Week 1, September 7-11 – Maury

Hey, y’all!

I’m Maury Quijada, a Senior at Harvey Mudd College. And for this semester of Fall 2015 (September 1 to December 11), I will be working closely with Professor Julie Medero (Prof. Julie) on a problem she’s identified that I am really excited to work on: automatic text simplification that incorporates measures of text difficulty.

A bit more background on Prof. Julie’s familiarity with this topic: Her exploration on this topic began when she was writing her dissertation. The topic she honed in on was quantifying how hard it is for a particular person to read a body of text. Both then and now, Prof. Julie thinks that quantifying the complexity of a body of text has useful applications, particularly in text simplification. And she’s having students from Harvey Mudd work in this realm. With regard to the quantification of text complexity, Prof. Julie had a research group in Summer 2015 that works on a new approach involving people reading text on an iPad. Their progress was actually tracked on this blog. And with regard to the applications of these measures, this is what I will work on throughout this next semester.

Over the next few months I plan to use measures of text difficulty to improve automatic text simplification. I’m going to focus particularly on simplification using statistical machine translation, where “normal English” is the foreign language and “simplified English” is the target language. I want to see if and how a machine translator could successfully use difficulty as a measure when we need to compare possible text simplifications. And my progress will be documented through weekly updates on Tuesday!

This week does not have much going on for me. Prof. Julie and I met and discussed expectations, a bit more background about the project, and discussed some starting tasks. I’ve also been asked to read a couple of articles, and summarize my findings. Expect more of an update next week!

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