ERLNMYR is the business of improviser and doctor in linguistics Ben Verhoeven. During his scientific career he became fascinated with science communication for which he used many of his improvisation skills. Below, we give an overview of Ben’s background and running projects in both science and improvisation.
Ben has been doing improvisational theater since 2011. After a few years of taking courses he co-founded Swaajp Improtheater in 2014 which by now has grown to a group performing monthly in English as well as performing in cultural centers sometimes. As a member of Commotie — musical improvisation — he won the Kemphanen competition for best longform improv show in Flanders in 2017. Ben also travels to international improv festivals to take workshops and masterclasses, to see shows, but also to perform with — for example — the Dutch-Belgian ensemble Werewolves, the improv show which he co-directs. As a passionate organizer he is also a founding member of The SIN — a European network of ambitious improv players and organizers. Finally, Ben is also musically talented and you can sometimes spot him at the side of a stage as a percussionist for improv shows, e.g. at Improovelicious, the international improv festival in Leuven in 2018.
Ben is a computational linguist by education, which is a linguist that studies and models language with computers. His academic career started in 2012 with an international internship at the North-West University in South Africa where he researched how the meaning of newly compounded words can automatically be discovered. After that he started as a PhD student at the University of Antwerp on the AMiCA project in which text technology was used to detect transgressive behaviour on social media. In 2014 he obtained an FWO Young Researchers Grant which gave him another four years to do research on author profiling — the research question being: which characteristics of the author can we predict based on text alone. During his PhD Ben was very active as a science communicator. He achieved the third place at FameLab Belgium, he performed science comedy at Bright Club Brussels, and he was active at several university events such as the Science Day / Science Week / Kid’s University. For all this, Ben was awarded in 2017 with a year prize in science communication for the KVAB. In June 2018 he successfully defended his doctoral thesis and was thus given the diploma Doctor in Linguistics. Until today, Ben is still active in the field of language technology in his role as consultant for Textgain.