Rui Zhang

Assistant Professor
Computer Science and Engineering Department at Penn State University
W329 Westgate Building, University Park, PA 16802
Email:    r.zhang __at__

Thanks for your interest in joining my lab! We have multiple PhD openings for Fall 2021, and there will be at least one opening every year. I am also looking for master's and undergraduate students. I appreciate your interest in working with me, and please check the following information if you want to contact me.

Instruction for Applying and Contact

Prospective PhD Students : Please apply here . The deadline is December 15 for Fall admissions and August 31 for Spring admissions. In your application, please mention my name as an advisor you are interested in working with (otherwise I may miss your application materials). You are more than welcome to send me an email with your CV and relevant research experience. The admission requirements on GPA, GRE, and TOEFL/IELTS are flexible if you have a strong background.

Current Penn State Students : Please send me an email with your CV and transcript. For master's and undergraduate students, the minimum time commitment is 10 hours per week for six months, and meaningful research outcomes usually require more time than this (You can take CMPSC 496 Independent Studies for credits). Prerequisites include being proficient in at least one programming language (e.g., Python, Java, C++) and finishing courses in Machine Learning (CMPSC 448), Artificial Intelligence (CMPSC 442), and Natural Language Processing (CMPSC 497/597).

Research Interests and Ongoing Projects

My research interest lies in a broad range of Natural Language Processing (NLP) problems. Natural language is a fundamental form of information and communication. I design Machine Learning models (deep learning, unsupervised learning, transfer learning, reinforcement learning, multimodal learning) for NLP systems that understand language and communicate with people in different contexts, domains, text styles, and languages. To be specific, we have the following ongoing research projects:

Interactive and executable semantic parsing: Synthesize formal programs (e.g., SQL) from natural language for question answering between humans and machines

Text summarization: Summarize information in news, emails, and scientific articles

Cross-lingual information retrieval: Retrieve information relevant to a user’s query from documents in multiple low-resource languages

Open-domain data-to-text generation: Generate accurate textual descriptions for data in tables, databases, knowledge bases, knowledge graphs

If you are interested in any of these projects, feel free to check out my papers. You are also encouraged to propose other ideas and discuss with me. I'm also interested in applying NLP and ML techniques to interdisciplinary subjects such as education, healthcare, security, and privacy.

Requirements and Advice

In addition to measurable metrics (GPA, TOEFL, GRE, number of publications), here are several other qualities that an (potential) outstanding research should have:

Highly Self-Motivated. Have a genuine interest in your research area. Have a positive attitude toward problem-solving. Own your PhD project .

Read Broadly and Consistently. Ideally one paper a day. Here is an excellent video on How to read research papers by Andrew Ng .

Focus on one area and be Ambitious about the Quality (and then Quantity). The best researchers are famous because of their best things. Here is a picture of Bill Freeman to illustrate this.

Disseminate your research. "Science not communicated is science not done." Finish your first draft one week before the real deadline (Check this blog post on Last Minute Writing Advice). Learn how to write reviews for other papers (Check this blog post on Advice on Reviewing for EMNLP). Learn how to write rebuttals (check this excellent blog post on How we write rebuttals by Devi Parikh). Proactively talk to other people about your research. Make your research influential through slides, talks, posters, and blogs. Very important for your job search! For oral presentations, I recommend How To Speak by Patrick Winston .

About Penn State University and Penn State CSE

Penn State University : Penn State is one of "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity". The University Park campus is labeled one of the "Public Ivies". Penn State is ranked high in different rankings in 2021: Nationally 63 by US News and Globally 101 by QS.

Penn State CSE : Penn State CS is ranked No. 27 in the US on, a metrics-based ranking of top computer science institutions based on publications.

State College / University Park: State College/University Park is a college town in Pennsylvania. Driving takes 2.5 hours to Pittsburgh, 3 hours to Philadelphia, 3.5 hours to DC, and 4 hours to NYC. The University Park Airport, which is 15 mins by driving from the campus, has direct flights to Philadelphia, DC, Detroit, and Chicago.