André Martins receives the 2017 ERC Starting Grant worth 1,4 million euros

 Andre Martins_2017 

André Martins is one of the researchers awarded with the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. The CMU Portugal Program dual degree Ph. D. alumnus and current Head of Research at Unbabel, will receive one of 406 starting grants to early-stage researchers across Europe, eight of whom are Portuguese or working in Portugal.

When contacted by the program, André shared his reaction to the announcement, stating that he “was very happy” when he received the good news. “This is a very competitive call targeted at scientifically groundbreaking projects. Overall, I think the panel members liked the problem I was tackling, the proposed methodology, which puts together machine learning and natural language processing, and they appreciated the involvement of an industry partner (Unbabel), which emphasizes the practical applicability of the project, tackling a real world problem, with a huge potential impact,” André went on to explain.

André will receive 1,442 million euros for the project that he is spearheading, in collaboration with Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) and Instituto de Telecomunicações: “the overarching goal of DeepSPIN is to bring together deep learning and structured prediction to solve challenging tasks in natural language processing, including machine translation, quality estimation, and syntactic parsing." Through this research, the team expects to "empower neural networks with a planning mechanism for structural search, and to connect this to reinforcement learning and combinatorial optimization. Also, an interpretable latent structure will be induced inside the network, that will exploit synergies with probabilistic inference and sparse modeling methods. Finally, reducing the need for labeled data with domain adaptation, data-driven regularization and weak supervision."

Three positions for Ph. D. students and three postdoctoral researchers have been announced to participate in the project.

A dual degree Ph. D. in Language Technology from Carnegie Mellon University and IST, André Martins graduated in 2012 and won the IBM Scientific Award in the same year, and founded the Lisbon Machine Learning School, a week-long summer school, sponsored by Google, with seven editions thus far. He believes the experience in the CMU Portugal Program had an impact on his career: “I benefited immensely from my participation as a PhD student in the CMU Portugal Program. My stay at CMU provided me the experience of working with top researchers in my research field, from which I learned a lot. It also made it possible to start a network of collaborations which was fundamental for the success of this grant.”

The ERC grants are awarded to researchers of any nationality, established or willing to settle in Europe. This year 3085 proposals were received, of which about 13% were financed. Forty-five beneficiaries are citizens of non-European countries, based across Europe.


   September 2017


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