NVIDIA honors Ph.D. student Yiming Li for his work on boosting robot perception


Yiming Li, a Ph.D. student in Tandon’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, earned one of only 10 scholarships granted by NVIDIA this year.

For almost a quarter-century, NVIDIA — now widely acknowledged as the leading global supplier of AI hardware and software — has invited doctoral students to submit their research projects in order to be considered for scholarships of up to $60,000 plus other prizes, such as high-end graphics processing units. Each year, the company is inundated with submissions; the 2023 competition drew well over 500 hopeful Ph.D. candidates from around the world.

When the exhaustive judging process was over, Yiming Li, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Tandon’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, had garnered one of only 10 scholarships awarded this year.

Yiming, a native of Shanxi, China, won on the basis of a project titled, “Towards Next-Generation Spatial Intelligence for Autonomous Vehicles.” He is focused on developing robust, efficient, and scalable computational models for 3D scene-parsing and decision-making from high-dimensional sensory input, as well as on curating large-scale datasets to effectively train and verify these models. ”Spatial intelligence refers to the computational capacity that allows us to visualize objects from different angles; recognize people, places, and things; notice fine details; and generally navigate the world around us,” he says. “What I’m hoping to do is empower autonomous vehicles with spatial intelligence, and, ultimately, to boost robot perception and planning to a level comparable to human capabilities.” 

Doing so, he explains, will allow autonomous vehicles to function seamlessly in dynamic, real-world settings, such as urban roads, construction sites, and manufacturing plants.

Yiming — who has worked for two summers as a research intern at NVIDIA and who is also the recipient of a Dean’s Ph.D. Fellowship — currently holds a position as a visiting scholar at Tsinghua University, and at Tandon, he is a student of Assistant Professor Chen Feng, who directs the AI4CE lab, which aims to develop novel computational methods and intelligent robotic systems that can accurately understand and efficiently interact with materials and humans in dynamic and unstructured environments.

“I was proud when Yiming won the Dean’s Fellowship from our school, and I’m thrilled that now NVIDIA has also recognized the high caliber of his research and academic achievement,” Chen says. “ His intellectual curiosity, scientific rigor, research leadership, and dedication to his field are eminently noteworthy and make him a credit to NYU Tandon.”