SFU News: Doctoral grad first to earn dual PhD in computing science

June 09, 2015
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The latest success story from the Dual Degree Program (DDP) in Computing Science, jointly run by SFU and Zhejiang University (ZJU) in China, is its first graduating PhD student, Xianta Jiang, who receives his SFU degree at the June 9 convocation ceremony.

The DDP program began in 2005 and as of last fall, more than 200 undergraduate students from both universities have participated. In 2011 the universities introduced a graduate program, with five master’s students graduating to date. Jiang is the first of eight PhD students to complete the program.

Jiang is continuing at SFU as a post-doctoral fellow in the MENVRA lab, working with engineering science professor Carlo Menon. Jiang’s vision-related research tracks eye movement and pupil size in surgeons, to learn more about the impact of stress on the profession.

Jiang arrived at SFU in 2011 and found adapting to the informal banter of a classroom discussion to be his first true test as a North American post-secondary graduate student.

“Coming with my experience, this was not a typical classroom for me,” says Jiang, who, like all students of the dual degree program, first had to learn a new language in order to comprehend his coursework.

Persistence paid off. He not only learned English but since 2012 has co-authored 10 journal papers, winning an honourable mention for one as lead author.

Jiang says he enjoyed SFU’s research environment and actively engaged in the interdisciplinary research group, led by his senior supervisor, professor Stella Atkins, with the cooperation of medical doctors and researchers from Vancouver General Hospital and the University of Alberta.

Computing science professor Zenian Li, the DDP’s director, says the graduate students are all finding good jobs with companies such as Amazon, Boeing Canada, Ericsson Canada and IBM.

“And with the participation of students at both the master’s and PhD levels,” says Li, “we are witnessing an increasing level of collaborative research activities between SFU and ZJU—for example, joint publications and research visits.”

Jiang enjoys the West Coast lifestyle, and has settled his family in Coquitlam.

“B.C. is a beautiful place, and we have learned so much from this experience that is more than just academics,” he says.

The program is celebrating its 10th anniversary and continues to draw wide interest from both Canada and China.

This story originally appeared in SFU News