Jaepil Huh, Student Spotlight


1) How did you get to join the Computer Science (CS) department?
My high school friends who graduated before me significantly influenced my decision to join the CS department. I graduated from a science high school, where the curriculum was much focused on subjects such as math, chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, and CS. I personally found CS to be most attractive, because it allowed me to study at a more flexible pace and use the computer during studying hours. Whenever I got lost in my studies, my upperclassmen friends were there to help me get back on the right track. I was especially lucky to meet one friend, who took the time to pass on his knowledge of fundamental algorithms and problem solving skills. I cannot forget the joy of learning CS concepts from my friends in the winter of 2013, a year from which I chose to join the CS department.

2) What was your academic path like up until joining the CS department?
I graduated from Gyeongnam Science High School in 2 years and entered KAIST in 2004. After graduating with a B.S. in CS, I entered the Master’s program in 2008, and then the Ph.D. program in 2010. I am currently studying under the advisement of Professor Sungeui Yoon.

3) What was your childhood dream? What are you doing now to achieve that dream?
Most children would name a job title when asked what their dream is, but I was different. My childhood dream was to do work which allows as many people as possible to make a living. In retrospect, that dream sounds thoughtful and embarrassing at the same time. I cannot exactly tell you what I am doing not for that dream, but I should work harder to get closer to making it come true.

4) What are your strengths?
I laugh easily. Though, I should probably tell you something that is related to my CS skills: I believe I am good at thinking outside of the box when approaching a given problem. Of course, any idea that comes from outside of the box needs to be validated and is often proven wrong, but a really great idea comes by from time to time.

5) What are you passionately working on in the field of CS these days?
I am currently studying image search, which is about searching an image database for images similar to a given image. More specifically, I am focused on scalable searching techniques which can deal with big database. I am passionate about developing, implementing, and evaluating a more accurate and faster method of image search and presenting it at a top conference.

6) What values and future prospects do you see in your current work?
Currently, most of the online search is based on text, but image searching is expected to gain more attention in the future. The trend is evident in the rapidly increasing number of images in SNS and the Internet, which is made possible by the easy access to images from mobile devices. My current research topic of big data image search is an important issue in this trend, so I am working hard to make contributions.

7) What were your happiest and most disappointing moments, respectively, in the CS department?
My happiest moment was when my first paper in the image search area got accepted at the most renowned conference in the field. It was all the more meaningful, because that was a time when I was feeling unsure about myself, after just having changed my research topic upon becoming a Ph.D. student.
The most disappointing moment was when I found out that a research paper was published on the very topic that I had been working on myself. I was disheartened to find that the contents of the paper, from diagrams to experimental results, were almost exactly the same as mine. I later learned that this sort of event happens often in CS, a field where things progress rapidly. All in all, this is a life of a graduate student whose mood depends on how well the research is going and published.

8) What do you think is the best thing about studying CS?
The field of CS is fast, and that is what I find to be the most attractive about studying it. I always have to stay alert to the rapidly changing trend in order not to get behind. I believe I have the energy to keep up with this field, which also plays very important roles across various domains. What’s more, the validation process of new ideas is also very fast in this field. Paper submission, reviews, and rebuttals happen regularly according to the schedule. I like this academically fast and interactive culture in the field of CS.

9) What would you like to say to those interested in joining the CS department?
Although I do not believe I am at a position to give such advice, I will just say a few personal thoughts on it. As I mentioned above, because CS knowledge evolves fast, what we need is an ability to learn and adapt to new things rather than acquiring bits of knowledge. If you could also have critical thinking and creativity on top of that, it would be great.

10) What are your future plans?
I would first like to express gratitude for this opportunity to participate in the interview. My foremost goal is to earn my Ph.D. degree. I did not decide on specific plans after that, but I am open to continuing my current research and working in the industry.