Coffee Chat with Jure Leskovec

Jure Leskovec, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Chief Scientist at Pinterest, spoke with us on Thursday, April 19 about his research in applying machine learning to network data, his advice on how to do meaningful, high-quality work efficiently, and the two questions that one should always ask before undertaking a new project. 

Professor Leskovec’s current research investigates questions of how we can leverage information and social networks in order to build machine learning models that can solve different and more difficult problems compared to traditional models trained on matrix data. Dr. Leskovec's work in this area ranges from modeling disease and properly functioning tissues as networks of proteins and their interactions to taking advantage of the vast amount of driving data collected by companies like Volkswagen. He also teaches at the graduate level about network analysis and mining massive datasets. 

Before becoming a member of the Stanford InfoLab and AI Lab, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University and a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University. While there, he also worked on problems surrounding analysis of networks, and spoke to us about how the most important two questions to ask before taking on new work are the following: "Why should I work on this problem?" and "Why should I work on this problem now?"  

In addition to talking about his work, Jure told us about his journey as a curious, driven student in Slovenia to the United States and some of the earliest projects that he completed at that time. We really enjoyed hearing about the research questions he investigated as a secondary and university student in Slovenia, as well as his experiences as an intern at HP Labs here in Palo Alto and elsewhere. When asked about his tips for success, he stressed the importance of sleep, not "spinning constantly," and making time for leisure activities as a way of recharging. He also encouraged us to actively seek out our needs, whether that is experience, mentorship, or community. 

To learn more about Jure Leskovec, visit his website at

Written by Pratyusha Javangula