Daniël defends his work

Yesterday was a very special day: Daniël Fokkinga, the master student who I have been supervising together with Marie Anastacio, Holger Hoos and Siegfried Nijssen, presented and defended his master thesis!

It is wild to see this happening only a few years after I defended mine. It feels like it was just such a short time ago that I was in his shoes, and yet I’m at the other side of this interaction now, prepping difficult questions for him to answer.

I was very happy to see that he brought a lot of friends and family, and it was lovely to meet them. Meeting Daniël’s parents and brother made me feel quite special, because he’s been such an important person in my work life for over a year, working with him on an interesting line of research. It was nice to have someone at the institute to talk to about my own research, and very gratifying to see him do so well at his presentation. It made me feel special that I got to share that with the actual important people in his life 🙂

Congratulations to Daniël for achieving this milestone!

BNAIC/Benelearn 2019

Last week I attended the Benelux Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (BNAIC) for the first time. This year, it was held in Brussels, in my beloved Belgium.

This year’s edition was framed around AI Synergies: business meets academics. This was very well reflected in the excellent collection of demonstrations, where we learned about self-driving wheelchairs and puzzle-solving technology.

My contribution to this conference was an extended abstract of this year’s IJCAI publication, in which we introduced a new propagation algorithm for stochastic constraints, implemented in the OscaR solver.

My presentation was scheduled in the very first session on the very first day. I was afraid that nobody would turn up, but luckily roughly forty people did. True, a lot of them were my amazing colleagues from the AIA group at UC Louvain, and a few of my (former) colleagues from LIACS in Leiden, but there were also a lot of very unfamiliar faces there.

Then, in my presentation, I used the example of a viral marketing campaign for chocolate, by means of ‘seeding’ certain people in a social network by giving them a free sample of the chocolate, and relying on them to promote the product to other people through word-of-mouth.

As a reward for the people who showed up at this early hour, I handed out Belgian chocolates to my audience. I hope they appreciated the joke 🙂