Photo Credit: Courtesy of bar Ilan University
Yanai Elazar

Yanai Elazar, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at Bar-Ilan University, is the recipient of a Google Ph.D. Fellowship for 2020. Elazar has been awarded the Fellowship in Natural Language Processing, a highly competitive category in which only four doctoral candidates from around the world were recognized.

Under the supervision of Prof. Yoav Goldberg, Elazar is currently researching common sense understanding in human language and how it can be represented in AI systems, as well as understanding how neural networks models work and behave on human language.


More broadly, Elazar is working in the field of natural language processing — how to make computers “read and understand” text in human languages, such as English or Hebrew.

Bar-Ilan University has a world-renowned natural language processing group. Elazar’s research revolves around understanding text beyond what is written directly in a sentence. When humans speak or write, a lot of information is omitted which the listener automatically completes. It is a very efficient process, and the missing information is recovered automatically. For example, if one says “I was going 90 on the highway,” it is clear that 90 is about speed, and if one says “This is not worth more than 90,” it is clear that I there is a referred to some type of currency. It’s a very efficient process for humans, but enabling computers to make the same inferences is a challenge being addressed by Elazar and the Bar-Ilan team.

The Google Ph.D. Fellowship Program was created to recognize outstanding graduate students conducting exceptional and innovative research in areas relevant to computer science and related fields. Google Ph.D. Fellowships directly support graduate students as they pursue their Ph.D., as well as connect them to a Google Research Mentor.

According to its website, “Google Ph.D. Fellowship students are a select group recognized by Google researchers and their institutions as some of the most promising young academics in the world.” The Fellowships are awarded to students who represent the future of research in fields such as health research, human-computer interaction, machine learning, quantum computing, and more.

Elazar is one of just two Israelis selected for this year’s Google Ph.D. Fellowship.


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