First ever Erasmus intern at TekLab

Testimonial: As a part of my Erasmus at University of Bergen, I worked as an imaging and visualization intern at Prof. Lars Nyre’s project team TekLab and INJECT for half a year.
Photographer: Yan Cai
Publisert: 22. februar 2018

For information about how to apply for an Erasmus internship at TekLab, please consult the University of Bergen’s official information page.

My first days in Bergen

I arrived at Bergen in the middle of August, 2017. My first day on the job was on a cloudy day like today, with clouds draped over the mountains and a hint of rain in the air. I first met with Carina Ottesen, who is the head of administration in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She helped me with key card, email account and therefore I settled into my new workspace at Media City Bergen smoothly. A few days later, I had my first meeting with Prof. Lars Nyre and a master student Aleksander. They helped me to get to know the team and the projects they are working on.

I was invited to attend a seminar of INJECT and had the opportunity to meet people from different fields, such as heads of local newspapers, design agency from Bergen, professors and master students from universities. We had several presentations at the seminar. The core team of INJECT consists of representatives of the University of Bergen, design agency M’Labs and three heads of local newspapers (Sunnhordland, Hordaland and Hallingdolen). Representatives of the University first introduced what kind of project INJECT is: to develop new tools based on Natural Language Processing and to help reporters search creatively and quickly in different angles, source and data. INJECT would be tested in local newspapers. Design agency M’Labs presented the business model of INJECT. They also presented problems the project team might have during the development and possible solutions for them. They analyzed the project from different perspectives such as customer segments, channels and cost structures. This was a good experience to learn how projects operate and build during the development and how the interest of different stakeholders varies.

Facts about me

I’m Yan 🙂 major in Media Informatics and Visual Computing, a year-4 student from Vienna University of Technology,. I am originally from Zhen Jiang (China), have lived and studied in Germany, Austria and Norway within a span of 7 years.

This video was made during my stay in Bergen.

My main work at TekLab was data visualization of important technology theorists as well as how they influenced each other. I started with reading papers about distributed communications networks and watching tutorials and learning visualization tools such as Gephi, Tableau, d3.js etc. We first used Google Map API to visualize the theorists geographically on a map and then we made several prototypes to test it. However, when we put more than 30 theorists on the map, the visualization became overloaded. The picture of the theorists overlapped each other. Therefore, we abandoned our original plan, used d3.js and emphasized the relationships between them instead. I had several workshops together with Prof. Nyre, discussing the details of the visualization,for example, how should we indicate the relationships and different influence of theorists in different fields.

Besides interning in TekLab, I was also engaged in a teaching collaboration with associate professor Anna Laws at Volda University College. I first got in touch with Prof. Torbjørn Frantsen. We had several skype meetings to discuss the goals of the workshops. In the end, we agreed to introduce basic visualization model, visual variables which are used to present the data and the JavaScript library “d3.js” which is used to implement the visualizations. At the first workshop, I overrated the programming skills of the students. I prepared too much and went through the topics too fast before I noticed that the students were a bit confused. Therefore, I adjusted my second workshop and prepared a review before I started new topics and simply class assignments more or less. After the workshops, I was told by the students that they found the workshop very entertaining and they would like to program more in the future. With this opportunity, I was able to improve my presentation and teaching skills.

View from the hotel I lived in Volda.

Another thing I have noticed during my stay in Bergen is the differences of education focus between Vienna and Bergen. In Vienna, we have lectures, home assignments, exams but we do not have many seminars, where student could have interesting discussions with fellow students and assistants and share their ideas with each other. In Vienna, we study by ourselves for the most of the time, or sometimes we build study groups between students to study together. Furthermore, the relationship between professors and students in Bergen is more equal. Students can call their professors by their first names. Sometimes, professors even invite students for a drink at the end of the semester. However, in Vienna, there is a stricter hierarchy between professors and student. Students normally address their professors with titles and last name (e.g. “Prof. Dr. Nyre”).

I really appreciate Prof. Nyre for his support and patient guidance from the beginning to the end. During the development, we also thought about making the visualization 3D. Whenever I asked for his help, Prof. Nyre would give me his immediate support and help from a professional 3D modeler teaching me the necessary skills in order to make the visualization. I am also grateful to be provided with so many opportunities to work with people with different backgrounds and from different areas.

I would like to recommend other students to intern at TekLab because they can have the opportunities to participate different projects involve developing toolkit and business model for good journalism in local newspapers. It would be a valuable experience both academically and career development.

Publisert: 22. februar 2018
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