CSE/CNS Ph.D. Student Accepts Tenure-Track Faculty Position at Johns Hopkins

Peng (Ryan) Huang
Peng (Ryan) Huang

As more postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. candidates make the rounds of universities in the market for new faculty in computer science, computer engineering or bioinformatics, another CSE soon-to-be-graduate is headed to teach and do research in computer science at Johns Hopkins University.

Peng (Ryan) Huang recently cut short his tour of potential employers when, just two days after interviewing at Johns Hopkins, its CS department offered him a tenure-track faculty position. He ended up canceling interviews on several other campuses. Huang is set to graduate this year, but he has decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship prior to taking up residence at Johns Hopkins in Fall 2017. (He is still deciding where to do his postdoc.)

It appears that Johns Hopkins found in Huang someone who could help build a new area of strength for its Computer Science department. His research area is computer systems. “I’m particularly interested in understanding growing problems in real-world systems and reflecting that understanding in new techniques to improve system reliability,” said Huang, whose advisor is CSE Prof. Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou.

In his dissertation, Huang analyzes the distinctive characteristics of failures in industrial-strength cloud systems. Motivated by those findings, he then tackled a common source of failures in the cloud: configuration errors. To tackle those errors, Huang designed a specification language and a framework by which to validate configuration for cloud-scale systems efficiently. “Thanks to Prof. Zhou and UCSD,” he said, “I had opportunities to conduct many of my research projects in a practical setting by collaborating with leading companies, including Microsoft, Teradata, and Facebook.”

Huang says he was at first intimidated by the “intensity and difficulty” of navigating the academic job market. “Many people at UCSD helped me with my application material, slides, my talk and interviewing,” he noted. “My advisor gave me countless tips on how to organize the job talk, prepare for a phone interview, chat during one-on-one meetings and much more, and other faculty allowed me to practice my job talk in their research seminars.”
Asked what might have set him apart from other candidates for the Johns Hopkins position, Huang says one professor told him that he pays close attention to how a faculty candidate tells the story in his or her job talk – “and he really liked my storyline, which Prof. Zhou helped me revise extensively.”

Huang did a few other interviews after Johns Hopkins and got a second offer to compare what Hopkins was offering, then canceled other interviews and accepted the job in Baltimore. He says the university is investing in the area of computer systems, so his research is closely aligned with Johns Hopkins’ hiring priorities.

Huang is also getting ready for a trip to Singapore later this month, where he will present a paper at MobiSys ’16 on “DefDroid: Towards a More Defensive Mobile OS Against Disruptive App Behavior.” The paper is on hardening mobile operating systems to better shield users from “naughty” mobile apps that can aggressively drain battery, eat data plans, and so on. Huang also created a one-minute short video pitch for the DefDroid paper. View his video pitch on YouTube at https://youtu.be/lguUoitv80U.

The assistant professor-to-be has been at UC San Diego since 2010. He joined Prof. Zhou in the Systems and Networking group after finishing two undergraduate degrees at Peking University (BS in Computer Science and BA in Economics, both in 2010).