Teaching professor receives Regents Faculty Fellowship

Author: Iqbal Pittalwala
July 8, 2022

Jia Chen, an assistant teaching professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been awarded a Regents Faculty Fellowship by the UCR Academic Senate’s Committee on Research to support her design and development of new models that can improve our ability to handle heterogeneous data used in machine learning and data science.

Jia Chen.

The one-year, $9,000 fellowship is designed to “provide selected junior faculty an opportunity for educational enrichment through significant research, advanced or independent study, or improvement of teaching effectiveness.”

Chen’s research project is focused on improving how well a machine learning algorithm can “understand” patterns that co-exist in multiple forms of data. The project will offer research opportunities to UCR undergraduate students.

“Imagine you have a written description of a picture and the picture itself,” Chen said. “Our goal is to develop machine learning methods that are better at figuring out that those two pieces of data essentially describe the same set of patterns — or that they ‘live in the same space,’ to put it mathematically.”

Social media platforms and search engines can potentially benefit from Chen’s work. Posted pictures are often accompanied by descriptions or captions as well as tags or hashtags. Given a caption or hashtag, Chen’s models aim to retrieve the most relevant picture. Given a picture, the models are developed to retrieve the most relevant description or caption.

Chen received her doctoral degree in electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, after which she was an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. In July 2021, she joined UCR, where she teaches logic design, linear algebra, and digital signal processing.