Nanyun “Violet” Peng, an assistant professor of computer science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the agency’s highest honor for faculty members in the early stages of their careers. The award includes a five-year, $586,000 grant to support her research and teaching efforts in the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence.

Rather than generating words using an auto-regressive AI model, which predicts words by analyzing the preceding text, Peng will lead research into insertion-based language models, which mimic human writing by iteratively inserting words into existing text. The research aims to enhance the flexibility, controllability and inference efficiency of modern language models. This new framework could offer improved creative content generation, personalized communication and individualized user experiences when working with broad-application AIs.

Peng joined UCLA Samueli’s faculty in 2020. She leads Peng’s Language Understanding & Synthesis Lab, which has made major developments in language generation advances, such as predicting epidemic-spreading events through large-scale social media analyses and creating an AI algorithm that generates sonnets. Peng has served as an Amazon Visiting Academic since 2021, and has also received honors including the Okawa Foundation Research Award and Google Research Scholar Award.