Lesson One: ‘Believe That You Can Do It’

2021 Achievement Award Remarks
Qian Lin, Ph.D.
HP Inc.

I’m very honored to receive the prestigious Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award. I’d like to thank many people who have supported me throughout my life and career: my father, who always believes in me; my mother, who was an engineer herself and has been a role model for me; my wonderful kids, who have also chosen engineering as their career; my colleagues at HP who worked together to bring innovations to life for customers; and my collaborators in partner research organizations who explored challenging, yet exciting projects together.

In the last few decades, we have witnessed a huge transformation in imaging and photography. When I joined HP Labs in 1992, people still used film cameras to take pictures. The film was then developed, and prints were made using a chemical process. HP was a pioneer in exploring digital printing. Initially, the image quality of digital prints was not very good. We discovered that by modulating laser, we can produce dots of varying sizes. Larger dots are more stable, while smaller dots can produce sharper edges. By analyzing the content of the digital image, and adapting the printer dots accordingly, we can produce high-quality printed images. Over time, many innovations like this helped to steadily improve digital print image quality. Today, if you print a photo, chances are that it is printed on a digital printer. The digital printing process not only produces high-quality images; it is also more sustainable, since it doesn’t use chemicals that create environmental waste.

Qian Lin displays the art glass bowl she received in keeping with a long-standing Achievement Award tradition.

Around the same period of time, image capture migrated from film camera to digital camera. The imaging pipeline inside a digital camera processes raw sensor signals and generates beautiful photographs. Using advanced imaging algorithms we developed in HP Labs, HP cameras became the first in industry to provide panorama and redeye correction features with embedded computing in 2004. As people capture more and more photos, a key challenge is how to find, enhance, and preserve their memories. When we started tackling this challenge, we used traditional machine learning methods, and hit a performance wall. Now, with deep learning, we achieved much higher accuracy. HP customers have been using our software to provide better photo services, such as organizing photos and creating high-resolution prints.

The same transformation is also happening to video. Video communication is increasingly important in the hybrid work environment. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people often work from home while collaborating with their teams. There are many opportunities for applying imaging and computer vision to make the video experience better for everyone. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to work in these exciting areas and make technical contributions to imaging science.

As I think back about my career and all the lessons I learned, I’d share two lessons. The first one is to believe that you can do it. As a young girl growing up, I often heard comments from other parents that girls could do well in elementary school, but then they would lag behind boys in high school, particularly in STEM subjects. They gave many reasons why this would happen. If I had believed those reasons, I would not be here today. 

The second lesson is that collaboration is a key ingredient to success. If you think about creating an innovation, there are many people involved. You need to champion your idea and get funding. You need to work with marketing and learn customer requirements. You need to build global teams with diverse cultures and motivate them to work together. The ability to collaborate with people and build trust is key to developing successful products. The reward is that you not only bring an innovation to market, but also make many lifelong friends along the way.

Thank you again for selecting me as the recipient of the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award.


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