Meet Rice CS’ New Faculty: Xia “Ben” Hu, Associate Professor

Hu specializes in interpretable machine learning, automated machine learning, and network analytics

Meet Rice CS’ New Faculty: Xia “Ben” Hu, Associate Professor

Xia “Ben” Hu joins Rice University’s Department of Computer Science as an associate professor. He specializes in interpretable machine learning, automated machine learning, and network analytics. 

Prior to joining Rice, Hu worked as an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University where he directed the DATA (Data Analytics at Texas A&M) Lab. Hu received his PhD in Computer Science from Arizona State University in 2015.

Most recently, Hu was in the news for winning the 2021 ACM SIGKDD Rising Star Award. He was selected for his significant research in human-centric data mining and contribution to developing interpretable and automated methods to make complex machine learning algorithms easily used by domain experts. Recipients are recognized for being “exemplary individuals...who have made a lasting impact” in data science, machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence. 

“Ben is especially well-known for developing and distributing high-quality software implementations of the algorithms his group develops,” says Chris Jermaine, the chair of Rice’s Department of Computer Science. “Given our proximity to the Texas Medical Center, I'm sure he'll find many collaborators here in Houston."

Working at Rice provides me unique opportunities to work with talented students and faculty members performing world-leading research, as well as access domain experts from various industries in the Houston area,” says Hu. 

We strive to develop automated and interpretable machine learning algorithms with theoretical properties to better discover actionable patterns from large-scale, networked, dynamic and sparse data,” he explains. “Our research is directly motivated by, and contributes to, applications in social informatics, health informatics and information security.”

Hu has published over 100 papers in major academic venues​​including NeurIPS, ICLR, KDD, IJCAI, and AAAIand his papers have received Best Paper awards from WWW, WSDM and ICDM. In 2018, he was the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, and in 2020, he served as the conference General Co-Chair for WSDM. His work has been cited more than 10,000 times with an h-index of 44. 

Over the course of his career, Hu and his team have designed and implemented software systems such as AutoKeras (KDD 2019), which is currently the number one ranked automated deep learning system on GitHub (with over 8,000 stars and 1,000 forks). AutoKeras was listed as one of the “key breakthroughs of AI in 2018 & trends for 2019” by Analytics Vidhya and was selected as one of “The 25 Best Data Science and Machine Learning GitHub Repositories from 2018.” Hu’s work on deep collaborative filtering, anomaly detection and knowledge graphs have been included in the TensorFlow package, Apple production system and Bing production system, respectively. Tensorflow is the most commonly used deep learning infrastructure by Google. 

“I look forward to helping better prepare our students to become leaders in Data Science research communities and leading companies,” says Hu. “I am very confident, by working with our students, faculty and external collaborators, to deliver top-notch research outcomes, lead national and international Data Science initiatives, and make Rice an even better place for Data Science.”


Heather Ferreyra, CS Marketing Specialist