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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Q and A with Nghia Hoang

Concept of a digital data highway.

Q & A

with Dr. Nghia Hoang

Nghia Hoang

Dr. Nghia Hoang

Ph.D.: Computer Science, National University of Singapore

B.Sc. : Information Technology, University of Science, Vietnam National University

What do you teach?

I teach an artificial intelligence course.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

To me the most enjoyable moment of teaching is when I see my students being able to relate, discuss and interpret the connection between the concepts taught in classes.
Being able to do so means the students have truly acquired a deep understanding of the topics and will be able to study more independently moving forward to achieve further successes and discoveries in their career paths.

What is your research focus?

My research focuses on developing personalized intelligent systems comprising IoT devices (e.g., smart phones/watches) assisting a large user base.
Key aspects of such systems are:

  1. Personalizability: devices are used by different users with different task preferences, so personalized models are needed;
  2. Transferability: devices must also be capable of utilizing past, collective knowledge of others to further enhance their problem-solving efficacy without intruding on the private data of others;
  3. Interpretability: transferred knowledge must be represented in human-understandable forms so that they can be easily combined or integrated consistently; and
  4. Decentralizability: hosting and maintaining personalized models on server do not scale well with the explosive growth of users, so personalized models need to be on edge devices of the computing network

What drew you to your field of study?

I was attracted to computer science – artificial intelligence and machine learning in particular — because of its unique stimulation in problem solving and knowledge discovery.

I find computer science offers an interesting toolset with multitudes of abstraction levels that help model and solve very practical problems, which constantly drives forward the development of new technologies. Furthermore, the high-level abstraction of computer science also makes it highly applicable to other scientific disciplines which makes the knowledge exploration and discovery even more exciting and fun.

What keeps you motivated in your work?

The endless opportunities of finding and solving new problems is the key motivation for me in this profession. I highly value the privilege to teach, mentor and collaborate with students in the process of exploration and knowledge discovery in this position, which is always more of a calling than a job to me.

What advice do you have for students?

To be successful in computer science, I believe (from my own personal experience) it is most important to remain passionate and motivated.
This means for example:

  1. Pursue knowledge proactively outside of courses;
  2. Avoid last-minute cramming;
  3. Prioritize courses that fit best with your education plan rather than those that you are most likely to do well (but are not as relevant);
    develop both theoretic and hands-on skill;
  4. One would help you think big, focus on what is most important while the other would help translate your idea into concrete, measurable work
    connect to professors and fellow students;
  5. Speaking often to professors helps keep in touch with most up-to-date changes in the field, while speaking to fellow students helps with learning better study habits and creating a sense of community within the institution.

On the other hand, do not forget to rest and relax. Extended periods of hardworking and cramming could lead to burnt-out. Making time to relax can help you solve complex problems, design creative solutions.

If you could go back in time, what if anything would you do differently as a student?

I would advise my past self to be more proactive in communicating with my advisor. An advisor is there to help but the students need to communicate what are the difficulties to get the right help.

I would also adopt better reading strategies which could have got me the bird’s eye view much faster. Back in the day, I attempted to read each and every paper in depth and that turns out to be both overwhelming and inefficient.

Today, I believe a better tack to reading papers would be to decide at which depth level a paper should be read. This will not only fasten the literature survey but also improve our ability to focus on the big picture, avoid technical nuances while reading papers.

Why would you recommend Washington State University to others?

I would recommend Washington State University to others as a great place to be if they are looking for a research utopia to develop their career. Although I have not been with a university for very long, I have already had a lot of help and support from many senior faculty members in the department to get me started well ahead of time.
I would tell my colleagues confidently that here at WSU, we have a very resourceful and enabling faculty with world-class researcher and education programs which certainly gives the best environment to develop a long-term career.
Furthermore, on a personal note, I particularly love the urban and suburban mixing vibes in the Pullman-Moscow area which are relaxing and ideal for research stimulation. So, to me, this is really the place to be for someone who is looking for a beautiful place with a serene and peaceful atmosphere to live, work and grow a family.

Visit Dr. Hoang’s Faculty Page