New IST teaching faculty, former astronomer, says teaching a 'dream come true'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jian Wu, a former postdoctoral scholar in Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), has officially joined IST as a faculty lecturer. In an unconventional route, Wu found his way to the college after spending time as an astronomer.

“I have a special background,” he acknowledged. “People always ask me, how did I end up here?”

It was just after earning his doctorate in astronomy from Penn State that Wu found himself enjoying aspects of the field that were more aligned with IST.

“It was because I was interested in managing the data within astronomy, especially now that everything is digitized,” he said. “That pushed me towards a new field.”

Pursuing this interest, he began his postdoctoral work with Lee Giles, the David Reese Professor of IST, on his renowned academic search engine, CiteSeerX. Wu’s passion for managing data eventually propelled him to become the tech leader of CiteSeerX, overseeing 30 physical and virtual servers that store and process 10 million academic papers available in the search engine. 

“So now, some people call me Mr. CiteSeer,” he joked.

During his time as a postdoctoral student at IST, Wu published more than 20 peer-reviewed papers on various topics like cloud computing and data mining. He also wrote an article in AI Magazine, detailing the artificial intelligence techniques needed to keep CiteSeerX on the cutting edge of technology by the time it was published. Most recently, that has led him to investigate how to develop a semantic search engine.

“That means you can ask questions to a search engine, and not just get results from the keywords in your sentence, but it can respond directly with an answer,” he said. His paper on the subject, “HESDK: A Hybrid Approach to Extracting Scientific Domain Knowledge Entities,” was published in the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries in June of 2017.

He also hopes to one day apply his research skills to the astronomy field. 

“One thing I want to do in the future is to apply data mining techniques to astronomy,” he said. “There are so many different aspects of the high redshift objects such as quasars, which are super massive black holes. I want to explore how we can use all that data to learn more about them.”

Now he is excited to be back in the classroom with his new position in the IST faculty.

“I have been dreaming of being a teacher since I was a child,” he said. 

Growing up in China, he even began acting as an unofficial substitute when his teachers were absent in middle school. It instilled in him a love for teaching, one that he’s excited to share with his students.

“I’m glad my dream has come true,” he said. “This is an amazing program and an amazing college. I feel very lucky.”

Last Updated September 19, 2017