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Microsoft Research Lab – Asia

Three Korean PhD Students are Awarded the 2020 Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship Award

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This year, the Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship Award attracted 106 distinguished Ph.D. candidates from 36 leading research universities or institutions around the Asia Pacific Region to apply. As a result, only 12 extremely outstanding students have been awarded fellowships. This is the twenty-first year that Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) discover and support the outstanding PhD students majoring in Computer Science in the Asia-Pacific Region by giving this award.

Among them, Korean students occupy three seats. They are Sanghyun Woo from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), supervised by Prof. In So Kweon, Sanghoon Kang from KAIST, supervised by Prof. Hoi-Jun Yoo and Juheon Yi from Seoul National University, supervised by Prof. Youngki Lee.

The three students work on different research areas, but all of them have done impactful works. In the area of Computer Vision and Machine Learning, Sanghyun Woo builds high-impact attention-augmented deep models for visual recognition and reasoning and accomplishes a series of work on self-supervised and simulated learning for model generalization. For example, his work CBAM (Convolutional Block Attention Module) published in ECCV’18 has received 1000+ Google citations. His aims to build an AI agent that can think and learn like humans, with an ultimate goal to design and provide a general learning framework that can incubate various advanced future AI technologies. “With my research outcomes, I hope to become an influencer who can give a great positive impact on the world.” Sanghyun said.


Sanghoon Kang focus on On-Device AI and SW/HW Co-Design. He has made efficient hardware accelerator design for deep learning, especially energy-efficient design for mobile applications, with solid outcome (5 silicon chips over 4 years) with significant performance improvement. He also had good publications at top-tier conferences in the domain including ISSCC, S.VLSI, etc.. His research goal is to develop software & hardware approaches for energy-efficient AI computing, to enable edge devices with on-device training capabilities, to solve the dilemma that it is difficult to deploy AI applications to people’s everyday devices currently.

Juheon Yi, with the research interests in Mixed Reality (MR) and Mobile/Embedded Deep Learning Systems, has made efficient multi-DNN on mobile GPU for Augmented Reality (AR) scenarios. He attacks the  important area of mobile deep learning platform for AR with ambitious cross-disciplinary research work across deep learning and mobile computing. He has published two first-author papers on MobiComm’20, which he believes is the only case in Asia during the past 10 years. Juheon builds a promising research plan, to design futuristic MR apps, comprehensively analyze their workloads, and build novel enabling mobile systems to support them. To realize that vision, he plans to cover more diverse aspects of MR by conducting interdisciplinary research at the intersection of mobile computing, deep learning, multimedia, and HCI.

In their research paths, guidance from supervisors and collaborations between colleagues play important roles. Sanghyun Woo appreciates Prof. In So Kweon for providing him a valuable opportunity to study computer vision and machine learning and his talented colleagues who always greatly inspire and motivate him to proceed further. He will also try to share and help other colleagues and juniors actively. For Sanghoon Kang, an active discussion with fellow engineers is a strong motivator to his research. At their lab, they have a weekly seminar solely dedicated to graduate school students for open discussions, which often gives rise to better ideas that can improve the research or find collaboration opportunities for a larger system. Prof. Youngki Lee and Dr. Sunghyun Choi are Juheon Yi’s role models. Prof. Lee always thinks out of the box and approach the problem from multiple angles, while Dr. Choi has taught him valuable lessons on how to conduct high-quality research.

The fellowship means a lot to the students, and they are looking forward to the opportunities the Fellowship further offers apart from the scholarship. “I believe it is the biggest honor during the research career for Ph.D. students in the Asia-Pacific region.” Sanghyun Woo said. He is eager to co-work with researchers at MSRA, where he thinks has the world’s best technologies in field of visual recognition. Juheon Yi conceives that the Fellowship indicates that he is conducting meaningful research and pursuing the right path. He looks forward to the internship at the MSRA and eager to participate in various networking events and interact with other fellowship winners. “Getting acknowledged by the top experts at MSRA gave me strong confidence in my research.” Sanghoon Kang said. He is also quite certain that he like taking challenges and putting himself in new environments.

Korea is a country full of talents in the computer science area. MSRA also put the resources and efforts more than 15 years in Korea to discover and cultivate talents through the MSRA Outreach Programs such as the Fellowship, collaborative research, internship, and academic exchange, with strong supports of Korean government. MSRA alumni positioned as strong leaders in academia, who become key forces in cultivating the new generation of Korean talents. Prof. Youngki Lee of Computer Science and Engineering of Seoul National University won the Fellowship in 2006 and his student, Juheon Yi also became a winner this year. “I remember that my award was in 2006, but after 14 years my student won the award. I am much happier than the one I won. We hope that this will further strengthen our partnership with MSRA!” Prof. Youngki Lee said.

During the past twenty years, 429 outstanding students was awarded the Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship. Many of them have become influential researchers in their area. Predictably, this year’s winners will be the future backbone in the Korean computer science area. Let us look forward to their future achievements!