Human-Information Interaction Research Lab
Information Technology for Sharing, Browsing, and Interacting with Data

Lu Xiao

Brief Bio
I often received the following questions after I introduced myself. So I provided the answers below in case you have the same questions. A copy of my recent CV is available here
When did you switch your major?
I passed my proposal defense while pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering at University of Florida. My proposal was about using both Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and computer simulation technique (lattice Monte Carlo simulation) to study how polymers adsorb to a flat surface and the related physical forces. While waiting for access to the microscope, I learned to use FORTRAN to write simulation programs. My simulation programs were about single polymers and co-polymers, and my study was to look at the distributions of tail, loop, and train under different conditions. I realized that I was more interested in computing than polymers after these simulation exercises. I changed my major from Chemical Engineering to Computer Engineering then. 
Why did you change your universities?
Both personal and career reasons. Personal reason: I was not happy at that time so I thought changing the environment would help. Career reason: I was debating which research area I should pursue when studying for my Ph.D. in computer engineering at University of Florida. I liked all the core courses in the program such as Dr. Sander's Programming for Language Principle course (COP 5555), Dr. Peir's Architecture course (CDA 5155 Computer Architecture Principles), and the Algorithms course, (COT 5405 Analysis of Algorithms). I also found myself interested in Data Structure and Theory of Computation after taking the related courses (COP 5536 Advanced Data Structures and COT 6315 Formal Languages and Computation Theory). However, there was one thing that I did not get a chance to learn from the curriculum but would like to know more about - Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). I did not know what it was about, but I liked the idea that computing should be user-centered. So, I decided to go to a different university that offers HCI program to pursue my Ph.D. study, and moved to Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. A year later, I moved to Pennsylvania State University (PSU) because of my adviser's career move.
What is your current research focus?
Moving to PSU broadened my mind again. At Virgina Tech, I learned different aspects of being a computer scientist. At PSU, I was exposed to different field like Information Science and different research methodologies such as Qualitative Research Methodologies. Now, I view myself as a Information Scientist who is interested in understanding and supporting human-information interactions. My main research focus is on rationale, a specific type of information. I have been studying the effects of the rationales in collective activities and exploring ways to identify and extract them automatically. My secondary research interests include informal learning in community setting and digital humanities. Recently, I finished a community-based Math workshop project in which we offered workshops in Nanjing, China, and London, Canada. My research lab collaborated with the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University (COHDS) and developed a prototype as proof-of-concept for a Clock-based Keyphrase Map (CKM) tool that applies advanced computational techniques, including text mining, machine learning and dynamic visualization to Stories Matter (see video tutorial at Stories Matter is an open source database software that offers a way to search testimony collections by clipping and indexing interviews (