#Meet Our “Future Leaders” # is a series featuring the personal stories of students in PKU Guanghua’s “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Program.
Today we’re introducing Niklas Muennighoff, a German student who seeks to have a positive impact on humanity’s development.
About Niklas Muennighoff
Niklas Muennighoff is a graduate from the pioneering "Future Leaders" Undergraduate Program Class of 2022. Prior to coming to Peking University, Niklas studied in Singapore and Paris as part of ESSEC’s GBBA program, where he had the highest GPA in the program’s 45-year history. Niklas grew up in Germany working as a voice actor for eight years for productions like Pokemon and Game of Thrones. At age fifteen he moved out and quit his job soon after to pursue different interests eventually leading him to Peking University.
Fascination for Artificial Intelligence
When I interned at Ernst & Young in Tokyo during my freshman year, I discovered my interest in artificial intelligence. I was working in the M&A Team, where our goal is to advise clients on large transactions such as buying other companies or entering new markets. I built an internal tool to help us automate spatial analysis for client projects. While the tool automated simple workflows, such as finding the best location for an international coffee chain to open a new shop in Shinjuku, I was fascinated by the outsourcing of human cognitive work to machines!
Niklas and his collegues at Ernst & Young Tokyo
To get deeper into the field, I decided to participate solo in Facebook AI’s (now Meta AI) Hateful Memes Challenge among 3,300 teams. The challenge’s goal was to build an AI system that could identify whether an Internet Meme was hateful or not for content moderation purposes. After a few months of building, my final system won 25,000 USD, having the second-highest score almost on par with human moderators. I presented & discussed my work at NeurIPS, an annual conference frequented by AI Researchers. I think advancing AI has incredible potential to positively impact humanity and I hope to contribute to that in the future. As one of the most vibrant AI start-up hubs, China, in particular Beijing, is a great place for that.
Niklas presented his work at NeurIPS
PKU: Gaining new perspectives
My journey to Peking University started when I was 16 and looking for the right place to contribute to humanity’s future development. I thought the US and China were the best places to have an impact due to their economic standing. Thus, I spent half of my summer that year in the US attending summer classes at Harvard and the other half in China to do an internship in finance. Both experiences were amazing and greatly shaped my thinking.
Niklas attended summer classes at Harvard
In China, I worked close to Shenzhen and the rapid development of the city left a deep impression on me. I wanted to learn more about China’s development and its future prospects, which led me to enroll in the “Future Leaders” program a few years later. I knew that this was the right choice.
Niklas programmed a Yanyuan Garden Show at the Spring Festival Party of "Future Leaders" program
Joining the "Future Leaders" Program and studying at PKU has been an amazing experience. I’m grateful for the hard work of staff, professors, and students making PKU such a great institution.I especially enjoy the many classes, where our professors passionately present their own research and students get to expand on it.One such class has been “Value Investing”. I love analyzing companies through fundamental analysis to find value investments. The professors presented to us their industry research and company valuations and then it was up to us to research a company and present our own valuations. With my group mates, I researched and valued iFLYTEK through which I learned a lot about the AI market in China.With PKU as a foundation, I hope to contribute to the development of AI in China to drive the next decades of economic growth.
Niklas and his teammates working on Capstone Project
I also draw a lot of inspiration from my classmates. They bring unique skill sets and experiences with them from working in the most prestigious financial companies to competitive dancing. When working on our Capstone project, where we consulted a Chinese company, my team was able to provide an analysis on how it could expand to new markets abroad thanks to my classmates’ international experiences. Exchanging with them has been a great opportunity to learn about fields I have not had exposure to.I’m excited to follow my classmates' trajectories and hope we will have a positive impact on the future of humanity!
Online Graduation Ceremony of "Future Leaders" Program
Sports: Love the pain
I see physical and mental health as the foundation for all other work, so I prioritize it above all else. When I turned 17, I went on a trip to hike up Mt. Fuji (3,777m) alone at midnight to see the first sunrise in the land of the rising sun! I didn’t bother to take baggage or check weather forecasts and had to realize later that a hoodie and sneakers weren’t the right equipment. I ended up at the top very wet and cold, but full of joy! While living in Singapore, I went for a quick trip to Bangkok to join a Marathon. I enjoy running as it’s a great way to train one’s mental strength by learning to love the pain! My soccer shoes weren’t the best fit for the run, but I had a great time.Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Niklas with another participant, after a marathon in Bangkok
PKU Guanghua “Future Leaders” Program
The Guanghua School of Management founded the "Future Leaders" International Undergraduate Double-Degree Program in partnership with 15 of the world’s best business schools, giving students the opportunity to gain an understanding of their local markets while also immersing them in one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic economies in the world: China. This program focuses on admitting top students with outstanding leadership potential from Peking University and its partner institutions. After completing their first two years of study at the institution in their home country, students live and study together with classmates of diverse backgrounds from all over the world—including students from China—for two more years as a single cohort at Peking University.