Another year and another class of graduating students will say goodbye to their alma mater and start a new journey. The four years spent at UIC is some of the best years of their life. How many stories and sceneries have been treasured along the way? How much hard work has paid off? The following is the story of Year 4 Computer Science and Technology graduate Zheng Hao.

Year 4 Computer Science and Technology (CST) graduate Zheng Hao from UIC’s Division of Science and Technology (DST) received several scholarships during his time at UIC. He is about to enter a new stage of his life as he has decided to go to the University of California, San Diego in the US. While studying at UIC, he developed a strong interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially in natural language processing. After four years of high-intensity studies, he found his passion and has become more confident in pursuing what he loves.

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Finding direction and building confidence

Zheng Hao has a strong interest in computer science. In his opinion, this is a field full of creativity. Through programming, people can create many things which can be widely applied to daily life. His biggest achievement in college is finding his direction and confidence while chasing his dream.

In the first class of his freshman year, the teacher's introduction of this programme and its future development lit up students’ faces, including Zheng Hao’s. At that time, he had many imaginations and questions about his future life. One of the major advantages as a CST student, in Zheng Hao’s eyes, is that the teachers have been paying attention to each of the student’s development.

After entering the College, he got help from mentors and peer mentors in the Mentor Caring Programme, including assistance regarding future planning, answers to questions about study and life, etc., which made him quickly adapt to university life.

Zheng Hao spent most of his time studying and practising. He is particularly interested in natural language processing, which is an important direction in the field of Artificial Intelligence. He and his classmates established the UIC AISIG interest group to study artificial intelligence together.

The College also provided students with many opportunities for learning and practicing. Zheng Hao explained that Programme Director of CST, Prof Su Weifeng, and DST’s Assistant Professor Dr Jefferson Fong would organise AI learning sessions outside of class to make sure there will be a fixed two hours per week to supervise students. Interested students could participate and the sessions were even available during the winter vacation.

Zheng Hao also participated in the 13th International Workshop on Semantic Evaluation 2019 (SemEval 2019) with his classmates, competing with students from the world's top universities (including doctoral students), and finally won the sixth place. The task of Zheng Hao's group was to identify offensive speech. The number of offensive languages on the internet cannot be handled by webmasters alone. Zheng Hao’s team hopes to detect the languages using artificial intelligence. It is a very challenging task because some offensive comments can be very obscure, and the computer might misunderstand the text. After putting in a lot of effort, they finally solved this difficulty and published the results at the Lexical and Computational Semantics and Semantic Evaluation conference.

In his senior year, Zheng Hao continued to explore in his interested field. In his Final Year Project (FYP), he and his team developed a model that can generate a natural language summary with a pre-set number of words while preserving the main ideas of the original document. They noticed that all the existing models have to compromise between summary quality and length controllability. To address this problem, they proposed the novel-length controlling unit Length Attention, and by implementing this they managed to achieve a good result.

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Zheng Hao at the 2018-2019 scholarship award ceremony

Zheng Hao is very grateful for the professional training and care he received from teachers. His FYP supervisor Prof Su Weifeng arranged weekly four-hour group meetings that lasted for a semester. They revised the same paper more than ten times. Zheng Hao said it was this experience that allowed him to understand the hardships of conducting research, as well as also making him more assertive in choosing a future direction. He is also comfortable talking about his doubts with his teachers, who he describes are like friends to him.

After four years of hard work and unremitting efforts, Zheng Hao has gained a lot. He has a clear understanding of how to “work hard” now he is a young graduate. He learnt to be more rational to set goals. He has won national scholarships, first-class scholarships, and the xCurrency Curiosity Scholarship. In the future, Zheng Hao plans to pursue a PhD in the field of natural language processing, integrating natural language processing technology into products and bringing more value.

From MPRO

Reporter: Covee Wang

Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He