Yingya Li, a 2022 graduate of Syracuse University’s iSchool, is studying computational approaches to automatically detect and model health advice. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital and is working with Professor Guergana Savova in the HealthNLP lab within the Computational Health Informatics Program (CHIP). 

“I am working on developing natural language processing (NLP) techniques and their applications to textual data generated by healthcare professionals, particularly in the context of clinical narratives like Electronic Medical Records (EMR) data,” she says. 

Her goal is to become an NLP researcher and practitioner creating computational services and tools that empower individuals from diverse backgrounds to access, retrieve, and verify various forms of information, ultimately enhancing their decision-making processes.

In her 2022 dissertation defense at Syracuse, Li explained that researchers, practitioners and the general public sometimes rely on information services, such as PubMed, to access health advice. However, due to the fast growth of health literature, some current information services don’t allow users to quickly get advice without reading the full text of the research papers, and some of that advice is behind paywalls, which further complicates the information barrier. 

Li’s thesis work, “An NLP Analysis of Health Advice Giving in the Medical Research Literature,” won Syracuse University’s Summer Dissertation Fellowship and the CUSE Interdisciplinary and Innovative Grant in 2020. During her doctoral training, she was named as honorable mention for Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work in 2022.

Choosing Syracuse

Li completed her undergraduate studies in English Literature in China before enrolling in Syracuse’s master’s program in linguistic studies in 2013 and earning her doctorate in information science and technology in 2022. At Syracuse, she enjoyed taking many data science and research method courses, such as IST736 Text Mining. iSchool Professor Bei Yu served as her advisor.

“Professor Bei Yu has been a great influence on my journey in the field of information science,” says Li. “Under her guidance, I developed a keen interest in this domain and received invaluable support in machine learning and NLP techniques. She patiently mentored me from the very beginning, teaching me how to conduct research. Working alongside her has been an immensely rewarding and fulfilling experience.”

Li also credits members of the dissertation committee and many professors from the iSchool, including Drs. Jian Qin, Daniel Acuna, and Jeffrey Stanton, for providing her with valuable advice and assistance throughout her thesis work. 

“Their collective wisdom and guidance have been instrumental in shaping my research and academic growth,” she says.

Li says she also gained a lot of experience by attending top NLP conferences and their affiliated workshops, where she spoke with fellow researchers, as well as doing an internship at Bloomberg L.P. in the summer of 2021. 

“I think these activities outside the campus provided me with great experience and opportunities for research and career development,” she says.