Chinese Students Complete USC Internship
Young engineers from Tsinghua University cap a six-week program filled with enriching experiences at the USC Viterbi School.
“These eight are the first to walk across the bridge of partnership established between the two schools,” said USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “We hope to see this program grow and develop ever stronger ties between two excellent engineering schools.”
The strategic partnership was initiated in May by Yortsos and Dean Jiangu Sun of Tsinghua’s School of Information Systems and Technology. The agreement called for student and faculty exchanges as well as collaboration in research and education topics of mutual interest.
Funding for the Tsinghua-Viterbi partnership was provided by Feng Deng MS ’93, who received his undergraduate engineering degree from Tsinghua and had a successful career in Silicon Valley. After working for Intel and Juniper Networks, he founded Netscreen Technologies. Deng then returned to China to co-found Northern Light Venture Capital with three Chinese partners. The company invests in and develops emerging Chinese technology-based companies.
Deng’s vision is to send China’s best undergraduate engineers to USC to expose them to world-class research so they can develop technology innovation skills.
The USC Viterbi School’s Raghu Raghavendra, senior associate dean for strategic initiatives, and Margie Berti, associate dean for doctoral programs, hosted the students.
At a celebration luncheon held at the end of the summer, the students provided feedback on both their research efforts and their experiences, offering praise for the opportunity to fully integrate with the school’s research laboratory teams including participation in actual research projects. Many expressed hope that they could return to USC as graduate students.
Xiaoguang Wang and Sheng Wang joined professor C. C. Jay Kuo’s Media Communications Lab, analyzing and improving the Wiimote controller for Nintendo’s Wii game console.
“We studied the Wii video game machine,” Xiaoguang Wang said. “It is easier to control than X-Box. We learned a lot about various ways to achieve human-machine interface, including the use of movement and acceleration sensors, and infra-red sensors.”
Sheng Wang added, “I spent a lot of time reading about Wii and then thinking about how it works. I learned a lot about how Wiimote control data can be used.” He said that he appreciated the help of Naco Chiang, the senior doctoral student in Kuo’s lab.
Yuankai Ge and Dong Li worked with Bhaskar Krishnamachari, assistant professor of electrical engineering and holder of the Cayley MacDonald Early Career Chair, on signal transmissions for embedded sensor systems.
“Yuankai and Dong were amazing in how quickly they learned to do something entirely new. Working hard, they were able to accomplish in a little over four weeks what may take other students as much as a semester,” Krishnamachari said. “They leave my group with useful software and documentation that will help us greatly in our future research.”
Ge was enthusiastic about the opportunity to solve some antenna problems, which helped improve the quality of transmitted radio signals.
“The results are promising for future research,” he said.
At the luncheon Dong said, “This is our first time out of our country. This was a great experience for us, but without your help we might have met a lot of trouble.”
Guodong Wang said that one of the things he enjoyed the most was the opportunity to get to know the other staff in computer science professor Gerard Medioni’s Computer Vision Laboratory, housed in the USC Viterbi School’s Integrated Media Systems Center.
“I really enjoyed getting to know the people in my lab. One very rich part of the experience was being able to read their technical papers,” he said. “I got to know everyone in the lab and learned about what each person was doing.”
Wenhao Jia said he was grateful about being able to actually participate in serious research. “I had the opportunity to assist a Ph.D. student in growing nano-tubes. My exposure to the research environment at USC really opened my eyes and helped me really understand how to do research. I really hope to return to USC.”
The interns also expressed gratitude for the mentoring they received from faculty and research staff.
“One of the projects I worked on was to write software that can process inputs from up to eight sensors on an implanted chip,” said Lingyun Zhao, who worked on two projects in the Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory with Ellis Meng, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
Wentao Han worked under professor Viktor Prasanna, holder of the Charles Lee Powell Chair in Engineering. “I learned a lot about how to test a project,” he said. “That’s something I never got to do before.”
The Tsinghua students also made time to enjoy Southern California attractions, including trips to Disneyland, the Staples Center, Santa Monica and Newport Beach. They said that while Southern California’s gentle climate was warm, it was not as hot as Beijing in the summer.
Raghavendra said that this first summer of Tsinghua research internships at USC was intended to be a starting point for an ongoing program.
“We hope this year’s interns will go back to Tsinghua and tell others about their experiences. We look forward to receiving additional Tsinghua students and faculty too,” he said. “We also hope to send some USC students to Tsinghua.”
“These students fully integrated themselves into the school and interacted wonderfully with USC Viterbi School faculty, staff and students,” she said. “They are definitely some of the brightest in the world, and we hope they will return to USC for graduate programs in engineering.”
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