Zichao (Jack) Wang

PhD Student at Rice University; Machine Learning, Personalized Education


I'm currently a 3rd year PhD student in Electrical Engineering at Rice University, working with Prof. Richard Baraniuk. My research lies at the intersection of machine learning and personalized education, where I develop novel machine learning algorithms automate certain tasks in large scale personalized education scenarios. My recent focus has been educational text analysis, such as question generation and free response grading. I am also interested in theoretical understanding of RNNs.

During my undergraduate days, I specialized in signal processing, where I worked on a variety of real world signal processing problems involving audio and images, with mentorship of Prof. Gary Woods and Prof. Richard Baraniuk.

In summer 2015, I visited the Signal Processing Group at University of Oldenburg in Germany, working with Ante Jukic and Simon Doclo on speech dereverberation problem.

Research and Projects


A Max-Affine Spline Perspective of Recurrent Neural Networks

* Z. Wang, R. Balestriero, R. G. Baraniuk, Submitted.
We develop a new framework using max-affine spline operators (MASOs) to provide new insights and improvements to recurrent neural networks.


QG-Net: A Data-Driven Question Generation Model for Educational Content

* Z. Wang, W. Nie, A. S. Lan, P. J. Grimaldi, R. G. Baraniuk, ACM Conference on Learning at Scale (L@S), June 2018
* Also at TADGM Workshop in International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), July 2018
A data-driven question generation for educational content such as textbooks, based on sequence to sequence recurrent neural networks with attention and copy mechanism.






A Latent Factor Model for Instructor Content Preference Analysis

* Z. Wang, A. S. Lan, P. J. Grimaldi, R. G. Baraniuk, Educational Data Mining (EDM), June 2017
* Also at ml4ed Workshop in Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (SIGKDD), Aug. 2017
A latent factor model to explain and predict' instructors homework question selection.





Constrained multi-channel linear prediction for adaptive speech dereverberation

* A. Jukic, Z. Wang, T. V. Waterschoot, T. Gerkmann, S. Doclo, IEEE International Workshop on Acoustic Signal Enhancement (IWAENC), Sept. 2016
A novel real-time adaptive speech dereverberation algorithm.




EagleEye: Vision-to-Touch Sensory Substitution with the Versatile Extra Sensory Transducer (VEST)

* Z. Wang, Z. Zheng, M. Zabala, R. Grey, undergraduate capstone project
* 2nd Place, Design Competition at American Society for Artificial Internfal Organs Annual Conference (ASAIO), June 2016
* Best ECE Senior Design Award, ECE Affiliates Day Competition, Apr. 2016
a vision to tactile sensory substitution device to help the blind regain a sense of vision.

sponsored by NeoSensory

project website



Rice University, TX, USA

Rice University

Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, 2016 - Present
B.S. Electrical Engineering (Magna Cum Laude), 2012 - 2016

University of Leipzig, Germany

uni leipzig

German language studies at Goethe-Institute, May - August 2013
Completed German B1 and B2 level courses
With full scholarship

No.1 Middle School Affiliated to CCNU, Wuhan, China


High School Diploma, Jun 2012
Model United Nations Club
President of Student Science Academy

Honors and Awards

1st place, Electrical Engineering Senior Design Award, 2016
2nd place, ASAIO Student Design Competition, 2016
Senior Merit Award in Engineering, 2016
1st Place, IEEE Region 5 Conference Student Paper Competition, 2015
1st Place, Rice Undergraduate Elevator Pitch Competition, 2015
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) RISE Scholarship, 2015
Louis J. Walsh Scholarship in Engineering, 2015
World Ranking 35/1853 (top 2%) in IEEEXtreme 24-Hour Coding Competition, 2015
Membership of Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Beta Kappa


TA, ELEC 425/554 Computer Architecture, Rice University, Fall 2017
Co-Instructor, COLL 199 Intro to Computer Music, Rice University, Spring 2016 [syllabus]
TA, ELEC 301 Signal and Systems on EdX, Rice University, Spring 2015
TA, ELEC 241 Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I on Coursera, Rice University, Spring 2014

Outside Academics


Ignite Scholar, Ignite Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Trek

Joined a group of MBA and engineering students on a tour to silicon Valley, visiting startups and talking to entrepreneurs.[cool pic]


Violinist, Campanile Orchestra

Campanile Orchestra composes entirely of non-music major students. I was a violinist in the string section for one academic year, and performed 4 concerts. [cool pic]


Volunteer, Mission:Wolf

Travelled to Mission:Wolf, a wolf sanctuary near Westcliffe in Colorado. Built the entire lighting system for the visitor centor, in addition to feeding wolves and other chores daily.[cool pic1] [cool pic2] [cool pic3]

More About Me

I come from Wuhan (武汉), China, a city with almost the same weather and latitude as that of Houston (we've got real winter in Wuhan, though!).

I can speak English, Chinese and a bit German. I was in Germany for two out of my only three summers when I was undergrad, primarily because of my interest in the language, music & culture and the research program. Of course, I made well use of my time in Europe to explore many cities and countries.

I enjoy playing the violin and basketball (go Rockets!) In my spare time.