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David Han

David Han, Bruce Eisenstein Endowed Chair and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Endowed professorship advances artificial intelligence

David Han
Bruce Eisenstein

David Han has joined the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) as the inaugural holder of the Bruce Eisenstein Endowed Chair. Most recently, Han was senior scientist of artificial intelligence in the Information Sciences division of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Maryland. He received a BS degree from Carnegie Mellon University and MSE and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins University, all in mechanical engineering.

Han is widely recognized for his work on artificial intelligence (AI), including computer vision, speech recognition, machine learning and robotics. He arrived at Drexel just prior to the fall 2020 term.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be at Drexel,” says Han. “Prior to joining the University, I had an occasion to share my thoughts and experiences in a forum with a dozen Drexel undergraduates. Their discussions were thoughtful and insightful, but I was particularly impressed by the students’ confidence and composure in asking some serious and thought-provoking questions. It was a memorable experience that convinced me that Drexel attracts a special kind of student with a greater maturity and focus.”

The endowed chair professorship that Han holds was established by a Drexel alumnus (who also is a former trustee) and supported by other former students to honor Bruce Eisenstein, the Arthur J. Rowland Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. A revered and longtime Drexel faculty member and alumnus (MSEE ’65), Eisenstein also served as department head, associate dean and interim dean of the College.

“I could not be more pleased that David Han has been selected to be the inaugural holder of the Chair in my name,” says Eisenstein. “Not only is David an outstanding engineer with a long list of accomplishments, but he has shown over the years that he is an exceptional collaborator. His work extends over numerous people, universities, even continents, and he is internationally recognized and admired.”

AI has become ubiquitous in our daily lives. At Drexel, I plan to explore ways to enable AI to gain better understanding of our conditions and thoughts so that it becomes more useful in helping us.

The Eisenstein Chair is one of a growing number of endowed professorships at the College of Engineering that enable Drexel to recruit and retain exceptional faculty in high-impact and emerging disciplines. Most recently, an endowed professorship similarly enabled the College to promote Kapil Dandekar to E. Warren Colehower Chair Professor, also in ECE. Dandekar’s current research interests and publications involve wireless, ultrasonic and optical communications, as well as reconfigurable antennas and smart textiles. Peggy Burns ’79, an electrical engineering alumna who has had a distinguished career as an engineer and in management roles, has established an endowed fund, the Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering. The fund will help Drexel recognize faculty, specifically those who will support women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ community as teachers and mentors.

The applications of learnings from Han’s research have significant and widespread potential.
“While AI has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, we often feel frustrated with devices such as Alexa or Siri for their total lack of understanding of our situations or intentions,” says Han. “At Drexel, I plan to explore ways to enable AI to gain better understanding of our conditions and thoughts so that it becomes even more useful in helping us.”

Han has authored or coauthored over 100 peer-reviewed papers, including four book chapters. He is an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Fellow and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Previously, Han held positions as a research and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the University of Maryland at College Park, and as Distinguished IWS Chair Professor at the US Naval Academy. He was program officer and later deputy director of research at the Office of Naval Research, overseeing a research portfolio of more than $900 million. From 2014 to 2016, he served as associate director for basic research in machine intelligence and robotics at the US Department of Defense, helping to oversee a $2 billion-plus annual research portfolio.

At Drexel, Han is developing collaborative research projects with faculty peers as well as researchers at UC San Diego, Florida Atlantic University and Stanford University. As a visiting professor at Korea University in South Korea, he conducts collaborative research in AI with graduate students.

“With a student, I developed a novel AI technique called CAFE-GAN,” Han notes. “It’s capable of generating ‘deep fake’ images of a person by manipulating features such as age, gender, eyeglasses, facial hair and so on.” The work was published in European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV 2020), recognized as one of the world’s leading AI conferences.

“Dr. Han holds an exceptional record as an innovative researcher and I am so pleased he joins us as the inaugural Eisenstein Chair,” adds Sharon L. Walker, dean of the College and Distinguished Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. “Not only will his expertise enable us to raise Drexel’s visibility and impact in AI, this and other endowed gifts like the Colehower Chair and Burns Chair align perfectly with our strategic planning efforts in the College. We could not move forward without such significant support and we are grateful for the generosity, support and belief in our vision and research mission demonstrated by our committed donors and friends.”

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