About Me

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I received my Ph.D. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. My thesis supervisor was Professor David Yarowsky. Prior to that, I studied Engineering at Brown University, where I got my Sc.B.. I also got my M.S.E. (Masters of Science in Engineering) at JHU along the way to getting my Ph.D..

Service Learning

I am a strong proponent of community work and service learning. It is my own personal conviction that it is part of our responsibility, as the more privileged members of community, to give back to the less fortunate. From an educational standpoint, I also strongly believe that service learning, when properly done, is one of the best ways to educate students on higher-level thinking, critical thinking, and social responsibility. This is especially true of international service learning projects.

Hong Kong PolyU has made service learning a compulsory part of its new 4-year curriculum, and I am proud and honored to have been given a role in its implementation. I was the first coordinator of the subcommittee on service learning subjects, with the responsibility of vetting and approving service learning subject proposals. Since March 2020, I have been seconded on a dual role as the head of the Service-Learning and Leadership Office. Our mandate is to faciliate the service-learning effort at PolyU, and to conduct research and scholarly work in student learning in service-learning.

In my own capacity, I am on the teaching team for one of PolyU’s flagship service-learning subjects. My projects have taken students to China (Hubei and Gansu), Cambodia, Myanmar, and Rwanda. We have done lots of different kinds of projects, from teaching STEM to rural village children, to building computer labs and community centers out of recycled shipping containers, to installing solar panels in the mountains of Rwanda. 


I strongly believe that as faculty members of a university (and not as staff of a research lab), teaching is our bread-and-butter and our core business. My teaching philosophy is summed up in the Confucian saying


Which translates roughly to “Not just my own, but others’ as well”. In other words, teach my students the way that I would like them to be taught, if they were my own.

A bit of bragging rights: I was part of the team that was awarded the UGC (Hong Kong University Grants Council) Teaching Award in 2016!

In addition, I was awarded the University's President Award in Teaching, 2009-10, the recipient of the Faculty of Engineering's Individual Merit Award in Teaching for the 2005-06 and 2007-08 academic years, and the Outstanding Award in Teaching for the 2009-10. Together with my colleagues Drs. Stephen Chan and Vincent Ng, we were awarded the Faculty of Engineering's Team Outstanding Award in Teaching for 2006-07; as a team with some other colleagues, we were awarded the University's President Award in Services for 2007-08.

Most of my teaching these days focuses upon service-learning. This is the main course that I have been constantly working on for the last several years:

  • COMP3S02: Socially Responsible Global Leadership in a Digital World


My main research interest is in human-centered computing, including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Affective Computing. Specifically, I am interested in how humans use computers, the interplay between culture and computing, the aspect of computing that interacts back at the human, and computing that interacts with the environment. Maybe, I should say that I am interested in putting chi into computing!

Here are the research students whom I have supervised over the last several years. I am proud to say that they are all doing well and are a credit to our university.

  • Harry Kangzhong Wang, PhD (2021-), thesis topic: educational data mining
  • Zhongqi Yang, MPhil (2019-), thesis topic: smartphone-based refractive error screening
  • Jun Wu, PhD (2016-2021), thesis topic: human-computer interaction
  • Tiffany Kwok Cho Ki, MPhil., (2015-17), thesis topic: human-computer interaction
  • Georgia Jiajia Li, PhD (2012–2017), thesis topic: human engagement
  • Michael Xuelin Huang, PhD (2011–2016), thesis topic: affective computing and human-computer interaction 
  • Will W.W. Tang, MPhil. (2012–15), thesis topic: pen-based human-centered computing 
  • Kenneth W.K. Lo, MPhil. (2010–14), thesis topic: software engineering for multimodal interaction
  • Winnie W.Y. Lau, MPhil. (2008–10), thesis topic: child-centered educational computing
  • Chi-Shing Wang, MPhil. (2005–07), thesis topic: noun phrase coreference

My other research interests are in computational linguistics and statistical natural language processing. I am also very interested in computing education and educational technology. 

I am currently looking to recruit new MPhil or PhD graduate students for a project in Educational Data Mining. Please contact me if interested.

Here is a list of my publications, and here is my Google Scholar Page (opens in new window).

I strongly believe in designing things and giving them away. I am one of the co-authors of the fnTBL (Fast Transformation-based Learning Toolkit), a powerful method for automatic extraction of patterns from templates.

I have served as reviewer and on the program committee for several journals and conferences including CHI, ACMMM, TALE, TOCE, IEEE TSMC-B, CL, CLCLP, ACL, COLING, EMNLP and IJCAI. https://www.polyu.edu.hk/osl/

Talks Online

I give talks on teaching and service learning and occasionally those are taped :-)

The Educational Development Center (EDC) at PolyU asked me to help make a video to showcase service learning, using one of my own courses as an example.

My talk from the “Excellent Teachers on Teaching Excellence” series is also online:

My video from the UGC Teaching Award :-)

And also some interviews on live television in Hong Kong (in Cantonese):

© Grace Ngai 2013