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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is to award honorary doctorates to computer scientist Shih-Fu Chang of Columbia University and epigeneticist Andrew Feinberg of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Jeroen Oerlemans

Chang is being awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his pioneering contribution to our understanding of the digital universe, particularly in the area of imagery, language and sound. Feinberg will be presented with an honorary doctorate for his cutting-edge research into humane epigenetics and epigenomics, and more particularly for his contribution to the unravelling of the epigenetic processes that lead to cancer and other diseases. The doctorates will be conferred during the UvA’s Foundation Day on Friday, 8 January 2016.

Shih-Fu Chang van Columbia University
Shih-Fu Chang

Shih-Fu Chang

Professor Shih-Fu Chang (1963) is one of the founders of the field of data science. Unlocking digital sources is today one of the driving forces for scientific and social innovation. Chang has played a pivotal role in this with his research on multimedia information retrieval, including computer vision, machine learning and signal processing. His goal is to develop intelligent systems that respond to the enormous amounts of visual and signal data available through the web. Many fields in the arts and sciences, including sociology, political science, the humanities and engineering, will profit from these advances in data science, which will lead to novel ways of doing research and novel results. In 1997, a period in which the importance of digital imagery was only starting to become apparent, Chang paved the way for image search engines with his VisualSEEK algorithm. In the 15 years since then, major strides have been made in image recognition and message categorisation. Chang’s work spans the entire spectrum, from fundamental research in data science to the valorisation of research results in education and business (start-ups and established companies). He is a motivated lecturer and in this capacity has received several awards, including the Society of Columbia Graduates’ Great Teacher Award.

Chang is senior vice dean of Columbia University’s (New York, US) School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is also Richard Dicker Chair Professor at Columbia University’s departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Chang also heads the Digital Video and Multimedia Lab at Columbia University.

Honorary supervisor: Prof. Arnold Smeulders, professor of Multimedia Analysis at the UvA.

Andrew Feinberg van Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Andrew Feinberg

Andrew Feinberg

Professor Andrew P. Feinberg (1952) is an expert in the epigenetics of diseases, particularly cancer. He is one of the world’s most influential researchers when it comes to understanding how diseases occur in people. In 1983 Feinberg, together with Prof. Bert Vogelstein from Johns Hopkins, became the first to show that the methylation of DNA plays an important part in the emergence of tumours, both benign and malignant. Methylation is an epigenetic process in which the structure of DNA changes and the expression of certain genes are inhibited. Feinberg’s second big breakthrough came through his discovery of the role played by imprinted genes – such as the gene IGF2 – in the emergence of cancer. This not only led to greater insight in the etiology of the disease, but also to a better diagnosis and prevention of cancer worldwide. Feinberg was the first to establish a genome centre for humane epigenetics and to publish a map of normal and cancerous methylome. In recent years,  Feinberg has also managed to transform humane epigenetics through his early contribution to epigenomics. Today this field of research is crucial for our knowledge about the emergence of cancer, autoimmune diseases, ageing, psychiatry and the consequences of (mal)nutrition and stress. 

Feinberg is Gilman Scholar and King Fahd Professor of Medicine, Oncology and Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, US). He is also professor of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In addition, he is the director of the Center for Epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences and the chair of the Molecular Medicine division of the department of Medicine. 

Honorary supervisor: Prof. Hanne Meijers-Heijboer, professor of Clinical Genetics at the AMC-UvA.