Regina Barzilay has been appointed the Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. The appointment recognizes Barzilay’s leadership in the area of human language technologies and her outstanding mentorship and educational contributions.
“Professor Barzilay is internationally known in the fields of natural language processing and computational linguistics, and is widely respected as a creative thought leader,” Anantha Chandrakasan, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science wrote in a note announcing the appointment. “In addition to this research, she has made truly outstanding educational contributions.”
Barzilay’s research on natural languages focuses on the development of models of natural language, and uses those models to solve real-world language processing tasks. Her research in computational linguistics deals with multilingual learning, interpreting text for solving control problems, and finding document-level structure within text. Barzilay’s work enables the automated summarization of documents, machine interpretation of natural language instructions, and the deciphering of ancient languages. As the world has more and more text to be searched and interpreted, applications for this work increase year by year.
Jointly with Professor Tommi Jaakkola, Barzilay developed course 6.036 (Introduction to Machine Learning). The class is a header subject that has over 300 students enrolled in each offering. Given the importance of big data, machine learning has become a core subject for our undergraduates. The class prepares students for working in applied machine learning areas. Barzilay has also recently revised the format of 6.864 (Advanced Natural Language Processing). The content of the class was modified to incorporate applications of deep neural networks to natural language processing, material covered almost exclusively in research papers. The class was reformatted to emphasize project-driven learning. This format helped multiple students — especially undergraduates — to start their own research in natural language processing. Barzilay was recognized for her educational contributions by the Jamieson Teaching Award in 2016.
Barzilay has also made valuable professional contributions in her field and in the department. She serves as the action editor for the Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics. She served as the program co-chair for the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) in 2011, and is a chair of the 2017 Association of Computational Linguistics Conference. She was also program co-chair of the 2015 Rising Stars women in computer science and electrical engineering workshop at MIT, for which she solicited applications from top groups in computer science.
Barzilay is a recipient of various awards, including of the National Science Foundation Career Award, the MIT Technology Review TR-35 Award, a Microsoft Faculty Fellowship, and several best paper awards in top natural langauge processing conferences.