By Neil Nachbar
When Yan (Lindsay) Sun went to the University of Maryland for graduate school in 1998, it was her first time on an airplane.
Coming from Beijing, China, an American college campus was drastically different from the culture she was used to and spoken English was starkly different from what she studied in workbooks and dictionaries.
It didn’t take long for Sun to overcome culture shock and a language barrier. She flourished at the University of Maryland, earning her doctorate in electrical and computer engineering in 2004.
Sun returned to the University of Maryland this fall to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The award recognizes alumni who have made significant and meritorious contributions to their fields.
“This award recognizes my achievements rooted at URI, where my life and career have been nurtured by great colleagues, students, and communities,” said Sun. “I am deeply honored to receive the ECE Distinguished Alumni Award. I am grateful for all the people that supported and believed in me through this process. I hope that I can continue to positively impact my communities and ignite sparks of fascination, joy, and enlightenment.”
Sun recalled her first experiences as a college student in the United States.
“I experienced monumental shifts in perspective, lifestyle, and culture,” said Sun. “My first night in College Park, I was delighted by the hot water flowing from the faucet, as this was considered a luxury at my parents’ home—something that I had no access to, and never thought I would. At my first class, I couldn’t understand what the professor was talking about, as spoken English was starkly different from what I studied in books.”
As she became comfortable, Sun was excited to learn as much as she could.
“In Dr. Ray Liu’s Digital Image Processing course, I was fascinated by the image and video compression algorithms and inspired to join the Ph.D. program with Ray as my advisor,” said Sun. “During my six years at UMD, I learned how to learn and found out what it really takes to do good research. I also realized that a Ph.D. wasn’t enough; I wanted to live the long and exciting journey of an academic career.”
Sun began her journey at URI in 2004, where she has had a career full of accomplishments in the research lab, classroom, and the community.
“In 2004, I was fortunate to become the National Science Foundation ADVANCE fellow at URI and it was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Sun. “On this beautiful Kingston campus, I established my independent research program and CYPHER research center, won the National Science Foundation CAREER award, and became an IEEE Fellow. I served the broader community with leadership roles in professional organizations, on a local school committee, and in several cultural associations.”