Brendan T. O'Connor

Twitter: @brendan642

Assistant Professor, College of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Core Faculty, Computational Social Science Initiative
Office: Room 222, Computer Science Building, 140 Governors Drive (Amherst, MA 01003-9264)
Map with directions (10 MB pdf), google maps, campus map

Last September I joined the College of Information and Computer Sciences at UMass Amherst as an assistant professor. I am also affiliated with the Computational Social Science Institute, the Centers for Data Science and Intelligent Information Retrieval, and the Machine Learning for Data Science lab.

For meetings, see my shared calendar for appointments -- this is not always up to date, but please consult it to help propose times that might work.


What can statistical text analysis tell us about society? I develop text mining methods that can help answer social science questions. I'm interested in statistical machine learning and natural language processing, especially when informed by or applied to areas like political science or sociolinguistics. My work often uses text data from news and social media. Some areas of interest include:

  • Interactive text data visualization (prev work)
  • Regional dialects and language change in social media (prev work (1) (2) (3))
  • Social media sentiment compared to polls (prev work)
  • NLP for informal (sometimes called "noisy") language (prev work)
  • Syntactic analysis, e.g. part of speech tagging, parsing
  • Semantic/discourse analysis, e.g. coreference, events, entity modeling (e.g. movie character archetypes)
  • Political event extraction from news (prev work)
  • Joint statistical models of social factors and language
  • Measuring sentiment, opinions, ideologies, worldviews from text
  • Human-in-the-loop learning, e.g. simple syntax annotations, or Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing
  • Probabilistic graphical models, latent variable models, Bayesian inference, sampling and optimization methods

See also my (oldish) research statement or publications below. If you are interested in getting involved in research, shoot me an email.

Keep in mind there is a rich set of faculty at UMass interested in similar areas—from computational social science to natural language processing. See the CSSI website. Also, I maintain a list of computation and language researchers and courses at UMass.

My PhD was in the Machine Learning Department in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, where I was a member of the Noah's ARK research group. I have also been a Visiting Fellow at Harvard IQSS, and an intern on the Facebook Data Science team. Before grad school, I worked on crowdsourced annotations at CrowdFlower / Dolores Labs, as well as "semantic" search at Powerset. I was an undergrad and masters student in the Stanford Symbolic Systems Program (cognitive science, more or less).

Recent stuff

Videos from past presentations

Selected recent publications

(See also Google Scholar.) Other papers on my CV or Google Scholar.


  • MiTextExplorer: interactive exploration of text data and document covariates.
  • TweetNLP: tokenization and part-of-speech tagging for Twitter.
  • ARKref, a coreference resolution system.
  • ParseViz - quick and dirty parse tree/dependency visualization via graphviz.
  • tsvutils for tab-separated data processing
  • Other misc utilities (commandline, R, Python...)

Recent and not-so-recent news

2014 2013
  • Oct 9, 2013: invited talk at Univ. of Maryland at College Park, CLIP Colloquium (host: Philip Resnik). [slides]
  • Summer 2013: attended SOCS, NAACL, and ACL. See publications list for presentations/posters.
  • Apr 9: Thesis proposal has been proposed: "Statistical Text Analysis for Social Science."
  • Mar 22: invited speaker, Northeastern (Lazer Lab; host David Lazer)
  • Feb 25: invited speaker, Columbia NLP group (abstract)

Demos etc.

  • Inactive demos

    Elsewhere on the Internet

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Github
  • Gists
  • Writings:

    My PGP key

    Random links: JK 1995

    Other O'Connors

    There are many Brendan O'Connors in the world. If this is the wrong webpage, you may be interested in another Brendan O'Connor – for example, My awesome sister, Maureen O'Connor, is a writer in New York.