Phaedra Mohammed

The 27th International FLAIRS (Florida Artificial Intelligence Society) Conference was held from May 21-23, 2014 in Pensacola Beach, Florida, U.S.A. There were 72full papers, 17 short papers and 27 posters. Three keynote speeches were given by William Clancey from NASA, U.S.A., Jennifer Neville from Purdue University, and Thad Starner from Georgia Tech. In addition there were four invited talks from various areas.

The conference was broken up into many tracks several of which were of interest to me. These included NLP (Natural Language Processing), Semantics, Logics and Information Extraction, and Intelligent Tutoring Systems. The Culturally-Aware AI Systems track which I was accepted under was unfortunately cancelled due to insufficient submissions. This highlights the tremendously specialised area (culturally-aware intelligent learning environments) which I am presently focused on. Nonetheless, I benefited to a large extent from the above mentioned tracks since they were closely to the general field of AI. The level of experimental rigour and mathematical modelling behind many of the presented works were, in my opinion, impressive. During the presentations, I was motivated to strengthen my experimental techniques and develop a better understanding of mathematical modelling in order to raise the quality of my work.In particular, I learned a lot about the state of the art in NLP which I am interested in branching out into for furthering my research with culturally-aware technology enhanced learning.

I must mention that the keynote speeches by Jennifer Neville and Thad Starner have had a strong impact on me not only because of the content but by way of their ease in presenting highly complex theory in an approachable manner. Jennifer discussed prediction and modelling in complex social networks (an area I am unfamiliar with except for basic graph theory) with the recognisable ease of a seasoned teacher such that I was able to follow and even posit a few modelling ideas for my own research. She was one of the very few young women presenters and I was thoroughly impressed by her remarkable achievements in AI. Thad presented his pioneering work on wearable computers with a lively talk that was amazing for me to experience. Exploring the implications of first-person sensing for cultural interactions is one of my thoughts that was inspired by this talk, and this may be of importance in a few years as wearable computers become more accessible.

Overall the FLAIRS conference was an eye-opener for me, and I am happy to say that it has increased my appreciation for AI. It has also stimulated several ideas for post-doctoral research and provided a foothold into the research community with some potential mentors. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the ACM-W for supporting my travel to this conference along with the Department of Computing and Information Technology at U.W.I., St. Augustine. I hope that the scholarship program continues to garner support since it really does make a difference!