Dr Stephen Wan leads the Language and Social Computing research team at Data61, CSIRO. Stephen’s research in Natural Language Processing (NLP) has been applied in software systems that help users find actionable nuggets of information to help with performing difficult or time-consuming tasks, or to gain insights from a large collection of text documents. The aim of this work is to help us better understand our society and the world in which we live in.
One example is in the area of social media text analytics. The volume of publically available social media data grows at an overwhelming rate, so much so that it is impossible to read and categorise it by hand. Yet social media may have the potential to provide game-changing insights. These insights could help us understand, for example, the social factors that contribute to health issues like depression and obesity, which are often discussed online. Such insights could help improve our health services.
In his research, Stephen is particularly interested in understanding how NLP and other language technologies can be harnessed to deliver contextualised information to the user, taking the user's interests, tasks and information needs into account.
One of the things that makes this research so interesting is the myriad of ways that we can use language – a word can have a number of different meanings, and this may depend on factors such as the age, gender, location and cultural context of the person using it. Our use of paraphrase and synonymy can introduce a rich variety of ways that we can refer to things. Designing algorithms to account for this wonderful variation is part of the challenge and the fun of this research area.
Stephen is also interested in information browsing tools for digital libraries, as well as computing applications in the areas of: Government 2.0; creative uses of NLP; and eResearch tools that help provide insights from scientific literature.
Stephen completed his undergraduate degrees in psychology and linguistics and also in computer science at The University of Adelaide. He completed his Honours degree in computing at Macquarie University, at the Centre for Language Technology in the Computing department. In 2011, he was awarded his PhD in computational linguistics at Macquarie University under the supervision of Dr Robert Dale, Dr Mark Dras and Dr Cecile Paris.
Teresa was born in Drogheda, Ireland. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dublin City University -- a BSc in Applied Computational Linguistics-- in 2002. Part of that degree involved an Erasmus year at the University of Nancy 2, France.
She then worked in industry for several years both in Ireland and in Australia, mainly in the field of localisation and translation. In Melbourne she worked on a large research & development project in machine translation for English-Tagalog, the major language of the Philippines. Inspired by this work, she decided to return to academia and pursue a PhD in studies on the linguistics of her home country's native language (Irish) and natural language processing (NLP). The PhD was a cotutelle agreement between Macquarie University and Dublin City University.
At Macquarie University, she was supervised by Associate Professor Mark Dras, and successfully completed her work in January 2016. Her work involved the development of a corpus of Irish text that has been marked (annotated) with information about the structure of the Irish language (i.e. which words in the sentence are the subject, object, how the prepositions relate to verbs or nouns, and so on). With this corpus, she trained a computer system to automatically parse (break into syntactic structures) previously unseen Irish text. Through her use of a bootstrapping methodology in building the corpus, her work has also contributed to the development of technology resources for minority languages more generally as well.
During the 3rd year of her PhD, Teresa received a Fulbright Student Award to spend 6 months working in St Louis University in the U.S. with Prof. Kevin Scannell looking at automatic processing of Irish language tweets. Following from this work, Teresa has attracted wider interest in the area of NLP for minority languages through a TEDx talk entitled "How social media breathes life into minority languages". She has also attracted media attention and given interviews on radio stations such as BBC Radio Ulster.
Teresa is currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Natural Language Processing in the ADAPT Centre in Dublin City University, Ireland.
"My name is Daisy He, I obtained a PhD in Computer Science. From 2006 to 2010, I spent three and half years in the Computing Department of Macquarie University. Looking back six years after the graduation, although there was always pressure and stress associated with research and papers, but to me, that three and half years in Macquarie are full of enjoyable memories, to some extend, I can probably say that was the best time of my life.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with other fellow PhD students and the staff in the office, coffee time, and post-lunch walks. Lunchtime was exciting, the canteen always full of laughs. Students and staff used to have lunch together. People bring all sorts of food from their own culture background, and we share them. We talked about life, research, food, and movie, everything… We usually go for a walk in the campus after lunch, or do some quick shopping across the road. Macquarie has a beautiful campus, I like to walk to the lake, watch the birds and ducks swimming in the lake, and let the minds fly.
We had regular morning tea in the department at that time. Everyone go and helping out, and everyone had fun. We celebrate Christmas together; I still remember the delicious ham we cooked together with the staff, and the beautiful fruit punch.
I love sports, so do some other fellow students and staff. We used to go to the Macquarie gym and play badminton together, lots of fun. The gym is fantastic, swimming pool, group classes, they even have Taichi and meditation class. Trust or not, I tried all of them. Absolutely love it.
I guess one of the key elements contributed to my wonderful PhD life in Macquarie was the supports I received from the university and from all the staff. During my PhD time, I had a number of international publications. I presented at a number of conferences worldwide, in US, in New Zealand, in India. The university paid all my travel and expenses. Really appreciated that, it will not be possible without the support from the university.
It usually takes several years of your life to do a PhD, but it is not at all boring and painful. It is the very opportunity that you can get a break from your life, concentrate on some critical thinking and enjoy all other bits of that period. I loved my PhD life."