XiXi Lu

Portrait XiXi Lu - Information and Computing Science

What would you say if I told you that information technology can be used to make the real world a better place? As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information & Computing Science I get to indulge my passion for process analytics every day. Together with my colleagues and students, I use data and algorithms to help businesses, healthcare providers and governments to run more efficiently.  

Take a care home for example. Every care home will have certain guidelines and checks that need to be followed. But as time passes, staff will often end up adapting the processes. When they see a better solution, they may deviate from the guidelines. I’m interested in working out how to align these two approaches. To analyse why staff are deviating from normal behaviour, and also to explore whether there’s anything to learn from their actions. Are they improving the process, or even making it more secure? 

Inspirational education

When I’m not working with models and algorithms, I teach in the Information Science Bachelor’s programme and the Business Intelligence Master’s programme. After so many years of studying, teaching is a new challenge for me. But I relish the opportunities it gives to meet new people and explore novel approaches. I am amazed by how differently my students all think: they expose me to new problems and solutions while also giving me space to share and expand my own ideas. This is what inspirational education is all about. 

I was attracted to science because I love to explore: different disciplines and things. I like to investigate new approaches and to work with a wide range of people who bring varied perspectives. Not long ago, I was working on a project with a hospital when I ran into the problem of patient confidentiality. During a research visit to Berlin, I met with another research group that specialises in privacy and anonymisation. Together we were able to explore and work out ways to anonymise the data in such a way it didn’t reveal the patients’ identities. This is the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that I get excited about. 

The work we do can be highly specialised and may be difficult for others to understand. Working at Utrecht University, I’ve realised that you don’t have to walk this path on your own.

Team science

I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my colleagues: both on an emotional level and from a science perspective. Conducting research can make one feel walking this path alone. The work we do can be highly specialised and may be difficult for others to understand. Working at Utrecht University, I’ve realised that you don’t have to walk this path on your own. After a tough day or a disappointing result, there are always people that want to help. Talking to colleagues makes things clearer and gives me fresh perspectives and the strength to continue with my work. 

The group I work in is very diverse. Some of us specialise in theoretical information science, and others, like me, have more an engineering background. I have a unique interdisciplinary background, integrating the fundamental algorithms, process-oriented analytics, as well as machine learning/AI techniques. In addition, I love to work on designing new algorithms as well as investigating the applications of these algorithms in real life settings. Being the only one with these perspectives, makes me a fundamental connection. 

My goal is also to see that my research may one day contribute to real life progresses, even if these are just tiny steps. It’s what makes me excited to come into work every morning. I want to help make processes run better and more smoothly. I would like each project I’m involved in to have societal relevance, no matter how big or small.