Cynthia Liem

Assistant Professor @ Delft University of Technology

Cynthia Liem is an Assistant Professor at the Multimedia Computing Group. In 2007 and 2009, she obtained her BSc and MSc degree in Media and Knowledge Engineering (Computer Science) at the TU Delft, after which she continued pursuing a PhD at the same institution (defended in 2015). Besides, she obtained the BMus (2009) and MMus (2011) degree in classical piano performance at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.

She likes working on information filtering challenges in large multimodal archives. Her current research interests fall under two categories, which both are strongly motivated by her combined background in computer science & engineering and music:

  • The algorithmic surfacing of information that users would not discover by themselves. Our present-day search engines and recommender systems strongly focus on replicating earlier evidenced consumption success. But what if a user would want to develop a new interest? And what about those many items that got digitized, but hardly ever get found, simply because too few people know of their existence? As a musician, she frequently has been experimenting with this, and believes the solution lies in proper presentation, contextualization, and comparative differentiation with respect to known standards. As a computer scientist, she is working on scaling and generalizing these thoughts, in the music domain and beyond.
  • Validation and validity in data science: are we measuring and predicting what we intend to? In the current era of big data, we can acquire and analyze more data than ever, but this data is unstructured and messy, and measurement procedures may not have been optimal. Even more strongly, in many human-focused use cases, we may not be able to fully articulate what and where to measure, even though we have a good sense on what is an intended or unintended outcome. In music, we frequently encounter such challenges of measurement. Music information can digitally be described in many ways using many modalities, but the success of a song is typically determined by implicit human responses. As a computer scientist, she is interested in developing validation techniques that give us more confidence in our measurement procedures, also when they occur ‘in the wild’, outside of fully controlled lab settings. In this, she also explicitly is inspired by notions of psychometric validity in the social sciences domain.

Her current projects encompass the H2020 European research project TROMPA on crowd-powered enrichment of public-domain music resources, an NWO-KIEM research project on assessment of well-being in musicians, an NWO-Veni research project on perspective-broadening in recommender systems, and the ERASMUS+ ‘Big Data in Psychological Assessment’ education innovation project.

She works with major partners such as the National Library of The Netherlands and CDR/Muziekweb, which both have strong commitment towards public information provision and accessibility. Cynthia has been supported and acknowledged in many ways throughout her career, e.g. through the Google Anita Borg Scholarship 2008 and Google European Doctoral Fellowship 2010, and as one of the top-5 nominees for the New Scientist Wetenschapstalent Prijs.

She has managed sustaining her musical career in parallel to her academic activities. Cynthia is still active as a performing pianist, most notably in the Magma Duo with violin player Emmy Storms, which won 1st prize at the international competition ‘A Feast of Duos’ in Sion, Switzerland, August 2014, and was laureate of the 2014-2015 Dutch Classical Talent Tour & Award career development program, leading to a national concert tour.