Written By: Tanushi Sahai
WD&E Communications Student Assistant
Dr. Xinlian Liu is a returning visiting faculty member here at Berkeley Lab. He graduated from Louisiana State University with a Ph.D. in Computer Science and went on to Argonne National Laboratory to become a postdoctoral researcher. Since the beginning of his career, Dr. Liu has worked to promote interdisciplinary collaboration between computing sciences and emerging research areas. Now an associate professor at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, he believes it’s even more important for students to learn outside their chosen field in the digital era. “One problem of the current student education is they’re only focused on their own domain, which limits their vision.”
His new innovative approach to connecting Computer Science and Humanities is a set of two paired-courses offered to graduate students in the humanities and computer science programs. Each course stands on its own feet in the corresponding disciplines while the professors synchronize their instruction. The students from each side work in pairs to complete a semester-long project in which a computing solution is applied to a humanities problem. CS students acquire skills of effective communication with domain experts and humanities students get to know the power and limit of modern technology. This work is described in a paper in Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science and was presented at the 19th International Conference on Computational Science (ICCS 2019) in Faro, Portugal.
Dr. Liu cherishes the opportunity to come to Berkeley each summer through the Department of Energy Visiting Faculty Program, because he believes the experience of working with other faculty and lab scientists enables him to think outside the box. He appreciates being able to talk to people of different backgrounds and get their opinions to take back to his home university. “Nothing but wonderful.” The Workforce Development and Education program allows Dr. Liu and many other faculty from all over the US to come to Berkeley Lab and spend ten intensive and energetic weeks working on cutting edge scientific challenges that align with the missions of the Department of Energy.
What’s next for Dr. Liu? Dr. Liu hopes to have the model duplicated at other colleges and universities. Additionally, he actively encourages all students to take at least one computing-themed course, regardless of their specific field of study. “It alerts students to other options.” He believes every student should have the opportunity to explore computer science and coding in order to get a rounded education. What’s next for his future at Berkeley Lab? “I love it and I hope to be back next summer.” For more information on the Visiting Faculty Program at Berkeley Lab, go here.