A Journey to Dream

When I was 9 years old, my mother bought me a book named “Interesting Math”, which includes little puzzles relevant to daily life but requiring creative solutions with simple mathematical knowledge. While thinking deeply on the problems, sometimes with a solution and sometimes without, I gradually became fascinated by Math.

Due to my love for Math, I got enrolled in Software Engineering major in Northeastern University of China. Although I had zero experience with the computer before my undergraduate study, the instructors’ comprehensive introduction on different aspects of the computer, including software and hardware, stimulated my passion for computer science. I felt excited when learning how scientists build Internet to connect computers together and thus enable information communication between people physically apart from each other. I got attracted by the way scientists design the database to organize and manipulate data based on the basic set theory. I admire how computer scientists leverage computers and their mathematical knowledge to actually solve real problems, and to significantly influence how people think and what they do. I desired to become a computer scientist to change the world, and I also wanted to cultivate the next-generation computer scientists to make greater impact. Therefore, I spent nine years to become an assistant professor in Computer Science from an undergraduate student (2006-2015).

During the nine years, I have experienced hard times due to techniques, language, and gender. I once tried to do research in cryptography in my first semester of the PhD program, but I was unsuccessful. I failed my first oral English exam for TA evaluation right after I arrived at U.S.. Among my three top- conference papers, two got rejected in the first submission. During the six months after the birth of my son, I could not make much progress in research due to sleepless nights.

In the journey to dream, although I felt confused and frustrated, I have learned more about myself. I know better about what I am good at and what I like most. I know what are my shortcomings and try hard to overcome them or at least improve the situations. I realize that I can never be the best, but I can enjoy the fight for the best. I understand things do not always work out as expected, but at least I can live a balanced life to enjoy the happy time with my family, friends, and colleagues.

Now I am an assistant professor in Virginia Tech, and my research interests are in Software Engineering and Programming Languages. I found myself especially interested in various problems developers encounter when debugging software and making code changes. I am always excited about proposing solutions of automatic tool support to reduce developers’ burden. I am still on my way to realize my dream, which is to impact people’s daily life by conducting computer science research and cultivating computer scientists. I still have various challenges to solve. However, with the persistent trial and error, I totally believe that things are becoming different day-by-day, and more and more people will feel the difference someday in future.