My Graduation Story – from debugging at Tencent to doctoral studies in Chicago
Chris Edwards | 08/15/2020

In the tenth year of our existence, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) has been supported by its three pillars of “Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.” As our student community has passed through our campus over the years, they have excelled in many areas.

While many students take time to determine their future directions, some already know before they have arrived all the way south. That was the case with Yue GONG (’20, Computer Science and Engineering), who has shown herself to be an excellent programmer and debugger. From interning at Tencent to receiving a doctoral and fellowship offer from the University of Chicago, it is clear that she will have a considerable impact in the world of computer programming for years to come.

Yue GONG arrived at SUSTech intending to become a computer programmer. During her last summer high school vacation, she borrowed a book on the programming language C++. While she was expecting to develop a general interest in the subject, she found herself enveloped in the language, spending days and nights learning and debugging. Looking back at that time in her life, she realized that she spent more time studying programming languages than she did studying for the national college entrance examinations.

It was the strict logic behind programming languages that kept Yue GONG interested and intrigued in the field. When she arrived at SUSTech, the first class she took was CS101: Introduction fo Computer Science, taught by Chair Professor Xin YAO. She recalled that her compilations had to be written by hand on white paper, ensuring that each line of code came together correctly.

During her first year, she also met some senior students from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Yue GONG took part in many technical discussion classes organized by the senior students. She remembers her introduction to Python, computer classes with the Computer Interest Group at SUSTech, and full-stack web development with Grapefruit Studio. It was inevitable that Yue GONG would wind up studying in CSE.

Once Yue GONG arrived at SUSTech, she received a lot of support from CSE Associate Professor Zongwei LUO. His support led her to select him as her first-year mentor. He would meet with his students every Wednesday for lunch while discussing everyone’s challenges. He also arranged for laboratory visits and introduced different equipment to his tutees.

Gong’s academic mentor is  Assistant Professor Bo TANG. They met in the CS203 Data Structure and Algorithm Analysis class. Bo TANG is noted as having high requirements, standards, and teaching quality. When they met formally for the first time, he went through all the research topics being studied in his group. He went into great detail and showed his intense passion for the work being conducted in his lab. Yue GONG opted to join his database group, which helped her form the road ahead of her.

Bo TANG was an excellent mentor for Yue GONG, providing her with the academic support she needed, as well as writing an excellent recommendation letter.

While studying under Bo TANG, Yue GONG got the opportunity to attend summer schools at two different universities. She went to both the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of California Irvine (UC Irvine), the latter called UCInspire.

The summer of her sophomore year at UBC opened Yue GONG’s mind to learning and studying in a foreign environment.  She adapted to this new paradigm and set her mind to study abroad in the future. The summer of her junior year was far more intense at the UCInspire summer research project.

Her research project was to improve and upgrade a cutting-edge database system for which she did not know the source code. The system had been developed for ten years, so there were vast amounts of code to absorb and understand. She formed an excellent relationship with a doctoral student who understood the challenges behind such a project and provided the support for Yue GONG. The first day she arrived, the two of them worked on setting up a complex environment, and she was told how to get familiar with the system. This partnership meant that she could get to grips with the code quickly and focus on developing new methods for optimizing the database system. Her final technical report received significant praise from the directors.

Yue GONG has also been working for Tencent as part of an internship in their advertising department. She has been focusing on the software development side from initial requirements and functional design, all the way through to final release. It has changed her outlook on writing code since corporate code writing requires the ability for it to be maintained by others in the future. The documentation requirements are significant, and she considered it more of an art than a science. It was the efforts of Assistant Professor Bo TANG that instilled high standards of coding in her, and she wants to maintain those in the future.

Looking back on her time at SUSTech, Yue GONG wants to thank her two tutors, Assistant Professor Bo TANG and Associate Professor Zongwei LUO. She also wanted to thank her mentor and supervisor at UCI, Professor Michael Carey, and her classmates for putting up with her during times of high stress. 

2020, 08-15
By Chris Edwards

From the Series

Graduate Stories

Proofread ByYingying XIA

Photo BySupplied, Yan QIU

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