Justin Cho 조현동

PhD Student in Computer Science

email / resume / blog

I am a first year PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Southern California's (USC) Information Sciences Institute (ISI). I mainly work with Jonathan May. Prior to my PhD program, I worked at ISI as a programmer analyst and graduated from HKUST with a Bachelor's in Computer Science.
My research interest is in natural language processing (NLP), specifically in natural language generation. Recently, I have been working on open-domain dialogue generation with inspiration from improvisational theatre. Ultimately, I want to contribute to developing intelligent systems that we can interface with using only dialogue, like Samantha in Her and TARS in Interstellar. I have previously worked on text generation with structured data, fake news detection, and question answering.


  • 2020/9: USC Viterbi Magazine covered Jonathan May's and my SPOLIN work that was published at ACL2020, with a fun video demonstration featuring Mike Henry (Family Guy, The Orville). Check it out!
  • 2020/8: I am starting my first semester as a PhD student at USC.
  • 2020/6: I will be working at Stitch Fix as a data science intern in the merch product development team.
  • 2020/4: My paper with Jonathan May has been accepted to ACL2020! I will be presenting virtually at the conference.


Grounding Conversations with Improvised Dialogues
Open-domain dialogue systems overlook an important phenomena that makes conversations engaging: grounding. We collect "Yes, and" type dialogue pairs from an improv podcast and existing dialogue corpora to create the Spontaneanation Pairs Of Learnable ImprovisatioN (SPOLIN) dataset. Human evaluation shows that models fine-tuned with SPOLIN generate more engaging results.
Agenda Pushing in Non-collaborative Dialogue
Hyundong J. Cho, Genevieve Bartlett
It is challenging to build an automatic anti-phishing dialogue system because of the unique trade-offs involved in phishing interactions. We propose that a hybrid approach of FSTs and a neural open-domain dialogue system is an effective approach for anti-phishing and provide the Puppeteer framework as an example.

Blog Posts

My Reading List
Below is a list of resources, including books, individual blog posts and entire blogs that I have read and believe are worth sharing. I share it here in case anyone is interested. They are grouped into broad categories to make it easier for you to find what you are interested in. The specific ordering of the resources in each category bears no meaning.
Joshua Tree National Park is one of my favorite national parks in California, not only for its relative accessibility from Los Angeles but also because of its unique landscape that I haven't seen anywhere else. Located between the Mojave Desert the Colorado Desert, its vegetation is impressive and diverse. If you were like me and haven't seen a Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) before, for which the park is named after (in case it wasn't too obvious), you'll be amazed by their interesting appearance. It seems like someone genetically modified a tree to look like a cactus!
I've had a great opportunity to work as an artificial intelligence researcher at Imago.ai for the summer of 2018. I worked on building a question and answering that could be used to automatically answer customer's questions. Our team used a BiDAF model augmented with self-attention capacities, trained with the SQuAD and MSMARCO datasets. The full demo of our work can be found here.


  • My pronouns are he, him, his.
  • Before starting my PhD at USC, I worked at ISI as a programmer analyst for a year. Before that, I graduated from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science.
  • I have been very fortunate to have lived in many different countries: Moscow, Russia; Oslo, Norway; Vienna, Austria; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Hong Kong; Seoul, South Korea; Los Angeles, California. I look forward to living in new places and experiencing different cultures.
  • I love playing football⚽ and I am a huge fan of FC Barcelona. Visca el Barça!
  • I am a citizen of South Korea and the US. I am fluent in both English and Korean. I am teaching myself Mandarin with Duolingo and HSK level tests. 有一天,我想用流利的中文跟你说话.