Contact information
Phone: 217-244-6187
Email: spbhat 2 at illi nois dot edu
Address: 1308 W. Main St., Urbana, IL 61801 (322 CSL)

I am an Assistant Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and am part of the Coordinated Science Laboratory. I am also an affiliate faculty member in the departments of Computer Science and Educational Psychology, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Center for Social and Behavioral Science.

My research interests span the areas of natural language processing, human-computer interaction, learning analytics and medical language processing. I am interested in answering the following two different but broadly related questions: `How do we enable machines to understand the nuances of human language?’ and `How can we use advances in NLP and machine learning to enhance user experience in various scenarios of human-AI interaction?’

I am excited about finding ways to make language processing more natural. These include the design of computational methods to process idiosyncratic and creative linguistic phenomena that are inherent in natural language, exemplified by figurative expressions, including idioms and euphemisms. My research in this area permits us to simultaneously understand the computational challenges to processing and reasoning these processes on one hand and the intricacies and patterns of natural language use on the other. These pursuits have permitted us to study parameter-efficient and data-efficient approaches to NLP.

A second component of my research is to direct advances in NLP and machine learning towards enhancing user experience in human-AI interaction settings. These pursuits have led to research in educational applications, spanning online STEM learning environments and medical education.


  • Delighted to be part of the multi-organization, NSF-funded INVITE Institute to advance research of AI for education.
  • Successfully piloted DIYA-India in summer 2023. Looking forward to watching it grow!
  • I’m on leave from Illinois for the academic year 2022-2023.
  • I’m honored to be selected to the campus-wide Spring 2022 List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students! I continue to enjoy learning as a teacher.
  • 12/2021: Our paper on processing idiomatic expressions with ways to paraphrase them into literal expressions will appear in AAAI 2022. Look out for the large dataset and the accompanying models!
  • 10/2021: Excited to receive the Stemmler Medical Education Research Fund of the National Board of Medical Examiners to begin a collaboration with Dr. William Bond (Jump Simulation, Peoria) and Dr. Rachel Yudkowsky (University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine).
  • 07/2021: I am honored to be the recipient of the 2021 ECE Ronald W. Pratt Faculty Outstanding Teaching Award.
  • 07/2021: I am excited to serve on the organizing committee of the 2022 US FOE meeting organized by the National Academy of Engineering.