Meet our ESR Yasin Ghafourian

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--   Interview with Yasin Ghafourian    --

S: Tell us a bit about your background!

Y: Hello and thanks for inviting me to this virtual interview Sophia! We have gotten used to the idea of the virtual version of life but hopefully, and from the looks of it at this particular moment, the light at the end of the gloomy tunnel of physical distancing is getting brighter. So, I am Yasin and I come from a lovely and one of the largest cities in the world, Tehran, in Iran. I have been born and raised in it and have studied in Tehran all my academic life :). As a kid whose world had been fascinated by robot movies and games and toys, I was into robotics and computers and I was also a member of high school robotics team. That’s the root cause that drove me to the path of computer science because I was thinking that it would be the path through which I would achieve self- actualization. So to make a long story short, I have studied computer software engineering at both degrees of Bachelor and Master and have worked both as application developer for windows platform and business intelligent analyst.

S: How did you find out about DoSSIER and what made you decide to apply?

Y: After defending my Master’s thesis, I wanted to start working in industry to explore more and experience the practical environments, however, I really didn’t want to stop at the Masters level and wanted to continue the research path and become a better researcher by obtaining a PhD. That accounts for me looking for relevant PhD opportunities at my spare time while I was an employee and see which PhD projects interest me which I am also qualified enough to conduct. So in my quest for finding an interesting PhD project, I came across the DoSSIER project and I am not sure but I think it was on twitter where I saw the shared job advertisement for it, for the first time. I have worked in IR and have worked on relevance models so when I looked into the project topics, I got really interested in the topics. All of them were intriguing to me and the problem descriptions that I read motivated me to apply.

S: How long are you already working on the project?

Y: I’ve been working on the project for almost 8 months now.

S: What are your initial thoughts on DoSSIER and your experience?

Y: I am already very interested in the project as a whole. All people in this project including the PhD students, their supervisors, coordinators, et al., are working shoulder to shoulder passionately and that is really motivating. I am excited to look at where my work and my other great 14 friends’ work in this project will lead and on which areas we can make collaborations with each other as working on interesting ideas. Of course, the whole pandemic situation imposed on us has made having meetings and discussions a little bit hard for us but I am convinced that we will overcome it soon.

S: What project are you currently working on?

Y: I am that smiling early stage researcher siting behind the round brown table by the window in the large research laboratory of DoSSIER, working on project 13 :). Project 13 is regarding relevance models for knowledge deltas. We aim to overcome the knowledge delta, or knowledge gap, existing between a user’s knowledge and that existing in the world wide web on the domain that the user is searching for. I am based in Vienna and my project is being conducted at Research Studios Austria (RSA FG) in collaboration with Technical university of Vienna (TU Wien).

S: Tell us about your team environment. What do you enjoy about collaborating with your small team and the larger lab?

Y: The most prominent point to mention is that for an early stage researcher, it’s really beneficial to be in a team where there are more experienced researchers that have tackled similar problems and can be reached for assistance and consult. I am a member of two wonderful teams at RSA FG and TU Wien and neither has been an exemption from this and I personally have asked for my colleagues’ ideas and opinions on various research related or programming related matters and been provided with effective remarks and helpful ideas.

S: What excites you the most about the field of IR and HCI?

Y: What excites me the most is that improvements in various directions of these fields can make direct positive impacts on the quality of the work life or life of a group of people that are users of IR systems and this is really motivating for me, knowing that I might be able to make a constructive impact or contribute to something that will later be used to make that impact. Take for example systematic reviews in which it’s paramount to make sure that all relevant documents have been investigated and consulted, improvements in systems used in these cases can reduce to a degree the financial burden and the expected time required to accomplish the tasks.

S: Walk us through a day in the life of a DoSSIER PhD student.

Y: This DoSSIER PhD student is more of a morning person, even though waking up early in the morning can sometimes be troublesome, still this one does prefer mornings :). After a morning routine and enjoying breakfast, he then makes his way to the office (During this Corona times usually the office is empty and people are working in home-office :( and consequently it’s only him in the office) or starts working in home-office. He usually plans to deal with more demanding parts of the research in the morning, such as trying to find a bug in the code, or understanding the functionality of a neural network. In corona free times, this one would go to the gym a number of times per week in the afternoons, however he also enjoys walking in the afternoons or going for the bike ride. He also enjoys hiking and is inspired by nature.

S: Great, sounds like this PhD student has created a great day structure despite the Corona time! Thanks for the interview, Yasin :)

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 860721