Professor Zhang Zheng to Head Amazon’s New AI Lab in Shanghai

zhangzhen
Sep 20 2018
Written by NYU Shanghai

NYU Shanghai Professor of Computer Science Zhang Zheng has been appointed Director of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) newly-opened Shanghai Artificial Intelligence Lab, where he will lead the company’s advanced research and development of deep learning.

AWS made the announcement on September 17 at the 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, shortly after Zhang, a U.S. citizen, became the first foreigner to receive a work permit from the Pudong government allowing him to hold simultaneous positions at Amazon and NYU Shanghai.

An award-winning expert in the theories and practices of large-scale distributed computing and its intersection with machine learning, Zhang held significant positions at Microsoft and Hewlett Packard prior to beginning his career at NYU Shanghai in 2013.

At Amazon, Zhang, who will maintain his appointment at NYU Shanghai but take a leave of absence from his university duties, plans to build a lab that researches natural language processing with a special focus on Chinese. He also hopes to engage and develop an open-source deep learning ecosystem and advise Chinese customers on machine learning and AI adoption.

“I’m honored to join the AWS AI Lab Shanghai, where, together with some of the world’s brightest minds, we will have the opportunity to spur innovation, make technologies easy, fast, and useful for Chinese organization of all sizes,” Zhang said.

“One of the areas I will emphasize is fundamental research via a lab with global culture, and do so in tight collaboration with major universities in Shanghai, including NYU Shanghai,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Exit-Entry Administration of the Pudong Public Security Bureau, as part of its efforts to attract high-end foreign talent, issued Zhang its first-ever work permit allowing foreigners to work part-time in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. NYU Shanghai Chancellor Yu Lizhong applauded the new policy.

“As a research university, NYU Shanghai encourages its faculty to conduct further research on cutting-edge frontiers and help cultivate global talent,” he said. “The fact that Professor Zhang can now play a key role in the research and development of a leading industry is of great value to the university, enabling us to strengthen our  partnerships with leading companies.”

Professor Zhang is not the first NYU Shanghai community member to take advantage of the government’s efforts to clear hurdles and enable more foreign citizens, particularly innovators and entrepreneurs, to work in Shanghai. Last June, Tyler Rhorick ‘17 became the first international student to obtain a work permit under a new policy allowing foreign graduates of Chinese-accredited universities such as NYU Shanghai to obtain visas to work in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone. Rhorick now works in NYU Shanghai’s Student Life Office.

Another alumna, Lathika Chandra Mouli ‘17, an Electrical Engineering major, obtained a new “Talent Visa” from the Shanghai Yangpu district that is reserved for recent college graduates employed by startups or Fortune 500 companies. Mouli joined Energo Labs, a blockchain startup, as a project specialist after graduation.