New Faculty: Dominik Bork
After research activities in Bamberg, Sydney, Mexico, Pretoria and Albi, Dominik joined us as Assistant Professor for Business Systems Engineering.
Dominik Bork is working as an Assistant Professor for Business Systems Engineering at our research unit Business Informatics. Before joining TU Wien Informatics in July 2020, he worked as a Postdoc Researcher at the Knowledge Engineering Research Group of the University of Vienna. He received his Diploma in Information Science and his PhD (Dr. rer. pol.) from the University of Bamberg, where he primarily worked on multi-view enterprise modeling and metamodeling. During his academic career, he was a visiting researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, the University of Pretoria, Stockholm University, and the École des Mines d’Albi. He is still in touch and actively collaborates with these institutions.
Born and raised in Germany, Dominik is “still trying to adapt to the Austrian style of talking.” Although he studied at the University of Bamberg and held a Postdoc position at the University of Vienna, his accent “is not authentic yet.” Apart from that minor issue, he is already rooted in Vienna. “In my first week as a PhD student, I had my very first contact with Vienna already.” Being part of a collaborated research project of three universities, one of them the University of Vienna, he traveled to Vienna for training. Later on, he moved to the University of Vienna to continue his PhD. “Due to my research profile and my expertise, I was a good fit for the job. Back at that time, I thought I move to Vienna and finish my PhD, then go back to Germany to my family and friends.”
“But then life kicked in,” as he puts it, and Dominik not only finished his PhD and was offered a Postdoc position but also met his wife-to-be. “So both from a personal point of view and also from my academic basis, I had an interest in staying here, and then the tenure track position at TU Wien Informatics popped up—it was again a perfect fit for my profile.” Moreover, he felt intrigued to work with the prestigious Business Informatics group at TU: “I was very interested and very thrilled to start the job here. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time.”
Driven by Models
“Generally, it is about finding an abstraction to a complex system under study,” Dominik describes his work and research topic in a nutshell. “It can be an enterprise, or the processes of an enterprise, or the IT infrastructure and data model of an enterprise—we face the challenge that the complexity, in reality, is ever increasing. We always try to find abstractions to this complexity: Reducing the complexity by omitting everything that is out of scope.”
“I am investigating how to develop modeling methods for different domains. How can you realize a model as an abstract representation of certain aspects of reality? is the question we ask,” Dominik further explains. “When you use a modeling language as a way of describing a certain domain, you can use it for communication or programming, or for training new employees, for example. There are different scopes and values attached to a model: communication, understanding, or system design. When you generate code out of these models, we call it model-driven software engineering, and the overall goal is to improve the value of models for humans and machines.”
Is there a wish list for his new position? “To be honest, my wish list is more or less completely fulfilled. I didn’t need to move into a new domain, because the topic of my research and the demand of the department perfectly match.” Nevertheless, he will adapt his research agenda: “I will now move into a more technical space and integrate artificial intelligence techniques into my activities,” Dominik says. “I want to apply some advanced processing techniques, so that the model is not the end of the research but the starting point.” Another essential aspect was improving the models’ value by incorporating some economic theories, he explains. “I call these advanced analytics. Currently, modeling is very human-centered and very subjective.”
He collaborates with former colleagues from Stockholm, Albi, and Pretoria, and with colleagues from JKU Linz, “who are luckily not far away and have a strong background in applying AI techniques in model engineering.” While going to train his team on this subject, too, he stresses that “research is always a joint effort. You always collaborate, and always with people who have some complementary knowledge and background.” Since he newly arrived, his team consists only of himself, but the job openings are out. “I hope that excellent people will apply to establish my team.” Two PhD students are going to be hired, supporting Dominik in his teaching and research projects. Model-driven software engineering will be his focus for the next years, combined with didactic aspects since the Business Informatics group is responsible for creating MOOCs for conceptual modeling and object-oriented modeling.
The Intersection of Informatics and Economy
During his social services in a hospital, Dominik not only learned a great deal of empathy for sick people but also had some spare time on his hands. “The job was not that time consuming, so there was plenty of time for reading. I started to read some books about information science. Since I specialized in mathematics and economics in school, and I was always interested in the intersection of these worlds, I decided to apply for information science in Bamberg.” He slowly drifted more and more into Computer Science, but “I still considered myself as an information scientist and not a computer scientist in the engineering sense”, Dominik points out.
“I always want to have the stakeholder perspective when I develop a solution. I want to have this full cycle with empirical feedback.“ For him, the intersection of economics and Computer Science establishes the nature of interdisciplinary information science—“so I am definitely at the right department for this!” He aims at putting information science aspects in focus again, “and we have very talented students and professors. I hope I can contribute to this goal, as well.” The way Bork sees it, information science needs technical skill sets as well as an economic background. “We need to be open to problems the enterprises are facing. And we need to educate our students in a way that makes them valuable for the job market. As a university, we educate academics, but not all of them can make an academic career, so we also need to prepare them for the industry.”
Getting in Touch with Enterprises
Apropos industry—although there is a long tradition of modeling languages, and industry has a high demand for modeling expertise, as he puts it, he sees the challenge in providing proper tooling for a model language. “We did a bad job of marketing our discipline. And we should take care of the empirical aspects and involving the stakeholders. We lacked getting in touch with the enterprises and asking them for their needs.” That is why Dominik is very keen on collaborating with the industry: “We cooperate with colleagues in France and a local hospital, for example, where we ask nurses and doctors for their opinion. We show them our tools and ask for their feedback from their everyday experience.”
And how does a perfect working day look like? “When I go home, and I feel I have made some meaningful progress in some aspects. Either I had inspiring meetings with my PhD, master, or bachelor students, and helped them progress in their work. Or I had time to implement some new lines of code. Or I got to work on some papers, developed an idea on a project proposal. I also like teaching a lot; it is an enriching part of being a professor. Learn something and do something, making a step ahead, and finishing it.”