Prospective Students

The purpose of this section is to help prospective students understand whether Dr. Yung-Hsiang Lu’s research team can meet your expectation. Dr. Lu advises both graduate and undergraduate students.

Differences between Research and Classroom Learning

Research is fundamentally different from classroom learning. Please refer to the following table about the differences.

Classroom Learning


Acquire Existing Knowledge

Create new knowledge

Read textbooks

Read papers

Textbooks have answers

No textbook

Professors know answers

Nobody knows

Small problems

Large problems

Submit homeworks

Conduct experiments

Answer exam questions

Design research questions

Submit homework once

Keep improving

Finish in one semester

Last for many years

Ask professors questions

Explain discoveries

One assignment takes at most several weeks

One research paper takes months

Throw away everything after a semester ends

Keep research data for long time

Study alone or in small teams

Research teams can be very large

A grade is the only visible result

Publish papers, data, software …

Every student does the same assignments

Each researcher is unique

Take several courses simultaneously

Focus on one research problem

Expect to successfully solve most problems

Expect 90% failures

Writing not important (for some courses)

Writing skills are essential

Speaking not important (for some courses)

Speaking skills are essential

Common Mistakes of Beginning Researchers

Many beginning researchers make similar mistakes. Here is a list of some common mistakes:

  • “It has been done before.” “I must be the first.” Many beginning researchers immediately reject a research topic because someone has done something related. These beginning researchers do not yet have the ability to think deeply. If a problem is important, some people must have done some things related. If nobody has ever done anything about a research topic, this topic is not worth doing.

  • “I want to learn. I do not want to create anything.” Learning is not the purpose of doing research. The purpose research is to discover new knowledge for other researchers. Many beginning researchers learn some new things and then stop. They have not created new knowledge and thus they have not accomplished anything yet.

  • “If I understand, my research is done.” Researchers need to explain their discoveries in writing and speaking. If the new knowledge is not disseminated, research is incomplete.

  • “I need to have an idea (solution) before I start.” This sentence is self-contradictory. Research is a process to find solutions (more specifically, better solutions).

  • “I must build everything myself.” It is not possible to do research if a researcher wants to build everything from nothing.

  • “I have to read every paper before I start.” This is not possible. Instead, a beginning researcher should identify and read important papers. After reading these papers, the researcher should follow a few papers closely. Reproducing the results in these papers will be a better way than reading many more papers.

  • “If it does not work perfectly, it is not worth doing.” Research often improves existing solutions by a little amount each time. Some beginning researchers are eager to say, “This will not work.” Instead, they should say, “I will make some improvements.”

  • “If I have a solution, my work is done.” Researchers have responsibilities explaining their discoveries. After finding solutions, researchers need to write papers and present their work.

  • “If I fail, I will change topics.” Failures are common in research. The only way to succeed in research is to continue improving (through discussing with other researchers, reading literature, experimenting new methods, etc.). Many beginning researchers stop when they encounter difficulties.

  • “I don’t know what I want. I am going to try many things.” Research has many stages, including (1) identify problems, (2) study existing work, (3) determine the needed improvements, (4) improve existing methods, (5) evaluate the new methods, (6) explain the discoveries. If a beginning researcher changes topics too often, this researcher does not have opportunities going through these stages and does not really have true experience being a researcher.

  • “I don’t want to become a professor. I don’t need to do research.” or “I do not want to go to a graduate program. I do not need to do research.” Research is a style of thinking. Researchers want to create new knowledge to fulfill their curiosity. Many people do research even though they do not attend graduate programs.

  • “If I use many acronyms and technical terms, nobody can understand and people think I am very smart.” The truth is the opposite. People respect you better if you can explain things clearly.

  • “I need to do research so that people think I am smart.” Many smart people do not do research. Why do you care whether people think you are smart?

  • “I do not care about the research project after I leave the team.” Research teams can last many years and the people you work with can be your life-long friends as well as references for career opportunities.

  • “I do not need to document my work because I remember everything.” You cannot remember everything. Even if you could remember everything, your work does not exist without documentation.

  • “I do not need to document or explain because nobody cares what I do.” If nobody cares, this topic is not worth doing. Why do you waste your time?

  • “I want to work alone.” If a beginning researchers works alone, it is very difficult to make progress. It is better to work in a team and help each other.

  • “I will choose a topic that interests me. I do not care what other researchers in the same team are doing.” A research team usually has specific directions, strength, as well as accumulated expertise and resources. A beginning researcher should take advantage of the team.

  • “Professors should know everything.” Some beginning researchers believe that professors should know everything. The truth is that professors usually do not know the details of every project. If professors know the details, the professors will likely move to different topics. Thus, professors usually select research topics that require further investigation by beginning researchers (usually students).

  • “Their topics are easier than mine.” Many beginning researchers want to change topics often because they always feel others’ topics are easier. After they change topics, they find their topics too difficult and want to change again.

  • “I need to do everything myself, from the very beginning.” Some beginning researchers think they must do everything from the very beginning. They want to rebuild everything; they want to rewrite software; they want to “start from scratch”.

  • “People should know why my project is important and feel equally excited.” Some beginning researchers do not understand how to explain the importance of their topics. These researchers jump directly to technical details.

  • “Give me money first. Then, I will consider to talk to you.” Some beginning researchers consider research only after receiving financial support. The problem is that professors do not know what these students want to do and cannot provide financial support immediately.

  • “A professor teaches for three hours a week and does nothing else.” Some beginning researchers do not understand what professors do. They do understand professors’ responsibilities. This is what Dr. Yung-Hsiang Lu’s activities in a typical week: (a) meet other professors about research projects, collaborations, papers; (b) meet students on research projects about papers, presentations, oral exams, plans of studies; (c) teach in lectures, meet teaching assistants, meet students in office hours, give career advice, design future courses; (d) write research proposals; (e) meet project sponsors; (f) review research papers and proposals. Dr. Lu also attends conferences to present research discoveries and to learn the discoveries by other researchers.

For Graduate Students

If you consider to join Dr. Lu’s research team, please read this before you send an email. Doing so can save your time.

  • Dr. Lu’s research is about computer vision and embedded systems (how to make computer vision efficient so that it can run on embedded systems). Dr. Lu does not conduct research in topics related to Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, or Quantum Computing.

  • Research means creating new knowledge. Research is not about learning existing knowledge. Research is not about reading books or papers. If your goal is to learn things, please take courses.

  • Creating new knowledge is difficult. It is necessary to focus on one topic only. If you investigate multiple topics, you cannot make any progress.

  • Honesty is the foundation of science. Quality is always more important than quantity.

  • Dr. Lu sets a research direction and expects each student to develop a plan. He does not micro-manage students on daily basis.

  • Dr. Lu advises graduate students only if they want to write MS or PhD theses with Dr. Lu.

  • Dr. Lu can advise only (1) Purdue students, or (2) non-Purdue students whose advisors are collaborating with Dr. Lu.

  • Dr. Lu has no authorization to admit any student. Do not ask him, “Can I get admission from Purdue?”

  • Before you send email to Dr. Lu, read his recent papers. He will not answer your email if the email does not mention any of his papers.

  • Financial support for graduate students is based on available funding and research ability. Financial support will be discussed after there is mutual interest doing research together.

  • Please fill this form. Thank you.

For Undergraduate Students

If you are an undergraduate student, Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) is the best way to start research. If you have any question about VIP, please visit this website.

  • This is a research team. A research team’s purpose is to discover new knowledge. Dr. Lu’s research is about how to improve efficiency of computers.

  • If your purpose is to learn and you do not want to create new knowledge, please take courses.

  • Will you stay in this team for at least two semesters? Creating new knowledge is not easy. One semester is too short and nothing can be accomplished.

  • Writing a research paper usually takes two years.

  • This team has a strong record and high expectations. Many past members published research papers in peer-reviewed journals or conferences. Many members became graduate students in top universities. Multiple members received “Honorable Mentions” as Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers by the Computing Research Association. Some members won business competitions. Some members started companies and successfully raised fund before they graduated. One member received the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

  • If you join this team, you will work with exceptional students. You must expect yourself to be exceptional as well.

  • Teamwork is absolutely critical. If you want to work alone, this research team is not for you.

  • You must explain your work to the other team members in speaking and writing. If you absolutely hate to speak and write, this research team is not for you.

  • If you want to get Dr. Lu recommendation letters, think about what you want to accomplish before he writes the letters. Dr. Lu’s letters state observable facts, such as (1) whether you have published a research paper? (2) is your software used by anyone else? (3) have you created research data used by anyone else?

  • Dr. Lu does not write letters that say anything like “This student works very hard” or “This student learns a lot” or “This student enjoys my class” or “This student smiles to everyone”.

  • Before Dr. Lu writes letters for you, he will ask you for your project reports and presentations. Make sure you keep these materials.

  • Universities ask questions like “intellectual independence”, “written English”, “oral English”, “maturity”, “research ability”, “teaching ability”, “interpersonal skills”, “reliability and sense of responsibility”, “organization”. If Dr. Lu does not know enough about you, he will answer “No information”.

  • If you have never talked to Dr. Lu, he knows nothing about you and cannot write recommendation letters for you.