Move to University of Bamberg

5 minute read

I mentioned in a previous blog post already that I move to the University of Bamberg in March 2024. I will be the Chair for Foundations of Natural Language Processing and Full Professor at the Faculty for Information Systems and Applied Computer Science.

With this blog post, I would like to tell you about a bit about this decision and my future plans in Bamberg.

My time at IMS, University of Stuttgart

I came to the IMS in 2014, following an invitation by Sebastian Padó to substitute him as the chair for theoretical computational linguistics. I’ve been very happy about this offer, despite being a happy postdoc in Bielefeld. I felt that such a substitute professor position gives me the opportunity to learn more about what it is to be a professor. Even more importantly, I was able to come to the IMS, which was as is a very visible place at which a lot of great research happened.

I was not trained as a computational linguist, I’ve been trained as a computer scientist and always felt a bit like a foreigner in this community. I didn’t know too much about linguistics and what’s computational about it, and I did not know too many people in the field. My impression at this time was that essentially everybody from Stuttgart, Saarland, Potsdam, Heidelberg (all the big CL places in Germany) knew each other, and I was incredibly happy to get to know the IMS and hoped to also be able to become a member of this (national and internationa) CL community.

Long story short - I think this worked out incredibly well. I met awesome people right from the start, all the group leaders and groups, including people who were more influenced by linguistics and philosophy. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a tenured “lecturer” position associated with Sebastian Padó’s chair. I am incredibly thankful to him and all other members of the TCL group and the IMS - I learned so much and got quite a good feeling for what NLP and CL is about by now, and started to contribute to the field myself.

I also had the chance to write my own grant proposals. I’ve been lucky enough to get my first proposal accepted on emotion analysis in 2018 without a revise and resubmit round, and that was only possible with the help of people in the institute who helped me with very valuable feedback. I’ve been quite successful with proposals since then; and I am sure that this is at least partially due to a privileged situation I had with awesome people around me who supported me with critical questions and feedback. I cannot value this enough. With these proposals and some people that I was able to supervise on positions that I essentially got granted by Sebastian, I was able to have my own group of PhD students, Postdocs, and Bachelor and Master students; and I enjoyed to work with all of them; I was able to write my habilitation to be able to formally supervise them, and finally this year (2023) got anointed as apl. Prof. (which is essentially a professor title without being one).

Moving to Bamberg

I am very grateful for all the opportunities I got in Stuttgart, and I do not take them for granted. I am aware that it was only partially my own doing. Nevertheless, I decided to leave the IMS for another position. In Germany, it is very difficult to step up inside the same institution for various reasons which are grounded in the system and are outside of the institute’s control. With a W3 position I get in Bamberg, I will have a yearly lump sum, an own secretary, my own large office space, a lab, and positions that are paid by the university. This allows me, I believe, to speed up my research and increase the impact I can have on the research community and on society. I am sad about leaving the IMS, but I see a huge chance that I can develop something good in Bamberg, which, by the way, also offers great opportunities, but more about that later.

In addition, there is the private aspect. I will communite again between my main private life location and my work life location. That will be stressful, and I am grateful to my wife that she supported me all the time to do this step. At no moment in time she told me that I shouldn’t do that, despite all the doubts I had.

However, despite the communite situation that I will be facing, Bamberg will also be very good for me. I am not a huge fan of individual transportation due to it’s space and resource requirements, and Stuttgart is quite clearly a car city, despite having great public transportation. The development of bicycle infrastructure, while it clearly developed, falls far behind what happens in other cities. Bamberg is not awesome when it comes to cycling infrastructure, but it is pretty good. Also: the city of Bamberg makes use of it’s river - I am really looking forward to enjoying evenings at the water.

Plans for Bamberg

Work-wise Bamberg will offer a lot. While Stuttgart is a great environment for computational linguistics and NLP, I never managed to start collaborations outside of the IMS in Stuttgart – I don’t really know why. My guess is that the IMS just offered enough opportunities in it’s own, but I am not sure.

In Bamberg, my group Foundations of NLP (which I might call “BamNLP”) will be one of many other new and established AI research groups, including some on dialogue systems and language generation, explainable AI, cognitive machine learning, and AI system engineering, computer graphics, visualization, media informatics and many more. Further, Bamberg has a focus on the humanities, they have social sciences, psychology, a linguistics department.

This gives me the opportunity to build a group at the intersection between these fields. While the University of Bamberg has a huge focus on AI, I would like to connect various fields inside and outside of this AI focus.

I like to see myself like this:

My plan is to be connected to psychology (something that the University of Stuttgart could not offer) and digital humanities, computational social sciences and linguistics. I will collaborate with other AI and computer science areas. Of course all these areas already talk to each other.

I am looking forward to this next step in my professional life. If you made it until here: thank you! If you want to talk about what I wrote: write me. If you want to work together with me research or application-wise: let me know.