SUTD’s AI Specialist Joins Prestigious MIT List of Young Innovators

02 Nov 2023

In a world that is still trying to understand and appreciate the full capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), Assistant Professor is trailblazing a path in the field of conversational AI, earning him a place in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) list of young innovators.
The 31-year-old AI specialist was one of 35 innovators in the region to earn a place in the list of MIT Technology Review's 2023 Under 35 Innovators for Asia-Pacific, which was announced today at an awards ceremony held in conjunction with the Global Youth Science and Technology Forum in Zhejiang China. The award honours innovators under the age of 35 for their work in shaping the future of technology in various fields such as AI, biotechnology and health business, as well as climate change and energy. The Asia-Pacific list covers innovators from South-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Soujanya is the sixth SUTD professor to have made it into the list and the only one so far to be selected under the Visionaries category, which recognises innovators for their insights into the future of technology. It is a result of his groundbreaking work in AI, in which several multimodal understanding and generative systems have been developed. Amongst his many works is a text-to-audio AI model called TANGO, which is a Latent-Diffusion Model (LDM) producing sound effects, including human speech and music, from text. In other words, users could type "make the sound of a barking dog with a huge waterfall behind it" and the system would produce the sound within a split second. Soujanya’s research paper on TANGO, which was first published in April 2023, became so popular that it attracted a sound designer from Hollywood who wanted to explore the possibility of licensing the model.
This is not the first award Soujanya has received this year. For his contribution to the field of science, he was awarded the Young Scientist Award at the President’s Science and Technology Awards earlier this month, the highest accolade for research scientists and engineers in Singapore. This award, which is administered by the Singapore National Academy of Science and supported by the National Research Foundation, recognises individuals aged 35 or below who have shown potential to be world-class researchers in their subject fields. Indeed, for his extensive work in AI, Soujanya was recently ranked 441 amongst more than 356,000 scientists in the world by Stanford University, making him one of the top 0.1% scientists in his field.
On making it into the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Asia-Pacific list, Soujanya said: "I am both honoured and humbled to be part of this highly prestigious list. It cannot be attributed solely to me alone. It is only made possible with the support of my team as we continue to enhance the safety, trustworthiness and ethical standards of Large Language Models."
Professor Chong Tow Chong, SUTD President, said: "Soujanya’s contributions to the multimodal conversational AI has been nothing short of spectacular, and SUTD congratulates him on making it into the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Asia-Pacific list this year. We are proud of what he has achieved as the research he is currently undertaking could significantly improve the ability of computers to interpret complex data and provide valuable information automatically to users. We look forward to many more breakthroughs in his AI research."

About the MIT Technology Review Under 35 Award

Established in 1999 in honour of MIT Technology Review’s 100th Anniversary, the Innovators Under 35 list was initially conceived as a list of 100 innovators.

By the mid-2000s, the list had evolved to focus on 35 innovators each year.
In 2010, it expanded its search for the most promising innovators by organising regional editions of the list. There are regional versions in Latin America, Europe, China, India, Asia Pacific, and MENA. The winners of the regional lists are automatically considered for the global list.