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Xiaoyu Xing Awarded 2019-20 Academic Excellence in the Masters

Xiaoyu Xing portrait with CLAS theme background

Xiaoyu Xing, who is due to graduate this May 2020, was chosen to receive an award for “Academic Excellence in the Masters Program” for 2019-20. This honor recognizes academic prowess, the variety and difficulty of courses taken along the way, as well as instructor feedback.

Xiaoyu was kind enough to reflect upon this award, his time at Iowa, his very path to Computer Science, as well as what comes next for him:

How was your experience at Iowa -- including research, courses, and other outside-the-department endeavors?

Iowa is a good place to study. Some on theoretical to deepen the thinking and some on practical to target job market. I enjoyed every course at UIowa. I did research with Prof. Nithyanand on internet measurement. He is an excellent professor with great ideas and caring about students. I got a lot of help from him on research design and implements as well as future planning. UIowa is also a good place to live in. There are plenty of shows and performances at Hancher. For people in MLH, life is really convenient since locating near downtown and also fun since there are a lot of activities throughout the year.

You had a fascinating path to Computer Science: can you tell us a bit about how you went from Bachelor and PhD in Chemistry to an Master’s degree in CS? What “angle” or value added have you gained personally and professionally?

Several years back, I was fascinated by how much Alpha Go can do and decided to step into computer science to see what I could do.  Personally, study computer science adds on another thinking pattern and skills. With more and more data and information people need to processing every day, and with more computer-based devices around us, learning computer science could make it more efficient to understand and interact with information. Professionally, data has become an important factor to drive industries forward, not only in software or the internet industry. Chemical and medicine industry has involved machine learning to screen potential chemicals and drugs, in addition to high-throughput screening, to reduce time and resources cost. There are more and more places taking advantage of big data to boost their performance. Learning computer science is a good way to broaden careers into interdisciplinary fields.

What of that experience helped you achieve academic success as well as secure employment at Amazon?

I think what drives me to come so far can be summaries by three phrases mentioned in the "Amazon Leadership Principles". 1. Ownership: taking ownership for each homework, course, research, jobs, etc. Take responsibility for them. 2.  Insist on the Highest Standards. 3. Dive Deep: don't let any details go, understand every detail, they are the key to a good homework/project/research. From the beginning at UIowa, I set up my goal clear. With the help and advising from the department and professors, I strengthened my background quickly and insisted on a high standard for every course to do as well as I can. For job searching, I applied for many roles and with help from university and friends, I practiced my interview skills and with some luck, I got the intern offer at Amazon. After the summer ends, I was offered a full-time role.

What advice do you have for our students?

  1. It's important to know your goal and what you want to achieve from here.
  2. Then strive for it, holding a high standard and taking ownership for whatever you do.
  3. Seek help and advice from university, department, and professors
  4. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, instead, "bias for actions" (from "Amazon Leadership Principles"). If you have a plan for good, it doesn't need to be perfect before you start. Action now on an imperfect is always better than delaying for a perfect one.