Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011-09-14: Dissertation Completed

I am very happy to write about the successful completion of my dissertation work in the Computer Science Department at Old Dominion University.
My dissertation is titled "Using the Web Infrastructure for Real Time Recovery of Missing Web Pages" and, as the title suggests, it makes several contributions in the areas of digital data preservation and information retrieval. In brief, the dissertation evaluates multiple techniques for a "just-in-time" approach to web page preservation. We, for example, investigate the suitability of lexical signatures and web page titles to rediscover missing content. These two methods are based on old copies of the pages provided by the Memento framework. We also analyze the performance of tags that users have created to annotate pages as well as the most salient terms derived from a page's link neighborhood as methods to find missing pages.

On the practical side, the dissertation introduces Synchronicity, a Firefox add-on that implements all evaluated methods for web page recovery. It catches 404 "Page not Found" errors when they occur and offers alternatives in real-time, while the user is browsing. I concluded writing my thesis in June, defended on July 18th and got the degree officially awarded in August 2011.

It goes without saying this work would not have been possible without the outstanding support from my dissertation committee. It consisted of the internal members Dr. Michele C. Weigle, Dr. Yaohang Li and Dr. Mohammad Zubair and the external members Dr. Herbert Van de Sompel and Dr. Robert Sanderson.

I am deeply grateful to my advisor Dr. Michael L. Nelson for his eternal patience and superior guidance and mentoring. He truly is a role model for all aspiring academics (and he took me to a Hokies football game).

I am now looking back at six years of taking classes (MS and Ph.D. level), passing diagnostic and candidacy exams, conducting countless experiments, publishing over 20 research papers (and writing even more), teaching two classes, giving numerous guest lectures and I can finally give an answer to the ever annoying question: "When are you going to be done?".

As my next step, I am very excited to join the Research Library at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a Postdoctoral Researcher. I will work with Herbert and Rob on Memento and on making time-based access of web resources more convenient and, of course, will enjoy the green and red chili!