UCLA Computer Science Professor Receives NSF Early Career Award for Language Model Research


UCLA Samueli

May 21, 2024

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Nanyun “Violet” Peng, an assistant professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation to support her research in artificial intelligence, developing a new category of generative language models.

The award is the agency’s highest honor for faculty members in the early stages of their careers. Peng will receive a five-year, $586,000 grant to fund her research and teaching efforts in the rapidly developing field.

Rather than generating words using the familiar auto-regressive model, which predicts words by analyzing the preceding text, Peng will lead research into insertion-based language models, which mimic human writing by iteratively inserting words into existing text. The research aims to enhance the flexibility, controllability and inference efficiency of modern language models. This new framework could offer improved creative content generation, personalized communication and individualized user experiences when working with broad-application AIs. 

Peng joined UCLA Samueli’s faculty in 2020, where she leads Peng’s Language Understanding & Synthesis (PLUS) Lab, which explores language modeling and reasoning. The PLUS Lab has made major developments in language generation advances, such as predicting epidemic-spreading events through large-scale social media analyses and creating an AI algorithm that generates sonnets. For an upcoming study, the group will also be analyzing persona biases in chatbots. 

Since 2021, Peng has served as an Amazon Visiting Academic. She has been recognized with honors including the Okawa Foundation Research Award and Google Research Scholar Award. Prior to joining UCLA, Peng was a research assistant professor at the University of Southern California. She earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. 

Share this article