2021 Withrow Distinguished Scholars

March 22, 2021

Arun Ross and Jiayu Zhou receive top engineering scholar honors

Arun Ross and Jiaya Zhou were named to top scholar recognitions in the Michigan State University College of Engineering for 2021.

They were honored with 2021 Withrow Distinguished Scholar Awards.
• Senior Scholar: Arun Ross
• Junior Scholar: Jiaya Zhou

The awards are presented each spring in recognition of demonstrated excellence in scholarship. They are part of the Withrow Endowed Awards established through a gift from MSU alumni Jack Withrow (BS, MECH EGR, ’54; MBA ’71) and Dottie Withrow (BA, speech therapy and elementary education, ’55) to recognize members of the college who have demonstrated excellence in instructional and scholarly activities and rendered distinguished service to the university and the student body. The honors are being awarded virtually this year due to the novel coronavirus.

2021 Withrow Distinguished Scholar - Senior Award
Nominees have been in service to the university for more than five years and hold the rank of professor.

Distinguished Senior Scholar: Arun Ross
Distinguished Senior Scholar: Arun Ross

Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Arun Ross is the John and Eva Cillag Endowed Chair in Science and Engineering and site director for the Center for Identification Technology Research. Throughout his career, he has excelled in research, teaching, and service, establishing himself as one of the most outstanding researchers in his field, earning himself and MSU significant recognition.

He is a global leader in the fields of pattern recognition and biometrics. He has made contributions in several ways:

• pioneering and advancing state-of-the-art biometrics, in particular in the areas of iris and ocular recognition and biometric fusion. He is the co-inventor of a patent that proposes the use of the conjunctival vasculature and scleral patterns as a novel biometric trait to improve ocular recognition.

• co-author of the book, Handbook of Multibiometrics, published by Springer.

• making critical advances in the area of biometric security, an increasingly important field as biometrics becomes mainstream. For example, he showed that the iris code (the digital representation of the iris) could be inverted to generate the original iris image. That showed that the iris code was not as secure as originally thought. He has subsequently devised new techniques to better secure the iris code. He has also developed effective methods to combat presentation attacks where a bad actor uses fake materials to fool a biometric system.

One nominator said that among his most impressive contributions is his work on MasterPrints, where he and his collaborators showed that prints exist that can match random partial fingerprints with significantly high probability (such as a smartphone touch sensor). Later work on MasterPrints won him best research paper honors.

Ross has made remarkable strides in the area of biometric privacy, where he uses semi-adversarial networks to build a facial recognition system that can protect soft biometrics, such as gender and race, while still performing the underlying biometric function. Specifically, he proposed a novel training scheme to transform a face image that cannot be used for gender identification but can be used for face recognition. The novel contribution will be used to address other problems relating to biometrics and privacy.

He has advocated for the responsible use of biometrics in multiple forums, including the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Identity and Security in Switzerland and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee at UN Headquarters.

He has received three of the highest honors possible from the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR), the leading professional society for Ross’ community. He won the inaugural IAPR Young Biometrics Investigator Award, given to one outstanding researcher under the age of 40 who has made substantial contributions to the IAPR biometrics community and whose research has had a major impact on biometrics. He was presented the even more prestigious IAPR J.K. Aggarwal Prize, and he was named an IAPR Fellow in 2018.

His professional service includes serving as associate editor-in-chief of the Pattern Recognition Journal, area editor of the Computer Vision and Image Understanding Journal, and associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Biometrics, Behavior, and Identity Science.

As one nominator said: “I can state that Arun Ross is the researcher that most influenced our community in the last decade. From my perspective his work on biometrics security, biometrics privacy, and MasterPrints is of outmost relevance to our society.”

2021 Withrow Distinguished Scholar - Junior Award
Nominees have been in service to the university as instructors, assistant professors, or associate professors for not more than seven years. 

Distinguished Junior Scholar: Jiayu Zhou
Distinguished Junior Scholar: Jiayu Zhou

Jiayu Zhou, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, has exceeded high expectations and distinguishing himself in research and teaching scholarship during his first 5+ years at MSU. He is known for the ability to bridge teaching and research in machine learning.

His long-term career goal is to become a global leader in data science research with a vision of “convergent AI” or enhancing decision making for artificial intelligence through the convergence of domain knowledge and the insights derived from large- scale, multimodal, and heterogeneous datasets.

Zhou develops innovative data science methods through generalization performance, computational efficiency, privacy preservation, and interpretability of machine learning results.

His work appears in top disciplinary venues, such as IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence. He collaborates effectively to apply his innovative methods to solve important questions, such as developing models for neurodegenerative diseases like  Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. His research results generally appear in top journals within the respective application fields.

Zhou builds practical systems that allow others to use the innovative methods he has developed. He is the lead developer of MALSAR, an open-source multi-task learning software tool that is widely used in machine learning, computer vision, transportation systems, and biomedical informatics, and he is developing an app with a conversational agent that can perform early detection of dementia.

He established the Intelligent Data Analytics Lab in CSE, publishing more than 90 papers in top conferences and journals, many of them with his Ph.D., master’s and undergraduate students. Their work has received more than 3,600 citations resulting in an h-index of 27.

Among his awards are an NSF CAREER Award, the IEEE BigData Best Paper Award, and the IEEE ISBI Best Student Paper Award. His research agenda has been funded by 10 federal grants and three industry gifts, totalling $10 million.

Zhou teaches undergraduate and graduate courses of machine learning and designed the first undergraduate machine learning course at MSU. His teaching has been well received and his students have won numerous awards.

He has served as associate editor of prestigious journals such as Neurocomputing and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and he has served on the organizing committee and the technical program committee for top conferences and workshops in his field.

As one nominator said: “Dr. Zhou has achieved great things in the areas of his endeavors and has earned international recognition. He is an extremely valuable researcher.

Join the celebration! Read more on the 2021 MSU Engineering Awards that also honored Diversity, Leadership and Service, Staff Service, and Teaching Excellence.