Lei Cao joining UA Department of Computer Science!

Aug. 3, 2021

Dr. Lei Cao will be joining the Department of Computer Science faculty in Fall 2022! We asked Dr. Cao to answer a few questions/prompts as a way to introduce Dr. Cao to the department. Read below! 

Educational background/short bio: 

In the last four years I have been working with Prof. Samuel Madden and Prof. Michael Stonebraker in the Data System group at MIT CSAIL, first as a Postdoc Associate and now as a research scientist. Before that I spent one year at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center as a Research Staff Member in the AI, Blockchain, and Quantum Solutions group. I received my Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, supervised by Prof. Elke Rundensteiner. My research is focused on developing scalable, intelligent data systems. 

Research interests:

As the bridge between business insights and the wealth of data, data scientists play a critical role by helping enterprises make sense of data — discovering regular patterns to recommend products, finding trends to promote sales, detecting anomalies to prevent financial losses or seek investment opportunities, etc. Many data scientists prefer high level, end-to-end interfaces, like SQL databases, to accomplish their tasks, since they abstract away low-level time consuming engineering details. Except for SQL databases, however, few tools for data scientists today offer such high-level interfaces. The goal of my research is to bridge this gap, by developing systems and algorithms that automatically address low-level performance and scaling bottlenecks at every step in the analysis pipeline, while still making it easy to incorporate domain-specific requirements. With these tools at hand, data scientists thus can focus on addressing the needs of the applications instead of worrying about the engineering details.

Why did you apply to join the University of Arizona Department of Computer Science?

The Computer Science department of University of Arizona is solid and has a family style atmosphere that impresses me the most. The life at Tucson is comfortable and affordable. The Saguaro National Park and the Oro Valley/Tucson Loop bike path are amazing.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in higher education/the academy? 

One of the key factors that inspires me to pursue a career in academy is my PHD advisor, Prof. Elke Rundensteiner. From her I realized how a great professor could potentially contribute to the growth and the success of the students. When I joined the PhD program, I almost knew nothing about high quality academia research. My advisor trained me step by step into a solid researcher. She is very patient, always positive and supportive. She really cares about the students. I want to be a professor like her. Another reason is that I really enjoy the time working with the students, either undergraduate and  graduate students.

What are you looking forward to most in coming to UA?

Teaching and supervising students, the collaboration with the amazing faculty members, and the new experiences of living in Southwest. But I will miss the winter of New England.

Any other information you would like students, staff, faculty, alumni, etc. to know about you. 

I like soccer and basketball. I am a long time fan of Manchester United, a soccer club in the English Premium League. I am also a fan of Mike Jordan, the GOAT in NBA history. Most importantly, I cannot wait to start working with the students who are interested in building intelligent data systems. Reach me now at lcao@csail.mit.edu or caolei@arizona.edu. You don’t have to wait until next August :).