Posted in Articles: Monday, February 13, 2012
Project: Predicting Marked Code-switching in African Languages
Give us a little bit of your background as a person and a student and how you eventually came to work on your undergraduate in this field…
I am a junior Computer Science major from Ondo State, Nigeria, studying at Howard University. I came about working on my research project as a result of my Introduction to Algorithms class which I took with my current research advisor, Dr. Rwebangira. Because of my performance in his class, Dr. Rwebangira approached me about his research work. This project involved aspects of Machine Learning and Natural language Processing - subjects I find very interesting. Therefore, I grabbed this golden opportunity to learn about these fields.
What sticks out in your mind as big influences or important events that got you to this point?
Upon graduation from senior secondary school (the Nigerian equivalent of high school), I had no idea of what I wanted to study in college. After several days of contemplating on different career choices, I finally settled on Computer Science. It was lucrative and it required a fair level of creativity. I considered it a fairly good fit so I took a chance- a huge gamble looking back now.
My first programming class, I was very nervous because I had never programmed before so I was scared of failing. However, over the course of the first two weeks, I eased into programming and I have not looked back since. In fact, my passion for programming and Computer Science in general has only grown. Hence, a major turning point in my life was a very lucky gamble.
How would you describe the field you work in, and how does your research further the knowledge of that field, and the potential applications for society?
My research work involves several aspects of Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.
I believe it is potentially beneficial to the society because it attempts to train the computer to understand the certain aspects of everyday social interactions. In order for machines to better serve their users (humans), I believe it is only natural that they understand them.
As you know our early efforts in the Center are to bolster the emergence of a new science of information that incorporates the knowledge of a number of related areas.
How do you feel that your project links in with the Science of Information….and are there areas of Science of Information you feel could benefit your own work?
My research project has a direct link with the Science of Information as it essentially involves extracting meaningful information from data.
Also, since the Science of Information is such a broad subject that encompasses aspects of different fields including Machine Learning, I believe knowledge of different aspects of the Science of Information will help me devise and explore several different approaches in my research work.
Tell us about your experience as an undergraduate student – what have you enjoyed, what have you found challenging, and what advice would you give to high school students considering college, especially those interested in going into science.
I have had a great experience as an undergraduate. I have become a good software developer and have also developed a great network of hopefully lifelong friends.
As regards challenges, I initially had problems balancing my academic workload with extracurricular involvements. However, over time, I have learned to clearly set my priorities and to only take on as much as work as I can handle.
Also, to high school students considering studying science, I believe science is at the forefront of change today. All the “cool things” around today- Siri, Google, the iPad, the iPhone- is as a result of science. Therefore, by going into science, one will be a driver of change- the creator of “cool things.”
What would you like to do next? In the future?
I would ideally like to work during the summer of 2012 with faculty at one of the Center partner's, and then finish my research work at Howard next winter.
In the long-term, I plan to pursue a PhD in Computer Science to further explore the field of Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing. Consequently, I plan to start my own company, hopefully based on my research work.