Matthew Henderson receives 2013 Google PhD Fellowship


Matthew Henderson, a Statistical Dialogue Systems PhD Student at Cambridge UIniversity, has been selected as a 2013 Global Google PhD Fellow. From all around the globe, 39 PhD students represent the fifth class in the programme’s history, a select group recognised by Google researchers and their institutions as some of the most promising young academics in the world.

Matthew's research is in the spoken language side of Artificial Intelligence, looking at the challenging problem for a computer of maintaining a natural conversation with a person. Using probability theory, statistics and modern machine learning, he hopes to improve the performance and extend the scope of dialog systems. This topic is relevant to Google as its voice search is becoming ever more popular, and it releases its new 'conversational search' interface. After completing a BA in Mathematics at Cambridge, Matthew obtained an MSc in Speech and Language Processing at the University of Edinburgh. Now he is working for a PhD in Cambridge under the supervision of Steve Young in the Department's Dialogue Systems Group. Google will provide generous funding for the rest of Matthew's PhD, pair him with a Mentor working at Google, and encourage him to do an internship with them, which he plans to do next summer. Google don't impose any restrictions on the research of the recipient.

As Google welcome the newest class of PhD Fellows, they take a look back at the programme’s roots and hear from two past recipients.

In 2009, Google launched its PhD Fellowship Programme, created to recognize and support outstanding graduate students pursuing work in computer science, related disciplines or promising research areas. In its inaugural year, 13 United States PhD students were awarded fellowships, drawn from an extremely competitive pool of applicants. The global programme now covers Europe, China, India and Australia and continues to draw some of the best young researchers, reflecting Google’s commitment to building strong relations with the academic community.

Among those first recipients of the fellowship award are 2009 PhD Fellow Roxana Geambasu, Visiting Professor in the Computer Science Department at Columbia University, and 2010 European Doctoral Fellow Roland Angst, Visiting Assistant Professor at Stanford University and affiliated with the Max Planck Center for Visual Computing and Communication. As early recipients of the award, Roxana and Roland reflect on the impact that the Google Fellowship programme had on their careers.

For Roxana, the fellowship provided the tools and connections that helped lay the foundation for her academic career. She believes industrial fellowship programmes are very important, as they give students an opportunity to interact more closely with industry.

“Beyond the financial support, I think that the fellowship impacted my career in many important ways. First, the Google fellowships are regarded as highly competitive, so receiving the award was probably a big plus on my resume when I was interviewing for faculty positions.”

“Second, the award yielded a mentor within Google, Brad Chen, with whom I've kept in touch ever since, as well as opportunities to visit the campus, deliver talks and meet Google engineers. Brad and I continue to meet at conferences and discuss my work, his work and (of late) the work of my students; it’s through that relationship I’m exposed to new people from Google and gain valuable advice about faculty award opportunities.”

Roland Angst credits the award with the ability to lighten his teaching load and instead focus on his research, which ultimately prepared him for his future academic career. Like Roxanna, Roland states that the fellowship also gave him the opportunity to establish connections with people working in related topics in industry.

“In my view, programmes such as the Google Fellowship Awards represent an important and integral link between industry and universities. Firstly, such programmes increase the awareness in the academic world for relevant problems in industry. Secondly, these programmes allow the IT industry to express their gratitude to the educational services provided by the universities on which the IT industry heavily relies."

 Image: Matthew Henderson

Reproduced courtesy of University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering


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Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge