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Meet our alumni: Pia-Ramona Wojtinnek


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Pia-Ramona Wojtinnek joined the University of Oxford from Bonn University and the University of Cologne in Germany, with a background in Medieval German Language and Literature as well as Mathematics and Computer Science. Here, she talks about her experience as a DPhil student in Oxford. She currently works for investment management company GSA Capital as Senior Strategist.

Before starting your DPhil in Computer Science, you studied languages and linguistics. What attracted you to Computer Science, and was it a difficult transition to make?

I read for both Mathematics with Computer Science (at the University of Cologne) and Medieval German Language and Literature (at Bonn University) during my undergraduate studies and then proceeded to a Master’s in General Linguistics. Doing a DPhil in Computer Science, in particular in Computational Linguistics, allowed me to work on the intersection of these fields. When I started my DPhil, I needed to expand my programming skills, but I found the fact that I had a background in both fields to be very valuable.

What made you decide to focus on Computer Science?

I was attracted to Computer Science as a general field because of its applicability to a variety of areas: during my time as an undergraduate I did research on applying graph theory to sociopolitical networks, my DPhil concerned computational representation of lexical semantics, now I work in quantitative trading of equities.

How did student life in Oxford compare to your time at the university in Germany?

Oxford has a campus-like feel to it, with the university forming an essential part of the city and the college providing a particular social structure for the students. Student life at Cologne and Bonn, both large city universities was more loosely organised, such as being connected through tutorial groups, so there was a different balance between social life within and outside of the university.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Oxford?

I really enjoyed my time at the Department of Computer Science, because there was a very friendly atmosphere amongst students, academics and other staff. The academics were always approachable, which makes for a welcoming study and research environment. I also rowed for Somerville and was part of the Oxford University Salsa Team, which were both great experiences.

How do you think doing a DPhil has helped you?

The DPhil showed me that I enjoyed doing applied research and coding up large projects. I wanted to continue working quantitatively, while learning something completely new and seeing a very direct impact of my research. Quant trading was a great choice as it allowed me to apply some of the techniques I knew to a very different field. At the same time, there is a growing interest in exploiting textual news and sentiment for trading so there is a lot of scope for using my background in Computational Linguistics.

What advice would you give to someone who’s unsure about where their degree might take them?

Computer Science is a very versatile degree, so there are a lot of directions you can go into afterwards. Pia-Ramona Wojtinnek

The question of what comes next can be daunting and often the reality is that you don’t know whether something is right for you until you just give it a go. My advice would be not to get too stressed, and to follow the questions that sound interesting. To get some ideas for jobs outside of academia, job fairs can be helpful such as the one organised by the department or the startup-focused Silicon Milkroundabout in London, as well as talking to people.