International Students Visit Chicago for Inaugural Summer Program

A new program designed to introduce students from around the world to UChicago CS and the broader City of Chicago brought nine students from China to campus in the summer of 2018.

Five students from the University of Science & Technology of China (USTC) and four from Peking University spent 8 weeks in Chicago for the inaugural Student Summer Research Fellowship Program, working on research projects with Kyle Chard, Aaron Elmore, Ian Foster, Hank Hoffmann, Junchen Jiang, Yanjing Li, Shan Lu, Ben Zhao, and Heather Zheng of UChicago CS. Projects covered areas ranging from databases, systems, and machine learning to security and data science.

Throughout the summer, the students worked with UChicago graduate students and shared a lunch talk series with the BigDataX research experiences for undergraduates program, hearing from Chair of Computer Science Michael Franklin, Professor Andrew Chien, and other faculty and PhD student speakers.

The visiting students also experienced the culture and entertainment of the Chicago area, going on excursions to local museums, a Chicago Cubs game, a river cruise, and Six Flags amusement park. Junyang Shao, now a third-year student at USTC, said the summer improved his confidence as a researcher and introduced him to the “beautiful buildings” and “delicious” food truck options of the UChicago campus.

“I thought, as a sophomore without any research experience, that a summer research program would be too difficult for me,” Shao said. “But after 2 weeks of communications with Professor Lu, I felt much more immersed in the research atmosphere. We also had opportunities to get involved in lots of interesting activities, which is really nice because it makes the summer not just sitting in lab and coding, but also a good trip.”

The 2018 program was put together by Shilin Liu — then with UChicago Global Engagement — with Shan Lu and Nita Yack of UChicago CS and support from the Physical Sciences Division (PSD). Lu said that creating this international program was important for increasing diversity in the Department of Computer Science and creating word-of-mouth about the university’s growing investment in the field.

“The way this program most directly helps our faculty is that it can help establish a relationship with good undergraduate colleges outside the US. There are many good students out there,  and we want those students to know better about the city and the department,” Lu said. “In the long term, it could potentially lead to collaborations, where we start with students but then extend it to faculty at these global universities.”

Next year’s program plans to include students from an European university and two additional Chinese universities, Tsinghua University and Zhejiang University. Future years may grow to include undergraduates from more countries, Lu said, as the department looks to establish university agreements that provide funding for visiting students.

Applications for the 2019 program will be available in January through the PSD Application Portal. More information can be found in the program webpage.

“The idea is not just to provide these students with hands-on research experience working with UChicago faculty and students, but also to have fun and give them experience beyond Hyde Park and beyond research,” Lu said. “We hope it will have impact beyond these nine students who came the first year. We hope that they can bring back some good stories to share with their friends.”

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