Hadas Kotek » Blog »

End of year post for 2023

Happy 123123 to those who celebrate! As 2023 draws to a close, I spent a bit of time reflecting back and reminiscing; also I like counting and making lists.

Work and academia

On the work front, there isn’t too much that I can share. I’ve been involved in projects that are interesting and impactful and I hope will make products better, so I continue to be happy. I want to aim for a promotion in the next review cycle, so there’s been some interesting strategizing and networking going on. I’ve been able to work from home until the end of this year. In January, my extension of remote work will expire and I’ll have to come into the office three days per week for ‘hybrid’ work. I don’t actually work with anyone in my local office so I don’t expect this to be useful or productive, but I guess I’ll be getting more of those free office snacks and coffee.

One highlight of the past several months has been my seminar on Demystifying Large Language Models at MIT.1 It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the history of NLP and the data is used to train modern language models,2 as well as to reflect on LMs’ language abilities and ethical considerations. This field moves very quickly, so it was a convenient way of keeping up with the most recent papers. I taught quite a few papers that weren’t even published before the semester started. I wrote two blog posts on text-to-image models’ grammar processing abilities and some problematic aspects relating to bias in their generated images, which were a particularly fun topic (results notwithstanding). AND we’re ending the semester with a collaboration with several students, which I hope will become a paper soon. Teaser: it has to do with chain-of-thought prompting of LLMs.

This year, part of my work portfolio has involved strengthening ties with academia.3 I was allocated 8 hours out of my 40-hour week for prepping/teaching, which (if we’re honest) is entirely comparable to the time academics get to dedicate to a new prep, and very reasonable.4 In addition, I am the lead on Apple’s side on two Sponsored Research projects, one in collaboration with a group at the University of Washington and one with a group at the University of Edinburgh, which will last at least through 2024. I also published three papers in collaboration with my team, plus wrote a fourth one that we should resubmit since it didn’t get accepted on the first try. Aaand, I’m working on an article for the Routledge Handbook of Linguistics, which will be fashionably late but hopefully will make it into my 2024 end-of-year post.5

For the third year now, I have been a Research Affiliate with MIT Linguistics, which has been fun. I enjoy being a part of the department and being able to sit in on talks and the occasional seminar. Having access to the library also helps. Since my office is right by the MIT campus and I’ll have to come in now, maybe I’ll be able to pop in for a few more talks in the department, too. And I get to host a colloquium party once a semester for a friend-presenter and re-introduce students to the concept of an off-campus colloq party.6 I keep having to remind myself not to do too much!

Oh! and I just got elected to the Linguistic Society of America’s Executive Committee, so yay for more service? But I’m hopeful and excited about bringing some changes to the LSA. Which brings me to my next section…


Looking back, an astonishing amount of my (“free”) time has been dedicated to mentoring, often with relation to non-academic careers. I commented on a couple dozen resumes and cover letters. A quick search of my calendar says I had 27(!) informational interviews with academics who are thinking about careers in industry, one of which has since turned into a longer term mentoring relationship. That’s an average of one meeting every other week of the year, though things are rarely that evenly distributed. Just next week alone, for example, I have four meetings on the books (#LSA2024 FTW). These meetings give me joy, because I can see in people’s eyes the realization that they have options and value, but it saddens me to see how deeply and widely academia fails at teaching students about “the real world”.

Relatedly, I taught my “careers for linguists” semester-long workshop for the third time in the Fall of 2023, this time at Harvard.7 I’ll teach the fourth iteration in the Spring of 2024 at MIT, if there is sufficient interest. I also taught an expedited version of the careers in language technology workshop at the LSA Summer Institute in Amherst over the summer.8 I was lucky to be able to spend Session 1 in Amherst; I’d never before participated in a summer institute as a student or instructor, and while I still worked except on teaching days,9 I did get to have a fuller Institute experience. Finally, I participated in a half dozen organized events — talks, mixers, panels — on careers, at MIT Career Advising and Professional Development, Georgetown University, UMass Amherst (during the LSA), Queen Mary University in London, Goetingen, and Delft.

I’ve also done some mentoring at work. I’ve had a few meetings with random individuals about career growth. I’ve been the mentor for a brilliant Apple AIML Scholar whose work I hope to share with you soon, who was an intern with me over the summer and who I hope will come back for another internship next year; and for the third year I’ve mentored an amazing HBCU intern over the summer.


My personal life is a whole lot less exciting than my professional life.

I’ve done some small things for comfort. I replaced my sheets, towels, and pillows, which was a relatively inexpensive way to treat myself. I bought a blender and started making smoothies, a tasty and healthy habit I hope to continue in 2024. I continue to batch-cook and experiment with baking, and I also got a combination oven/air fryer that’s increased my efficiency. I can’t remember if it started this year, but I’ve had home cleaning people come by every ~3 weeks and it’s great! And my cats continue to be totes adorbz. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll get lots pictures of my cats and cooking creations.

My health has continued to be good, thankfully. I had COVID in Nov 2022 but not before or since. I had some non-COVID illness in October, which was short and not problematic except that (as always) I lost my voice and had to cancel two full weeks of classes. I continue to go to my yearly half-dozen preventative cancer-related checkups but there’s no indication that anything is wrong, so we’re just keeping up the surveillance. In another year or two I’ll have to bite the bullet and go in for some more surgery, but I’m going to hold off a bit longer. By now I have an established local care team that I like and trust; this always takes a while whenever I move to a new place. I had minor surgery in the summer to remove two moles that bothered exactly no one except me, but hey, I’m the one that counts. And just two weeks ago I had ICL surgery to fix my eyesight, and while I’m still recovering, it’s already great and I am very happy. I figure that quality of life is worth the investment.

My public library subscriptions continue to be a highlight of the year. I read 90 books in 2023.10 Some favorites include The Fifth Season (N.K. Jemisin; actually the whole series was amazing), A Memory Called Empire (Arkady Martine; I’m reading the sequel now and loving it even more), Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Garmus), True Biz (Sara Novic), The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt), and Demon Copperhead (Barbara Kingsolver). I also enjoy murder mysteries and other thrillers, so leave me recommendations for any of these genres and/or for the best true crime podcasts you might be listening to.

I still haven’t found my group of not-work-and-not-linguist friends, yet. Maybe that’s odd wishful thinking, because how else will I find friends than through the things I do most frequently? Ever since I left academia, though, I’ve tried to keep my personal and professional lives separate, and I do think that’s a healthier approach. I went on some BumbleBFF “dates” that were not bad at all, and I should probably do some more of that. Buy anyway, if you’ve read this far and you know relevant people, hook me up.

I traveled a few times this year, though not much. I was at the LSA 2023 in Denver at the beginning of the year, in Cupertino in February, in Amherst, MA for two weeks in June, and in Delft and Amsterdam in November. While in the Netherlands (in Delft for a conference), I took a few days off and met up with my brother (who flew in from Berlin) in Amsterdam. It was really nice to be able to catch up. I usually go home to Israel in December, but not this year. Following the October 7th massacre in Israel, my parents came to be with me in Boston. It was their first time seeing my apartment and meeting my cats and it was super nice to spend time with them, circumstances notwithstanding. After Thanksgiving they traveled to Miami after declaring that it was too cold here,11 and then went back home a couple of weeks ago. They were really not ok when they came, but they seem better now.

October 7th

It was shaping up to be such a nice year … and then October 7th happened. Reading the reports of the atrocities that were committed that day has been devastating. Burning alive, body mutilation, torture, point blank executions of Holocaust survisors, parents in front of children and children in front of parents, brutal rapes and other sexual violence, and of course kidnappings. Pure evil, there’s no other word for it. The stories of the dead, the names and faces of the hostages, the slow trickling of news of more dead being identified even twelve weeks later and what I imagine must have been done to them for identification to take this long. I’ve done my best not to watch any videos.

Then the retaliation and terrible destruction of Gaza in the weeks since, the killing of so many people, combatants but also civilians, the hunger and chaos there — doing exactly what Hamas wanted without a plan for getting out; for clear but twisted political reasons of Netanyahu and his fanatical rightwing coalition members and their need to hold onto power — all making it harder to see how this ends. Waking up every day to the news that another soldier has fallen. And, quietly, the attacks on Northern Israel coming from Lebanon that I fear might lead to a second front very soon.

And throughout it all, the shocking response from the world. The virulent antisemitism that has become mainstream and popular, the alarming denialism, the simplification and superimposed US lens that distorts any attempt at getting at the facts. I can’t even count how many people I’ve blocked on social media, and how disappointed I am with some (former) friends and colleagues who I can no longer trust to be around. There’s so much hate, and people aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. It’s terrifying.

It’s been October 7th for twelve weeks now. It’s been hard to focus, to work, to think, to post fun photos of cats, to make smoothies or cook, to do much of anything, really. That’s been the case with every Israeli and Jew I know. If that’s how 2023 ends, I can only hope that 2024 is better, because I don’t even want to imagine what it would mean if it got worse.


  1. I’ll be cleaning up and publicly posting my materials shortly. 

  2. The more you know about the data, the more shocking it gets 🤯 

  3. I suppose it’s time to admit that I never fully extricated myself from academia, although I did wholly changed how I engage with it. It’s not a bad thing. 

  4. Even if I did do almost all of my prep at the very last minute and at non-business hour times. I made the decision not to prep too much before the semester, which was great for capping the amount of time I could spend on it and for allowing for extremely current papers as readings, but also meant I was always stressed out about the next class. 

  5. It was due by May 2023. If I’m lucky, I’ll have it ready before May 2024 🤞 

  6. Some students had never attended one before I started doing mine, and I just can’t. COVID and a particularly bad experience at a party before then caused a real change in the culture. 

  7. It’s just closer to home than MIT and I’m lazy. 

  8. I don’t have a standalone version of the course materials, but my various blog posts cover what we discuss in class. 

  9. I am thankful to the Institute organizers for making an office available in the department, so I was able to still be near the action even as I kept my usual work schedule. 

  10. More accurately, listen to. Audiobooks have been a game changer for me. 

  11. It hasn’t even snowed, though. It’s really not that bad! But retired Jews going to FL for the winter is a cliche that still makes me laugh every time 😂