Meet the Faculty - Chang Ge

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I worked in the industry developing database systems while teaching a database course at a nearby university. I wanted to challenge myself and start a new path which inspired me to return to school to get my Ph.D. After the first a few semesters in my Ph.D. program at the University of Waterloo, I realized that I really enjoy doing research and collaborating with faculty members and other students. That experience inspired me to continue on this path in academia and pursue a faculty position after my Ph.D. I graduated from Waterloo in June and joined the University of Minnesota team in September.

The University of Minnesota is one of the most comprehensive schools in the U.S. There are a lot of opportunities to work with researchers from a variety of different backgrounds and that is a big reason why I wanted to come here. The Department of Computer Science & Engineering has a great reputation in a number of areas, especially my area of interest - data management. I hope my work can continue to enhance its reputation. 

We would love to hear more about your research!

During my Ph.D. research, I focused on enabling data analytics on dirty, private and siloed data. In the real world, data is rarely super clean, so data scientists have to deal with cleaning the data to make them  usable. There is no universal tool to explore, profile and clean those dirty private data, and we are working towards building systems to support those tasks.

The second problem is dealing with private data. There are many data sets that contain personal information like health or financial information. That type of data cannot be naively exposed to data scientists, so we have to figure out how to extract useful information from those datasets while protecting users’ privacy. 

The third problem is enabling analytics on federated data. Real world data is very often  siloed - because of business rules and privacy constraints, the data cannot be put together in a central place. In those cases, how can we do data analytics on distributed and private datasets? My research addresses some intersections of these problems.

What do you hope to accomplish with this work? What is the real-world impact for the average person?

The goal of my work is always geared towards real-world applications and impact. By aiming to publish papers at the top conferences, we hope to share our findings with others so they can further this work in their own way. We also open source our systems and release the source code so people can freely access it. Additionally, I frequently receive requests asking for help from other researchers and I am always happy to share my work and insights.

For data scientists, our work will lower the technical barriers to make good use of the data, while for the majority of people, our work will hopefully  provide more assurances about responsible data usage. Privacy issues render data analysis even more complex,and we hope our work will help build more efficient, secure and robust data systems. 

What courses are you teaching this spring? What can students expect to get out of that class?

I plan to teach a seminar course in the spring focusing on the most advanced research in my area. The course will focus on the three research problems and their intersections in data management and we will read and discuss the most recent advancements. 

Additionally, students will learn about the history of the line of work so they can understand the big picture of how technology has evolved over time and possibly start predicting where it could go in the future. Over the semester, students will work on their own solutions to solve a problem related to data cleaning, data privacy and siloed data which will serve as their final project. 

Also, I am always looking for motivated students to help with my research. I am actively looking for all positions - Ph.D. students, master’s students, and research assistants. I am eager to recruit students at the University. 

What do you do outside of the classroom for fun?

I enjoy fishing! When I got this job, I was excited to live in the land of 10,000 lakes. There are so many places to fish. I have not had much time this summer but hope to get into nature next year. If I have time, I would also like to go ice fishing. 

Do you have a favorite spot in the city?

I like spending time by the Mississippi River down by the Stone Arch Bridge.