Meet new faculty Amir Karami, information science

Name: Amir Karami
College/department: School of Library and Information Science, College of Information and Communications
Title: Assistant Professor
Degrees: Ph.D., Information Systems, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)
Hometown: Tehran, Iran

What’s your area of study or research?

My research focuses on discovering thematic structure in text data in medical, social networks and cybersecurity domains. My research is interdisciplinary in the intersection of information science, medical, computer science, sociology and psychology.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I have two main goals: developing the previous idea and building new ideas. To achieve these two goals, I am going to collaborate with the new colleagues and students, participate in conferences, workshops and academic events, develop a new minor in our school, start a new lab, learn new techniques in my field and work on my proposals.

What are you most looking forward to about being at UofSC?

Last year at a conference, I met our director, Samantha Kelly Hastings. We had a great discussion about the school and her plan. In addition, I found that the School of Library and Information Science is very active in the conferences. I was very excited about the program and the opportunity to join the school. Moreover, UofSC has a good record in both research and teaching. In my campus visit, I saw that the SLIS has talented faculty members who have short- and long-term plans for their research with smart and eager students in the program. I had more offers from both academia and industry but UofSC was my first choice.

How did you become interested in your work?

I believe that if you want to be interested in a field, you need to learn its basics and improve your skills in that area. You enjoy a topic and prefer to work on it when you can do something about it. This means that you need to be patient in the learning process and the learning process is not always interesting.

About myself, I found that I am interested in mathematics and its applications in high school; therefore, I went to an engineering school to continue my study in industrial engineering. During my undergraduate study, I found the combination of mathematics and computers for real applications is more exciting. So, I went for a master’s in IT management and then for a Ph.D. in information systems to develop new methods for text mining and its applications in medical, social networks, cybersecurity, business and library domains.

What made you decide to go into academia?

I decided to be a professor at a university when I was in middle school. In that time, I read the biography of the scientists and mathematicians such as Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Donald Knuth and watched the biography-related films such as “Ramon Y Cajal” and “A Beautiful Mind.” I remember two books that I read more than one time. The first one was “Great Men of Medicine” by Ruth Fox Hume and the next one was “Mathematical People: Profiles and Interview” edited by Donald J. Albers and Gerald L. Alexanderson. My family, teachers and friends also motivated me.

In the third year of my Ph.D., I wanted to go to industry; therefore, I applied for some positions and I got some offers. I went for an internship but I found that I am more interested in academia because academia is like a startup company that you need to hire people, advertise your work, write proposals and networking. I started to teach when I was in the middle school. A friend’s mom asked me to teach mathematics to her son.

What’s a talent you have or something that you’ve done that people might find surprising?

When I was an undergraduate student, I started to play violin (classical music). The progress was good and I wanted to get a master in music; however, I found that I am more interested and talented in mathematics and IT than music. I may start to play violin again in near future and I hope that I can find a time for that.

What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years?

My plan is to have a good number of grants, both internal and external, with publishing journal and conference papers. In addition, I would like to start new projects with the researchers inside and outside UofSC. I am also going to develop new courses to prepare my students for the job market. I hope that my work can make good contributions for both the university and students.

What was your dissertation?

My dissertation was about a new approach in text mining called topic modeling to extract semantics from text documents. My experiments were in the medical domain but it can be used for other domains such as social networks and cybersecurity too. In my model, I used fuzzy logic to extract topics from corpora. I used the fuzzy logic for the first time other than the previous approaches, which were based on two main approaches, statistical distributions and linear algebra. In a simple word, give me a million documents and I will tell you what are the topics in the documents without reading the documents.

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