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Jason Cong

Jason Cong

Distinguished chancellor’s professor | Computer science, UCLA | Class of 1987

So hooked on C.L. Liu’s book was Jason Cong that he made the 6,990-mile journey to Champaign-Urbana to study under the ‘Elements of Discrete Mathematics’ author.

“When I was an undergraduate student at the Peking University in early 1980s, we used the textbook by Professor Liu at UIUC in our Discrete Mathematics course. I was fascinated by the topics in the book and the way Professor Liu presented them,” says the UCLA computer science professor (MS '87; Ph.D. '90, computer science).

“So, I decided to apply to UIUC for graduate study under Professor Liu in 1985, which was only six years after the U.S. and China normalized the relationship. At that time, there was very little information about how to evaluate applicants from China.

“I am forever grateful that Professor Liu and UIUC took a chance and accepted me to the Ph.D. program at the Computer Science Department, which totally changed my life.   Professor Liu was a great teacher, advisor and friend.

“I took his CS475 on Concrete Mathematics. He has a unique teaching style and started every lecture with a joke. It got the class’ attention immediately and made the class so enjoyable. Everyone was looking forward to the next lecture — and the joke, of course.

“It’s not surprising that Professor Liu was voted one of the most popular professors in the department. I still laugh out loud when I read those jokes in my class notes 30 years later.

“In addition to all the academic advice I got from him, I also learned so much from Professor Liu  in our conversations on many topics about career and life during our Friday afternoon happy hours and Saturday morning tennis games.

"He was a great role model and one of the key reasons for me to decide to pursue a teaching career, so that I can contribute back to the great higher education system in U.S.”