Xia “Ben” Hu wins ACM SIGKDD 2021 Rising Star Award

Rice CS associate professor lauded for contributions to human-centric machine learning

Xia “Ben” Hu wins ACM SIGKDD 2021 Rising Star Award

Xia (Ben) Hu, associate professor in Rice’s Department of Computer Science, has won the 2021 ACM SIGKDD Rising Star Award. Hu was selected for his significant research in human-centric data mining and contribution to developing interpretable and automated methods to make complex machine learning algorithms easily used by domain experts.

This prestigious award is granted to one young researcher, and according to the awarding body, “aims to celebrate the early accomplishments of the SIGKDD communities' brightest new minds.” Recipients are recognized for being “exemplary individuals...who have made a lasting impact” in data science, machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence. 

“This is recognition not only to our research impact on human-centric machine learning, but also to our students, collaborators and mentors,” said Hu. “I will continue to dedicate my career to enabling complicated machine learning systems and algorithms to be used by everyone.”

Human-centric data mining helps domain experts easily access complicated machine learning algorithms and systems and aims to tackle two main challenges: a complicated hyperparameter tuning process and the black-box nature of models and decisions, which prevent machine learning from being widely used by domain experts in applications that matter. 

To enable easy access to and better understanding of deep learning models, Hu’s group has pioneered this very important emerging research area and has made significant, fundamental contributions in this domain. He has published results in top data mining and machine learning venues and designed and implemented software systems such as AutoKeras (KDD 2019), which is currently the number one ranked automated deep learning system on GitHub. AutoKeras was listed as one of the “key breakthroughs of AI in 2018 & trends for 2019” by Analytics Vidhya and was selected as one of “The 25 Best Data Science and Machine Learning GitHub Repositories from 2018.”

Hu and his team also designed and implemented Neural Collaborative Filtering (WWW 2017), the first deep learning-based recommender system. Neural Collaborative Filtering is now part of Tensorflow, the most commonly used deep learning infrastructure by Google.

Over the course of his career, Hu has published over 100 papers in major academic venues, including NeurIPS, ICLR, KDD, WWW, IJCAI, AAAI, etc. His papers have received several Best Paper awards from venues such as WWW, WSDM and ICDM. He was also the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award in 2018. Hu’s work has been cited more than 10,000 timeswith an h-index of 41and prominently reported by various news media, such as MIT Tech Review, ACM TechNews, New Scientist, and Economic Times. Last year, he served as the conference General Co-Chair for WSDM 2020. Hu received his PhD in Computer Science from Arizona State University in 2015.


Heather Ferreyra, CS Marketing Specialist