Digital Linguistics at the ZHAW – through the eyes of an intern

In the summer of 2021, Nurdan Ay completed an internship in the Digital Linguistics team at the Department of Applied Linguistics. She explains how despite working remotely due to COVID safety measures, she was able to establish a great connection with her peers and gain important knowledge and skills to take with her in her career.

Field report from Nurdan Ay, intern in the Digital Linguistics research and work area of the Department of Applied Linguistics

I am studying Digital Linguistics for my M.A. at the University of Zurich (UZH). For my internship I was very eager to find a position to apply my knowledge from my studies and to start my digital linguistics career before graduation. Luckily, close to the UZH is another excellent academic institution that is active in the field of digital linguistics, the ZHAW, so I applied to do my internship there and was accepted.

I had a wonderful start to my internship. Prof. Dr. Philipp Dreesen introduced me to people in the department. With this being my first foray into the working world with my newly found digital linguistics skills, I was somewhat nervous but Philipp and my supervisors, Dr. Julia Krasselt and Klaus Rothenhäusler, helped me feel at home.

A glimpse into digital linguistics

One interesting aspect of my internship that I hope will not affect those following me was the pandemic. The ZHAW and our department of applied linguistics was in remote working mode when I arrived and continued to be so for the entire two months of my internship. The facilities I needed were all available remotely, and the regular Microsoft Teams meetings made it feel like I was still part of the team. The IT support was especially great. At one point we were resource bound and needed more servers. Sadly, this happened after my experiments. However, we always managed to do our computations regardless.

One area I found especially noteworthy was how Julia and Klaus selected my tasks. They considered both my interests and my master’s thesis topic, which is on Named Entity Recognition and Entity Linking, and they decided I should work on the same topic but with different languages.

While working on Entity Linking, I was tasked with investigating a state-of-the-art model for linking entities in German and Italian. For the second project, I worked on approaches to recognize named entities in Romansh. Both tasks involved a lot of researching, reading and hands-on experience which helped me to acquire more knowledge and better skills in these areas.

Becoming part of the department

A very positive and unexpected aspect of my internship was the departmental involvement. Julia made a point of inviting me to project meetings which were not directly related to my project. I found this experience invaluable because it gave me a window into how a digital linguistics team works and how everything fits together. It was also interesting to see how our department collaborated with other departments. Additionally, learning how to put together research papers was unexpectedly great.

Nurdan Ay on LinkedIn

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