World-class NLP expert joins Ireland’s digital content research centre

17 Apr 2020490 Views

Prof Lucia Specia. Image: DCU

Prof Lucia Specia will bring her expertise in natural language processing to the Adapt research centre and Dublin City University faculty.

Dublin City University (DCU) has announced a new international appointment at both the university and the Adapt research centre. Prof Lucia Specia will take up a professorial role at DCU’s Faculty of Engineering and Computing and within the Science Foundation Ireland-funded digital content research centre.

Specia is recognised as a leader in the field of natural language processing (NLP), the development of which enables humans to interact with computing systems using everyday language. In particular, her research examines data-driven approaches to NLP, with a particular interest in multimodal and multilingual models at the intersection of language and vision.

She holds a European Research Council Starting Grant for the MultiMT project. Understanding that the words we use only tell part of the story when it comes to effective communication, the MultiMT project aims to provide multi-modal context modelling for machine translation. This means building artificial intelligence models that can interpret human-generated content in its many forms, from text and speech to image and video.

Due to be completed next summer, MultiMT is an interdisciplinary effort to use NLP, computer vision and machine learning to devise methods and algorithms that can help machines understand more than just literal text inputs.

‘The arrival of Prof Specia to Adapt and DCU is a strong endorsement of what we have been doing for many years now’
– PROF ANDY WAY

Adapt is part of the effort to develop next-generation digital technologies for multimodal content, and deputy director Prof Andy Way expressed his delight that Specia will be joining the centre for the next three years.

“The arrival of Prof Specia to Adapt and DCU is a strong endorsement of what we have been doing for many years now: world-class R&D in NLP with a range of leading international partners in academia and in industry,” he said. “Prof Specia is a terrific addition to the team, and I look forward to working very closely with her as we enter the second phase of Adapt 2021-26.”

‘Role model’

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Prof Lisa Looney, executive dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Computing, said Specia serves as “a wonderful role model for early career researchers and teachers”.

“Prof Specia’s appointment represents not only a very significant enhancement of a key expertise in the School of Computing, it adds new dimensions to leadership within the discipline here,” she added.

“Moreover, her effectiveness in developing an impactful research agenda while maintaining a strong international perspective is clear, as is the collegiality she shows in so doing. We are very pleased that she has joined the team.”

‘Specia is a talented and highly respected researcher whose work has important applications in advancing a range of digital communications technologies’
– PROF BRIAN MACCRAITH

This is an international appointment and Specia’s other affiliations with Imperial College London and University of Sheffield will continue.

Applications are now open for the post of full professor of computing in NLP at DCU under the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative. The successful candidate for this role will work closely with Specia, Way and their colleagues at Adapt, which is a multi-institutional research centre linking many Irish universities.

Welcoming Specia to DCU, university president Prof Brian MacCraith said: “She is a talented and highly respected researcher whose work has important applications in advancing a range of digital communications technologies. Her expertise adds greatly to DCU’s world-class research team at the Faculty of Engineering and Computing, and Adapt.”

Elaine Burke is the editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com