New faculty interview: Noga Zaslavsky
- September 8, 2023
- Assistant Professor, Language Science | Ph.D., Hebrew University
Research expertise: computational models of language and cognition, computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, information theory for cognitive systems
Noga Zaslavsky, UCI assistant professor of language science, aims to understand language, learning, and reasoning from first principles, building on ideas and methods from machine learning and information theory. She is particularly interested in finding computational principles that explain how we use language to represent the environment; how this representation can emerge in humans and in artificial agents; how it interacts with other cognitive functions, such as perception, motor control, and social reasoning; and how it evolves over time and adapts to changing environments and social needs. To do so, she combines tools from computer science, data science, computational linguistics, and cognitive science, to build principled integrative computational models of language and cognition. She then tests the predictions of these models on multiple types of human data - from behavioral data collected in her lab, to other types of data, such as cross-cultural, developmental, and neural data, in collaboration with a wide range of experimental labs. She’s also using her models to study how language may emerge in artificial agents that have human-like embodiment, without training them on massive amounts of human-generated text.
Her work, funded by the National Institutes of Health, James S. McDonnell Foundation, and several institutional grants, has been published in top-tier journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), as well as top-tier machine learning venues, such as the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) conference. Her work has also been recognized by several awards, including the Cognitive Science Society’s 2018 Computational Modeling Prize in Language.
Zaslavsky earned her bachelor’s in computer science and cognitive science and her master’s and Ph.D. in computational neuroscience from The Hebrew University. For the past four years, she’s been a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. She’s excited to join UCI, which has a long tradition of pioneering interdisciplinary research on mathematical models of behavior, and the Department of Language Science in particular, due to its unique role as one of the first language science departments in the world. She’s looking forward to helping reshape how we study language in the age of big data and paving the way for new groundbreaking language research.
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