Catherine Finegan-Dollak
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About Me

Update: I am now a Research Staff Member at IBM Research. (The rest of this page is due for an update soon; please check back!)

I am a PhD candidate earned my PhD at the University of Michigan, where I study natural language processing (NLP) as part of the CLAIR group, supervised by Dragomir Radev.

I received my bachelor's degree from Boston College and my juris doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law. I practiced law for several years. My favorite part of my job was trying to understand the technology involved in patent cases I litigated. My least favorite part was document review: reading thousands of documents to figure out which were relevant to a case and to pick out the few needles of useful information in a massive haystack of emails and corporate documents. When I saw IBM's Watson on Jeopardy in 2011, I could not help but be fascinated, both by the potential application of taking over the tedious parts of my job and by the apparent ability of a machine to understand language.

In 2013, I left my job as a litigator to study NLP full time. I love my job. My working life is a mixture of (1) hearing really smart people explain wonderfully clever technology, (2) working on my own research to try to push the boundaries of what technology can do, and (3) teaching undergraduates the fundamental concepts of computer science.

Research Interests

I am interested in semantics: What information is in this text, how can we represent it, and what can we do with that representation? Like the rest of the NLP community, I am also quite interested in how deep learning can be applied to the problems I work on.


Computer science is a fantastic subject to study and a useful skill for many careers, yet it's one that very few women pursue. Interventions at other colleges and universities have shown that this does not have to be the case. Helping young women discover how much fun this field can be is a cause that means a lot to me. I helped found the UMich CS KickStart program, which provides a week-long computer camp for incoming freshman women, introducing them to programming, the CS department, and a cohort of other women with similar interests. I also volunteer to teach for CS KickStart, Girls Encoded, and similar programs.


I have been a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for the following courses:


EECS 595: Natural Language Processing
EECS 543: Knowledge-Based Systems
EECS 445: Intro to Machine Learning
EECS 592: Advanced Artificial Intelligence
EECS 599: Directed Study
EECS 586: Design and Analysis of Algorithms
EECS 484: Database Management Systems
EECS 492: Intro to Artificial Intelligence
EECS 482: Intro to Operating Systems