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'You sometimes have to look behind the specific problem - then you might discover the pattern'

Ramona Enache has recently obtained a postdoc position within language technology at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering*. The focus of the research group is on machine translations in a large number of languages in parallel and with high quality.

Ramona Enache’s PhD thesis Frontiers of Multilingual Grammar Development is about novel methods for automating the development of multilingual Grammatical Framework (GF) grammars, in order to make it faster, more scalable and accessible to a larger category of grammar writers.

The machine translation field has until to now been dominated by statistics methods, which is almost the opposite of what the Language Technology group is doing. The Language Technology group has developed the tool GF, Grammatical Framework, which is designed for grammars and the specific thing with the tool is that it is transferring meaning from one language to another. The idea is now to combine the grammatical framework method with statistics to get the best of both worlds. The research group has also started a completely new way of collaboration between different areas within computer science to certify the GF tool.

'My research area has slightly shifted after my PhD, from multilingual machine translation and production of multilingual information to a focus on assessing quality', says Ramona Enache. 'The project I’m working on now means novel work, says Ramona, for the first time we are taking in expertise from the three fields; formal methods, testing, and language technology'.

Found the language technology area when looking for a suitable master project

'I started at the master programme Computer Science: Algorithms, Languages and Logic at Chalmers University of Technology in 2008', says Ramona Enache. 'We had to do an independent project on our own and I was looking around for a subject. I then met Professor Aarne Ranta and the PhD student Krasimir Angelov in the Language Technology group and I also went to listen to the former PhD student Björn Bringert’s defence. I became so interested in language technology and I realised I would like to do my master’s project within Grammatical Framework'.

Later on that year Ramona joined the GF Summer School and she was then asked if she wanted to be a teacher at the summer school. Ramona found the teaching very inspiring and got an idea of what she would like to do after her master studies. She wrote a paper based on her first master’s project and this was the point when she understood she also wanted to do research within this area. Ramona attempted to finish her master studies in advance to be able to apply for one of the new PhD positions at University of Gothenburg connected to the MOLTO project. She graduated already after one and half year, applied for the MOLTO PhD position and got accepted.

Interesting balance between theory and practice in Sweden

'I did my studies at BSc level in my home town Bucharest in Romania', says Ramona Enache. 'Before I came to Sweden and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, I didn’t know anything about language technology. I did my BSc within mathematical logic and was interested in how my knowledge could be applied. When I came here I thought this should be the place, if there is any application, it has to be at Chalmers and University of Gothenburg!'

After joining the European Union it has been really common in Romania to go abroad for studies, in order to widen one's horizon and become exposed to a new culture and meet new people. Ramona had not been to Sweden before, but the country seemed to be a bit different compared to the other countries she had been visiting in Europe. Living and studying there seemed to be the right kind of adventure for Ramona.

'I got the impression of an interesting balance between theory and practice in Sweden, so I simply decided to go', says Ramona. I had a theoretical background and I was curious how far I could take it. I wanted to find ways to apply the theory, but at the same time I didn’t want to go straight to industry. It is a visionary research here in Gothenburg, that’s what I like – and still you can make a living out of it.'

Inspiring mingle to encourage students to apply for PhD positions

Ramona has been organising the PhD Mingle at her department for the last three years. The mingle means inviting all the master students to meet the PhD students and Ramona sees the PhD mingle as an important thing. The master students get the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions and get more familiar with what it is actually like to be a PhD student.

'We have so many good students, but they do not always have the confidence to apply for a PhD position', says Ramona. 'This is what we would like to change'.

During 2012 Ramona Enache was president of the PhD council at the department. The PhD council is a way to bring PhD students together, share knowledge on how to give a talk, how to write a paper and present the paper at a conference for example. The council is also a social thing, where you can share experiences when it comes to problems and joyful moments in the PhD life.

'If the research group is small, you can easily be a bit isolated as a PhD student and you need contact with people in the same situation', says Ramona. 'There are ups and downs for all PhD students and it is good to talk about it. I am proud of my time as a PhD student, not just my work but also my time in the PhD council and the PhD mingle, where you can make an impact in a different way'.

Research = no recipe…

'I wasn’t afraid to ask questions when I started as a PhD student', says Ramona. 'Research means that there is no recipe. Your idea can be really good or just nothing, you have to find a way to relate to that problem, be confident, there is something here. You have to tell yourself you have what it takes. If you don’t solve this problem you will solve another one. I think it is very important to be positive and believe in what you are doing. If you are not convinced yourself, it is almost impossible to convince other people, when you are applying for money for your research project for example'.

'To me it is also important to think of the implication when doing research, what seems to have the biggest impact, make something good for the world, to choose something that makes a difference'.

"Your most creative ideas are often the best"

Ramona would like to explore new possibilities in her future work, for example write project proposals and see how the ideas will be received. She would also like to see if it is possible to have an even more close collaboration with industry. For the first time in 21 years she is not a student any more, it is a big step, but Ramona is looking forward to see how her work can be translated to the real world.

'I am employed as a post doc now and two years may seem as a short period of time, but it is not, you can achieve a lot of things if you want to – and we also tell the master students that. I did my master and my PhD in five years in total for example, one and a half year for the master and three and a half years for the PhD. I was lucky in many ways, but I am also very passionate about what I am doing'.

Ramona points out that more important than focusing on a specific problem, is to focus on the future, what is behind, what comes next? If you manage to find a pattern in your research it is most likely to be general – then you can solve a bigger problem with a more general solution. Your most creative ideas are often the best, then you are thinking outside the box...

 

December 2013
 

Interview: Catharina Jerkbrant
Photo: Anneli Andersson

 

*The Department of Computer Science and Engineering is common between Chalmers and University of Gothenburg. Ramona Enache has a master degree from the Chalmers part, but then got her PhD degree and her post doc position at the University.
 



Contact information:

Ramona Enache
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
+46 31 772 10 41

 

Ramona Enache

Ramona EnacheRamona Enache found the language technology area during her master's project and realised she wanted to do research within this fascinating field.

Page Manager: Catharina Jerkbrant|Last update: 1/13/2014
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