Interview with Ekaterina Kamlovskaya, Ph.D. student
In this post, we would like to introduce you to Ekaterina (Katya) Kamlovskaya, who has just started her Ph.D. research at the University of Luxembourg. We hurried to interview Katya while her recent memories about the Ph.D. position seeking process are still fresh.
· Please tell us your story: how did you end up in Luxembourg? Tell us a bit about your background.
I have a degree in Linguistics and Translation Studies from Kamchatka State University (Russia) and Master in Hotel and Events Management from the University of Queensland (Australia). Before starting a PhD, I had been running a translation business and working as a project coordinator at a major IT research hub. The project I was working on was aimed at encouraging school students to consider a career in IT. This job brought me in close contact with a large number of IT researchers, and some of them happened to work in computational linguistics and machine learning. This was when I realized I might try to pursue this path too, as it would allow me to combine my passion for languages and interest in technologies. I started learning programming (Python) and fundamentals of natural language processing – mainly through online resources like Coursera and CodeAcademy, – and applying for various PhD positions. In a year I finally got accepted into this new doctoral training program at the University of Luxembourg.
· A Ph.D. is quite a serious commitment: why did you decide to dedicate the next few years of your life to Ph.D.?
Of course, it is both daunting and exciting. But I am a lifelong self-learner, and this project looks like a logical step, considering my academic and professional background and interests. I have always enjoyed working on research projects and the academic environment, and I would like to become an expert in the field of my research.
· Could you tell us a bit more about your research: what your Ph.D. project is about?
My project is part of the “Digital History & Hermeneutics” Doctoral Training Unit within Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (https://www.c2dh.uni.lu). The project is aiming to approach the history of Australian Indigenous life writing through applying the exploratory computational text analysis (text mining) to a digitized corpus of 100 autobiographies. The text mining methods will allow to ignore specific features of individual texts and focus instead on identifying large-scale trends, patterns and relationships across the corpus. This research will be highly interdisciplinary; the topic will be approached from the perspectives of linguistics, data science, postcolonial literary studies and other disciplines and conducted within the paradigm of “distant reading” (Franco Moretti).
· It might be a bit too early for an informative answer, but what can students and professionals planning to move to Europe expect from personal and professional perspectives?
It depends on where you are moving from. In my doctoral training unit, there are students from other European countries, to whom moving to Luxembourg, it seems, did not really change much, and they even visit their home countries quite often. For me, the move from Australia changed a lot, and, of course, the first month was especially challenging. You have to be prepared to leave your social circle and routine and build a new life at a new place, learn a new language (not always necessary but will often make your day-to-day life more comfortable), brace for a possibly different style and amount of bureaucracy you will have to get through. But I guess it is all about being patient and accepting your new country as it is, and I think this is why moving abroad is good: you learn how to adapt to a new environment and manage your stress – which are extremely useful skills!
Living in Europe has many advantages: there are national parks, beautiful countryside, famous tourist and outdoors destinations, and there are also cheap flight tickets and short distances allowing for a casual road trip to a neighbouring country for a weekend. Europe is a great place, rich in history and culture, and it broadens your horizons. But in general, I must add, moving to a new country teaches you a lot, no matter which part of the world we are talking about.
From the professional perspective (as a PhD student), I have already noticed how many conferences and summer/winter schools are available here, in Europe. There are opportunities to travel to the nearby countries at a low cost to learn and share knowledge and experience. Besides, if learning a new language is something you have been planning for a while living in Europe is definitely your chance, and your resume will only benefit from it.
· From a recent job seeker’s point of view, what would be your advice to the recent graduates (masters and PhDs) looking for a job in academia? Speaking of your experience, what skills, knowledge and behaviors are the universities in Europe looking for these days?
As a linguist with no formal academic background in Computer Science (apart from 200 hours of Informatics and Mathematics completed as part of my first degree), I was looking for an interdisciplinary position that would allow me to both use my solid linguistics background and develop my programming and data mining skills. Text Mining and Digital Humanities seemed to be a perfect match, and I was looking for funded PhD positions that would lie at the intersection of these two areas. Now that I have been accepted, I am learning a lot every single day, and the learning curve is very steep (Python, linear algebra, machine learning). That is why, I believe, the student’s proven ability to learn without (or with little) supervision is a very important skill for a prospective doctoral candidate. Time management is another critical skill, as you will need to plan our own time, especially if you work on your own project. Besides, willingness to live and work in a multicultural environment is an important factor too.
· Speaking specifically about your topic – text mining – which research directions and development areas will grow in the next few years?
Digital Humanities, in general, is a developing and promising area of research, and text mining in within digital humanities is a hot topic these days: many disciplines within social sciences are increasingly relying on text data. We already have digital history and digital literary studies; mass digitization of textual sources brings along a problem of too much data for a human researcher to be able to handle manually. Therefore, automated text analysis, quickly moving from simple word frequency counts to applying machine learning algorithms, is expected to be used more widely in social sciences to help researchers cope with a large amount of text data more efficiently.
Ekaterina Kamlovskaya hold a Specialist degree in Linguistics and Translations studies (Kamchatka State University, Russia) and a Master degree in International Hotel and Tourism Management (The University of Queensland, Australia). She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Luxembourg (Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication, Digital History & Hermeneutics Doctoral Training Unit, Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History). Her main research interests are digital humanities, digital literary studies, and text mining.