Long overdue update. EuroScipy and SSLST 2011

Anybody reading my blog should have expected me to blog about the end of my GSoC. Sorry to disappoint, but I simply did not experience anything similar to an ending. On the contrary, I feel like things have barely started. Also, I apologize for one of the few posts here without pretty pictures! :)

For the last two weeks, I’ve been traveling. I attended the EuroScipy conference thanks to Fabian, who offered me a place to sleep during the week. We sprinted hard, we discussed tricky APIs, we drank a lot of coffee, beer, and ate well in lovely Paris. It was great to meet all of the celebrities, the people who keep the scientific Python globe turning.

Many thanks to Gael and Emmanuelle, who worked very, very hard on organizing everything, so they weren’t around and I didn’t get to say goodbye when I ran to catch my plane last Sunday.

I was in a hurry, heading to Tarragona, a beautiful city on the Catalan coast, where the public university organized the 2011 summer school in linguistics and speech technologies (SSLST). This was a great opportunity to meet many fellow young researchers working in computational linguistics. I will not go into details now, because I plan expand on this, but I would like to state a couple of things. Firsty, even though NLP seems to be mostly a Java-dominated affair (note for example Stanford’s NLP toolkit and Sheffield’s GATE), the [computational linguistics and psycholinguistics research center (CLiPS)][] at the University of Antwerp actually briefly manifested its devotion to Python and NLTK via its research director, Walter Daelemans.

It was good to see a little love for Python in this field. NLTK is very underrepresented in the SciPy community, I couldn’t find anybody at the EuroScipy conference knowing too much about it or about the people behind it.

Another lab that has done a lot of cool work is Cental at the Catholic University of Louvain, and they also use Python for natural language processing. Maybe in the coming years, we will see a Python for Computational Linguistics sattelite, along with Physics and Neuroscience. Doesn’t it sound more fun? :P

Secondly, I wish SSLST were organized by someone like Gael! As the discussion at dinner regarding who will organize next year’s EuroScipy went, it is imperative that the organizers be actively involved in the community, and generally passionate about it. Even though I’m comparing apples and oranges, Carlos Martin-Vide behaved in this context like a old, tired, emotionless academic, not taking into account even lunch breaks for the whole group, not to mention any sort of getting together or even a group photo (which, alas, we were not able to take, apart from small groups.) They said it couldn’t be done. Of course it could, they just didn’t want it hard enough.

Finally, before signing off, I would like to announce that because the Romanian Ministry of Education failed to specify the allocated number of public positions for masters’ programmes, the admission exam at the University of Bucharest will be delayed by a couple of weeks. Luckily, this will allow me to attend RANLP 2011 in Hissar, Bulgaria a week from now, where I will present my poster entitled:
“Can alternations be learned? A machine learning approach to Romanian verb conjugation” by Liviu P. Dinu, Emil Ionescu, Vlad Niculae and Octavia-Maria Sulea. See you in Hissar!

[computational linguistics and psycholinguistics research center (CLiPS)]: http://www.clips.ua.ac.be/

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