The University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute (UM-SJTU JI, JI hereafter) Class of 2017 graduate Ran Tian has been honored with the prestigious Yunfan Award at the 2024 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) after being selected as one of the 15 Stars of Tomorrow.

The WAIC Yunfan Award was established in 2020 and is the world’s first award dedicated to continuously exploring new forces among AI developers and continuously encouraging outstanding pioneers, model practitioners and active promoters of AI technology. The Yunfan award is divided into two lists, Bright Stars and Stars of Tomorrow. The list of Bright Stars focuses on selecting 10 outstanding technicians in the field of AI software and hardware under the age of 35. The list of Stars of Tomorrow is intended to tap 15 excellent AI talents under the age of 30 with strong development potential.

Speaking of the award, Tian attributed his achievement to JI’s unique educational model and curriculum, which helped him develop his scientific thinking and interdisciplinary knowledge in computer science, engineering, and materials science. “I hope to further explore the field of embodied intelligence and contribute to the development of AI in China,” he said.

Ran Tian graduated from JI in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then pursued a master’s degree in Robotics at the University of Michigan. Tian is currently a doctoral candidate in AI at the University of California, Berkeley, and works as an intern research scientist at Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project. His research focuses on aligning embodied intelligent agents with human values, ensuring that technologies like self-driving cars and humanoid robots can safely serve humanity. His work integrates cognitive science, deep learning, and control theory, and he has proposed foundational algorithms for aligning embodied intelligence with human values, along with simplified, practical implementation solutions.

Tian’s research results have attracted significant attention from top robotics and autonomous driving companies, and he has published several influential papers in top conferences and journals, earning numerous international patents and honors. His proposal for using foundational models to generate maps and topologies online to assist map-free autonomous driving won the 2024 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship; the general robotics dataset and foundational large model he jointly launched with scholars from Google DeepMind and other parts of the world won the Best Paper Award at the flagship conference International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

In recognition of his contributions, Tian has also been named a 2024 “Robotics: Science and Systems Pioneer” at the upcoming Robotics: Science and Systems conference, an accolade awarded to 30 young AI and robotics scientists worldwide.