lio wong

This is a decidedly academic website. My weirder and more inscrutable site including fiction, sound design, and clocks is here.

I am a sixth year PhD student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department at MIT. I’m advised by Josh Tenenbaum in the Computational Cognitive Science group, and Jacob Andreas and the LINGO lab. I earned my B.S. and M.S. in computer science at Stanford.

I am deeply interested in the relationship between language and general cognition in human minds. How can we express such a broad swath of our thinking in language, from our quotidian intuitions about people and the physical world to our goals, plans, and abstract theories about how the world works? How, in turn, does language drive our downstream thought — how do we update our beliefs from what we are told, or draw on broader cognition to reason about and answer questions? And how do we construct new knowledge in language, from new concepts to entirely new sciences or theories?

My research seeks to answer these questions using empirical human evidence and formal computational tools, including probabilistic models of cognition, program synthesis, and statistical language models. I dream of computational models that coherently integrate evidence from how kids learn language and how adults use it, as well as disparate theories from linguistics, cognitive science, and AI about how we think and make meaning from language. I’m also a writer. I love a heady and intimate sentence, and would like to build models that explain even a sliver of what we get out of ones as rich and unruly as these.

I use they/them pronouns and previously published professionally as Catherine Wong 💯. Publications that haven't been updated yet appear on Google Scholar in their original form.  /  Google Scholar  /  Github  /  weird

These publications are most representative of my current research thrusts.
Google Scholar contains the most comprehensive and accurate list of publications.

How does language inform downstream thought?

How do we learn new concepts and theories, including from language?

How do we communicate and draw pragmatic inferences from language?

I've had the pleasure of collaborating with a slew of fantastic undergraduate and graduate students at MIT and Stanford! If you're interested in working together, shoot me an email. If you're not currently at MIT, we can often work something out, but also consider applying directly to the MIT Summer Research Program!