RGCL Anniversary Highlights, Day 24

Published on Sep, 8 2022 by RGCL.

Spotlight on the Founders

Some 25 years ago, Prof Ruslan Mitkov established the Research Group of Computational Linguistics here at the University of Wolverhampton. He had some key collaborators in those early days (and ever since!), and in this post we pay homage to their hard work, expertise, and dedication to the Group.

RGCL Founders
Constantin Orasan, Le An Ha, Catalina Barbu, Ruslan Mitkov, and Richard Evans in the early days of RGCL. All but Catalina have remained in the Group for many, many years

Director of RIILP and Head of RGCL: Prof Ruslan Mitkov

I completed my university degree at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany where I studied from 1974 to 1979. I was privileged to have as my doctoral supervisor one of the pioneers of the German Computer Science, Prof Dr Nikolaus Joachim Lehmann at the Technical University of Dresden where I received my PhD on 9 January 1987, Germany. I joined the University of Wolverhampton on 2 October 1995. Since 1997, I am Professor of Computational Linguistics and Language Engineering and the same year I founded the Research Group in Computational Linguistics which I have led ever since. I am Director of the Research Institute for Information and Language Processing which consists of two internationally renowned research groups – Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group led by Prof. Mike Thelwall and the Research Group in Computational Linguistics.

Prior to coming to Wolverhampton, I was Research Professor at the Institute of Mathematics, Bulgarian Academy of Science. I was also Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1993, and 1994, at the Saarland University and University of Hamburg.

I was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa from Plovdiv University in 2011 and Professor Honoris Causa from Veliko Tarnovo University in 2014. I am due to receive my third Honoris Causa award from New Bulgarian University in Sofia in October 2022.

I am actively involved in research and extensively serve the research community. Current editorial projects include my role as Executive Editor of the Journal of Natural Language Engineering published by Cambridge University Press, sole Editor of the Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics (Oxford University Press) and Editor-in-Chief of the Natural Language Processing book series of John Benjamins publishers. I have been invited as a keynote speaker at a number of international conferences including conferences on translation and translation technology; I have acted as Programme Chair of various international conferences on Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Translation, Translation Technology (including the annual London conference ‘Translation and the Computer’), Translation Studies, Corpus Linguistics and Anaphora Resolution. I am asked on a regular basis to review for leading international funding bodies and organisations and to act as a referee for applications for Professorships both in North America and Europe. I am regularly asked to review for leading journals, publishers and conferences and serve as a member of Programme Committees or Editorial Boards.

Former Reader and Deputy Head at RGCL, now Professor at University of Surrey: Prof Constantin Orasan

As of 2020 I am Professor of Language and Translation Technologies at the Centre of Translation Studies, University of Surrey. Before starting this role, I was Reader in Computational Linguistics at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, and the deputy head of the Research Group in Computational Linguistics at the same university. I have received my BSc in computer science at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and was awarded my PhD from the University of Wolverhampton.

I have over 20 years’ experience of working in the fields of (applied) Natural Language Processing (NLP), Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for language processing. My research interests are largely focused on facilitating information access and include translation technology, sentiment analysis, question answering, text summarisation, anaphora and coreference resolution, building, annotation and exploitation of corpora.

I recently coordinated the EXPERT project, an extremely successful Initial Training Network (ITN) funded under the People Programme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Community which trained the next generation of world-class researchers in the field of data-driven translation technology. In addition to coordinating this project between nine partners across both academia and industry, I was actively involved in the training of the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) appointed in the project and, in collaboration with these ESRs, I carried out research on translation memories and quality estimation for machine translation. I continue researching these topics. 

I was also the deputy coordinator of the FIRST project, a project which developed language technologies for making texts more accessible to people with autism. In addition to managing a consortium of nine partners from academia, industry and heath care organisations, I also carried out research on text simplification and contributed to the development of a powerful editor which can be used by carers of people with autism to make texts more accessible for these people.

In the past, I was the Local Course Coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus programme on Technology for Translation and Interpretation and the Erasmus Mundus International Masters in Natural Language Processing and Human Language Technology, and the scientist in charge for the University of Wolverhampton in two European projects QALL-ME and MESSAGE. I also worked as a research fellow on the CAST project

I love programming and in my spare time I contribute to some open-source projects and have my own GitHub repository

Lecturer in Computational Linguistics: Dr Richard Evans

Richard joined RGCL in 1998, where his first task was to implement Jerry Hobbs’s (1978) approach to pronoun resolution in Prolog. This presented quite a challenge for someone who was not well-versed in Prolog as the algorithm requires breadth-first, rather than depth-first, traversal of parse trees to identify the antecedents of pronouns (Richard notes that it was down to Constantin Orasan that the tricky breadth-traversal problem was solved!). Hobbs’s algorithm was used as a baseline against which to compare the performance of other anaphora resolution systems, such as Mitkov’s (1998) knowledge-poor approach.

Since then, Richard has developed numerous NLP tools and resources in fields such as anaphora and coreference resolution (MARS), discourse segmentation, pronoun classification, information extraction, readability assessment, and text simplification. His work on text accessibility builds on an interest in language disorders (not sure whether to mention my left-hemisphere cavernous haemangioma in 1988 which temporarily affected by speech, reading, and writing) and is motivated by a desire to develop NLP applications to assist users with reading difficulties.

After Prof Mitkov, Richard is the longest-standing member of RGCL! His colleagues would describe him as sincere, hard-working, original, and very, very funny.

Senior Lecturer in Commercial Exploration: Dr Le An Ha

Dr Ha is a veteran NLP/data science academic (working on NLP problems since 2000) with a proven track record in designing, overseeing, conducting, evaluating, and disseminating Machine Learning and Deep Learning NLP experiments and applications. He is a hands-on person with a constant urge to learn more; he brings both experience and the ability to quickly adopt and apply new technologies. Currently he uses mainly Python/Keras/Tensorflow/Pytorch to solve NLP problems, having utilised various technologies/tools such as C#, Java, C++, Perl, PHP, JavaScript/jquery, MySQL, MS SQL, Apache Cassandra, for various projects and tasks. He frequently mentors PhD students and junior staff, providing advice and support on every aspect of work and life. He has co-authored publications with them at various prestigious NLP conferences, including EMNLP, NAACL, ACL, and COLING.

Dr Ha said:

“My very first encounter with RGCL is a dark, damp end of September evening back in 2000, after I had arrived in Wolverhampton. First time away from home, from my family, from my love, from everything that I was, I gingerly walked to the University. Guess what, the first person I saw at the gate of the University was Prof Mitkov, and he asked me: “Are you An?”, or something to the effect. Most of my fears, my anxieties, my worries, were no more. I had found my place. First a PhD student, then a researcher, then a lecturer with the group, I have learnt a lot, gained a lot, and I have tried to pass on what I have learnt. Starting with statistic NLP, I have moved with the time, to machine learning NLP, and then to deep learning. I love my time here, it is my second home. People say that I am extremely hardworking, that I am ever helpful, that I am very motivated, but I would be happier if they just said: “That guy loves his job.”.”

RGCL simply wouldn’t exist without these influential and founding members of the Group, and we’re proud to have kept them for such a long time. Most of all, we are grateful for all of their hard work, commitment and dedication over the past 25 years!

RGCL Founders
Laura Hasler, Le An Ha, Ruslan Mitkov, Constantin Orasan, Catalina Barbu, and Richard Evans


University of Wolverhampton
Wulfruna Street
Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY
United Kingdom