Megagon Team Profile: Xiaolan Wang, Senior Research Scientist

Welcome to our team profile blog post! In this article, we highlight Xiaolan Wang, a Senior Research Scientist at Megagon Labs. You’ll learn the path Xiaolan took to join Megagon after her summer internship at the lab, the culture the team transformed from onsite to online during the pandemic, the exciting developments she is working on, and the advice she’d give to aspiring researchers.

What put you on the path to your current role at Megagon?

In 2017, while I was still a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I learned about the internship opportunity at Megagon Labs from my advisor Prof. Alexandra Meliou. I was excited to join, especially when Wang-Chiew Tan, our former Head of Research, told me that I could explore new research topics during this internship. I believe this was a great opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and extend my research area from data management to natural language processing. My internship turned out to be fruitful with one paper published at VLDB and I really enjoyed the working environment at Megagon Labs. Having the opportunity to continue to work with colleagues at Megagon Labs also became one of the strongest motivations for me to pursue full-time positions at Megagon Labs. Therefore, I decided to join Megagon Labs after graduating from UMass.

What’s the most surprising or interesting thing that happened with your work at Megagon recently?

Before the pandemic, we used to gather in the kitchen after lunch to chat and make coffee for everyone, which we call kitchen times. We decided to resume the kitchen times online under the pandemic and it has become one of the most interesting social activities at Megagon Labs. From the virtual coffee breaks/kitchen times, I learned many fun facts and new knowledge. For example, how to roast coffee using an air fryer, how to grow indoor plants, or what to buy for camping. It is really nice to hear other members sharing their experiences and thoughts on so many different subjects.

What are you looking forward to with your recent work?

I’m excited to continue conducting research at Megagon Labs. My primary focus is developing a suite of tools that summarize reviews across different domains. On the one hand, our summarization tools are able to provide summaries in different formats, from semi-structured graphs to natural language text. On the other hand, these tools can perform the summarization task under different scenarios, from summarizing a single entity to multiple entities. This is an ongoing effort, and we hope to continue extending the collection of tools in the near future.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give an aspiring research scientist?

As a researcher, I’m also exploring my research paths and one thing I learnt from senior researchers is that you always need to plan ahead and set a vision for your current and future works. I find this is very useful since I sometimes put too much concentration on the current work and forget about the bigger picture. I hope the same advice could also inspire other aspiring research scientists.

What’s the most underrated activity or place in the Bay Area?

This is a tough question! I have been staying at home for more than one year right now and barely go out, so it is very hard to recall any fun activities or places in the Bay Area. One fun place we used to visit before the pandemic is Half Moon Bay, where we can get fresh local seafood right off the boat. The nearby Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a small but fun place to visit as well. You can find many sea creatures in the tide pools, but make sure to visit during the low-tide time.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this special interview with Xiaolan! Check out our blog to see other team member profiles and learn more about Megagon’s recent work!

Written by Xiaolan Wang and Megagon Labs

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