Humans of SymSys: Lucy Li

Lucy is a SymSys graduate (‘18) and CS co-term (‘19). She has served as Vice President of SymSys Society for two years and is a recipient of the K. Jon Barwise Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Symbolic Systems Program. She is now off to pursue her PhD at Berkeley!


Where are you from?

I’m from St. Paul, MN.

How would you describe SymSys with one word?


You’ll be entering your PhD this coming fall — how has SymSys prepared you?

This is a great question! I’m starting my PhD at the School of Information at Berkeley. Like Symbolic Systems, the program is interdisciplinary. I’ll be working at the intersection of natural language processing (NLP) and computational social science.

SymSys prepared me for my PhD in many ways. My concentration was Natural Language, which means I took both linguistics and CS courses. At Stanford we’re really lucky that many of our NLP professors are also linguists. This type of environment allowed me to appreciate interdisciplinary thinking, and I approach every conversation with someone in a different field as a fun learning opportunity. The psychology courses I took as part of the major also combine wonderfully with my computer science background, because I’m interested in investigating social behaviors on a large scale (#bigdata).

What's one piece of advice you'd like to offer to younger students?

It’s important to figure out a brand for yourself, especially when you’re coming out of a program that can involve so many different paths. Also, it’s okay if your interests change. I changed my concentration twice during my undergrad, from Neurosciences to Cognitive Science before finally settling on Natural Language. Though I don’t really think about brains very often these days, I needed to take that journey to land where I am now. Also, talk to upperclassmen and older people who you could envision yourself becoming in the future.

Also, I misread this question because I provided three pieces of advice instead of one, oops.

What’s one experience / moment during you Stanford career you’ll never forget?

The past five years have been one amazing, long moment that I’ll never forget.

One memory that comes to mind is this one time I planned a surprise birthday party for a friend. His birthday is actually over the summer, so I chose a random day during the school year to throw the party. So, he was extra surprised when a mob of people stormed his room at midnight with music, cake, and screaming.

What groups or activities are you involved with at Stanford?

I’ve been in SymSys Society for three years. I’ve played a lot of random roles in this student group, like managing our social media presence, running a blog that features students and alumni, organizing bi-annual student-faculty dinners, and becoming famous for sending emails. I’ve been part of other Stanford student groups and activities as well, but I’ve found the best and most tight-knit community in this one.