What first attracted you to the field of informatics?
Informatics can have a significant impact on society by improving healthcare, optimising business operations, and enhancing communication. Many individuals are drawn to informatics because they want to make a positive contribution to the world. My initial fascination with informatics dates back to nearly two decades ago when I visited a wind farm in my hometown, a small city in Xinjiang, located in western China. I vividly recall the moment when I saw the wind turbines standing tall in the fields, and a local engineer explained to us how these impressive machines were equipped with a sensor capable of detecting wind direction and speed. These turbines then use "algorithms" to adjust the angles of their fan blades, optimising power generation efficiency and safety. This was my first introduction to the concept of "machine learning".
Tell us about something you are working on at the moment - what is exciting about it?
My current project focusses on language understanding, specifically a task called narrative understanding. Essentially, we aim to enable AI to comprehend a story from its textual content and provide coherent responses to various questions related to the narrative. Imagine a scenario where, after a mother tells her daughter the story of Frozen, the child then asks, "What happens to Olaf if summer arrives?" In this research, our goal is to generate a sequel to the story and engage in interactive storytelling with children. We can even create an immersive world where characters that originate from the input fiction or original piece of text, can extend beyond the confines of the original story.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying informatics?
I'd like to give two main pieces of advice:
Firstly, focus on building a strong foundation in Mathematics and Programming. Informatics often involves mathematical concepts and computer programming. Having a solid foundation in mathematics, computer science fundamentals, and programming skills will be extremely beneficial.
Secondly, get all the hands-on experience you can. Practical experience is invaluable. Look for opportunities to work on real projects, internships, or research assignments. This not only builds your skills but also makes you more attractive to potential employers in your career path.
Aside from informatics, what do you do in your spare time?
Reading history books and watching documentaries. I have a genuine passion for the history of the Mongolian Empire, and I'm particularly intrigued by how languages in Central Asia were influenced during that era. Additionally, since arriving in the UK, I've taken up gardening as another hobby. I must admit that I'm still a rookie in this, as most of my plants struggle to survive beyond a year. I hope that my colleagues with extensive gardening experience might come and offer some valuable insights and advice after reading this interview!