Department of Computer Science
Faculty of Natural Sciences
My life before BGU:
I was born and grew up in Haifa, where I graduated from Leo Baeck high school. I completed my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science at Tel Aviv University, where I also got a master’s in theoretical linguistics at the Adi Lautman Interdisciplinary Program for Outstanding Students. I then spent fifteen years working in the hi-tech industry (on Ginger’s spell checker, and later doing research on language processing and data retrieval at the Yahoo labs). I obtained my doctorate in computer science at Georgia Tech.
"The solution to a problem is almost always, and almost completely, dependent upon the way we define the problem. And a follow-up insight from applied computer scientists: the key to solving the problem lies with the experts in that field, and one should work with them closely"
My field of research is called natural language processing, a field in which we ask if and how automatic systems can communicate with humans using their language. On the one hand, this is very much an applied field and includes developments we are all familiar with, such as translation services, chatbots, and personal assistants, which can reach high levels of accuracy thanks to their access to countless examples of language on the internet. On the other hand, this field also raises profound questions that touch on the humanities and social sciences, such as ‘does a computer that can answer questions understand human language?’ or ‘how do social biases expressed in internet texts infiltrate our system and feed back into our society?’ My research attempts, among other things, to blend the applied and the theoretical by drafting questions and tests for computer systems where the solution requires human knowledge that cannot be obtained merely through memorization of examples; and by digging into the systems’ innards to discover how to characterize the precise ways in which they represent the different structures and components of language.
Aside from the fact that the department I am joining at BGU, the Department of Computer Science, has excellent researchers and a great environment, I was also attracted by the potential for collaboration with researchers from other departments. There are people working on AI and big data in information systems and software engineering; and in the humanities there is a strong niche in digital humanities and in theoretical linguistics, both of which I share common goals with. Finally, I haven’t had the opportunity to interact much with students yet, but thus far I have heard only good things about the talent thriving in the Negev.
An insight from my research:
The solution to a problem is almost always, and almost completely, dependent upon the way we define the problem. And a follow-up insight from applied computer scientists: the key to solving the problem lies with the experts in that field, and one should work with them closely.
Something that doesn’t appear on my CV:
I run long distances, am a photography and film buff, graduate of four trivia shows, married to Moran and father to two wonderful girls.
A source of inspiration:
My interest in languages began early on, but after reading Guy Deutscher’s The Unfolding of Language I realized just how fascinated I was by this phenomenon of human language. I still think of this book quite a bit when I’m trying to write a research narrative for a project.
When I grow up:
My serious fixations as a child were archaeology and architecture. today I feel that I’ve found my place; I would like to contribute from my experience to the study of language processing and train the next generation of researchers and professionals who are curious about human language and computing.
If I were not a researcher, I would…
Be a writer.
» Facebook or Twitter? Twitter, a hundred thousand times Twitter
» Game of Thrones or the Simpsons? Simpsons, assuming the world came to an end sometime around the year 2000
» Yoga or CrossFit? Yoga, since I succeed in making it though entire lessons
» Hapoel or Maccabi? Maccabi (the real one: see my birthplace)
» Chess or backgammon? Depends on the mood
» Steak or tofu? Steak
» Trekking or the spa? Trekking. I used to be in the JNF orienteering corps as a teen, and managed to get lost in the western Negev with my group for a day and a half
» Car or train? Train. Overall, I hate driving and can't wait for autonomous cars to deliver us
» X-box or PlayStation? I know this is something you play games with, but my last game was something like Civilization 2, so I don't have enough information to decide
Fortis or Sakharov? Fortis by a narrow margin, why?
» Classical Europe or India? Probably Europe, but I need more time in India than the two days I've had there so far
» Ocean or pool? The ocean. After five years in beachless Atlanta, one realizes just how much one misses the ocean
» Radio or podcast? I haven't really 'connected' with any podcast so far, so I guess it's the radio
» Night or morning? In theory, morning. In practice, it depends on the time
» Winter or summer? Winter, as much as possible
» Cat or dog? Historically, I'm a cat person, but we might start changing it up now
» Film or play? Play, or even a musical