6 out of 200: Interactions between Computer Programs and Users
BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum
Meet Kanoulas Evangelos in this short Q&A series with 6 out of 200 young researchers. A series with mathematicians and computer scientists participating at the 1st Heidelberg Laureate Forum, September 22-27, 2013.
For the first time the Heidelberg Laureate Forum will take place. About 40 Laureates (Abel Prize, Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize, Turing Award) will attend the forum together with 200 young researchers. For a full week Heidelberg in Germany will be the hot spot of mathematics and computer science. Six of the young scientists told us about their current research and their expectations before the meeting.
Name? Evangelos Kanoulas
Where are you based? Zurich, Switzerland
What is your current position? Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Google
What is the focus of your research? My research interests lie in the fields of Information Retrieval and Natural Language Understanding. My passion is working at the intersection of the two fields towards organizing the world’s information on the Web and making it universally accessible and useful. My goal is to advance the state-of-the-art in these fields, to improve the understanding of fundamental principles and solve the algorithmic and engineering challenges to make these technologies part of user’s everyday life.
Why did you become a computer scientist? I did a dual major in Economics and Computer Science, hence it was only after I graduated that made my mind to become a computer scientist. During my studies, I found thinking about algorithmic problems, understanding the complexity of possible solutions and at the same time the limitations of computers intriguing. The most fulfilling experience, back then, was the ability to see the solution of a problem on my computer screen. This direct feedback made all the effort worth it and the process fascinating. But what has been the most exciting thing since then is observing the interactions between computer programs and computer users, trying to understand the needs of the users in complex tasks where randomness and the individual characteristics of users and their way of thinking become part of the solution. This is a dive not only inside the abilities of a computer but also inside a human’s mind.
Anything like a favourite project? I spent most of my graduate studies working on problems in the field of Information Retrieval. Very recently I switched to a new field, Natural Language Understanding. The ultimate goal is to building computer programs that can understanding the semantics of the text the way a human would understand them. One of the projects I work on is to identify, summarise, and connect events reported in news stories. Understanding for instance that the Tohoku earthquake was an underwater earthquake, it generated a tsunami as some underwater earthquakes do, which itself led to the nuclear accident in Fukushima and all the follow up events and casualties, reported in thousands news stories, blog entries, microblog and social media posts, in a way that can be clearly presented to a user is something I find fascinating.
Why did you apply for the HLF13? The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is the appropriate forum that can bring me in touch with award winning scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists, that will allow me to observe their way of thinking about different problems, the scientific methodology they apply to tackle these problems. It will also allow me to communicate with visionary minds that based on their understanding of the world’s reality succeeded already in shaping the future. This I believe will be an enormous step towards a successful career, fruitful for my own ambitions and dreams.