When I first joined the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group as a DPhil student a few months ago I was happily surprised by the warm welcome and the impeccable organization. As I always felt attracted by logic but also had a significant interest to its practical aspects, knowledge representation seemed like a perfect research area for me. My initial excitement was further enhanced when I realized that researchers behind seminal papers of the area would be the new persons to work with. In addition to this, I delightfully found out that the Computing Laboratory organizes weekly several talks by famous logicians, mathematicians, physicists (or even cartoonists!) allowing us to keep an eye on other research areas as well. As a consequence, the Computing Laboratory in general and the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group specifically compose a more than enjoyable working atmosphere for me.
Just one hour from London, Oxford offers the amazing combination of a lively small city with lots of charming places to discover. 38 colleges, hundreds of pubs and numerous historical places call for exploration. The countless university societies arrange various leisure activities: sports, art, music or even socializing with same country fellows can offer you a nice escape after a hard day’s work. Apart from that, a huge variety of events is organized throughout the week: from jazz gigs to themed bops (= intercollegiate oxford parties) there is always an option for every taste. With such an intellectually stimulating environment and a wonderfully international community the oxford experience is guaranteed to be an unforgettable one.
My name is Héctor Pérez-Urbina and I am currently in the final year of my DPhil here at Oxford. My research is focused on the problem of query answering for Description Logics (DLs). Using DLs for query answering has proven to be useful in several applications--such as information integration, data exchange, and the semantic Web--and various domains including geology, geography, medicine and biology, among many others.
The Knowledge Representation & Reasoning group at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory has been a friendly environment to conduct my research among world-leading (and very approachable!) researchers. During my time here, I've had the opportunity to travel all over the world, from Japan to Europe and the U.S., visiting universities and presenting papers at conferences and workshops. Doing a DPhil at Oxford has been a great experience for me. Not only are the people in the group excellent researchers, but Oxford offers a truly unique, even surreal, environment. Ever worn a gown for dinner? Or said your prayers in Latin? Studying at Oxford exposes you to a great deal of fun quirky traditions, all within a beautiful city with thousands of years of rich history.
I am a new student in the KRR group and so far I have enjoyed it tremendously. I took mathematics and computer science for my undergraduate degree and even though I have a strong background in logic and algorithms, I had never come across the area of knowledge representation before joining the group. Having said that, my transition was rather smooth, which is hardly surprising with so many experienced people around always willing to help. One cannot overemphasize the benefits of working in an academically excellent and yet friendly research collective.
Ever been worried that life ends after undergraduate? Certainly not in Oxford! Being a collegiate university, every graduate student is automatically a member of one of the many famous Oxford colleges. That's where you get to meet fellow students from other (and often very different) disciplines and have a chance to forget about your work for a while. The colleges organize events like parties, movie nights and sport afternoons, so there is always something to do for everyone.
I'm also in the final year of my DPhil at Oxford developing efficient algorithms for reasoning about very large and/or complex Description Logic ontologies. Such algorithms are already widely used as a central component of “semantic web” applications based on the W3C's OWL standard, and it's satisfying to make contributions that are sure to have an impact on real-world solutions.
Beyond the opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in the field within the KRR group, doing a degree at Oxford offers access to one of the richest and most diverse intellectual communities in the world. I was worried that Oxford would be nothing but stuffy tradition and crowds of undergraduates, but in fact every student has a huge amount of freedom to choose their own experience. Oxford offers both modern colleges and traditional ones, as well as colleges devoted only to graduate students. The chance to interact with both other students and faculty from other disciplines within the college setting is an aspect of life at Oxford that exists in few other places.
What surprised me most about Oxford, however, was how well-integrated the graduate community is with the rest of the university. Graduates form a key part of nearly every university club, society, and sports team; my time at Oxford has been a chance to get involved in a range of activities I missed out on during my undergraduate days. The biggest challenge for many at Oxford is finding a healthy balance between research and the myriad other opportunities available.