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Summer 2013 interns at HP Labs – Muhuan Huang


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


This fall Muhuan Huang begins her fourth year in the computer science Ph.D. program at UCLA. While growing up in the city of Suzhou, near Shanghai, Muhuan won a youth talent competition that allowed her to enroll at the age of 15 at the Xi'an Jiaotong University in central China, and from which she received a BS in electrical engineering with a concentration in automation. As an undergraduate, she was an exchange student at UCLA, building the relationships that led to her to move to LA for graduate study.


HP: What’s your field of interest

At UCLA I’m mainly focused on system-level synthesis for hardware design, looking to get the highest possible performance out of hardware. We do that by considering the many issues created by the different software programs that have to be able to run on the various heterogeneous platforms making up the system and then trying to optimize our hardware designs accordingly.


HP: Is that what you are working on at HP Labs?

It’s very similar. I’m working with my mentor Kevin Lim in the Systems Research Lab on hardware accelerators for high-throughput workloads. We’re trying to design accelerators  that will run HP software faster and also use less power. My project is to work on the FPGA (field-programmable gate array), which is a board through which the data flows.


HP: Any progress yet?

We have been able to improve speeds by about 7x so far and it’s still improving. Because we’re able to make very specific design improvements to the FPGA board, we’re also using less power compared with using CPUs, which are general purpose processors, to do the job, 


HP: Has anything surprised you about working at Labs?

Well, before I arrived I thought everyone would be very casually dressed and wearing flip-flops, like UCLA grad students! But it turns out people wear more regular business clothes. Everyone is super nice, though.


HP: How did you hear about the internship opportunity?

My advisor at UCLA heard that HP was launching its Moonshot software-defined server system, which has an FPGA inside. He was interested in that and he contacted HP Labs to learn more about it, where he learned about the internship opportunity.


HP: Do you have any hobbies or passions outside your research interests?

I like to spend as much time as I can in San Francisco, and like to go to all the local festivals that happen in the Bay Area. I’m also a calligrapher, in the traditional Chinese brush and ink style. I even have a calligraphy mentor in China, although I’m not able to talk to him that often now that I’m here. I don’t make it to sell or anything, but really love to do it.


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