For Aoyu Wu, data is more than just a vocation, but a way of life. The Chengdu native and Computer Science PhD has been at HKUST since undergraduate days, and wants to use data for the good of mankind. As the recipient of the 2021 Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship (MSRA) and the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme (HKPFS), Aoyu proves that nice guys can finish first.

What is so cool about data?

Data visualization and human-computer interaction are my passions, and this is the primary way people can access information and make some better decisions. I have worked quite a bit on the Pulse of HKUST, which uses the likes of Wi-Fi data to show peak hours across campus and bus stations, and allows students to plan their days in a way to save time.

What other projects have you been working on?

I have been working with HKUST VisLab, a multidisciplinary group aiming at improving the visual analysis and visualizations. For example, together with other students majoring in computational media and art, we made a video about COVID-19 and the importance of being vaccinated. Our aim is to educate the public with this engaging video and try to save lives. This is a research lab that aims to impact society with data visualization and solve challenging problems such as air quality, or even analyzing individual presentation styles such as gestures and speech.

What is your aim after you graduate?

I have been offered roles at big tech companies, but I would like to continue to help address social issues with my work. In many ways, my field is still growing and Asian scholars are generally underrepresented. People are caring more and more about data and how it can be used. I like research, enjoy working with students and conducting research on my own. I don't want to spend all my time working on products, that's pretty boring.

What is your dream?

I'm determined to be a faculty member, I might even get my own office, right now it's just a desk. I finish my PhD this year, and I must say it might be sad in some ways, I've been a student here for so long! We will also have an in-person congregation which is great. When I was clearing out my belongings I found some items from undergraduate times, and that brought back great memories. Throughout my journey in HKUST, I even studied European History, and many of those things are relevant for our age. History is really important, to learn from the past. Through data, I have also examined historical maps, and they show how humanity has progressed.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love hitting the gym, I go two hours a day. But my life is dedicated to solving challenging problems. I want to push myself to work on issues that are complex and can make a difference. What a journey it’s been here, let’s see what the next chapter brings.