I am Professor of Computational Linguistics in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London, where I am head of the Computational Linguistics Lab, deputy head of the Cognitive Science research group, a fellow of the Digital Environment Research Institute and a member of the Centre for Intelligent Sensing. I am also Višji Znanstveni Sodelavec (senior researcher) at the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Until recently (2023), I was a Turing Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute in London, and a member of the Academic Board for Ada, the National College for Digital Skills. Beyond academia, I co-founded Chatterbox Labs in 2011.
My main research interest is in the computational semantics and pragmatics of dialogue - using the context of a conversation to build models of what people are actually talking about. I have acted as an advisory board member for:
- SIGDIAL, the ACL/ISCA special interest group for discourse and dialogue
- SIGSEM, the ACL special interest group on computational semantics
- SEMDIAL, the series of workshops on the semantics and pragmatics of dialogue.
I am acting as programme chair (with Yvette Graham) for EACL 2024, and was senior area chair (with Diarmuid Ó Séaghdha) for Dialogue & Interactive Systems at EACL 2023 and (with Verena Rieser) at EACL 2021. I have also been co-chair for the SLSP 2019 and IWCS 2015 conferences, and the CC-NLG 2016, ENLG 2015 and SemDial 2010 workshops. I have also been area chair for Dialogue & Interactive Systems at ACL 2016, for Discourse, Dialogue & Pragmatics at EMNLP 2013, and was local organiser for the SIGDIAL 2009 conference.
Before arriving at QMUL in 2009, I worked in the Computational Semantics Lab at CSLI, Stanford, on projects building an automatic meeting-understanding system and a conversational dialogue system for cars. Prior to that I did my PhD at King's College London with Jonathan Ginzburg, looking at clarificational dialogue and what it means for dialogue systems; and my BA and MPhil at Cambridge where I was lucky enough to be supervised by Karen Spärck Jones. In between, I spent 8 years as an engineer in the field of active noise & vibration control, mostly with Ultra Electronics and Noise Cancellation Technologies.
During 2008, I spent a year travelling around Europe, Turkey, North and West Africa with my wife (a professional chef and culinary anthropologist) to learn all about food and its traditions. You can read all about it here. As a result of that we're now trying to renovate an old stone farmhouse in Istria, Croatia to become a culinary destination ...
My brother is the artist Ed Purver who won the 2010 Celeste Prize for his video work "In Residence". My sister is the structural engineer Kate Purver who designs things like the Kew Gardens Aerial Walkway.