UNSW researchers have been recognised at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Women in AI Awards for their pioneering work in artificial intelligence.

Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafaee from UNSW Science and Scientia Associate Professor Yang Song from UNSW Engineering have been honoured for their work on AI in health and AI innovation, respectively.

The Women in AI Awards recognise women across various industries in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific who are committed to excellence in AI.

Entrants were judged on innovation, leadership and inspiring potential, global impact, and using AI to provide a social good for the community.

A/Prof. Vafaee from the School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences took out the AI in Health award, for developing AI to address challenges in digital medicine and cancer diagnostics. A/Prof. Vafaee works on integrating multi-modal data from various sources, such as genomics, medical images and clinical data, to enhance the prediction of clinical outcomes. By combining different types of biological data, she is unravelling the complexity of biological processes to better understand health and disease.

A/Prof. Vafaee - who is the Deputy Director of the UNSW Data Science Hub - was also second runner-up for the APAC Women in AI Innovator of the Year award, chosen from more than 180 applications across all award categories. She said her progress using AI to advance non-invasive cancer diagnostics, personalised medicine, and precision therapy was a testament to the unwavering support of her exceptional team, industry partners and clinical collaborators.

“I am truly thankful for everyone’s support. Together we are shaping AI’s transformative impact on digital medicine,” Dr Vafaee said.

Read more: UNSW academics awarded more than $1.6m for joint Australian-US artificial intelligence research

A/Prof. Song from the School of Computer Science & Engineering won the AI in Innovation award for her research in developing trustworthy deep (machine) learning methods that can generalise well when handling highly heterogeneous and dynamic data. She has developed many state-of-the-art deep learning models that can effectively augment or mimic human intelligence in radiological and pathological imaging studies as well as environment and human behaviour analysis.

A/Prof. Song said she honoured to receive the award, recognising her significant contributions to artificial intelligence.

“I’d like to thank my mentors, collaborators and students. This recognition inspires me to continue driving innovation and developing socially responsible technologies in this transformative field for the benefit of all,” A/Prof Song said.

“I expect my work will lead to significant real-world impact in critical domains such as healthcare, natural disaster management and robotics.”

Women critical for AI design 

Deputy Director of Engagement at UNSW’s AI Institute, Professor Flora Salim – who won the 2022 Women in AI Defence and Intelligence award – congratulated A/Profs. Vafaee and Song on their awards.

“The Women in AI Awards are a wonderful celebration of the amazing achievements and impact of female AI researchers in the Asia-Pacific,” Prof. Salim said.

“It’s critical that women’s contributions in designing AI solutions are put up on a pedestal and applauded, as they enable more diverse and inclusive AI-powered applications and the advancement of AI in our region.

“I want to congratulate my colleagues A/Profs. Vafaee and Song. It’s great to see their brilliant work developing useful solutions to improve health care and AI technology celebrated by their peers and our community.”

Women in AI is a global not-for-profit network working towards empowering women and minorities to excel and be innovators in the AI and data fields.

The awards were held at a gala dinner at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.