Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer
Where did you grow up: I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan.
What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT? I earned my B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science and Information Engineering (CSIE) from Tamkang University in 1998 and from National Taiwan University in 2000, respectively. After finishing my master's degree, I decided to serve my military service in the wireless industry and continued to work there for a few years afterwards. I then decided to challenge myself again to pursue further understanding in Web technologies, and applied to Ph.D. programs at several schools. I am glad I have a chance to challenge myself again at MIT.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours? When I was young, I didn't know what I wanted to be. My parents taught me to work hard and be diligent. Unfortunately, I was not a good exam taker and always needed to spend more time on things than other students to maintain an average level. Things changed when I was a senior in high school. My teacher told me, "Although you are a slow learner, you have something that other students don't have--you never give up." My life changed at that moment, and I worked even harder since then. I want to be a great teacher and hope to change people's lives, just like my teacher changed my life. This passion has not changed.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you? I learned a lot from industry, which focuses on prioritizing tasks and quickly processing them in order. People are impressed by my ability to organize events, host activities and coordinate projects. However, it seems like this kind of ability is not necessary to be a student at MIT; instead, cool and great ideas matter.
What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there? I am in the EECS department (Course 6) and started my Ph.D. program in 2006.
What are you working on and why are you passionate about it? I am working on webpage enhancement for desktop and mobile browsers. My first contact with the Web was back in 1994 when I was a freshman. At that time, the Web was simple and the browser's functionality was limited. By the time I became a master's student, the Web had changed a lot. There were many valuable resources available on the Web, but I didn't know how to use them easily for different purposes. This question prompted me to investigate a good way to utilize the content of Digital Library and Museum for educational purposes.
My work in industry was mobile browser design for mobile devices, and my passion in this area has continued. As Web programming techniques have advanced, webpages have become more and more complicated. My current research focuses on investigating useful customization and automation techniques, which can be used to solve usability issues of webpages on desktop and mobile browsers.
What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL? The research environment and students are my two favorite things. CSAIL is a very open environment for conducting research, and I can always talk to other brilliant researchers or students about my ideas. No matter how hard I think about my research topic, I can always improve my ideas with the help of my peers. This kind of pressure from outstanding peers pushed me to learn more and challenge myself.
What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade? The Web is an important platform for delivering information, but users continue to face difficulties. The condition becomes worse on the mobile Web due to the inherent limitations in input and output. Since my research focuses on customization and automation techniques, I expect that the research results can be used in real life to provide a better user experience.
What are your future plans? Because I have a passion for teaching, an academic career specializing in teaching is one of my plans. In addition, since I worked in industry for several years, I am better equipped to realize the gap between product design and research prototype. It is a challenge to close this gap, but I think I am a good candidate to take it on.
What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student? If you already have a clear research interest, CSAIL is the right place to make your passion stronger. If you don't have any clear research direction, CSAIL is an excellent place to find your passion.
Is there anything else you'd like to share? Being a graduate student with a family is not easy, and having a family at MIT is no exception. I am lucky to live in MIT family housing, which you should check out if you plan to come with your family. I am sure your family members will enjoy living there.