Dr. Jian Pei: Recipient of the BC Innovation Council Young Innovator Award 2005

December 21, 2005

Written by: Jacky Chiang Edited by: Nancy Wong

In recognition of his hard work and dedication in research and technology, Dr. Jian Pei has been awarded the BC Innovation Council Young Innovator Award for 2005.

In an era that has commonly been referred to as the information age, Dr. Jian Pei's work is significant. Essentially, large, complex datasets must be gathered in a relatively short span of time. From consumer behavior patterns to the epidemiology of virulent diseases, mining useful information or patterns from such large, unorganized datasets has always been a difficult and time consuming task. Extracting useful information from these datasets has become a challenge in many scientific areas.

At one particular Canadian University, computing scientists have embraced this challenge. With British Columbia being one of Canada's most diverse provinces, we are home to pioneers in research and technology from around the world. These individuals share their wealth of knowledge and demonstrate the many talents existing amongst British Columbians.

One such individual is Dr. Jian Pei, an Assistant Professor in the School of Computing Science at Simon Fraser University and an SFU alumnus. Through his ongoing research in the area of data mining and knowledge discovery, he was recognized by the BC Innovation Council as the recipient of the 2005 BC Young Innovator Award.

The award is presented annually to recognize distinguished achievement of an individual under the age of 35. Such achievement involves significant contribution to the development of new innovation or research breakthrough in an area of science or technology.

Published in a paper titled, Mining Frequent Patterns without Candidate Generation, Pei's groundbreaking research permits users to uncover meaningful patterns that would otherwise be hidden within a large dataset. Similar to searching for a needle in a haystack, or searching for all needles in the haystack, the once impossible task of recovery is now possible. His patented computer methods for knowledge discovery and extraction are employed by retailers such as London Drugs, and international research labs such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Boeing.

The road to success is not without its challenges. Pei states the difficulty in his research lies in defining the source of the problem in order to specify the scope of the research. The research?s objectives directly affect how subsequent approaches to data collection and interpretation are made. Furthermore, being able to identify novel knowledge and to find suitable applications for such knowledge can be difficult at times.

While these obstacles do exist, the end result of successful research collaboration offers comfort. Pei stresses the importance of teamwork and collaboration in his work, citing that each member holds a piece of the puzzle. The picture cannot be completed even if one piece of the puzzle is missing. Therefore, he asserts that the BC Young Innovator Award is more than the recognition of one person?it is the recognition of all those dedicated towards the same endeavor.

Prior to his current position at SFU, Dr. Jian Pei was an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New York. Since then, he has returned to SFU to teach and to continue his research. He asserts that SFU's reputation and the qualities and achievements of its students prompted his return. For emerging researchers and scientists, Pei offers the following advice: give yourself a reality check. Take a peek at the outside world and look at the real problems that are confronting the real world. Step back from your research and reflect on how it helps to solve problems for a better world. Moreover, it is also important to continually enrich one?s area of expertise and cultivate other areas of interests. Finally, collaboration and teamwork is essential in research.