Leach receives Amazon Research Award to build a document understanding dataset

Kevin Leach, assistant professor of computer science, has won an Amazon Research Award in the fall 2022 awards cycle. Leach will receive gift funding and Amazon Web Services (AWS) promotional credits to support his project, “DocumentNet: iterative data collection for building a robust document understanding dataset.’’

The Amazon funds will allow him to advance the state-of-the-art in robust document understanding by developing new iterative methods for collecting and labeling training data.  Document understanding is a critical application of machine learning, impacting human resources, legal documents, and medical records.  This project will help to improve the performance of machine learning models that classify or extract information from documents like resumes and contracts by drawing attention to the quality of the data used to train these models.

“By focusing on the quality of training data, we have an opportunity to improve the performance of machine learning models.  In addition to document classification, we can apply similar techniques to improve machine learning models across many other domains as well,” Leach said. “I am honored to receive this award and to work with talented students who will be a part of this exciting and impactful research direction.”

Amazon Research Awards provide unrestricted funds and AWS promotional credits to academic researchers investigating various research topics in multiple disciplines. Leach is among 79 2022 fall award recipients who represent 54 universities in 14 countries.

Recipients have access to more than 300 Amazon public datasets and can use AWS AI/ML services and tools through their AWS Promotional Credits. Recipients also are assigned an Amazon research contact who offers consultation and advice, along with opportunities to participate in Amazon events and training sessions. Amazon also encourages the publication of research results, presentations of research at Amazon offices worldwide, and the release of related code under open-source licenses.

Leach is an interdisciplinary researcher who combines artificial intelligence, software engineering, and computer security to build robust autonomous systems. He has developed frameworks and techniques for robust and faithful system analyses to understand and defend against advanced evasive malware, and he has developed techniques to detect and remove vulnerabilities from intelligent autonomous systems and large-scale cloud infrastructure.

Recently, he has been focused on the development of techniques to automatically improve training corpora used by machine learning models.  Leach has published more than 30 peer-reviewed publications in top-tier venues in AI, cybersecurity, and software engineering. He has received several best paper awards and best presentation awards, and he has contributed to and submitted proposals that have resulted in six grants of $7.4 million total funding.

Leach joined the Vanderbilt engineering faculty in January 2022. He received a Ph.D. in computer engineering in 2016 from the University of Virginia.

Contact: Brenda Ellis