November 5, 2018
Lei Sun grew up in Dailan, China. He received his BS in automation from Tsinghua University and an M.S. in signal and information processing from Peking University. Now, he is pursuing his PhD in statistics. We interviewed him about his experience at the University of Chicago.
Why did you choose UChicago?
UChicago stresses academic rigor and free academic discussion. It has a strong reputation for training its students well for academic jobs. I value that the University has a strong relationship with society at large, providing a wide array of opportunities for students to tackle social issues and to connect with policymakers and intellectuals.
What noteworthy academic, research, or teaching activities you have pursued while at the UChicago?
Since enrolling in the program, I have been working with Prof. Matthew Stephens on developing statistical models to analyze high-throughput biological data. With Matthew’s strong support, I have been able to present my work at multiple conferences and workshops.
I also collaborated with Prof. Nick Polson of the Booth School of Business on a couple of side projects. Additionally, I participated in the Department of Statistics’ consulting program. I was part of four projects, led two, and won the annual Consulting Project Award in 2017. With two other graduate students, I took part in a university-wide Arts, Science + Culture collaboration grant. With a support of $3,000, we digitalized two prominent African American magazines and used the data to analyze certain media narratives around the Civil Rights Movement. In 2018, I was awarded the annual David Wallace Award for Applied Statistics.
What activities do you participate in outside of the classroom?
I spent a good part of my extracurricular time my first two years here in a local Chinese drama club. I starred in two plays, which were performed in the FXK Theater at the University. I was also a director and producer for some minor and experimental productions.
What are your plans post-University of Chicago?
I plan to stay in academia, as I truly enjoy teaching and doing impactful research that interests me.
What support have you received at the University of Chicago?
We receive financial support through our department for the three regular quarters. We also have some summer support, but students are encouraged to secure external funding. The healthcare provided by the Student Health Center is excellent, too.
I receive exceptional and swift computational support through my advisor’s lab and through the department. The University also has a Research Computing Center, which provides infrastructure and customer service for large-scale computation. We worked with them on our Arts, Science + Culture collaborative project.
UChicagoGRAD has provided advice and professional development. They worked with me to improve my resume, and I believe they are part of the reason I earned an internship at a major tech company last summer.
Most importantly, the faculty at the University are always welcoming and supportive. They are willing to discuss research topics and happy to give advice. I have become good friends with several of them and immensely enjoyed our interactions.
If you were speaking to a prospective student, what would you tell them about UChicago?
Make yourself as familiar as possible with the faculty member’s work before you decide to attend the university. After you arrive, be proactive and seek advice. Take advantage of the vast opportunities available across the university.