Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Digital humans currently lack the reasoning ability to answer queries like real humans, and Yuanyuan (Jane) Shen is investigating how this gap can be reduced.
Her research involves developing methods for question answering (QA) systems to infer answers from documents using deep artificial neural networks.
Jane’s enthusiasm for artificial intelligence (AI) and her PhD experience means she will equip herself with the knowledge, professional skills and characteristics to become an expert in her field – and her research may ultimately lead to an increase of digital employees in the business market.
Support from AUT
She came from China to study her PhD at AUT because she sees it as a progressive university with great resources and supportive staff, says Jane whose studies are supported by a Callaghan Innovation Research Fellowship Grant.
“My supervisors are Professor Edmund Lai and Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh. Professor Lai is the head of the department of Information Technology and Software Engineering, and he is a great supervisor to work with. He always provides valuable advice and insights to guide me to progress in my research. Whenever I get a bit stuck in the research, he can always inspire me to move forward.
“Dr Mohaghegh is a senior lecturer. She is also very helpful, and actively connected me with great resources, like collaboration with industry. She loves to encourage students. The encouragements from her can always power me with energy to keep on.”
The flexibility of being able to choose a preferred AUT campus for her PhD means that Jane is located at the AUT South Campus in Manukau, making it easier to work around her children’s school and day care options.
Jane says the opportunity to work as an AUT teaching assistant helps financially, as well as giving her personal satisfaction.
“I have a great passion for undergraduate students. Being able to support and guide them brings me much joy during this PhD journey. I have enjoyed the caring atmosphere here at AUT. As our university’s goal is to create great graduates, the AUT community thrives to support students in every aspect. Students are encouraged to have their own voice, and AUT is always ready to take it into consideration for its planning.”
A worthwhile journey
Studying for her PhD has taught Jane a range of learnings far wider than her research focus on the reasoning ability of neural networks for QA systems.
She says that the PhD programme has made her realise her full potential as she builds her knowledge and develops other essential skills including critical and creative thinking. This expertise is invaluable as Jane plans for her future as university lecturer or an industry researcher.
“It challenges me to explore directions that I never dared to think of before, which pushes the boundaries of my mind further and further. Another important thing that I have been developing through my PhD is perseverance, which is one of the very important characteristics in life.”