Zining Zhu (朱子宁)


I am a PhD student at University of Toronto. My long-term goal is to build reliable and interpretable NLP systems that can stably deploy across domains. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms and abilities of neural NLP systems to encode and use knowledge with language as a medium. Following are some ongoing projects:
  • Interpretability: Developing tools to ``open the black boxes'' of deep neural networks and studying the theories that support these tools.
  • Reasoning: Building deep neural networks that can encode and utilize the knowledge effectively, without relying on shortcuts.
  • Application: Improve the reliability and robustness of DNN systems in real world, especially when there are limited data.
I happily collaborate with many researchers working on the above projects. Please click here if you want to chat about collaboration or related ideas.



University of Toronto 2019 - 2024 (Expected)
Ph.D student in Computer Science
Advisor: Frank Rudzicz
University of Toronto 2014 - 2019
Bachelor in Engineering Science, Robotics option.

Work / Research

Amazon, Applied Scientist Intern, 2022
Search - Query Understanding.
Tencent Jarvis Lab, Machine Learning Engineering Intern, 2019
Neural language models and pre-training techniques. Advisor: Ruihui Zhao.
Winterlight Labs, Research Software Engineer, 2017 - 2018
Automatic detection of dementia from narrative speeches. Advisor: Jekaterina Novikova.
TripAdvisor, Software Engineering Intern, 2017
Android applications and Java API.
Dynamic Systems Lab at UTIAS, Research Assistant, 2016
Enhancing drone controllers using deep neural networks. Advisor: Angela Schoellig.


  • ECE1786 (Toronto) Creative Applications for NLP - prep TA & TA - Summer & Fall 2022
  • CSC401/2511 (Toronto) Natural Languages Computing - Co-instructor - Winter 2022
  • CSC2515 (Toronto) Introduction to Machine Learning - TA - Fall 2021
  • CSCC24 (Toronto) Principles of Programming Languages - TA - Summer 2021
  • CSC148 (Toronto) Introduction to Computer Science - TA - Summer 2021
  • CSC401/2511 (Toronto) Natural Languages Computing - TA - Winter 2021
  • CSC309 (Toronto) Web Programming - TA - Fall 2020
  • CSC401/2511 (Toronto) Natural Languages Computing - TA - Winter 2020
  • ECE324 (Toronto) Introduction to Machine Intelligence - TA - Fall 2019
  • CSC180 (Toronto) Introduction to Computer Science - TA - Fall 2016


  • Reviewing for conferences: ACL Rolling Review (2021 November, 2022 January, 2022 April), ACL (2020-2021), EMNLP (2020 - 2021), NAACL (2021), AAAI (2021), ICLR (2022), NeurIPS (2022)
  • Reviewing for workshops: LT-EDI (2022), CMCL (2022)
  • Reviewing for journals:
    • IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics
    • Computer Methods & Programs in Biomedicine


  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, Provincial, 2022
  • Vector Institute Research Grant, Institutional, 2020, 2021
  • Dean’s List, Institutional, undergraduate years 2014 - 2019
  • Engineering Science Research Opportunity Program (ESROP) fellowship, Institutional, 2016 summer
  • Chinese Physics Olympics (CPhO) 1st Prize, Provincial, 2013


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Selected Talks

  • Invited talk. Incorporating probing in the development of large language models, Vector Institute Endless Summer School (ESS), March 1, 2022
  • Invited talk. Probing neural language models, AISC Recent Advances in NLP talk, Aug 15, 2021
  • Invited talk. Improving the neural NLP model performances with linguistic probes, Zhi-Yi Technology Advances in NLP talk, Nov 20, 2020
  • Invited talk. An information theoretic view on selecting linguistic probes, Tsinghua University AI TIME talk, Oct 30, 2020
  • Spotlight talk. Examining the rhetorical capacities of neural language models, Vector Institute NLP Symposium, Sep 16, 2020
  • Invited talk. RecitalBoard: Efficient pre-training methods for language modeling, Tencent Jarvis Lab, Shenzhen, China, Aug 5, 2019
  • Invited talk. Detecting cognitive impairments with machine learning, UTMIST, Toronto, Canada, Nov 20, 2018
  • Invited talk. Probabilistic Graphical Models, UTADA, Toronto, Canada, Oct 21, 2017

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