Alex Wong: Providing Perception to Enable Autonomous Tasks

The School of Engineering & Applied Science is proud to welcome its newest faculty members for the 2022-23 academic year. The large influx of faculty members – 11 so far, with more to be announced soon – marks the rapid growth of the School and investment in the research areas illustrated in the SEAS Strategic Vision.

The latest faculty arrivals are valuable additions to the chemical and environmental, computer science, and electrical engineering departments. Their expertise includes sustainability, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and optoelectronic materials.

Upon their arrival, we asked these new faculty members questions about their work, their motivations, potential collaborations, and much more:


Alex Wong, Computer Science


Hometown:

La Palma, California, a small suburb near Anaheim.

Prior academic history:

  • B.S. in Computer Science, University of California, Los Angeles, graduated 2012
  • M.S. in Computer Science, University of California, Los Angeles, graduated 2015
  • Ph.D. in Computer Science, University of California, Los Angeles, graduated 2019

How would you summarize your research?

My work lies at the intersection of computer vision, machine learning and robotics with a focus on depth perception to enable spatial tasks like autonomous navigation and manipulation. Specifically, I develop perception systems that are fast, robust, and accurate with the ability to learn causally online through interactions with the surrounding space and adapt its inference to new environments without the need for any human intervention.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

When I was younger, I was fascinated by comic books and TV shows of futuristic worlds where robots are integrated into our daily lives, so it has been a childhood dream to realize agents that can interact intelligently with our world. This is why I chose to focus on perception. It is the first step to understanding the physical world, to establish separate entities, and to enable an agent to operate within it.

Where do you see the field 10 years from now?

Quite frankly, with how fast the field is moving, it is hard to say. However, with some of the promising results that I have seen in the past few years, I am optimistic that we will be on our way to building learning-based perception systems that can operate on the edge and adapt on- the-fly to new environments that they are deployed within.

What brought you to Yale?

Teaching is one of my passions, so I resonate with the outstanding academic history and teaching excellence at Yale. Not only that, I found like-minded faculty who are interested in solving fundamental problems and creating long-lasting impact.

What areas outside of Computer Science do you seek to create impactful research collaborations or partnerships?

My work has direct applications towards augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, image-based rendering, medical image analysis, and robotics.

Are there any courses that you look forward to teaching/creating?

While computer vision and machine learning have sparked a lot of interest lately, admittedly, there is a high barrier of entry into the fields. So I have made it a goal to develop practical courses in computer vision and machine learning to give students the hands-on experience for building applications and the fundamentals for pursuing the topics in a more theoretical perspective.

What are your interests outside of the lab?

I enjoy playing golf and table tennis. I am also a foodie, so I look forward to sampling the different pizzerias around New Haven.

What is the best New Haven Pizza?

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try yet, but I have heard many good suggestions like BAR and certainly look forward to trying them.

Back to the 2022-2023 New SEAS Faculty Profiles