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Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Invests in SBU Computer Science Research

Niranjan Balasubramanian

Niranjan Balasubramanian, a research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University who joined the faculty in this spring, has received funding from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) to support his project, “Process Representations for Question Answering,” which seeks to build a question-and-answer system that can answer fourth grade science exams. The research focuses on designing computational representations of a wide-range of physical and biological processes.

“For instance, a fourth-grader can easily recognize that a puddle drying in the sun is evaporating without needing to understand the intricate details of evaporation. This project aims to uncover the essential aspects of processes that ought to be represented to effectively answer process recognition questions,” Balasubramanian explained.

“I am passionate about understanding how to extract and organize knowledge expressed in texts,” he continued. “With the ever-expanding digital texts, this understanding is fundamental to building Artificial Intelligence. Before starting at Stony Brook, I was lucky to be part of AI2’s early efforts to address this problem using fourth-grade science exams as a driving task.”

Balasubramanian worked closely with AI2 while conducting post-doctoral research in the Turing Center at the University of Washington before coming to Stony Brook.

AI2 is the creation of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and is led by CEO Oren Etzioni, former professor of computer science at the University of Washington. AI2’s core mission is to contribute to humanity through high-impact artificial intelligence research and engineering.

“This award provides an excellent opportunity for me to extend my research in new directions and be a part of this exciting adventure toward building computational forms of knowledge,” Balasubramanian said.

Balasubramanian received his PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he was part of the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval. Before he started his PhD studies, he was a software engineer at the Center for Natural Language Processing at Syracuse University. He completed his master’s degree in computer science at the University of Buffalo in 2003.

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