PhD profile: Xin Rong

Xin Rong

Xin Rong: from Mountain View to cloud-computing, seeking patterns in big data

While most students would count themselves fortunate to have been chosen for one Google summer internship, UMSI PhD student Xin Rong has been twice as lucky. He spent last summer as a research intern at Google, Inc., in Mountain View, California, and his work was so noteworthy that he has been invited back for a second summer internship this year.

“I’m kind of lucky because my advisor has this friend and he recommended me to his friend,” Xin says. “It’s definitely a good opportunity to work there.” On his first day, the interns were shown the 2013 film The Internship, about two midlife career changers hoping to score a job at Google. He felt that Hollywood took a few liberties in the storytelling, though, since interns don’t actually compete in teams against one another to win jobs at Google. Instead, interns are partnered with Google staff mentors. “We don’t have intern teams. We belonged to a product team that worked on app services, recommending better keywords to support advertisers to maximize their profits,” Xin says.

Here at UMSI, Xin is working closely with faculty researchers on a number of projects involving large-scale data.

Under the direction of his advisor Qiaozhu Mei, an assistant professor, Xin is part of the research project “Computing in the Cloud: Building Web-Scale Language Networks” which uses text mining to find keywords from large scale text. The project involves analyzing text data obtained by scanning books and studying the evolution of human language over the centuries to determine large scale text patterns.

As a member of Foreseer research group, also led by Mei, Xin participates in cutting-edge research related to data mining and information retrieval. “We work very, very closely with each other, meeting weekly and supporting each other by sharing data sets and source code and through reading groups,” Xin says.

He is working on another research project with his advisor Tom Finholt, “New Measures of Faculty Members’ Scholarly Performance.” “We’re working on a web service that can measure the scholarly impact of professors of UMSI, based on publications and awards,” Xin says. “We are looking for good ways of recommending potential collaboration for future research projects.”

The project evaluates the performance of UMSI professors and their scholarly impact and serves as a better way to standardize qualifications for hiring professors. “I’m leading a group of three master’s students on this project, making use of large-scale text networks to try to predict what direction a scholar will pursue in a certain period of time,” he says. “It demonstrates how powerful a network of words and phrases can be in the forming of scale text data.”

Xin has a bachelor of engineering from Tsinghua University with a major in automation. He plans to graduate in 2016 and would like to become a university professor.

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