Doctor of Philosophy student
Artificial intelligence has transformed our world and how we operate, says Sherry Feng who is working towards a PhD in computer science; a qualification she expects to complete in 2023.
“In a previous job, I focused on working with artificial intelligence for languages. I became extremely interested in learning more, and wanted to contribute to further advancement in this field. The concept of how we speak and communicate is fascinating by itself, so imagine the impact of building machines who are able to communicate just like people.
“My research is exploring ways of how machines can learn to understand human languages better, which ultimately will help to create machines that have human level language intelligence. This will impact everything that we have in this field, including voice assistants, chatbots and much more.”
Sherry’s PhD research is being supervised by Professor Edmund Lai and Dr Weihua Li from AUT’s School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.
The journey to doctoral study
For Sherry, her academic journey started in the USA where she completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in analytics, before she started working as a data scientist for the United Nations Development Programme in New York. That role sparked her passion for artificial intelligence.
“I became interested in the application of the crossover between artificial intelligence and human languages. I wanted to learn more about this topic and contribute to this field, so I thought a PhD would be the logical next step.”
That decision soon saw her return to New Zealand and enrol at AUT.
“What I like about AUT as a university is that it offers a lot of opportunities for real-world application, which enables me to both study and gain practical experience in applying what I have learnt throughout my PhD.”
Advice for other students
Sherry has some great advice for other students who are considering doctoral study.
“My advice is to try and find a part-time hobby or a job outside of your studies. This will enable you to better explore the different options out there, and add more value to your own experience and journey at university. I was offered a part-time research role by the UN, and am currently doing part-time research on various AI and humanitarian projects for the United Nations Global Pulse while I’m completing my PhD.”
She would highly recommend the supportive study environment at AUT.
“What I’ve enjoyed most about studying here are the people I’ve met here. People are very supportive.”