Ten years in the past, when Illinois Pc Science professor Hanghang Tong collaboratively printed a paper on bipartite graph alignment, he admitted there was no approach he may have recognized the long run implications of the work then.
In his first 12 months out of academia, as a researcher with the IBM T.J. Watson Analysis Middle, what Tong did know was that the three-month mission proved the explanation he selected an business place. The paper’s vital consequence proved that his work in information mining may end in vital real-world functions.
Tong collaborated with intern Danai Koutra and their supervisor, David Lubensky, to work on the methods graph alignment may deal with a pair vital social media questions. First, how may techniques discover the “digital twin” on separate social retailers, like LinkedIn and Fb? And the way may it successfully hyperlink an data community with a social community to assist cross-network search?
The ensuing paper – entitled “BIG-ALIGN: Quick Bipartite Graph Alignment” – launched a “new optimization formulation and suggest(d) an efficient and quick algorithm to resolve it.” Their outcomes produced a technique that was 10 occasions extra correct and 174 occasions sooner than earlier strategies.
Revealed on the IEEE Worldwide Convention on Information Mining (ICDM), a high convention within the subject, this work made sufficient of an impression to earn ICDM’s 10-year Highest Influence Paper Award in late November.
“I used to be chatting with Danai lately, and neither of us may consider that 10 years have handed now. It felt prefer it was simply yesterday,” Tong stated. “We knew on the time the paper was attention-grabbing amongst these within the subject, however to be honored with the 10-year Highest Influence Paper Award now could be very significant to us.
“I consider one factor possibly I can quote from the notification letter that struck me is that the premise of the award stems from the committee’s perception that your paper has had ‘essentially the most substantial impression on the information mining neighborhood over the past decade.’”
Not solely did this paper end in a big technical end result honored 10 years later, but it surely additionally set new profession trajectories for each Tong and Koutra – the youthful investigators on the mission.
At that time in his profession, Tong had a Ph.D. in Machine Studying from Carnegie Mellon College – the place he had met Koutra, who was a Ph.D. pupil at the moment.
Whereas he believed his work within the subject may very well be impactful in academia, Tong wished to see how a lot it may discover direct relevance to real-world functions by work immediately tied to business.
The paper they produced had an impression each by way of e-commerce and the monetary sector.
It was instantly valued extremely at IBM, by a evaluate board the corporate used to estimate a mission’s IP worth. In actual fact, the mission acquired IBM’s highest ranking, marking it for a particularly excessive potential enterprise worth.
The corporate evaluate board really helpful to file not one, however seven patents off the work.
“I benefitted from working alongside Danai – who I knew from CMU. We each actually appreciated one another’s work. Then we thrived beneath David’s management. He challenged us to analyze essentially the most significant questions, however he additionally supplied a really nourishing surroundings that freed us as much as discover our personal path ahead,” Tong stated.
“Pondering again, what I’m actually pleased with is the impact that this mission had on the long-term success of each my profession and Danai’s. She is now a professor on the College of Michigan, and continues to work with college students on community alignment. And I’ve two current Ph.D. graduates whose total Ph.D. theses had been on this matter of community alignment.”
Working for nearly three years whole in analysis with IBM, Tong believes his profitable stint there additionally helped him discover his approach again into academia.
He has been on college at Illinois CS since 2019, but it surely was this mission expertise with Koutra that partly helped him notice how the power of studying alongside college students impacts his personal work.
“It was a terrific expertise for me at IBM, and it additionally taught me that I missed the college setting. I genuinely benefit from the collaborative surroundings with different researchers and college students,” Tong stated.