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Allen School Ph.D. alumna Cynthia Matuszek named one of AI’s 10 to Watch

Cynthia MatuszekAllen School alumna Cynthia Matuszek has been named one of “AI’s 10 to Watch,” a list of rising stars in artificial intelligence published by IEEE Intelligent Systems. Matuszek, who earned her Ph.D. in 2014 working with Allen School professors Dieter Fox of the Robotics and State Estimation Lab and Luke Zettlemoyer of the Natural Language Processing group, is a professor in the Interactive Robotics and Language Lab at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“AI’s 10 to Watch” celebrates early-career researchers who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in the field within five years of earning their Ph.D. The publishers singled out Matuszek for her work at the intersection of robotics, natural language processing, and machine learning to address a long-standing problem for AI researchers: how to get robots to understand human needs and human communication.

The goal of Matuszek’s research is to enable robots to interact naturally and intuitively with humans in a variety of settings, from hospitals to people’s homes. To that end, she and her team focus on grounded language acquisition — an approach that is designed to help robots gain an understanding of language related to objects and tasks while simultaneously learning about the world around them through their interactions with users. By uniting the different fields of AI research, Matuszek aims to enable robots to learn, adapt, and follow instructions in such a way that they can integrate seamlessly into dynamic, unpredictable environments.

“Intuitively, learning language is easier in the physical context of the world it describes,” the article notes. “And robots are more useful and helpful if people can talk naturally to them and teach them about the world.”

“Cynthia’s research is at the forefront of making robots understand verbal human commands,” said Fox. “What has always impressed me is her ability to work on both conceptual AI problems and real robotic tasks.”

IEEE Intelligent Systems accepts nominations for “AI’s 10 to Watch” from around the globe. Members of the publication’s editorial and advisory boards evaluate nominees based on reputation, impact, expert endorsement, and diversity. The list is published on a biennial basis; previous honorees include Allen School professor Yejin Choi, who was recognized in 2016 for her work in natural language processing.

Read more about Matuszek and her fellow honorees in the 2018 “AI’s 10 to Watch” here.

Congratulations, Cynthia!