Ming Hua

Facebook ‘friends’ computing science star

June 10, 2010

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Facebook users with hundreds of friends will appreciate the results of Ming Hua’s research.

The computing science PhD graduate is now a research scientist with the social networking website where she uses her data-mining and machine-learning skills to devise new user tools.

Facebook recently adopted one of Hua’s smart data-ranking algorithms to let users with hundreds of Facebook “friends” view only those news updates they care about.

Hua’s thesis, which explores how to rank massive amounts of uncertain data, was passed “as is” with no changes required— a rare accomplishment— and she has published papers on the subject in top academic journals and conferences.

Now, she’s adapting her research to her job.

“A major challenge for Internet companies like Facebook is that they have massive data and want to extract the most use from it,” she says.

Hua came to SFU from China in 2006 as an international student to earn her PhD under computing science professor Jian Pei, with whom she had been collaborating during her master’s degree at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

She found there were relatively few female computing science students at SFU and quickly became involved with the campus Women in Computing Science (WICS) group, mentoring other female students.

Her efforts earned her a Google scholarship in 2008 and an invitation to a Google Scholars retreat at the Internet search giant’s New York office.

Hua was initially planning an academic career as a research professor. But a chance meeting between her advisor Pei and several Facebook research scientists at an overseas conference led to an introduction, an ongoing discussion of research and, when she graduated, a job offer.

For now, Hua is happy where she is and hopes to work out even more smart algorithms to improve the Facebook user experience. She also plans to contribute further to WICS community.


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