are looking to get in to the credit market with help from groups like the China ChengXin Credit Information Co. 

Next up, Dean Boyce visited alums in Shanghai at Morgan Stanley Tech on June 22. Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Data Science Hod Lipson and Xiaolu Ye MS’98 joined her for a discussion on how artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming many sectors from finance to transportation to healthcare. They also considered how partnerships between academia and industry are driving improvements and further advances.

Ye is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley Shanghai, leading the Algorithmic Trading Frameworks team, and a member of the China Technology Management Committee, while Professor Lipson has regularly been sought out by media as an expert on artificial intelligence and robotics. In addition to heading the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia Engineering, he is the author of a seminal book on one of AI’s most talked about applications, “Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead.”

On June 24, the Dean hosted another AI event, this time in Beijing, and was joined again by Professor Hod Lipson, as well as Senior Executive Vice Dean and the Richard Dicker Professor Shih-Fu Chang, an expert in multimedia information retrieval, computer vision, and machine learning.

The panel also featured Qi Yin MS’13 and Ya-Qin Zhang. Yin is a co-founder of Megvii, the maker of Face++, advanced human face recognition technology that is being widely used for online payments and other security applications, with Uber and Alibaba among its clients. He was recently named as one of the “35 Innovators Under 35” by MIT Technology Review. Zhang is president of Baidu, the China-based technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products and artificial intelligence. At Baidu, Zhang oversees the Intelligent Driving Group, Emerging Business Unit and Technology Group.

The Beijing panel discussed many aspects of AI, including the importance of education in preparing students for the jobs of the future and how AI could benefit society in important areas like neuroscience, quantum computing, and elder care. They also debated how 5G would help accelerate adoption of AI throughout society. 

Zhang noted that China’s government initiatives and regulatory policies were helping to drive innovation and growth in AI to make it a world leader in the space, but that currently the talent and leadership in AI was still concentrated in the United States. Despite the disruption that AI will bring, he was largely optimistic about its future potential to create new jobs and commended Columbia’s leadership in stressing the importance of AI to education.

“It’s good to see Columbia thinking this way,” he said. “We must be able to adapt.”

Lipson underscored the need to understand the new opportunities that AI will enable and all agreed that the Columbia Engineering for Humanity vision would be important in conveying the human side of AI’s progress. 

“AI is a tool, not a purpose,” said Zhang. “So add finance and health. In 10 years, we won’t say ‘AI company’; it will be embedded.”

Finally, Dean Boyce traveled to Shenzhen for a panel on “Engineering in Precision Medicine” on June 26. The event featured Kam Leong, Samuel Y. Sheng Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Jingyue Ju, Samuel Ruben-Peter G. Viele Professor of Engineering; Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, University Professor and Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences; and Edward Guo, Stanley Dicker Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chair of the Biomedical Engineering department. The panel discussed the latest on the frontier of human genomics, bone mechanics, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and the role each plays in the future of precision medicine.

Other professors spoke at singular events in additional cities. Professor Iyengar addressed an audience in Bangkok, Thailand on June 18 on “The Future of Finance & Technology.” In addition to discussing advances in financial technology at Columbia, he introduced the new master’s in business analytics program that Columbia Engineering has launched in partnership with the Columbia Business School. On June 30, Professor Chang traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to discuss AI. The trip also gave Dean Boyce and faculty an opportunity to meet with representatives from major industries to discuss future collaboration.  

Columbia Engineering would like to thank the Columbia Alumni Association alumni clubs in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Taiwan, as well as the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA). Special thanks to our generous corporate sponsors and alumni hosts for their support: Morgan Stanley Tech Shanghai; William Sun '15SEAS, Jennifer Yu '03SEAS and Adrian Cheng; Chatchai Piyasombatkul '82SEAS, P: '11SEAS, '13SEAS; Stanley Ko ‘99CBS; Steven Pan ‘88CBS; Bangkok Bank; Krungthai Credit Card; K.E. Group of Companies and Major Group; as well as the Columbia Global Centers | Beijing.