Xiaoye Sun: impacting daily life

CS PhD student Xiaoye "Steven" Sun.Xiaoye Sun (Ph.D. ’19) is a graduate student who wants to make an impact in people’s daily life. He has been successful at Rice.

In 2017, he presented a paper at the International Workshop on Networking BigData Oriented Systems (NetBOS) in Toronto. Then he interned at Facebook.

“During the summer I was a Ph.D. software engineer intern. I was part of the ads ranking team. I enjoyed the team because I worked on projects that made a direct impact on Facebook’s revenue. I felt excited and motivated because working at Facebook gave me a great sense of achievement,” he said.

Sun credits his mentors at Rice for some of his accomplishments. In turn, he mentors others.

“I’ve mentored 20 masters of computer science (MCS) students and ECE Ph.D. students so far,” Sun said.

“I love to share my past experiences with other students so that they can leverage my knowledge. Meanwhile, I learn a lot from them,” he said.

During his time at Rice, Sun learned the benefit of making mistakes.

“Initially, I feared trying new things because I was worried about making mistakes. My adviser, Eugene Ng, and other students were always supportive. I learned that if you make mistakes, you can learn from them. That’s why you need to be brave and try new things. Break things and you will figure out a way to fix them. This process will make you better prepared for the industry,” Sun said.

Sun learned much from Eugene Ng, a professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering. Ng encourages students to be thinkers.

“When I was working on a project, I had a technical problem that blocked my progress. Eugene was always helpful in guiding me to think towards the right direction. He helped me figure out what the problem could be and what were my assumptions,” he said.

Ng, in turn, enjoys working with Sun.

“Xiaoye is one of six talented students that I have the privilege to currently work with. Among his many talents, Xiaoye is the go-to person for developing test-bed experimental ideas because of his computer engineering background and his expertise with control software in hardware systems,” Ng said.

“These are invaluable to the group because our ultimate goal in research is to demonstrate the transformative impact of our ideas on real-world distributed big-data applications,” he said.

Guohui Wang, (ECE Ph.D. ’14) a research engineer at Snapchat, was Sun’s mentor when he arrived at Rice.

“Xiaoye is smart and dedicated. Those qualities make him who he is today. I clearly remember that I picked him up from the airport years ago when he first arrived in the U.S. Even though he was not sure what he wanted to learn, he was willing to take advice from senior students,” he said.

“I believe that choosing a new adviser at that time was a big decision. I’m glad to see he has made great progress and achievements in his research during the past few years,” Wang said.

Last month, Sun and a team from Rice wrote a paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Network Protocols in Cambridge, U.K. Titled “Republic: Data Multicast Meets Hybrid Rack-Level Interconnections in Data Center,” the paper describes how Republic, a complete system that addresses issues in achieving high-performance data multicast, can help data centers.

Sun said the use of circuit switches in data transfer is the trend of the next decade.

“I want to be able to build a scalable and efficient data-centered network infrastructure for big data applications such as machine learning algorithms and data basis. The idea we use is to put optical circuit switches in data center networks to accelerate one-to-many data transfer,” he said.

“The reason we want to use an optical circuit switch is because it has much larger bandwidth and very low energy cost compared with traditional electrical switches. I believe that using circuit switches to handle big-data transfer in data centers will be the trend for the next ten years,” Sun said.

The future holds opportunities for Sun to make a difference in daily life.

“I’m choosing to go into industry work after graduation. I want my skills to make an impact in people’s lives. In the industry, the work you’ve done makes a quick impact,” he said.

Xiaoye Sun expects to complete his Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2019. His adviser is Eugene Ng.

–Cintia Listenbee, Communications and Marketing Specialist in Computer Science