I am actively seeking Ph.D. students at UT Austin for Fall 2024. This page introduces my research and the Ph.D. admission process.
I work on database systems. My past research focused on empowering end-users to adopt their familiar data analytical interfaces, such as spreadsheets, dataframes, and interactive dashboards, to analyze large-scale datasets efficiently via novel system optimizations. Example optimizations include reducing resource consumption without compromising performance and improving performance while preserving crucial system properties, such as consistency and monotonicity. Technically, my research touches on many important database topics, including query processing and optimizations, parallel execution, data compression, and transaction processing. Please check out this video (YouTube, bilibili) to learn more about my past research. Moving forward, my future research broadly focuses on data management for novel data applications. I am particularly interested in leveraging the advancements of machine learning and programming language to build next-generation data systems.
A Ph.D. application will be reviewed by the CS department and individual professors who express interest in the application. Please check out this page for more information about the application process and timeline. While factors, such as research experience, publications, and reference letters, impact the admission decision, the following four aspects play a dominant role in my assessment:
Curiosity. I believe an outstanding Ph.D. student will always ask questions about their and others’ research and set out to answer these questions, driven by their innate curiosity rather than their advisor. For example, it is common to encounter an unexpected experiment result, in which case the student will try to unravel its intricacies by repeatedly asking and answering many mini-questions, leading to the final answer.
Resilience. Conducting research is inherently challenging as we will venture into uncharted territories and do things that nobody has done. Consequently, encountering hurdles and difficulties, such as bad experimental results or negative reviews, is inevitable. In my opinion, a successful Ph.D. student should quickly recover from such setbacks and find ways to overcome them. Of course, talking to one's advisor is always helpful in these situations.
Communication. Good communication skills are crucial to a successful Ph.D. career. While communication skills will be trained throughout the Ph.D. program, I expect prospective students can communicate their ideas clearly and logically about the things they are familiar with, such as the projects they have worked on or basic CS concepts.
Engineering. Being system researchers, substantiating the effectiveness of our research ideas requires building a software system from scratch or implementing these ideas in an existing system, which requires a significant amount of engineering effort. I hope my students have the courage to tackle non-trivial engineering challenges and are willing to refine their engineering skills in the process.
Having said that, if you find yourself without particularly strong application materials (e.g., not having top-tier publications or reference letters from renowned researchers), yet firmly believe you excel in the four key aspects mentioned earlier, I encourage you to apply! I will select a substantial pool of candidates to talk to, and the decision will be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the application materials and the one-on-one meetings.