A day in the life of…Victoria Yaneva

Hello! My name is Victoria Yaneva and I have been a PhD student at RIILP for already two and a half years. My research investigates the reading difficulties of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and how NLP tools could be used to aid the reading comprehension of these individuals. I first became interested in this topic while doing a placement at the research group as a part of the FIRST project, which was dedicated to the development of an automatic text simplification tool for readers with autism in English, Spanish and Bulgarian. Unlike the majority of the PhD students here, my background is in Psychology, which is why my supervisory team is interdisciplinary, comprising of researchers from the fields of both Computational Linguistics (Professor Ruslan Mitkov and Dr. Irina Temnikova) and Psychology (Professor Kenneth Manktelow).

A big part of my PhD research involves working with people with and without autism in order to investigate their reading difficulties. I have used eye tracking techniques to explore reading, which has been a very exciting experience for me. Research-wise, I value the academic freedom I have received in RIILP to pursue my research interests and to form my own ideas, as well as to gain substantial experience in academic work such as the writing of grant bids. While we are all based at the City Campus of the University, I often travel to Birmingham and other nearby cities to conduct my research with participants, so for me doing a PhD is not entirely an office-based work and it has provided me with an opportunity to meet many interesting and proactive people.

I am originally from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and to me Wolverhampton initially looked as a small and calm town. However, it is in a very close proximity to Birmingham (20 minutes by train), which is one of the biggest cities in the UK, offering a fair share of entertainment and culture. As PhD students coming from all different parts of the world and not knowing anyone here upon arrival, we tend to choose accommodation close to each other in neighbouring houses or even to rent rooms in the same shared house. Living together has allowed us to share both the fun moments of celebration (basically every other weekend or weekday, because, as someone used to say, one never knows when a “fiesta loca” is on its way J), as well as the moments of struggle and desperation over negative data or approaching deadlines. These shared moments and the spirit of mutual support between the students, which an endeavour such as pursuing a PhD requires, have resulted in lasting friendships in all areas of the world. For me personally, and may I say for lots of other people in RIILP, this is one of the most precious gains from the years spent in the research group.