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Dr Sharon Goldwater presents BCS Needham Lecture 2016

10 October 2016Dr Goldwater, a Reader in the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation at the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics was awarded the BCS Roger Needham Award for 2016 in recognition of her outstanding contribution in the area of computational linguistics. She has made major interdisciplinary research contributions across natural language processing, machine learning, and computational cognitive science. In particular, her work on Bayesian models for probabilistic machine learning have broken new ground in unsupervised learning of linguistic structure.


In her lecture, Sharon will explain more about her work. She says: “Computer processing of speech and language has advanced enormously in the last decade, with many people now using applications such as automatic translation, voice-activated search, and even language-enabled personal assistants. Yet these systems still lag far behind human capabilities, and the success they do have relies on machine learning methods that learn from very large quantities of human-annotated data (for example speech data with transcriptions or text labelled with syntactic parse trees). These resource-intensive methods mean that effective technology is available for only a tiny fraction of the world's 5000 or more languages, mainly those spoken in large rich countries."


Sharon continues: “This talk will argue that in order to solve this problem, we need a better understanding of how humans learn and represent language in our minds, and we need to consider how human-like learning biases can be built into computational systems. I will illustrate these ideas using examples from my own research. I will discuss why language is such a difficult problem, say a bit about what we know about human language learning, and then show how my own work has taken inspiration from that to develop better methods for computational language learning.”


Abigail Sellen, Microsoft Research Cambridge Deputy Lab Director says: “Sharon's pioneering work is extremely important for the future of computational linguistics. Her research and findings have a great impact in the field of computational language learning, instigating deeper understanding of how both humans and machines process language. Sharon is a deserving winner of the prestigious Roger Needham and we very much look forward to her lecture.”


The Roger Needham Award is sponsored by Microsoft Research Cambridge and established in memory of Microsoft’s first director of research outside the US. It is awarded for a distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK based researcher within ten years of their PhD.


Registration for the BCS Roger Needham Lecture 2017 is now open.


Needham Lecture details:

Date: 21 November 2016
Venue: The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG
Time: 6.00pm to 9.30pm
Price: £5 BCS member - lecture only, £10 BCS non-member - lecture only, £15 BCS member lecture / buffet reception, £30 BCS non-member - lecture / buffet reception


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