Our international team of 8 PhD students and faculty advisors has a wide range of experience from both academic and industrial research.
We are based in the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh UK, which has a long history of building data-driven dialogue systems using machine learning methods. Our vision is to create a contextually adaptive socialbot that keeps users engaged and enjoying conversation on topics of their choice. Our inspiration is the kind of conversation that two new acquaintances might have in a pub -- a mixture of topic-related chat, finding out about each other, and sharing stories. Our team was one of the finalists in last year’s challenge.
Amanda C.c. - Team leader
I'm a second-year PhD student at Heriot-Watt University working on automatic evaluation of dialogue systems. I completed my bachelors in Computer Science at Heriot-Watt in 2015 and started my PhD the following year after completing a research internship at the Interaction Lab. That same year, I became part of our university’s Alexa Prize team where I worked on persona development and a ranking function for the system. Our system reached third place in the competition. My other research interests lie in ethical issues such as automatic detection and management of harassment in social dialogue systems.
I am a first year PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Oliver Lemon at the CDT of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics. I am mainly interested in developing Deep Learning models for conversational agents that are able to continuously learn by interacting with the user and by exploiting features coming from the environment in which they are deployed. I received an MSc degree in "Knowledge Engineering and Machine Intelligence" from the University of Bari and before starting my PhD I was an NLP consultant for Plusimple, a health care startup.
I'm a PhD student interested in deep learning for dialogue systems. I hold an Engineer degree (MSc equivalent) with distinction in Computer Science from Moscow State University of Instrument Engineering and Computer Science and Yandex School for Data Analysis. Prior to HWU, I worked as a software engineer at Yandex on projects in computational linguistics such as Russian National Corpus and a platform for conversational user interfaces (currently Yandex Alisa). I interned at Microsoft Research (distributed systems research for Bing) and Intel (Intel Architecture C++ compiler). In 2016, I was awarded the James Watt Scholarship for postgraduate study from HWU.
I am a second year PhD student in Human-Robot Interaction, with focus on dialogue and socially aware action selection in AI systems. My long employment in the industry as a software engineer and pre-sales engineer allowed me to develop invaluable skills like leadership, teamwork, communication and time management, which I put to use as the Team Leader in the Amazon Alexa Price 2017. My research interests include Reinforcement Learning, Neural Networks, Robotics and Natural Language Understanding.
Shubham joined the Interaction Lab as a PhD student last year. Prior to this, he was a Master's student at Universite Grenoble Alpes, France. During his internship (thesis) at Xerox Research Center Europe (XRCE), he worked with character based RNNs for Natural Language Generation (NLG) from Dialogue Acts. Primarily, he will be focusing on multi-turn recommendations in dialogue for the Alexa Challenge. Other related organizations include TrulyMadly (Data Scientist working on personalized recommendation systems) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, where he graduated with Integrated M.Tech in Mathematics and Computing.
Verena Rieser & Oliver Lemon - Faculty advisor
The faculty advisory team consists of Oliver Lemon and Verena Rieser. Oliver and Verena are both Professors at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and lead the Interaction Lab and NLP Lab respectively. Their research focuses on machine learning approaches to spoken and multimodal interaction, and socially intelligent Human-Robot Interaction.
Oliver was previously a research fellow at Stanford and Edinburgh Universities, and holds a PhD from Edinburgh. He has led several national and international research projects.
Verena has gained her PhD in 2008 from Saarland University and spent her postdoctoral years at the University of Edinburgh, before she joined Heriot-Watt in 2011. She currently leads a group of 7 full-time researchers (4 PostDocs, 3 PhDs), mainly funded by the EPSRC.