Associate Professor, Computational Linguistics
Who wouldn’t aspire to work for Microsoft or Google? With a degree in computational linguistics, you can.
Sandra Kuebler, associate professor and director of computational linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Indiana University, explains that companies have shown an increased need for computational linguists.
Research in the discipline addresses the computational properties of natural languages and develops computational applications to automate aspects of translation, speech, and comprehension.
Computational linguists work on many different systems, including speech recognition systems, text-to-speech synthesizers, automated voice response systems, and web search engines.
The computational linguistics program at IU is quite new. The master’s program commenced in 2004 and the doctorate followed two years later. Kuebler is currently one of two faculty members advising graduate students with their research and planning the curriculum. Even with her numerous responsibilities, Kuebler endeavors to make preparing her students for a career in computational linguistics a priority.
Her research focuses on reviving linguistics in her discipline. In the last decade, computational linguistics has moved away from the primary aspects of linguistics and toward probability models. Kuebler believes that to better model linguistics, one must understand how words in a sentence form together to make a language.
Before coming to the United States in 2006, Kuebler gained her master’s degree in computational linguistics from the University of Tubingen and a doctorate from the University of Trier, both in Germany. The field of computational linguistics was particularly small when Kuebler started her master’s degree. Since then, the discipline has grown to 1,200 computational linguists in the world.
“Computational linguistics can be challenging because it brings two fields together—linguistics and information technology. When you make people from these two areas of discipline work together, it doesn’t always operate because they tend to speak different jargons,” Kuebler says.
Due to the complexity of the field, Kuebler advises women to remain confident that they belong in computational linguistics.
“I once had a student who said that women are poor programmers. I replied by telling him that he was wrong, but rather within certain areas of computational linguistics different genders are stronger skilled,” Kuebler explains.
Kuebler combines her students’ strengths to bring about change in computational linguistics. In the last two decades, language processing has almost exclusively focused on English. Kuebler strives to make a computational linguistics a more multilingual area of study for her future students.