University of California, Santa Cruz - Athena

Vrindavan H.

- Team Leader

Vrindavan is a second year Ph.D. student in Computer Science and was a member of Team Slugbot in the 2018 Alexa Prize challenge. He is a member of the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems lab led by Marilyn Walker at UCSC. His general research interests lie in the areas of language generation, and dialogue systems, and machine learning. His recent research focuses on automatic question generation, stylistic variation in meaning to text generation, and developing scalable training corpora for neural natural language generators.

Juraj J.

Jurik is a third-year Ph.D. student supervised by Professor Marilyn Walker in the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems lab. After getting his master's degree in AI at CTU in Prague, he moved to Santa Cruz to pursue a Ph.D. in NLP. His current research at UCSC focuses on advancing deep-learning methods in natural language generation models for both task-oriented and open-domain dialogue systems, and he is the first author of Slug2Slug, the overall winner of the E2E NLG Challenge. Jurik's previous work includes context-aware language modeling, and making the language of chatbots more natural via stylistic control in neural models.

Jiaqi W.

Jiaqi is a fifth year Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her supervisor is Marilyn Walker at the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems lab. Her research interests include sentiment analysis, reinforcement learning and dialogue system.

Lena R.

Lena is a fifth year Ph.D. student at University of California, Santa Cruz. She has done work in stylistic variation for neural natural language generation, more specifically personality generation, controlling aggregation operations and semantic blending, as well as automatically evaluating these outputs. She is excited to apply her experience in generating different personalities, sentence planning operations and other stylistic features as well as evaluation techniques to help generate responses using deep learning methods.

Kevin B.

Kevin is a third year Ph.D. student at the University of California Santa Cruz and has been working under Professor Marilyn Walker in the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems laboratory. He previously led team SlugBot in both the 2017 and 2018 Alexa Prize competition. Currently his research is focused on open domain conversational AI and NLU for dialogue systems, with a specific interest in verbal play and user modeling. Previously he has also worked on expressing speaker personality in dialogic content, neural generation, multi-modal interfaces, and virtual agents.

Abteen E.

Abteen is a fourth year undergraduate studying Computer Science and Mathematics. He has been working under Professor Marilyn Walker in the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab, focusing on projects regarding text classification and neural natural language generation.

Nikhil V.

Nikhil is a second-year master’s student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is part of the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems lab supervised by Dr. Marilyn Walker. He has three years of experience in improving proprietary algorithmic trading at Barclays Investment Bank. Nikhil is interested in leveraging knowledge graphs to improve dialog flow and personalization in conversational agents. He enjoys playing soccer, sailing and making music.

Marilyn Walker

- Faculty Advisor

Marilyn Walker is a Professor of Computer Science and a Fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), in recognition of her fundamental contributions to statistical methods for dialog optimization, centering theory, and expressive generation for dialog. Her research focuses on computational models of dialogue interaction, natural language generation, and analysis of affect, sarcasm and other social phenomena in dialogue. Walker has an H-index of 63, with more than 200 papers, and 10 U.S. patents. She earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Meet the 2019-2020 Teams

Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 3