Pengkun Yang wins the 2020 Thomas M. Cover Dissertation Award

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The IEEE Information Theory Society Thomas M. Cover Dissertation Award, established in 2013, is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding doctoral dissertation contributing to the mathematical foundations of any of the information sciences within the purview of the Society including, but not limited to, Shannon theory, source and channel coding theory, data compression, learning theory, quantum information theory and computing, complexity theory, and applications of information theory in probability and statistics.

Pengkun Yang's thesis, "Polynomial Methods in Statistical Inference: Theory and Practice was completed in August 2018 at the Department of ECE at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the supervision of Yihong Wu.

Thesis summary:

This thesis provides an exposition of a suite of techniques based on the theory of polynomials, collectively referred to as the polynomial methods, which are applied to address several challenging problems in statistical inference successfully. The applications in particular include the optimal estimation of the Shannon entropy, one fundamental quantity in information theory. The thesis contributes both to the design of fast algorithms and to the understanding of information-theoretical limits. In the algorithmic side, several sublinear-time algorithms are developed, which are becoming crucial nowadays when dealing with extremely large volumes of data; fundamentally, in the theoretical side, the information-theoretic limits are established using the same apparatus from the dual view. 

Pengkun Yang is from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. He is a Postdoctoral Research Associate advised by Professor Yuxin Chen. His research interests include statistical inference, learning, optimization, and systems. He received a Ph.D. degree (2018) and a master's degree (2016) from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.E. degree (2013) from the Department of Electronic Engineering at Tsinghua University. He is a recipient of the Shun Lien Chuang Memorial Award for Excellence in Graduate Education in 2018, and a recipient of Jack Keil Wolf ISIT Student Paper Award at the 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory (semi-plenary talk).

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