Hamed Zamani receives NSF CAREER Award for Conversational Information Retrieval research

Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) Assistant Professor Hamed Zamani received a CAREER Award of $570,863 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his project, Enriching Conversational Information Retrieval via Mixed-Initiative Interactions.

Zamani’s research focuses on designing and evaluating statistical and machine learning models with applications to (interactive) information access systems, including search engines, recommender systems, and question answering. He is currently focusing on neural information retrieval and conversational search.

Zamani’s CAREER project addresses a key aspect of the future of search technology by providing access to information through natural language conversations. It aims to advance the state-of-the-art in conversational search by envisioning solutions that consider mixed-initiative interactions by studying (1) theoretical foundations for measuring mixed-initiative conversations; (2) models for clarifying the user's information needs; and (3) models for proactive informational contributions to ongoing conversations.

“This project addresses crucial problems in spoken conversational systems that can be widely used by millions of visually impaired users and everyone else who is visually occupied, such as car drivers,” explains Zamani. “In addition, since dialogue is the most natural form of human communication for exchanging knowledge, advances in conversational information retrieval have broad applications for children, especially for education purposes.”

Assistant Professor Hamed Zamani is the Associate Director of the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR). He joined CICS in September 2020. Prior to UMass Amherst, he was a Researcher at Microsoft, working on a wide range of problems related to search engines. He received his Ph.D. in 2019 from UMass Amherst and was a recipient of the UMass Amherst CICS Outstanding Dissertation Award for his Ph.D. thesis on weakly supervised neural information retrieval.

According to NSF, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.