Xianghua (Sharon) Ding

Ph.D. Information & Computer Science, 2010

Why did you choose this degree?

Before I joined the program, I had worked as an engineer in the IT industry for several years, and I learned from this experience that I’d prefer working as a researcher, so I chose to come back to school and pursue a Ph.D. degree.

What has been your career path since graduating with a Ph.D.?

After I received my Ph.D. degree, I came back to Shanghai, China and joined Fudan University there, and have been working as a faculty member in the School of Computer Science at Fudan since then.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

There are a lot of things I enjoy about my current position, including the relative freedom in choosing what topics to work on, the relatively flexible working hours, being part of the global community of some very smart and fun people, teaching and interacting with students, reading and writing, and so on. Of course, doing research on topics I care about is what I enjoy the most.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

In the morning, I will try to clear out some relatively shallow tasks in my to-do list, such as filling forms, finishing paper work, dealing with emails, making slides and so on. In the afternoon, besides meeting and teaching, I will try to manage some time to do concentrated work, such as reading and writing. After becoming a faculty member, I found sometimes it is not easy to get time to do that, but I think it is very important and I care and enjoy it.

What was the best part of your experience at UCI?

I think the best part of my experience at UCI was the exposure to some top-tier scholars and researchers in the field of information and computer science. The opportunities to personally meet and learn from these people are what I appreciated the most.

In what ways did your studies prepare you for your career to date?

First, it helped me to get into the field I was interested in. Although I wanted to do research and decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree when I came to UCI, I knew very little about research and the field then. The studies at UCI helped me to get through that and become an independent researcher. Second, at UCI, I met not simply top-tier researchers and scholars, but also very smart and diligent student peers, and some of them have become my important collaborators today.

What would be your advice to incoming students who might want to follow a similar career path?

For those who come to pursue a Ph.D. degree, they may come with big ideas or big goals to accomplish, but my advice would be to not be afraid of doing something small, because small steps add up to big goals. As a famous Chinese saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (千里之行,始于足下).


“The opportunities to personally meet and learn from [some top-tier scholars and researchers in the field of information and computer science] are what I appreciated the most.”