By Elisabeth Schnebele
Dr. Min Chen, associate professor in the School of STEM, has been named the 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity award — one of the highest honors a University of Washington Bothell faculty member can receive.
She was nominated in part for her ability to engage students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. One colleague wrote, “Professor Chen is an effective and caring teacher, advocating and supporting students through education and research opportunities. Since 2014, she has advised and mentored more than 300 Computer Science & Software Systems graduate and undergraduate students on their capstone projects, independent studies and research.
“It is notable that among the 40 papers she published since joining UW Bothell in 2014, over 70% were co-authored with CSS students, most of them female.”
UW Bothell Chancellor Kristin G. Esterberg said, “Dr. Min Chen’s work in the School of STEM exemplifies the University’s core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Her contributions will continue to make a positive impact on the students she mentors, the faculty with whom she works and, ultimately, the field as a whole.”
Preventing damages and preserving languages
Chen’s impact extends beyond the UW Bothell campus with 20 published journal articles and six published book chapters, as well as 51 peer-reviewed conference papers. Additionally, her work has been cited more than 1,900 times.
By participating in interdisciplinary projects and pursuing professional service opportunities, she has gained a national and international presence. In 2014 and 2015, for example, she worked with a multidisciplinary team of experts on the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model project. It is the first such model in the world and is currently used by the State of Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation to manage wind insurance rates.
“The FPHLM is essentially a complex software system that simulates and predicts the formation, development and effects of hurricanes,” Chen explained. “It also estimates how much it would cost to rebuild the damaged parts caused by hurricanes and how much of the loss would be paid by insurers.”
Another interdisciplinary project Chen is working on was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant. The research is focused on documenting and analyzing endangered languages. In the cross-institutional and community-based project, Chen has been working closely with linguistics researchers, the endangered language community and a tribal college to help preserve linguistic and cultural diversity.
“It is hard to learn and teach pitch-accent Indigenous languages such as Aaniiih and Blackfoot because their words, even when comprised of the same characters, can take on different meanings when changing in pitch,” she explained. “Linguistics researchers and endangered language communities feel the existing techniques fail to accurately indicate changes in pitch and require time-consuming work to teach and analyze the nuance in pitch movements.”
To address the issue, Chen and her team have proposed a system called Melodic Transcription in Language Documentation and Application to provide a learning and analysis platform for endangered language teachers, learners and linguistics researchers. It develops a new psychoacoustic scale called perceptual scale to measure pitch movements and assists the creation of visuals aids called Pitch Art to represent perceived changes. This work received the Best Demo Award at the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Multimedia Information Processing and Retrieval. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is one of the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology.
“The visual representation allows teachers and learners to understand how their pronunciation compares to that of native speakers,” Chen said. “It also helps linguistics researchers in their efforts to document and transcribe audio clips of endangered languages. By collaborating with domain experts in this field, we have validated the effectiveness of MeTILDA in creating Pitch Art using the perceptual scale.”
Continued service to profession
Chen’s professional service is also notable. She serves as the secretary for IEEE’s Computer Society Technical Community on Multimedia Computing, engaging its more than 2,700 global research members. She is the associate editor for the International Journal of Multimedia Data Engineering as well as the management and program co-chair for IEEE’s 2022 International Conference on Information Reuse and Integration for Data Science.
In addition, since joining UW Bothell, Chen has served as program co-chair of five IEEE international conferences and has held leading organizing roles for another 13 international conferences. Because of her contributions to the professional field, Chen was honored with the 2020 IEEE MIPR Service Award and 2021 IEEE IRI Outstanding Service Award.
“Dr. Chen is clearly held in high esteem at the University of Washington Bothell as a member of our faculty as well as among scholars in her discipline,” said Dr. Shima Abadi, associate professor in the School of STEM. “Her work has impacted a variety of circles from academic colleagues to students.”
Chen said she is touched by the acknowledgement. “I’m deeply honored to receive this recognition on the work I’m passionate about. I’m thankful for the support and help from my colleagues, and I hope to continue doing my best in the future.”
She will be celebrated at the UW Bothell Faculty Recognition Reception this spring. “Not only has Dr. Chen applied her research and scholarship to enhance the education of her students, but she has used them to engage with leaders across the United States,” said Chancellor Esterberg. “In doing so, she has enhanced the quality of work that is being done nationwide. She is an extraordinary role model both on campus and beyond.”