Published: May 7, 2024 By

Téa Wright (CompSci'24) has received a 2024 graduating student research award from the College of Engineering and Applied Science for her natural language processing (NLP) research with Katharina von der Wense.

Starting through the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), Wright worked on NLP for education with von der Wense, researching automatic story generation for vocabulary learning in preschool age children

Wright then continued her research with the lab, working to create more inclusive NLP technologies for her undergraduate thesis. 

Some human languages have smaller datasets available than others. This lack of data makes it harder to use statistical models which can understand and process text from these lower-resource languages to others simultaneously. 

Wright's project explored digitizing Lakota and Dakota language datasets through optical character recognition (OCR) to improve the performance of these multilingual models, with a focus on how different errors from OCR impacted the performance of the models. 

How did it feel to win this award?

I was honored to win this award! It is always amazing to see the realization of your effort and work.

What is the most important lesson you've learned at CU Boulder?

CU Boulder has taught me that it is important to seek out opportunities on your own. Professors and students are usually happy to talk to you about your common interests and help you figure out your concerns or questions. The community at CU has taught me to be more openly curious. The other important lesson Boulder has shown me is the importance of balancing academics with time spent with friends or in nature.

What advice would you give to a younger you?

I would tell my younger self not to stress about the specifics of what you want to do. Classes, mentors, and opportunities will help shape your goals and discover your interests. Settling on a specialty too early on can close doors, so take your time finding what is interesting and exciting to you!

What's important for people to know about you?

I’m a Boulder native :)

Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping you get to where you are now?

I’d like to thank Professor Katharina von der Wense and my PhD student mentors Maria Valentini and Abteen Ebrahimi for helping me navigate my first experiences with research. They have changed the trajectory of my academic career and I am so grateful for their guidance over the past year.

What's one of your personal or professional goals for the future?

My next goal is to get my PhD in computer science and I ultimately hope to be a research scientist in a company where my work can have practical applications.