Meet SCI's New Faculty: Malihe Alikhani

Name: Malihe Alikhani
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Computer Science

Malihe Alikhani is an assistant professor of computer science in the School of Computing and Information at the University of Pittsburgh. She got her Ph.D. in computer science and a graduate certificate in cognitive science from Rutgers University. She was the recipient of the fellowship award for excellence in computation and data sciences from the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute in 2018. Before joining Rutgers, she was a lecturer and an adjunct professor of mathematics and statistics for a year at San Diego State University and San Diego Mesa College. She has served as a member of the program committee of ACL, NAACL, EMNLP, AAAI, NeurIPS, ICRL, ICMI, and INGL and is currently the associate editor of the Mental Note Journal.

What are your research interests?
My research interests are in natural language processing (language technology), cognitive science, and human computation. This includes new approaches to learning, reasoning, and planning, new theories, and techniques for multimodal communication and modeling to enable intelligent systems to perceive, understand and model human behaviors, human language, and social interactions.

In my previous research projects, I have worked on human-robot dialogue, conversational interfaces, diagram understanding,  natural language generation, and common ground processes in language use.

Collaboration with other scientific and engineering disciplines motivates my research on the fundamental NLP problems of language representation and reasoning. To this end, I am especially interested in using NLP to help people and machines communicate in complex domains such as scientific discourse, health, and education.

Why did you choose to come to SCI?
Understanding language is a deep, challenging, and interdisciplinary problem. I love the broad interests at SCI and I look forward to engaging with different perspectives and interests of the faculty and students. SCI is an exciting place for a computational linguist as it provides an excellent environment for cross-disciplinary collaborations. SCI encourages looking at any problem from the perspectives of multiple disciplines in order to arrive at more comprehensive solutions. The opportunity to be part of the outstanding AI team and the Intelligent Systems Program at the University of Pittsburgh and the prospect of collaborating with the linguistics and philosophy departments, as well as the center for learning sciences and causal discoveries greatly influenced my decision to join SCI.

How does your research/teaching align with SCI’s mission?
Natural Language Processing holds tremendous promise to benefit nearly all domains of society, including healthcare, education, security, the law, and even our personal activities. One of my aims is to design frameworks that allow humans to easily work with AI systems that empower them to understand and solve complex problems in these domain applications while being ethical, legal, and responsible by design.

This requires creating AI systems that work with people in intuitive and helpful ways and provide the technical infrastructure that enables users to access artifacts, and that allows the community to communicate and coordinate their collective actions to create those artifacts.