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Actually, this is technically an autobiography...

Geographical Stats

I grew up in Eau Claire and Altoona Wisconsin , and partly Minneapolis Minnesota. I moved to Los Angeles for college and I've lived in various places around town including near USC campus, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Culver City, and now in West Covina.


I have a big family: 4 brothers (5 including myself), and 3 sisters. I'm the oldest, then (in order of age) Yuey (Yusef), Vince (Vincent), Christina, Mark, Erika, Kurt, and Clare. One unusual characteristic is that among us brothers, the height is inversely proportional to age/order, so the younger brothers are taller than the older ones. Most of my immediate family lives in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, but I have extended family here in the "Southland" (i.e., Southern California), Salt Lake City, NYC, North Dakota, England, Sweden, Germany, and Iran.


In education, I have tried to advance both my personal interests and skills that will make me a productive member of society: theory and practice, if you will. As my studies have progressed, these two branches have grown closer together, which I interpret as moving in the right direction.

In high school, my favorite subjects were math and English, so I decided to major in linguistics when I started college at USC . Linguistics at an undergraduate level is a great way to explore human being's incredible language capacity, but it's not too practical -- or so I thought at the time -- so I also did pre-med course work, which I applied toward my minor in natural sciences. Towards the end of my undergrad experience, Prof. Jean-Roget Vergnaud introduced me to Prof. Shri Narayanan and I started doing work on human-computer dialog analysis with Shri, Prof. Dani Byrd , Lauri Gerber, and Jongho Shin.

Working with Shri at the SAIL lab really opened my eyes to the practical applications of linguistics and opened many opportunities for me as well. Seeing in computers the practical side of linguistics, and having some traumatic experiences volunteering at LA County hospital, made me decide to do my masters in computational linguistics (CL) rather than going to med school.

Combining theoretical interests in linguistics with practical applications using computers was not easy. The clash between the theoretical concerns of linguistics and the engineering concerns of computer science was difficult to overcome with the CL masters program suspended precariously between the lingustics and computer science (CS) departments. Two things helped me very much in this regard. First, working at the institute for creative technology (ICT) with Dr. Andrew Gordon , Milena Petrova, Anish Nair, and Reid Swanson gave me a good experience working with ontologically driven text processing. Second, the SAIL lab is a sturdy bridge between the CS and linguistics departments based on speech science foundations of speech processing and phonetics. Under Dr. Sungbok Lee's patient mentoring I studied speech processing and participated in the emotion and pronunciation (TBALL) subgroups of the SAIL lab (the TBALL project is joint between USC, UCLA, and Berkeley). Furthermore, at the SAIL lab I worked on developing my programming skills, which helped me successfully apply to the PhD program in the CS department.

Currently, I'm ABD (all but dissertation) and working on finishing and defending my dissertation. My thesis is that natural language descriptions of emotions are definite descriptions that refer to intersubjective theoretical entities. Pardon the technical jargon. In plain English, this just means that different people may describe their emotions differently, but yet they can come to mutual understanding. Making a theory about how people do this despite the fact that emotions are abstract and hard to objectively measure is the scientific component of my thesis . The technological component is to make a computer agent that can simulate such human behavior .

In general, I'm interested in user differences and how these affect natural language human-computer interaction, particularly in the case of emotions. My studies in emotions research looks at user variation on small time frames while my research with processing child speech looks at developmental variations over longer periods of time.

Up Close And Personal

To really get inside of my head, you can see these magnetic resonance movies

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Last modified: Thu Aug 9 16:58:05 PDT 2011