Pascale Fung

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Pascal Fung on building robots with empathy.png

Pascale Fung (馮雁) (born 1966 in Shanghai, China) is a Professor in the Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology(HKUST). She is the Director of the newly established, multidisciplinary Centre for AI Research (CAiRE) at HKUST. She is an elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for her “contributions to human-machine interactions[1] and an elected Fellow of the International Speech Communication Association for “fundamental contributions to the interdisciplinary area of spoken language human-machine interactions”.[2][3]

She is a member of the Global Future Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, a think tank of the World Economic Forum, and blogs for the Forum's online publication Agenda.[4] She is a member of the Partnership on AI. She has been invited as an AI expert to different government initiatives in China, Japan, the UAE, India, the European Union and the United Nations.

Fung's publication topics include spoken language systems, natural language processing, and empathetic human-robot interaction. She co-founded the Human Language Technology Center (HLTC) and is an affiliated faculty with the Robotics Institute and the Big Data Institute, both at HKUST.[5] Additionally, she is the founding chair of the Women Faculty Association at HKUST.[6] She is actively involved in encouraging young women into careers in engineering and science.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Pascale Fung was born to professional artist parents in Shanghai, China, who gave her an early education in the arts. Her mother was a graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and her father of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now known as the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts). An ethnic Han Chinese, she also has Indonesian and mixed ancestry through her maternal and paternal grandmothers. Her early immersion in the arts has a great impact on her interest in applying technology to art. At age 11, at the end of the Cultural Revolution, she emigrated to Hong Kong with her mother and sister while her father was permitted to join them later on. She has been a science fiction fan since she read her first book about robots at age seven. This, and her fondness of mathematics, motivated her to study computer engineering later on. She graduated from Belilios Public School, the oldest girls’ school in Hong Kong, where she founded the Electronics Club and the Astronomy Club. She did not find the environment encouraging to her ambition of becoming an engineer. This experience led her to actively engage in encouraging young women into STEM fields. She received her B.S. in electrical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts in 1988, her M.Sc. in computer science from Columbia University in 1993, and received her Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University in 1997. She worked at AT&T Bell Labs from 1993 to 1997, as Associate Scientist at BBN Systems & Technologies in 1992, LIMSI, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique France in 1991, and studied at the Department of Information Science, Kyoto University, Japan from 1989 to 1991, and at Ecole Centrale Paris, France in 1988–1989. Through these experiences, she has become a fluent speaker of seven European and Asian languages.[8] She has two daughters, Belén W. Fung (born in 2005) and Coline F. Woo (born in 2008).

Career and research interests[edit]

Can a robot have empathy?

Fung's work has always been focused on building intelligent systems that can understand and empathize with humans. During her career she authored and co-authored more than 190 publications with over 5000 citations on Google Scholar, along with many journal listings and book chapters.[9][10] Fung is often found in the media, among others as a writer for Scientific American,[11] the World Economic Forum, and the London School of Economics,[12] and the Design Society. She was a pioneer in using statistical models for natural language understanding. Her PhD thesis proposed unsupervised methods for aligning texts and mining dictionary translations in different languages by distributional properties. She is an expert in spoken language understanding and computer emotional intelligence, and is a strong proponent of technology transfer. Pascale Fung has applied many of her research group's results in the fields of, among others, robotics, IoT, and financial analytics. Her efforts led to the launch of the world's first Chinese natural language search engine in 2001, the first Chinese virtual assistant for smartphones in 2010, and the first emotional intelligent speaker in 2017.


  • Awardee, 2017 Outstanding Women Professionals & Entrepreneurs Award, Hong Kong Women Professionals & Entrepreneurs Association[13]
  • Elected Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), for “contributions to human-machine interactions”
  • Elected Fellow, International Speech Communication Association (ISCA), for “fundamental contributions to the interdisciplinary area of spoken language human-machine interactions"
  • Member, Global Future Council on AI and Robotics, World Economic Forum (2016–)
  • One of the Top 50 Women of Hope, selected by List Magazine in 2014
  • Selected as “My Favorite Teacher” by top engineering students in 2007 and in 2009
  • President and Board Member, Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) Special Interest Group on Linguistics Data and Corpus Based Approaches in NLP (SIGDAT)
  • Editor, Computer Speech and Language
  • Associate Editor, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Audio, Speech and Language Processing (2012–2015)
  • Action Editor, Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics (2012–2015)
  • Panelist and Reviewer, National Science Foundation, US
  • Panelist, French National Science Foundation


Pascale Fung is affiliated with the following institutions and organizations:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IEEE Newly Elevated Fellows 2015" (PDF). Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
  2. ^ "New Fellows 2015 International Speech Communication Association".
  3. ^ "Can we ever build a robot with empathy?". World Economic Forum. 25 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Professor Pascale Fung invited to be member of Global Future Council". Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. 22 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Home Page Robotics Institute".
  6. ^ "Women Faculty Association (WFA)".
  7. ^ "Women push engineering as a job that isn't just for the boys". South China Morning Post. 21 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Elsevier Editorial Board Pascale Fung". Elsevier.
  9. ^ "Pascale Fung's list of publications".
  10. ^ "Pascale Fung's list of journal listings and book chapters".
  11. ^ "How to Build an Empathetic Robot". Scientific American. 1 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Should we build robots that feel human emotions?". London School of Economics and Political Science. 9 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Prof Pascale Fung Named Outstanding Women Professional". Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 29 September 2017.