To Prospective Students

I want to be a great adviser and believe that this can only happen if there is significant overlap between what you and I are excited about. So please take a look at my research group page, and think about what you feel passionate and highly motivated to work on. Then, feel free to write me an email on your thoughts and how your interests might align, or better yet, expand mine.

In addition to having common interests, I think that our collaboration will be much more fruitful and enjoyable if we actually like each other as well as what we are doing. To figure this out, we should communicate, and hopefully work together, before you fully join my group. The best way to do this is to take one of my classes or, if opportunity arises, work with me on a project or as a TA.

Mentoring Philosophy

As your advisor, I will help you adopt the IDEAL research methodology: Identification, Definition, Exploration, Assessment, and Learning.

IDENTIFICATION. Identifying a research topic is the first step for you. I believe good research topics should have both real-world impact and scientific merits. One effective approach to identifying such research topics is to spare some time everyday reading technology websites and news articles (e.g., TechCrunch, The Next Web). The focus is to identify issues that the general public care about (and thus have broad impact) and to think about what scientific and technical breakthroughs are needed to address those issues (your potential research topic!).

DEFINITION. Clearly defining the problem scope, after identifying a research topic, is vital to any research projects. In my observations, the single most expensive mistake that graduate students tend to make is skipping the scope definition step and jumping to the solution exploration step too quickly. Often, it leads to months of time wasted on searching solutions to an “undefined” problem. I will help you develop problem definition skills: if the problem identified is too specific, generalize it and scope the problem in a broader context; if the problem identified is too big, break it down into multiple smaller problems where each has a clear scope.

EXPLORATION. Exploring creative solutions is what we all enjoy as scientists and engineers. I believe creativity can be trained. Many psychology studies have shown that creativity comes from the reuse of ideas, or in other words, to take ideas that have worked well in one context and apply it by analogy to another context. A creative solution is nothing more than the juxtaposition of a particular idea in a particular context that people have never though of before.

To freely “reuse” ideas, however, one must master a lot of ideas. That is, to be able to "think out of the box", you first need to have a big box! I will encourage you to extensively read papers, particularly those that are not directly related to your current research, to create an idea repository that your future projects can borrow from.

ASSESSMENT. Assessing the practicality of a solution is particularly important to architecture and systems research. I will encourage you to assess solutions not only under the constraints of today’s technology, but also to consider future technology scaling so as to create systems that have a long-term impact.

LEARNING. The research loop is never closed without learning from the success and failure of the past. I will help you deliver good research talks as it is an important way for learning. A good talk usually means positive and insightful feedbacks, which motivate better research.