Zhang named IEEE fellow for computer science research

Professor directs Multimedia Research Laboratory at Binghamton, has published over 200 academic papers and holds more than 20 patents

Professor Zhongfei "Mark" Zhang has been named an IEEE fellow for his work in computer science. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Professor Zhongfei
Professor Zhongfei "Mark" Zhang has been named an IEEE fellow for his work in computer science. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Zhongfei “Mark” Zhang, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been named an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) fellow “for contributions to multimodal data content understanding and mining.”

IEEE is the world’s largest association of technical professionals, with more than 423,000 members in over 160 countries. It is a leading authority on a wide range of areas from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.

Zhang directs the Multimedia Research Laboratory at Binghamton, and has published more than 200 peer-reviewed academic papers in international journals and conferences. He also has authored or co-authored two monographs, edited or co-edited two books, earned more than 20 patents, and served as a grant review panelist for governmental and private funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA.

His research is supported by federal government agencies, including the NSF, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, and industrial labs such as Microsoft Research and Kodak Global Research.

According to IEEE, “the grade of fellow is conferred by the IEEE board of directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. IEEE fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.”

IEEE has 7,896 active fellows and life fellow members, a number that includes the 2020 class of 282.

“When I looked at those very big names who also were honored, I felt humbled,” Zhang said in a recent interview. “I hope this can be my humble contribution to the reputation of the University, the reputation of the Computer Science Department and the Watson School.”

Zhang’s primary research areas since joining the Binghamton faculty in fall 1999 have been machine learning and data mining. He is the author of the first monograph on multimedia data mining and co-author of the first monograph on relational data clustering.

“Two things have fundamentally revolutionized the whole discipline of computer science — and also the rest of the world,” he said.

“One is Big Data — the scale, diversity and impact of the data. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have the data in the scale and the diversity that we have now. The second thing is that the computing power also has substantially changed in a revolutionary way. For example, now we have GPU [graphics processing unit] machines — that is something we would not even be able to imagine 20 years ago.”

Before coming to Binghamton, Zhang earned his bachelor and master of science degrees at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and received his PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He then worked as a researcher and faculty member for the University at Buffalo.

In his two decades here, he has seen growth in both Watson’s computer science faculty and its reputation among educators and researchers.

“I love the environment in the department,” Zhang said. “People are very friendly, very nice. It’s very collegial, and everyone is very supportive of your work. I have been to bigger departments at other institutions, and I saw that the environments there were way more political. I didn’t like that.

“Also, my students are very nice. I’m very fortunate that the great majority of students I recruited are very good, so I enjoy working with them.”