This week I started doing research at the Twin Cities campus. I am working with Maria Gini
and her PhD student, Shana Watters. I met Shana at the Google Anita Borg retreat
in April, so it was nice to see a familiar face, especially in a new place. The Twin Cities campus
is a completely different place from Morris. I am used to a small community where everyone knows
who I am, especially in Computer Science. The cities is a huge place, almost like a miniature
city where there is quite a bit of anonymity. This whole experience has been quite a bit of culture shock.
I have a cubicle in Shana's TA office, but because Shana is working on her Masters project she
doesn't spend a lot of time in the office. In fact I have not seen her since Tuesday.
I spend most of the day studying the book Maria gave me, which is called,
Natural Language Understanding. The book contains a very in-depth review of English grammar.
It was shocking for me to find out how little I know about the mechanics of my native language. In fact I probably know
more about the French language than I do about the structure of the English Language.
I was a bit frustrated when I pitched my idea for researching a method of translation that focuesed on putting the
words of a phrase into a context based on their meaning and heard that such a feat would take quite a long time
and that the technology is still a long way off. At the most I may be able to make a grammar for showing
the uses of one French word with multiple meanings like "sur". I suppose it is better than nothing.
I worked from home for much of this week because all of my graphics
software is on my computers there. The unfortunate thing
about working from home is that I get distracted by things that need to
be done around the house. I got into a pattern of working
on the site for a little while and then running off to do laundry or
the dishes and then back to the site, and then off to some other
chore. There's no doubt that I am more productive when I am at the
University. The only problem with it is that I am getting lonely. Shana
is getting very to close to finishing her masters and so she spends
little time in the TA office. There also aren't many students around,
and when I do see students I am too shy to go and talk to them. This
isn't like Morris where I can just walk up to people and say hello
without receiving a weird glance in return. Maria says that there are
other students here for various Summer projects in the phychology
discipline. They usually organize
a GRE prep class, and that DMP students are usually invited to
participate. Maybe I can make some friends there.
Like I said before I spent most of this week working on my website. I
am using the layout from a site I made a few years ago with different
graphics. I have no clue how to do anything
with .php so I am going for an old-school design. I should take dynamic
web programming this coming school year. I haven't done much in the way
of reading this week, largely because I didn't have my book at home.
When I was on campus I would work for a little while on the site, or
attempt to read and then I would wander around campus trying to process
what I had read. I came to a realization about why the parser on
Sidewinder, the text editor my friends and I wrote for Software Design
last Spring. did not work. In order to parse a text, or in thsi case a
piece of code, you need a grammar that outlines the purposes each word
serves. Not knowing this at the time, we went word by word and
checkedit against an XML file with the keywords that needed to be
colored in it.
Overall this wasn't a bad start, as the XML document served as a
lexicon for each word. The only problem is that we didn't have the
grammar to give a general outline of what the words could be. I think
this might have been especially helpful with coloring multiple-line
comments. Maybe instead of the grammar for a French word like sur, I
can try to come up with a grammar for sidewinder. I doubt I will be
able to code it and implement it, but having the grammar might be
helpful if we ever decide to make the code open source.
This week I went to Shana's Masters presentation, which sparked my
interest in pronoun resolution in Natural language systems. I decided
to set the textbook aside and find some NLP papers with a focus on
pronoun resolution. Most of the work was done nearly twenty years ago!
This week was pretty boring. I mostly worked form home,
downloading PDFs of papers for my literature review. Maria left for
Italy. She'll be gone for three weeks. I am a little worried about
this. Shana will be around, but I know she'll be busy getting her PhD
stuff together so I'm a little worried I'll get pushed to the side so
I'm having a hard time meeting people here. I will just keep plugging
along with the lit review, and then look into resources for GRE
This week was spent studying for the verbal section on the GRE.
I had a rough time this week because one of my prescriptions ran out
and I was absolutely miserable and sick for about three days. I spent
the beginning of the week at home in bed. Once I was back on my
medication, I went back to the university and then started GRE prep.
Not much else to talk about.
I also spent this week on GRE prep. The papers are getting
harder for me to understand, I really need some supervision with this.
Shana is busy with a German class right now and Maria is still away.
I've started to talk to the other computer scientists around here, so
at the very least I can say hello to people in the hallway.
If the last few weeks were bad this week was a disaster. I
didn't go to the university at all until Friday. Monday-Wednesday were
spent at home, not only celebrating the fourth of July, but also
helping my aunt and uncle cope with the loss of their 15-year-old black
labrador retriever. They, and my cousins were at our house for three
days in a row, and I had to be around to help keep things in order. On
Thursday I fully intended to go to the university, but I got about
halfway down the street and the bus drove by. I missed it by about one
minute. On Friday, I went to the university and met the two other girls
who are doing DMP research on the Twin Cities campus. We talked about
our reseach and what to do in Minneapolis that doesn't involve the Mall
of America. Maria is back next week, and I have an idea for a more
tangible project. I want to make a grammar for translating a French
word with several meanings.
This week the University of Minnesota hosted the Distributed
Autonomous Robotics Systems conference. I attended a few talks, which
were interesting. I also met with a few students from Carnegie Mellon
University which is one of the graduate schools I am looking into.
On Friday we hosted 25 high school girls at the conference. I answered
questions about my experiences in computer science. Most of them were
pretty interested but there were abotu four or five who I could tell
did not want to be there. IN teh afternoon we played with AIBO
robots. We not only showed them what the AIBOs do using the cards and
spoken commands, we also showed them how to use MEdit to make a series
of poses for AIBO to follow. Unfortunately we didn't stress well enough
the algorithm part of it. They didn't understand that AIBO is a hunk of
plastic, and it needs specific instructions to do things.
I can't just lay down, it has to bend a series of joints to do that,
and it's up to us to tell him which joints to bend using MEdit. They
also got frustrated with the complications of saving with MEdit. They
did have a good time just watching AIBO try to execute their
algorithms. They also liked to pet him and get him to play with the
ball. At the end of the day, Maria asked them if CS was something they
would like to try. About five said yes. I was disappointed that a few
more didn't say yes, but with the declining enrollment nationwide,
particularily with females, I suppose that any interested girls will
This week I started to work on my final technical report for my mentorship because Maria was gone at a conference.
I'm beginning to doubt that I'll have much time outside of my formal lit review paper to work on developing my own grammar. However if I do this report really well there is a chance I can present on the basics of NLP
at the undergraduate research symposium on campus, or even just for a small ACM club talk. I've hti a small snag with latex formatting, and I am waiting to hear back from one of my professors at Morris before I continue. I'll definately need to bring my notes home over the weekend so I can get some more work done.
I had to completely scrap the paper I started last week. The good news is that the new one is not just going to be a lit review, it's going to contain an experiment. I will be testing the accuracy of three web translators. I'm using 50 phrases from my French translation textbook to test these systems.
AT leats this time I will have some data and some original material. I spent this week outlining the paper and designing the experiment.
This week I picked out the fifty sentences I will be using to test the translators. I picked a lot of phrases with figures of speech and also some normal ones, so we'll see how well the translators can handle it.
I also read the research papers that Maria suggested. I summarized the sections that were relevant to the project, and wrote that into the background information part of the paper. I also ran the sentences through the first two translators. I'm making notes on which phrases have which errors.
This week I finished the experiments and organized the results. I also finished the paper, so I am getting ready to turn all that in. I plan on polishing the paper during the fall semester and submitting it to NCUR or another national conference.