Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Jack Merullo ‘20 Named 2019–2020 Rising Researcher for Research on Bias in Sports Commentary

Jack Merullo

College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) undergraduate Jack Merullo ‘20 is one of eight UMass Amherst undergraduates to be named 2019–2020 Rising Researchers in recognition of their unconventional and inspiring approaches to research, scholarship, and creative activity.

Merullo, a computer science major and Commonwealth Honors College student, conducts research that applies natural language processing (NLP) to help solve research questions pertaining to social issues, information retrieval, and deep learning.  

For his honors thesis, he worked with CICS Assistant Professor Mohit Iyyer to research the presence and degree of bias in sports commentary. One major contribution of his work is the creation of a large dataset of NFL and NCAA football broadcast transcripts containing comments about players who are tagged by race, allowing analysis of comments for racial bias that was not previously possible. “The data we compiled contains an order of magnitude greater number of games than any previous work on this topic,” says Merullo.

Merullo, along with Iyyer and his computer science lab mate Luke Yeh, published a peer-reviewed study of his research at the 2019 conference Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, and ESPN recently published an article about his work on their sports and pop culture website The Undefeated.

“Being able to publish at a top conference in my field has given me the confidence to pursue graduate school more seriously and has affirmed my passion for research in natural language processing,” says Merullo.

The Rising Researcher program is jointly supported by UMass Amherst University Relations and the Office of Research and Engagement. Eligible undergraduates are identified by their faculty mentor or advisor and demonstrate leadership and impact in their chosen area of study.