Erin Fitzgerald

Current Position: PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University
Erin Fitzgerald
Highlight Erin gave input into the design of Matel's Computer Engineer Barbie.  Listen to her radio interview to find out more.
October 17, 2007Her job: PhD candidate, Johns Hopkins University
Describe what you do in your current work situation? My interests are in speech and language processing. I use computers and statistics to understand and manipulate spoken or written language. My colleagues and I design systems to automatically write speech, pull information from text to answer questions, translate from one language to another, and work on other "natural language processing" problems.
Why did you choose engineering? Math was always fun, but in the end it was problem solving, and really applying my technical knowledge to help solve problems, that appealed to me the most! My path from math-and-music-loving high school student to ECE graduate student was full of twists and turns, but I've learned a lot along the way! I grew up playing several instruments, and when college application time came around I was interested in finding technical applications for my music interest (a relief to parents afraid of me becoming a starving musician!). I was accepted by Carnegie Mellon University into both their ECE department and the School of Music, and set forth to study acoustics and the physics of musical sound. I met a professor with a similar background who worked with the acoustics of speech, and though it moved me from music I was excited for the new range of possibilities that the combination of electrical engineering, computer science, and linguistics offered. An undergraduate research project, several internships, and four years of grad school later, I hope that I may one day help to make the billions of written and spoken resources out there more accessible to everyone, regardless of the length, structure, or language!
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I am a Johns Hopkins graduate student in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) from Raleigh, North Carolina. I received my undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, have earned my masters degree from JHU, and expect to complete my PhD from JHU in the summer of 2008.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I enjoy thinking analytically while solving real-world problems that impact everyday life.