Profile
Maja Popovic
My CV

Education:
Mathematics High School, Belgrade, Serbia (leaving certificate equivalent), Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Belgrade, Serbia (bachelor+master equivalent), RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany (PhD)

Qualifications:
PhD in Natural Language Processing

Work History:
always a researcher, but at different places in different countries (DFKI institute, Humboldt University, RWTH Aachen University in Germany, IDIAP institute in Switzerland, Mihajlo Pupin Institute and Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Serbia)

Current Job:
research fellow at Dublin City University, Ireland

Employer

About Me
I love maths, languages and music. I hate getting up early.

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I play piano whenever I have time (mostly classical music)
I like to be on wheels — bike, roller skates, skateboard, … iceskating, too
I like plants
I like cats
I don’t play much video games, but I like Pokemons

My pronouns are
she/her

How I Use Maths In My Job:
For my work, we often need different kinds of probabilities related to words. For example, what is the probability that a word “bicycle” appears in a text about outdoor sports? And what is the probability for the same word in a text about musical instruments?
Also, more languages can be involved: what is the probability that the English word “bicycle” corresponds to the French word “bicyclette”?
The probabilities are sometimes calculated as fractions, but recently they are usually calculated using socalled “neural networks”. These networks are nothing else than complex mathematical functions.

My Work
I use maths to process human languages (it is called Natural Language Processing /more maths/, or Computational Linguistics /more language/)

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I work in Natural Language Processing (NLP), a science which teaches computers to process and analyse natural language (English, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, …) data.
Most of the time I work on machine translation, a subfield of NLP where computers translate from one language to another using probabilities. The probabilities are calculated using neural networks. These networks are essentially nothing else than complex mathematical functions.
Do you know what Google Translate is? Just one of many computer programs for machine translation.
I also teach students at the university about all those things.
And, before I started to work using maths on languages, I worked on using it for sounds (particularly speech).

My Typical Day
every day is a little bit different, (especially when travelling), except the start with a cup of coffee

What I'd do with the prize money
I am not sure what I can do exactly, but I will ask my university how it can be used to explain school kids how maths is used for languages

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
converts words into numbers
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
no one directly, but growing up with my Mum translator and my Grandpa electrical engineer certainly had influence on my "maths+languages" choice
What's your favourite use for maths in everyday life?
using proportions and ratios for recipes
What did you think about Maths when you were in school?
I loved it
What did you want to be after you left school?
electrical engineer or civil engineer or maths teacher
Were you ever in trouble at school?
just a tine littly bit in primary school
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
musician or hairdresser
Who is your favourite singer or band?
hard to choose only one: Joy Division, REM, the Fall, Nick Cave, Ramones, ...
What's your favourite food?
beefsteak, chicken breast, tomato salad, onions, carrots, peas, watermelon, apricots, chocolate, ice cream
What is the most fun thing you've done?
visiting volcanoes on Canary Islands
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be?  be honest!
to live close to a (warm) beach
Tell us a joke.
All functions in Functiontown became scared to death when a dangerous stranger known as Derivative arrives to Functiontown and starts to change every function on their way. Therefore, all functions run to their homes to hide, except one which is happily walking on the streets, totally relaxed, singing. Others become worried: "Hey, you, haven't you heard about Derivative?! Better go somewhere to hide, it's dangerous out there!", and he replies "No worries, folks, I'm exponential!"


Work photos: