Athena (2021)

Our team is named Athena, after the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy, because conversational AI systems need both knowledge and strategic dialogue management to be effective.

Coming straight from the redwoods of Santa Cruz, the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab is making its fourth appearance in the competition. Our team is named Athena, after the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy, because conversational AI systems need both knowledge and strategic dialogue management to be effective. Our scientific approach focuses on developing novel models for neural natural language generation and dialogue management. We will explore techniques in knowledge-grounded NLG as well as new models of dialogue coherence and response ranking that will mimic the human ability to follow-on a conversational turn with many different possible utterances.

Santa-Cruz-athena.jpg
Location: Santa Cruz, CA, USA
Faculty advisor: Marilyn Walker

Omkar P. - Team leader

Omkar is a second-year Computer Science & Engineering Master's student at UC Santa Cruz. He is currently working in Natural Language Processing with a focus on open-domain dialog systems under the supervision of Prof. Marilyn Walker. He has previously worked as a Software Engineer for three years on developing task-oriented chatbots for various customers in banking and telecommunication and is currently working on identifying customer churn indicators from health insurance transcripts as a part of his current internship. As a part of the Alexa Prize, He will be working on improving the NER and response generation capabilities of Athena.

Davan H.

Davan is a third-year PhD student who works with Professor Marilyn Walker in the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab at the University of California Santa Cruz. His research interests lie in discourse modeling, dialogue systems, and neural language generation in the context of dialogue. His previous work includes sarcasm detection in online debate forums, stylistic variation in meaning to text generation, and automatic question generation. He competed in SGC3 as a member of Team Athena.

Juraj J.

Jurik is a fifth-year PhD 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 PhD 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 lead author of Slug2Slug, the winning system 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.

Lena R.

Lena was a member of the team for SGC3 where she contributed to our work on using knowledge graphs for DM and NLG, and developed response generators using AKG. Her research has focused on generalization and stylistic variation for neural natural language generation and automatically evaluating these outputs. She will further investigate the use of knowledge graphs in open domain dialogue systems to help generate responses using deep learning methods.

Kevin B.

Kevin is a fifth-year PhD student working in the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems laboratory under Professor Marilyn Walker at the University of California Santa Cruz. His primary research interest is dialogue, with a specific emphasis on user experience and personalization. Kevin has also worked on several key NLU modules in dialogue systems, e.g., NER, and dialogue generated with knowledge graphs. Being a 3-time participant and 2-time team lead in the previous Alexa Prize competitions, he is also familiar with the relevant AWS services and engineering tools required to build a scalable system.

Angela R.

Angela is a Natural Language Processing Master's Student at UCSC. Previously, she worked in the industry for over a year as data engineer, and 6 months prior was a data analyst. During her undergrad, she was a research assistant using analytics and visualizations to understand member and owner interactions in an online community, engineered different machine learning models to understand how individuals well being changed after using different well being applications, and used reinforcement learning to create 3 bots to play poker and simulated the game experience.

Jeshwanth B.

Jeshwanth is a master's student at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Natural Language Processing. His expertise is in NLP and backend development. He attended UC Santa Cruz for his undergrad as well, majoring in Computer Science and Minoring in Bioinformatics.

Eduardo Z.

I am an enthusiastic and passionate programmer with a drive for understanding and improvement. I always make sure to do my best on any project I am a part of so that I can not only contribute as an effective member of a team but also be proud of the work I accomplished. I also enjoy drawing and animating as a hobby, as well as play video games to relax. I hope my experiences and knowledge will help me succeed in both my career and life.

Phillip L.

I am a Master’s student in the NLP program at UCSC. My interests are in machine translation and text summarization. My number one hobby is cooking and I have also graduated from Le Cordon Bleu many years ago.

Rohan P.

Rohan is a UCSC sophomore with research interests in NLP, Reinforcement Learning, and Brain-Computer Interfaces. His past work in NLP includes sentiment analysis for mental health, question answering chatbots, multimodal sequence classification, and cognitively realistic syntax parsing. In the future, he’d like to investigate pragmatic theories of language through RL, advance semantic composition with neurosymbolic approaches, and apply linguistic RL to concrete tasks like neural program synthesis and web interaction. Outside of research, he runs UCSC’s neurotechnology club, attempts to build profitable micro-SaaS products, and enjoys reading Sanskrit philosophical literature.

Cecilia L.

Cecilia is a Master’s student in the Natural Language Processing program at UC Santa Cruz. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. in computer science and a minor in math. She is interested in Named Entity Recognition tasks and data analysis.

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, to centering theory, and to expressive natural language generation for dialog. Before coming to Santa Cruz in 2009, Walker was a professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield, and a research scientist AT&T Labs Research, where she worked on spoken dialogue systems. Walker has published more than 200 papers and has 10 U.S. patents granted or pending. She earned PhD in Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

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