Photo of Dr. Patrick Juola

Dr. Patrick Juola

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Forensic linguist at the forefront of machine learning

As he celebrates his 21st year at Duquesne, Dr. Juola is busier than ever. He works as a computational psycholinguist, forensic linguist and a stylometrist. "I still have this idea that there's a lot that you can learn about human psychology by studying how people produce and understand language."

As a computational psycholinguist Patrick looks at the psychology of language using a computer as an instrument. His work as a forensic linguist involves legal applications and as a stylometrist he studies and measures writing styles.

Do you remember the book Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling secretly wrote under a pen name? Well, Dr. Juola was the one who was able to correctly identify her as the author of "The Cuckoo's Calling," using software that he created. "It was splashed all over the British papers and within a few hours it was splashed in papers all over the world and I became an instant Internet success. Andy Warhol's 15 minutes."

In addition to his work as a professor and mentor, Juola directs the Evaluating Variations in Language Lab. Here he and three undergraduate students are using a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study different applications of authorship attribution, personality detection, author profiling, and author verification. Specifically, it uses an open-source software that allows non-experts to use some of the latest methods in machine learning on their text classification problems. "What we are specifically looking at is whether or not people can imitate other people's writing style. And if we can detect their original style underneath the invitation, how effective is that invitation? So it's kind of an arms race."

As a mentor he notes that, "it is really wonderful to work with students. One of the things that most students don't appreciate is how much they can do at an undergraduate level."

On students presenting papers at conferences he says, "most of the students don't realize how much they can actually do if they're just willing to be creative and willing to put in the necessary work, jump through the necessary hoops to submit these papers. But I think that's very good for them because it helps them establish a degree of professionalism, which will do them well in the job search and for graduate school. It's also good for the university because it fosters a better intellectual climate."

Growing up in Idaho and Oregon, Patrick's father was a college math professor and his mother was a school teacher. "My house was just full of books. Reading was always something that I valued. Reading was something that I was always, always good at it. And I was always fascinated by language. My father was also the sort of person who would read us a bedtime story problem. And so I grew up appreciating math puzzles, appreciating mathematical games." More recently he has started practicing tai chi for both its physical and mental benefits.

This fall Dr. Juola is teaching a class in computer security and one about machine learning.