MDS Spotlight: Meet Meiyu Zheng, MDS Computational Linguistics, Class of 2023

Meiyu Zheng’s career before entering UBC’s Master of Data Science (MDS) in Computational Linguistics has been a bit of a rollercoaster where she worked in the world of online education as a curriculum designer at Duolingo to spending time doing procurement for a local wholesale and retail company in Brazil. In addition, Zheng was working on AI-powered projects as a linguist, on the side.

Doing these AI projects ignited her interest in the field data science, machine learning and computational linguistics. 

Meiyu Zheng, Master of Data Science in Computational Linguistics

“I love learning and teaching languages, and … I’ve also always been passionate about leveraging data to solve business problems at work. This has led me to realize that computational linguistics is the perfect crossroads of these interests,” said Zheng.

While working at Duolingo, Zheng found that while she could hypothesize improvements from a linguistic perspective, she lacked the necessary technical skills and tools to translate these theories into tangible enhancements from an engineer's viewpoint. 

“This longing to delve deeper and bring a more creative approach to my work made me decide to pursue a master degree in data science with a focus on Natural Language Processing (NLP). I sensed that this field was poised to have a substantial impact across industries, not just within academia, and I wanted to be part of this trend.” 

This led Zheng to UBC’s MDS Computational Linguistics program and its unique blend of data science and NLP courses. 

Another aspect of the MDS Computational Linguistics program that Zheng enjoyed was the small cohort size as it allowed the professors to better cater to everyone’s individual learning needs and specific interests. 

As well, Zheng noted that the Computational Linguistics faculty puts efforts in the curriculum. “It exhibits a consistent emphasis on relevance, and course topics and materials are updated to reflect current trends in the field.” 

Zheng also enjoyed the project-based courses occurs in the second term of the program. “These hands-on projects not only enriched our learning experience but also served as significant additions to our professional portfolios.” 

The ability to learn the foundations of computational linguistics on UBC’s Vancouver campus has been valuable to Zheng.

“It offers key benefits such as immediate and direct interaction with professors and classmates. This allows me to ask questions, seek clarifications and engage in productive discussions, which can be more challenging and less effective in an online setting. Immersing myself in studying and living on the UBC campus hasn’t only enhanced my academic experience, but also fostered a vibrant sense of community,” she added.

When it came time for her capstone project, Zheng liked that she could apply all the knowledge and skills gained from the program into real practice, coupled with her prior experience.  

“I got a taste of what it is like to be working as a NLP engineer and transfer the knowledge learned in academic setting to a meaningful actual project in a production setting,” noted Zheng.

Upon completing the program, Zheng aspires to land a job where she can contribute a unique blend of linguistic knowledge and technical skills, honed during her time in the Computational Linguistics program.

Meiyu’s Top 3 Tips on Succeeding in the MDS Computational Linguistics Program:

  1. Find your niche: This is just my two cents, if you are a fresh graduate, find out what you are good at and nurture it; if you have prior experience, leverage that experience and combine with what you gain from the program. 
  2. Be proactive: Prepare early and do not leave assignments until the last minute. Take a quick look at the materials early before lectures / labs and make sure what to expect when you show up in the lecture and make the most of it. 
  3. Balance is key: Don't take too much on your plate. Avoid overloading yourself with many commitments. Study hard. Rest hard (at least on Sunday)!

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