I am a current postdoctoral researcher at NYU with Kyunghyun Cho, and an incoming 2023 Kempner Fellow at Harvard. I am interested in NLP training dynamics: how models learn to encode linguistic patterns or other structure and how we can encode useful inductive biases into the training process. Previously, I earned a PhD from the University of Edinburgh on Training Dynamics of Neural Language Models, worked at Google and Facebook, and attended Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon University. Outside of research, I play roller derby under the name Gaussian Retribution, do standup comedy, and shepherd disabled programmers into the world of code dictation.
PhD in Informatics, 2021
University of Edinburgh
MEng in Computer Science, 2015
Johns Hopkins University
BSc in Computer Science, 2013
Carnegie Mellon University
It is widely accepted in the mode connectivity literature that when two neural networks are trained similarly on the same data, they are connected by a path through parameter space over which test set accuracy is maintained. Under some circumstances, including transfer learning from pretrained models, these paths are presumed to be linear. In contrast to existing results, we find that among text classifiers (trained on MNLI, QQP, and CoLA), some pairs of finetuned models have large barriers of increasing loss on the linear paths between them. On each task, we find distinct clusters of models which are linearly connected on the test loss surface, but are disconnected from models outside the cluster – models that occupy separate basins on the surface. By measuring performance on specially-crafted diagnostic datasets, we find that these clusters correspond to different generalization strategies: one cluster behaves like a bag of words model under domain shift, while another cluster uses syntactic heuristics. Our work demonstrates how the geometry of the loss surface can guide models towards different heuristic functions.
Recent work in NLP shows that LSTM language models capture hierarchical structure in language data. In contrast to existing work, we consider the learning process that leads to their compositional behavior. For a closer look at how an LSTM’s sequential representations are composed hierarchically, we present a related measure of Decompositional Interdependence (DI) between word meanings in an LSTM, based on their gate interactions. We connect this measure to syntax with experiments on English language data, where DI is higher on pairs of words with lower syntactic distance. To explore the inductive biases that cause these compositional representations to arise during training, we conduct simple experiments on synthetic data. These synthetic experiments support a specific hypothesis about how hierarchical structures are discovered over the course of training: that LSTM constituent representations are learned bottom-up, relying on effective representations of their shorter children, rather than learning the longer-range relations independently from children.
Research has shown that neural models implicitly encode linguistic features, but there has been no research showing how these encodings arise as the models are trained. We present the first study on the learning dynamics of neural language models, using a simple and flexible analysis method called Singular Vector Canonical Correlation Analysis (SVCCA), which enables us to compare learned representations across time and across models, without the need to evaluate directly on annotated data. We probe the evolution of syntactic, semantic, and topic representations and find that part-of-speech is learned earlier than topic; that recurrent layers become more similar to those of a tagger during training; and embedding layers less similar. Our results and methods could inform better learning algorithms for NLP models, possibly to incorporate linguistic information more effectively.