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Colin Raffel
April 21, 2022

Assistant Professor Colin Raffel has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The CAREER program offers NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Raffel’s five-year grant, worth more than $535,700, is titled “Collaborative, Communal, and Continual Model Training for Democratizing Machine Learning.” The research will seek to enable community-developed and continually-improved machine learning models.

Modern software is increasingly based on machine learning models, the creation of which can be computationally and economically expensive, leading developers to save resources by building off of existing widely used, publicly available models. These available models are expensive to create and seldom updated after release. In traditional software development, effort can be distributed among many contributors through open-source software development tools. Through his grant, Raffel hopes to develop machine learning research advances that take inspiration from open-source software development to make community-developed and continually-improved models possible. Further, Raffel aims to increase community participation via outreach to historically underrepresented groups.

More information about Raffel’s awarded grant is available through the NSF website.

Raffel is an assistant professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Computer Science and a faculty researcher at Hugging Face. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC, he was a staff research scientist for Google Brain. His research primarily focuses on machine learning algorithms for learning from limited labeled data, including semi-supervised, unsupervised, and transfer learning.