MIT LGO Best Thesis Award 2021: AJ Tan

After MIT’s virtual Commencement Ceremonies, the LGO program held another virtual celebration for the Class of 2021. As a yearly tradition, the LGO program celebrated each member of the class with friends and family in attendance, and the winner of the LGO Best Thesis award was announced.

This year’s best thesis winner was AJ Tan, who developed deep learning image augmentation to improve performance of automated visual inspection (AVI) systems at Amgen. AJ developed deep learning tools to generate synthetic images for training AVI systems. Synthetic images significantly increased the overall accuracy of visual inspection systems, leading to smaller false eject and accept rates and less manual reinspection. AJ’s tools also reduced characterization and setup time for new products as images are artificially generated. AJ was advised by Duane Boning, the Clarence J. LeBel Professor in Electrical Engineering, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the EECS department, and Roy Welsch, the Eastman Kodak Leaders for Global Operations Professor of Management and Professor of Statistics and Engineering Systems at MIT Sloan.

Of the project and its impact, AJ said: “This is probably one of the most exciting projects I have worked on. At its core, the project is about figuring out how to use deep learning for machine vision in a small data environment. It is exciting because many companies do actually operate in this environment but most research publications often overlook this fact. If we can provide some solutions to the small data problem, then the range of companies that can actually benefit from the deep learning revolution will be increased significantly.”

Best Thesis 2021, AJ Tan

One of AJ’s advisors described his research as “a comprehensive analysis of how the engineering solutions would reduce the need for detailed defect characterization, reduce training and inspection time and, therefore save enough to more than justify their cost while providing a basis for further development of savings in the future.” An LGO Alumni reviewer cited that AJ’s research was “well designed and implemented, clearly an extraordinary amount of work for the LGO internship period.”

Earlier this month, AJ received his MBA and MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from LGO program. He joined the program after finishing his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and holds a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Post-LGO, AJ has accepted a position with Amgen.