My PhD Students: Where Are They Now (June 2017)

Last week one of my PhD students, Rodrigo Gomes de Oliveira, graduated with his PhD in Computer Science.  Congratulations to Rodrigo!  From my perspective its always a really nice feeling to see someone successfully complete a PhD.  Anyways, Rodrigo’s graduation made me think of my other graduated PhD students, below is a quick summary of their thesis and where they are now.  I’ve limited this blog to publically available information, so no cute anecdotes!

List of Graduated PhD Students (alphabetical by last name)

Note: the below list only includes graduated PhD students, who I supervised or co-supervised.  I havent listed current students who have not yet graduated, or research MSc students.

Martin Dempster (2012): Supporting Conversation in a Whole-Utterance Augmentative Communication System through the Application of Natural Language Generation.   Martin was a PhD student at Dundee, who worked on using NLG in assistive technology. I served as an external supervisor, helping with NLG aspects.  After his PhD, Martin decided to do something completely different, and joined Brewdog, a local microbrewery.

Albert Gatt (2007): Generating coherent references to multiple entities.  Albert worked on referring expression generation as a PhD student, and then worked as a post-doc on Babytalk for several years.  He has remained in academia, and is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Malta, where he continues to do research on NLG.

Rodrigo Gomes de Oliveira (2017): Geographic Referring Expressions: Doing Geometry with Words.  Rodrigo worked on generating referring expressions for spatial regions, primarily in the context of weather forecasts.  He has just graduated, and is currently working for Arria on commercial NLG.

Jing Lin (2012). Using a rewriting system to model individual writing styles.  Jing explored using distributional semantics to personalise texts to individual writing styles.  I lost touch with her after graduation, so I dont know where she is now.

Saad Mahamood (2010). Generating affective natural language for parents of neonatal infants. Saad worked on the Babytalk project, as a PhD student and then as a postdoc.  He focused on presenting clinical information to parents about their sick babies. He currently works for Arria on commercial NLG.

Meg Mitchell (2013). Natural reference to objects in visual scenes.   Meg worked on generating referring expressions for objects in non-trivial visual scenes.  She currently works for Google, where (amongst other things) she continues to work on NLG and computer vision.

Wendy Moncur (2011). A model for the provision of adaptive ehealth information across the personal social network.  Wendy worked on Babytalk as a PhD student, focusing on providing information about sick babies to friends and relatives.  She has stayed in academia and currently is a Professor at Dundee University, where focuses on using technology to support people through significant life experiences.

Sandra Williams (2004). Natural Language Generation of discourse relations for different reading levels.  Sandra was my very first PhD student, and worked on generating appropriate texts for people with limited literacy.  Afterwards, she spent some time as a post-doc at Open University, and currently works for Arria.

Nava Tintarev (2010). Explaining recommendations.  Nava did her PhD work on generating good explanations for recommender systems.  She has stayed in academia, and currently is an Assistant Professor at Technical University of Delft, where she continues to work on explanations and decision support, including some NLG.

Ross Turner (2009). Georeferenced data-to-text: techniques and application. Ross worked on generating refering expressions for spatial regions.   After his PhD he worked for Arria for several years, and currently is Head of Engineering at Visual Meta.

Jin Yu (2004). SumTime-Turbine: a knowledge-based system to generate English textual summaries of gas turbine time series data. Jin used data-to-text techniques to summarise sensor data from a complex machine (gas turbine).  After his PhD he went into industry and moved away from research.  He currently works for Fidelity.


I have helped to supervise 11 PhD students in the 22 years I have been at Aberdeen (1995-2017).  Which isnt a huge number, but I am proud that everyone who started a PhD with me has finished, and that 10 of the 11 finished within 4 years (which is an important metric or “KPI” for UK academics).  I dont know what happened to Jing Lin, but the rest have all done well in their careers, and I hope have benefited from their time as PhD students!  And its good to see that most of them are still involved with NLG in either a commercial or academic context.

And I’m always interested in talking to prospective PhD students.  Funding can be challenging in 2017, especially for non-UK students, but if you’re interested please do get in touch.  I currently help supervise two PhD students, with a third likely to start soon, and I’d be happy to take on someone else if it was the right person.

Ehud’s PhD

In case anyone is curious, my own PhD was in 1990 from Harvard, on Generating Appropriate Natural Language Object Descriptions.  Basically looking at referring expressions and lexical choice, in a way which hopefully was novel then but wouldnt be very exciting now.  My supervisor was Barbara Grosz.


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