PhD in Information Studies Student Profile: Kai Li

Kai Li

College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) student Kai Li, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in information science, has a unique blend of research and internship experience. He has pursued work that complements his passions in library cataloguing and metadata, such as his recent cataloguing project for the Children’s University of Philadelphia (CHOP) as well as his internship at the Ingram Content Group as a cataloguer. He recently presented his research paper at the 2016 ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, as well as a poster about data citation standards at the Research Data Alliance’s 8th Plenary Meeting. Kai is advised by Alice B. Kroeger Professor Jane Greenberg, PhD, who also serves as director of CCI's Metadata Research Center (MRC), which advances research in metadata, semantics and ontologies.

Kai Li shared more on his research interests, work with MRC and ongoing projects.

CCI: Tell us more about what interested you in information science. What led you to come to Drexel for your PhD?

 Kai Li: I didn't understand the term “information science” until very recently. After I graduated from college in 2007, I served as a librarian in a public library in Beijing, China. I was a cataloger in the library, which is a specific type of metadata work. This is the first time that I understood what librarianship is (as a concept that is very close to information science) and fell in love with this profession. But it was while I was pursuing my master's degree in library and information science at Syracuse University that I knew what information science truly was for the first time.

I was attracted to the field of information science because of this fact: although information is omnipresent nowadays, it is not accessible to users. On a practical level, I share this profession's mission to collect, store, organize and present information in meaningful ways so that it can be used to the greatest extent. Moreover, from a more academic perspective, I believe information science is in a position between technology and humanities, between information and users, and between various knowledge domains. In order to understand what information is, and what roles information is playing in the world, one needs to see that information studies are interdisciplinary.

I came to Drexel because of the faculty. I am a firm believer in the notion that professors make a university what it is. I am glad that I made the decision to come to Drexel, and I am excited to be working with excellent faculty members here in the information science program, including Dr. Erjia Yan, my advisor, Dr. Jane Greenberg, and a lot of other professors.

CCI: Tell us more about your research interests. How does your work with MRC support those interests?

KL: Because of my background in library cataloging, metadata is one of my major research interests. As a result, I was very excited to begin collaborating with Dr. Greenberg in winter 2015 on a project on how LAMMPS - a simulation software used in material science - is cited and discussed in research papers. This project not only resulted in our papers being accepted by the 2016 ASIS&T Annual Meeting, but also helped me to figure out what my own research should be about. I now better understand the connections between metadata and various other topics.

CCI: What was your experience like presenting at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Copenhagen?

KL: ASIS&T Annual Conference is one of the biggest and the most important conferences in the field of information science. It was such an honor that our paper titled "Software citation, reuse and metadata considerations: an exploratory study examining LAMMPS" was accepted by the conference. This was my second formal presentation in English and so I was very nervous about our presentation, but everything turned out to run very smoothly, and a number of listeners expressed interest in our project. Moreover, during the conference, I met up with a few old friends, and made some new friends which, in my opinion, is an important reason to attend any academic conference. Copenhagen is a very lovely city, despite of its cold and gloomy weather. I had some spare time to explore the city, and I saw popular sites like the Statue of the Little Mermaid and the National Museum of Denmark. I hope to be able to revisit the city to explore it more!

CCI: You also presented a poster at 8th Plenary of Research Data Alliance. What was your poster about?

KL: The poster that I presented at the 8th Plenary of Research Data Alliance is titled "A crosswalk analysis of data citation standards for software citation needs.” It focuses on questioning to what extent the existing data citation standards can be used for citing research software. This work is based on a number of assumptions; for one, the work assumes that research software is a type of research data and data citation standard is a type of metadata. My poster discussed “crosswalk” as a method to map metadata elements from different sources to a given set of items, which is a popular method used in the field of metadata.

This poster touches some key themes of my research interests, such as research software and metadata. I am interested in continuing this study on a larger scale in the future.

CCI: What are some current projects that you are working on?

KL: A key project that is going on, other than my core study, is my internship at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). In this internship, I am designing a scholar recommendation system where researchers can find potential collaborators based on the topics of one's published papers in PubMed. A interface is being designed using R Shiny and Qlikview.

CCI: What are your goals once you graduate? Any advice for current or prospective PhD students?

KL: I am planning to enter the academia after graduating from this program. My one suggestion to future PhD students is to be prepared for the "blood, sweat and tears," because pursuing a doctorate requires full dedication to academics and one’s research interests. But if you hang in there and try really hard, good things will happen eventually.

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