Confessions of a researchaholic

February 14, 2013

Open mentoring

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:23 pm
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If you want to strengthen your credentials for school/job applications while having fun learning about computer science research without any additional costs or hassles, I can help you.

See below (and my advising style) for details, and let me know if you have questions or comments.
Please also help spread the news; we are making this world a better place.


It is becoming more and more competitive to get to a good job or school. You need a glistering resume. And passive measures like grades, ranks, and standard test scores are no longer sufficient because they do not reflect the active skills which are crucial for today’s highly dynamic and creative job functions.

School application example: 20 years ago if you are a top 5 percent student from a number 1 department/school in your specific country/region with good GRE/TOEFL scores (all passive measures), you can probably get into MIT/Berkeley/Stanford PhD program without much problem.
Today, you will likely not make the cut without impressive active measures such as publications and recommendations from top people in your field.

Job application example: 20 years ago a Stanford PhD without any publication can probably beat a Tsinghua PhD with strong publications in getting a high tech job in the US. Today will be the exact opposite.

In a nutshell, active measures are gaining importance over passive measures. But they are also harder to come by entirely on your own.
This is why people are doing all these internships and school projects. The question is: how good are your internship/project mentors, and how much credibility their recommendations carry? If you plan to spend time on these, better pick a good mentor.


I have been mentoring and collaborating with many students and junior researchers for a while. I have this unique asynchronous style that is not only very effective (judging by the publication records and responses from my collaborators) but also very scalable (absolutely no resource constraint except our passion and commitment).

If you do well, you will get strong publications and strong letters of recommendation from me. I am well connected to top schools, companies, and recruiters. You will also have a lot of fun with your projects.
If you do not do well, you have nothing to lose, as long as you do not list me as a reference.


I work with you asynchronously through svn paper drafts and Google sites. It is up to you to decide when and where you work. The amount of time I spend on you is entirely proportional to your productivity. I seem to have this uncanny ability to remotely read human minds (and sense human emotions) more effectively than ordinary people can face-to-face (the origin of my “Jedi” nickname).

You start by telling me what interests you, and I brainstorm with you to find a good project direction.

I then pick a warm-up project, usually reproducing a known piece of work in your field of interest, such as writing a ray tracer (my favorite pet project for rendering) or implementing your favorite conference/journal paper.

Not everyone will survive this warm-up stage. But if you do, we move on to a creative project, aimed for a real conference or journal publication. You will have a chance to learn everything that ever needs to be learned about doing research and publishing a paper. I can claim this because I have several single-authored papers to prove the completeness of my skill-set. I also have papers with different numbers of authors to prove my collaboration and advising skills.


I am most experienced with senior-undergrad + graduate students as well as junior lab researchers, but I do not have any hard constraints. It really depends on how we feel about each other.

I particularly like to help those who lack proper guidance; there appears to be many irresponsible/incompetent mentors out there, so I consider myself doing a useful social service.

If you want to become my internal student, you will need to go through this process anyway.


As indicated above, we can start anytime you like.

However, you might want to time your school/job applications. For example, it is not sensible to start working with me a month before your school/job application deadline, because I will have little to say about you. A good rule of thumb is to contact me at least a year ahead.


As indicated above, you can work anywhere you like.
I have a shared online work-space for you to meet others, as well as channels for individual discussions.

I might be able to arrange a few internship quotas, but those are already very competitive, and frankly they make little (if any) difference for my mentoring style.


  1. what is the field you can mentor?

    Comment by Wei Hu — February 15, 2013 @ 9:42 pm | Reply

    • In general, looking at the research page (and publication list) is the best way to figure out someone’s fields and strengths.

      I should be able to handle projects with applications framed under graphics, HCI, and related fields. I am quite agnostic regarding particular approaches. For example, *machine learning* is a tool instead of a field to me. Saying that you want to do *machine learning* is like saying you want to do *gradient descent*. It does not really make sense unless you set your target application, like learning movie tastes of Netflix users, which is under HCI.
      My take is that most (if not all) really useful applications are within the realm of graphics and HCI.

      Comment by liyiwei — February 16, 2013 @ 10:58 am | Reply

  2. I very like Computer Graphics, but I’m a junior.
    I had read some books like OpenGL Programming Guide, C++ Primer and 3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development.
    Is it possible to have a chance?
    By the way, I’m good at developing Web pages.
    Thanks for your time.

    Comment by Haobin — February 17, 2013 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

    • By “junior”, you meant you are in the junior (3rd year) of undergrad (unlikely, if you are born in 1988), or you are a rookie in computer graphics?

      What you meant by “is it possible to have a chance”? Chance for what?

      In general, I don’t think OpenGL/game is the best place to start learning graphics, because the 3D real-time graphics pipeline is a hack. It is much better to start with ray tracing, from which one can learn the fundamentals. (Look at my blog entry on ray tracing).

      Developing webpages is a skill. That does not lead to much useful information about research. I need to know what you are interested in and what you want to do, in a holistic fashion. (Whether you can clearly articulate this can partially reflect your intellectual strength and suitability for research.)

      Comment by liyiwei — February 18, 2013 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

      • In fact, My English is not so good. I’m a postgraduate and I want to do some research about Virtual Reality. Now I can make some effects like shadow and some lighting model.
        But I started learning CG three months ago, so I said that I’m a junior.
        The “chance” means that whether you will give the opportunity to a junior or you want to find a student with good foundation.
        But if you give me the chance, maybe I can prove my ability.

        Comment by Haobin — February 18, 2013 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

        • Drop me an email so I can get you started.

          Comment by liyiwei — February 19, 2013 @ 12:29 am | Reply

  3. […] for MPhil is to pave your way to apply for a PhD program in Stanford or MIT, I can help you through open mentoring. But I am not going to spend a headcount on MPhil; I usually receive hundreds of PhD applications […]

    Pingback by » Why I don’t take MPhil students (and why you should not ask for that anyway) Confessions of a researchaholic — March 2, 2013 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  4. I want to know how to build a c++ IDE .
    I think i have enough base knowledge to learn about that.
    I hope you can help me.
    At the same time,forgive my poor English.

    Comment by NoName — March 4, 2013 @ 4:39 am | Reply

    • Sorry, but for such kindergarten level stuff, you can ask other people for help.
      I am focusing on people who need good research papers. 🙂

      Comment by liyiwei — March 4, 2013 @ 4:47 am | Reply

      • thx
        I know what i need to do now
        I hope i can see you in the future

        Comment by NoName — March 5, 2013 @ 3:15 am | Reply

        • Good. Ping me when you finish implementing a ray tracer in c++.
          See here for more info.

          Comment by liyiwei — March 5, 2013 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  5. I’ve been working more than 2 years, but now I want to apply for MPhil.
    I think maybe it will be easier for me to apply if I have published a good paper, so I wander if you can help me.
    My major is networking engineering, and I worked with Linux kernel.
    Mostly I write drivers for netcards, nand flash and so on.
    I’d like to say I’m more familier with kernel than my major — networking.
    Look foward to your reply, thx a lot.

    Comment by saicain — March 7, 2013 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

    • Hi:

      I don’t major in network, but I have colleagues in HKU who are experts on this. Would you like me to try involve them?

      Comment by liyiwei — March 7, 2013 @ 9:50 pm | Reply

  6. I’m extremely sorry for the delay.
    Actually I’m interested in operating system, not network.
    But I’m a new comer and I do’t know where to start.
    Can you help me to discuss my future direction.

    Comment by saicain — March 13, 2013 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • I also don’t do operating system, so the same question remained.
      Overall, given how fast you could flip your field, maybe you should spend a bit more time figuring out exactly what you want first.

      Comment by liyiwei — March 17, 2013 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  7. I have sent you an Email about this open mentoring program, but unfortunately received no response. I can get start on the warm-up ray-tracing project right away. I wonder whether you still have plan to mentor one more external student?

    Comment by fuyang — April 12, 2013 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

    • Sorry, got too many emails to go through. Plus, yours somehow got into my spam folder. Will reply your email later.

      Comment by liyiwei — April 12, 2013 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  8. Hi,
    I am a junior of undergrad majored in mathematics, also junior in Computer Graphics. Maybe for my major is fundamental, I have to commit I just learn varieties of other things superficially, eventually finding my interests in objects related to CG. Thus I set about learning it with full of decision, in the process of which puzzles preyed upon me sometimes about the direction and plan. I have obeyed the advice to learn OpenGL first to realize the whole pipeline, and plan to learn CAGD and rendering later in depth. Because I want to make a good foundation and attend a better university to further study, I decide to work with a preparation first. Considering I learn more theories than practices, especially not good at programming, the suspicions of my plan arise. I have asked someone related to it but game makers, they reckon I should learn D3D and others if I look for a job about games, and important to make more practices, but I’d like to find a job about scientific visualization or CAGD(engineering applications)which combined with more mathematics and incline to learn CG in depth, but I don’t realize the information. Now I have read your blog to have a new idea of learning ray tracing first, however, I am afraid if it is also just theory and finally can’t code for any jobs,(I think many student majored in math will think of more practical problems for their absence) and I don’t know how to deal with. I am desired to accept your advice about the directions and the plans to improve myself, until some knowledge of this and the exam of school, I want in July to join in your project.

    Comment by yichengliu — May 2, 2013 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

    • I suggest you learn programming through the ray tracing exercise I posted. It will pave good foundation for you. People who think they need to learn specific programming languages or skills to fit specific jobs get it totally wrong. It is kind kung-fu. Once you have a good foundation, you can learn any specific skills easily.

      I also suggest you learn English. See my post about how to learn a foreign language.

      Get back to me when you have done both.

      Comment by liyiwei — May 3, 2013 @ 2:07 am | Reply

      • Thanks for your suggestion, these are urgent for me, I will try my best!

        Comment by yichengliu — May 3, 2013 @ 6:33 am | Reply

  9. Hello Sir,
    I have completed my 3rd year (4 year Undergraduate Program) of my Engg. in Electronics and Communication.
    Basically my area of Expertise is Image Processing (Noise Removal, Interpolation, medical Imaging and Watermarking). After visiting your well versed profile and area of expertise, I consider it as a golden opportunity to write a mail to your good self seeking permission, to work under your esteemed guidance and support. As suggested by you that 3rd year (an year before deadline of admissions in school) is the best time to start working with you if one want to go for their higher studies and all. So I think all the physical circumstances (Working Area, Prerequisite and time to start) are favorable to start work with you. I have couple of publications in some good conferences (not as good as ICIP, ICME, SIGGRAPH) like I2MTC 2012, ICECS 2012, and ISPA 2013 and would like to work with you in the field of Noise Removal from Images or Image Deblurring.
    I am not yet satisfied with the quality of work I have done so far and want to do something which get accepted in good conferences (as quoted by you in your writings) and journals with their practical Importance.
    I will be happy to answer any questions related to my background and experience. Looking forward for a positive response.

    Comment by Kumar — July 24, 2013 @ 3:47 am | Reply

    • Hi Kumar:

      Could you tell me more about you, maybe pointing me to your personal website or a copy of your resume? You can email me if you prefer privacy.

      Comment by liyiwei — July 29, 2013 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

      • Sorry for the late reply.
        I have sent an email with my resume attached to it.


        Comment by Kumar — August 1, 2013 @ 7:38 am | Reply

  10. Dear Liyi Wei:

    First of all, I have to say I am glad to know this website and you.
    I am a junior graduate student, majoring in Computer Science. More precisely, my research mainly concentrates on image processing, and variational based inverse problem. I have some publications in conference(such as, ICIP) and journals (such as, Optics Letter). However, my supervisor spent most of his time on engineering project. I need someone, who is really professional in the research, to give me some guidance about how to do the research systematically. I hope to improve my academic research ability. It seems that you are the person who can help me get out from the trouble.
    Looking forward for your reply.

    Comment by Yi Richard — July 27, 2013 @ 7:46 am | Reply

  11. Dear Sir,

    I am interested for application of image processing in agriculture. Will you consider me for PhD research?

    Comment by Yasir — September 14, 2013 @ 9:55 am | Reply

  12. Dear Sir,

    I’m interested in computer vision and image/video processing.

    Currently I am starting my 3rd year(final year) of a graduate program, marjoring in Biomedical Engineering. Most of my work are based on coding/algorithms, like tracking, segmentation and enhancement.

    It’s a shame that I missed the HKU early recruitment scheme (I’ve noticed that you usually only hire those you meet during early recruiting). But it’s still about one year ahead of Fall, 2014. So if you are considering recruiting any new PH.d students, maybe I can send my CV to you, hoping to get your positive reply.

    P.S It seems that I failed to post this comment for last 2 times. If they appear dramatically, please forgive me…

    Comment by Zhoucheng Li — September 17, 2013 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

    • Please feel free to send me a copy of your CV, and we can go from there. Ciao.

      Comment by liyiwei — September 18, 2013 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  13. Dear Sir,

    I will be finishing a master degree in Pattern Recognition and Intelligence System and I am the applicant for HKU early recruitment scheme for PHD study, I took part in the interview arranged by HKU. I would say it’s a pity that I have missed several face to face meeting chance with you.

    Actually, I did some low-level vision task focusing the smoothing to the optical flow estimation and some recognition projects. You note that you will hire thoes you have met but I don’t want to loss the chace to contact with you anylonger. I have send you a email and put my CV in the attachment. I will appreciate it if you can read my CV and consider my application for the PHD study.

    Comment by Albert — September 21, 2013 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  14. Thank you, prof for this advice. I am currently pursuing my Masters programme in Computer Science at University of Ibadan, Nigeria and I’m applying to HKU for a Ph.D. I want to know if you will be interested in supervising my Ph.D. in Computer Vision.
    I am working on facial age estimation and I’m obtaining results at par with the state-of-the-art algorithms in age estimation. I’ve started preparing to publish my results in the upcoming ICPR 2014. I’m proposing a further work in this field on larger cross ethnic databases of real-life images/videos (which I may have to collate). I have been using MATLAB and do not have so much experience with C++, although I also code in JAVA.
    I respect your opinion on how I should go about this and I want to know if you will be willing to supervise me. Thank you, Sir.

    Comment by Akinyemi — November 8, 2013 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  15. Thank you, so much. I appreciate your response. These professors are real matches for my field and I have previously saved their contacts.
    Please, Sir, any advice on how best I should contact them… I intend sending a short proposal of my proposed research and a brief resume. I understand you professors are quite busy and I want to know how best to write my mail to attract their attention while keeping it short. I will try to download and read some of their publications too. Thank you very much.

    Comment by Akinyemi — November 11, 2013 @ 6:36 am | Reply

  16. Dear sir,
    I am interested in security and machine learning and so on.The new things.I wander if I have a master degree of computer science in mainland of Chian, I apply for a PhD degree in HKU, then how mang years do I have to spend to get my PhD(at least years just like the ruled years)? And I like to do research.Thank you for your reading and answer my question.

    Comment by peiliu — December 21, 2013 @ 5:42 am | Reply

    • The nominal duration for PhD is 4 years, but it really depends on you and your adviser.
      What you should really be concerned is what you can achieve upon your graduation, not how many years. People who focus on that are usually losers.

      Comment by liyiwei — December 21, 2013 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

      • As a B.S senior student, I want to go to HongKong to get my PhD,but during my undergraduate I have not some worthy of praise results because I don’t kown what I want to do. So apply for a PhD is not easy for me. Then I decided to get a M.S degree in mainland after that I will have my PhD degree in HK. And now I what I want to do is doing research. Thank you for your comment.
        Good Luck.Thank you.

        Comment by peiliu — December 22, 2013 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  17. Hey Sir ,
    I have sent you a mail regarding my interests and motivations of working under you as an intern.
    Can you look over that.

    Comment by Ritwik — November 15, 2018 @ 1:45 am | Reply

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