“I prefer applying theoretical knowledge to real-world situations”

Yuxiao Li © Yuxiao Li/EPFL CDH DHI

Yuxiao Li © Yuxiao Li/EPFL CDH DHI

Yuxiao Li is a first-year student in the Master of Science in Digital Humanities program, offered by the Digital Humanities Institute in EPFL’s College of Humanities. Yuxiao describes his experience in the program, and what inspired him to enter this emerging interdisciplinary field.

Yuxiao Li completed a bachelor’s degree in physics at Wuhan University in China and the Université de Lyon in France, before shifting his academic focus to pursue EPFL's master’s degree in digital humanities (DH Master).

College of Humanities Digital Humanities Institute (CDH DHI): Why did you choose the DH Master program at EPFL?

Yuxiao Li: On one hand, I have always been interested in culture and social science, and particularly sociology: during my bachelor’s studies, I used to attend social science lectures, even though I majored in physics. On the other hand, I felt that theoretical physics wasn’t enough for me; I preferred applying theoretical knowledge to real-world situations.

I always wanted to study at EPFL because students here receive high-quality education, and I also wanted to improve my French. I thought I would study applied physics for my master’s degree, until I learned about the DH program: it resonated much more with my interests. I knew within the first ten minutes that the DH Master was the one for me.

CDH DHI: How has your background in physics impacted your experience in the program so far?

YL: I believe my physics background provides me with some valuable assets: a solid mathematical foundation and analytical skills. As a result, even though I didn’t study computer science, it’s not too difficult for me to understand all those algorithms needed for my projects.

CDH DHI: What have you found most interesting about the DH master program so far, and what have you found most challenging?

YL: I really like the idea of applied learning. This semester alone, I worked on four separate course projects in four different domains: network analysis, photogrammetry, design research, and computer vision. It was a terrific approach for me to gain an in-depth grasp of a variety of topics. At the same time, working on many projects simultaneously could be challenging, especially since a lot of the tools were new to me.

CDH DHI: What do you plan to do for the thesis and internship components of the DH Master?

YL: I’m not completely sure yet. I like the idea of using computer science to help with cultural heritage digitization. This semester, for the course Foundations of Digital Humanities [taught by Frédéric Kaplan], I worked on building a point cloud model of Venice to assess the height of buildings, which I am really proud of. I am also interested in applying artificial intelligence to musicology or social media studies.

CDH DHI: What are your future career plans at the moment?

YL: When I first started the DH program, my plan was to work at an internet company on projects related to digital humanities. But after being introduced to so many different domains in my first semester, I realized that I don’t have to restrict myself. Now, I would also love to build tools for digital humanities research after completing further studies. But nothing is determined yet.

CDH DHI: If you wanted future students to know one thing about digital humanities as a research field, what would it be?

YL: Despite the fact that DH has had a notable influence on culture and humanities studies, and has radically changed the way research is conducted, it’s definitely still an emerging field with numerous issues ready to be explored. As a digital humanist, you’ll not only witness the birth of this new field; you might also be its next trailblazer!