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Professors Greg Durrett and Yuke Zhu Awarded NSF CAREER Awards

Posted by Lauren Cotton on Thursday, March 10, 2022
Professors Greg Durett and Yuke Zhu

The National Science Foundation's CAREER Award celebrates early-career faculty who have demonstrated the potential to serve as academic role models and leaders in the mission of their department or organization. This is an annual award presented by the National Science Foundation (NSF) from which recipients receive a federal grant for research and education activities.

This year two UT Computer Science faculty were selected for the award: Professor Greg Durrett and Assistant Professor Yuke Zhu.

Professor Greg Durrett, head of the TAUR Lab (Text Analysis, Understanding, and Reasoning), received funding to continue his lab's work on textual reasoning. Current-generation NLP systems, based on end-to-end deep neural networks, fail in unexpected ways and can mislead their users. These systems lack the ability to reason about and synthesize the information they see, retrieve and integrate additional information, and arrive at a justified conclusion. Durrett's project aims to address this shortcoming by developing systems that explicitly "think through" textual evidence, leading to more reliable and explainable answers in settings like question answering and fact checking. Durrett's lab currently receives other funding from DARPA, Salesforce, Amazon, and the Good Systems program at UT Austin.

Assistant Professor Yuke Zhu, director of the Robot Perception and Learning Lab as well as a core faculty member of Texas Robotics, will use his funding to continue his research in robotics, machine learning, and computer vision. Within the field of robotics, the current state-of-the-art manipulation algorithms fall short of the readiness required for widespread deployment. The overall objective of Zhu's project is to build new algorithms and tools for intelligent robot manipulation in the real world. Zhu's project will accomplish this by creating a suite of algorithms that build effective abstractions and harness these abstractions to synthesize sophisticated behaviors. Additionally, this project includes an education plan to integrate research into undergraduate and graduate spaces as well as an open-source software initiative and K-12 educational programs for High-schoolers.

The NSF Career award is a very prestigious award for early-career professors. This award recognizes highly talented educators who have established a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in the intersect education and research.

Professor Greg Durrett and Assistant Professor Yuke Zhu join a long list of past and present UT computer science faculty that have won NSF Career Awards.

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