First-Hand:IEEE Award Recipient Series:Raymond Wai Ho Yeung
Raymond Wai Ho Yeung
What Award did you receive from IEEE?
IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal
Place of Birth
Where did you grow up
Family Background: Parents and their education level & Siblings and their education/profession
My father a merchant and my mother a housewife. My father’s educational level comparable to junior high school. My mother went to school for only a few years. They grew up during the war. My elder sister a computer systems analyst and my younger brother a chartered accountant, both university graduates.
What did you want to do when you grew up?
What was your upbringing like? Did you have a large family?
I went to a secondary school run by Irish Jesuit priests. It was a very liberal environment where students not academically good were not regarded as second-class citizens. I was not among the top students, and I am forever grateful that I was given the room to develop myself.
Did you have any hobbies (eg. Some people talk about learning trade skills from a family member.)
Did you partake in after school activities? Did you play sports?
Radio club in secondary school and Hong Kong students' association in university. I used to play different sports, including basket ball, badminton, cycling, skiing, martial art, etc.
Did you have a part-time job (after school, summer)? What was your most surprising job assignment?
Student helper in a research group when I was third-year in university. My main job was to type the numerical results from one computer in hardcopy into another computer. It was a pretty high-tech job then.
Did you take vacations and/or go on day trips?Favorite holiday/family gathering?
We had our first major family vacation to Europe when I was 17. It was absolutely eye-opening and remains memorable. Nowadays I usually combine my vacations with conference trips, until COVID-19.
EDUCATION: Favorite subject in school (K-12, university). Why?
Mathematics, for its self-containedness
Did you have a least favorite subject in school (K-12, university. Why?
History and geography. Too much memorization.
Why did you select the university (universities) you attended? What was your major and why did you select it?
I learned about Cornell University from a school magazine article written by a senior who was studying there. I applied, and luckily I got in. Electrical engineering was my natural choice then. I was not sure about my research direction when I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, so I stayed at Cornell for a Master’s degree to broaden my horizon. Then I took a course in information theory taught by Prof. Toby Berger who eventually became my PhD advisor.
Employment and career: First job - Current position - Favorite job
I joined AT&T Bell Laboratories after receiving my PhD. I stayed there for 3 years and then joined the Department of Information Engineering at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Both jobs are inspiring in their own rights. From my first job, I saw my first " real world." Then from my second job, I saw my second "real world" and came to the realization that there are many, many "real worlds" that I had yet to see.
Has your career turned out as you expected?
Perhaps better than expected.
Has IEEE played a role in your career? How? What does IEEE mean to you?
IEEE, in particular the Information Theory Society, has been my academic home since Day One. IEEE connects me to the world, especially that Hong Kong was quite far away from the center of the research community.
You have been awarded one of IEEE's highest-level awards. What does this award mean to you?
I am most honored to be the first home-grown researcher in Hong Kong to receive an IEEE Medal. This is a recognition of not only my research achievements but also the achievements of the local research community.
Career Advice: What advice would you give to young professionals entering your field today?
Always try to do something useful, at least in some sense. Nowadays a broader skill set is important.
Reflection: What would you have done differently or tell your younger self now?
I do not have very specific plans in my life. Most of the time I just follow my nose to find my way.
Was there a project that you were so passionate about that you continued to pursue it even though there may have been doubts about its success?
Actually most of my research projects belong to this type. As a researcher I enjoy being a loner.
What career achievement are you most proud of?
Contemplation and discovery of non-Shannon-type entropy inequalities that have implications not only in information sciences but also in mathematics and physics. Co-founding the field of network coding that changes our understanding of network communications.
Personal Life: What do you do for fun? Hobbies?
Photography, traveling, harmonica, Tai Chi.
What personal achievement are you most proud of?
Raising my daughter
Do you have a favorite food? Or a family recipe that may have been passed down?
I have a very broad taste of food.
Do you have a favorite genre of music? or a favorite song? Or do you play an instrument?
Classical. I play the chromatic harmonica.
Do you have a prize possession? If so, please explain.
What are three things people may not know about you?
I spend almost a year fine-tuning every camera I buy. I insist on getting all the settings right (white balance, saturation, contrast, sharpness) in order to create a strong sense of presence in the pictures.
Who was your mentor? (eg. family member or professor)
At home both of my parents, and professionally my PhD advisor.
What is one thing you cannot live without in your work space?
Something I can write on.