First recipients of DH Graduate Certificate reflect on research, post-Princeton careers

As we closed this academic year and recognized the Class of 2024, The Center for Digital Humanities had a new reason to celebrate: two recent Princeton PhDs, Gian Duri Rominger *23 (East Asian Studies) and Gyoonho Kong *24 (German), became the first recipients of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities.

headshots of Gian Duri Rominger and Gyoonho Kong

Gian Duri Rominger and Gyoonho Kong

Launched in Fall 2023, the Graduate Certificate provides a structured pathway for PhD candidates in the humanities to engage with digital humanities in both theory and practice. Students take two DH-relevant courses, incorporate critical-data and media theories or data-driven methodologies into their dissertation, and present their research at a colloquium series.

“I saw the possibilities of integrating computational and data-driven approaches in my own research and had done related coursework before the certificate was institutionalized,” Rominger explained, “so in that sense it was a lucky coincidence that I managed to earn the certificate.”

After presenting a paper as a first-year PhD student that, as he put it, “rather rudimentarily treated text as data,” Rominger applied for a CDH Graduate Fellowship. He went on to be awarded a Data Fellowship, participate in the “incredibly enriching” NEH-sponsored New Languages for NLP workshop series, and collaborate with former CDH Developer Nick Budak on several projects.

His dissertation, “Aural Texts and the Association of Sound and Meaning in Early China,” incorporated “a text mining approach I designed for ancient Chinese texts.”

“Essentially, I was reapplying data from historical linguistics to the study of early Chinese literature,” he added.

Rominger cited ENG 583 / HUM 587: Literature, Data, and Interpretation, co-taught by CDH Faculty Director Meredith Martin and the late CDH Assistant Director Rebecca Munson, as influential to his research and teaching.

“I learned a lot [in the course], not just about possibilities and limitations of DH, but also about critically interrogating computational and data-driven approaches for socioculturally situated data,” he explained. “Almost all of the content of said course came in handy, including this past quarter, as I was teaching an introductory course on Data Science and the Humanities as part of my current role at the University of Washington in Seattle,” where he is assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature and also teaches in the Data Science minor.

For Kong, who recently defended his dissertation on “Dynamic Movement in Video Games: Space, Time, and Perspective,” the certificate was likewise the culmination of his work in graduate school.

“Throughout my graduate career, I always pursued research interests in the intersection of quantitative and qualitative research methods,” he explained. “After participating in the [CDH] Data Teaching Fellowship twice during my graduate studies, I decided that I wanted to take my shot at the certificate with my dissertation. I thought the certificate will be a great milestone to see how far I have come with my data and quantitative methods.”

Kong’s engagement with DH connects to his future role as data research scientist at the Newark Board of Education, where he will be “supporting and planning the educational policies with data analysis of the district and the city’s student and school data.”

“I think the field of digital humanities strives to make wide impacts with the insights from the study of humanities subjects and data methods, which I am essentially trying to do with my career,” he noted.

What advice would he give to graduate students considering pursuing the DH certificate?

“Be daring! Don’t be afraid of learning new things–quantum physics, music, coding, machine learning, accounting, business, art, whatever it may be. And secondly, don’t worry about whether all these interests will come together to form a nicely 'coherent' career path. If you pursue your learning and research goals with rigor and passion, you will eventually carve out a unique path for yourself.”

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