Amazon names Huang and Zhong inaugural fellows for AICE research

11/7/2023 Caitlin Renwald

Amazon names CS Huang and Zhong inaugural fellows for AICE research

Written by Caitlin Renwald

Amazon has awarded two CS Ph.D. candidates, Kung-Hsiang (Steeve) Huang and Ming Zhong, fellowships for the upcoming year to support their research in conversational AI at the Amazon-Illinois Center on AI for Interactive Conversational Experiences AICE Center. Huang and Zhong are the first two winners of the annual prize gifted by Amazon.

This collaboration between Amazon and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign aims to develop novel approaches to conversational AI systems, specifically those that demonstrate contextual understanding and emotional intelligence while being ethical and fair. The annual fellowships will help support the next generation of AI researchers at Illinois.

Both Huang and Zhong have similar areas of research interest: data and efficient learning for conversational AI applications. As fellowship recipients, Huang and Zhong will be paired with Amazon scientists who will mentor and provide them with a deeper understanding of problems in the industry.

Kung-Hsiang (Steeve) Huang
Kung-Hsiang (Steeve) Huang

Steeve Huang is a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he is a member of the BLENDER Lab, overseen by Amazon Scholar and Illinois CS Professor Heng Ji.

Huang’s academic focus examines combating the proliferation of false information. His work in this field encompasses three key research directions: fact-checking, fake news detection, factual error correction, and enhancing the faithfulness of text generation models.

One of his notable contributions is developing a novel framework for generating fake news to train fake news detectors. This framework aims to create more convincing fake news articles, which in turn aids in training more effective fake news detectors.

Additionally, he has built a zero-shot factual error correction framework that has demonstrated its ability to yield corrections that are both more faithful and factual compared to traditional supervised methods.

Huang also completed an internship with Amazon in 2022. In this role, he collaborated with Illinois CS professor Yang Wang as well as Columbia University professor Kathleen McKeown. Together, they proposed a framework to synergistically enhance the coverage and faithfulness of dialogue summarization models.

Ming Zhong
Ming Zhong

Ming Zhong is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Data Mining Group at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and is advised by Professor Jaiwei Han.

Zhong’s research focuses on tailoring conversational AI to meet the diverse needs of individual users, as these systems become increasingly embedded in everyday life.

Specifically, he seeks to explore how to better understand conversational content in both human-to-human and human-to-computer interactions, as well as to develop new customized evaluation metrics for conversational AI. He also works on knowledge transfer across various models to boost their efficiency.

AICE Center Director and Amazon Scholar Professor Heng Ji said, “In this era of large language models, AICE aims to support innovative, insightful, and influential Ph.D. dissertations. Ming’s and Steeve’s are two good examples. We aim to continually support more Ph.D. students who are doing high-quality research in the future. ”  

“The research that Steeve and Ming are doing is critical for developing more effective and ethical ways for individuals to use AI applications. Our partnership with Amazon at the AICE Center provides our students with unique opportunities to collaborate with top scientists in the country to find safe, practical ways to incorporate this emerging technology in our daily lives” said Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering.

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This story was published November 7, 2023.