Professor Eric Atwell

Professor Eric Atwell


I lead the AI4L Artificial Intelligence for Language research group: Nor Diana Ahmad,  Mashael Alamr, Jawharah Alasmari, Moneerh AleedyZainab Almugbel,  Abdullah Alsaleh, Menwa AlshammeriShatha Altammami, Claire BrierleyTaghreed Tarmom. We are part of the Artificial Intelligence research theme of the School of Computing at the University of Leeds.

Research Grants

Principal Investigator

  • EDUBOTS chatbots for university education (ERASMUS+ £94K, 2019-2021)
  • FoodShock 2020 (Science and Technology Facilities Council, £8K, 2020-2021)
  • Artificial Intelligence Networking (Leeds University Academic Development Fund, £2K, 2017)
  • Natural Language Processing Working Together With Arabic And Islamic Studies (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, £337K, 2013-2015)
  • Web-based resources for Islamic Studies (Higher Education Academy, £13K, 2011)
  • Detecting Terrorist Activities: Making Sense (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, £2185K (£195K Leeds), 2010-2013)
  • Copying-Identifier for Biomedical Science Reports (Higher Education Funding Council, £60K, 2002)
  • ISLE - Interactive Spoken Language Education (European Union, £720K (£64K Leeds), 1998-2001)
  • Information extraction from air traffic control (Visionair International, £21K, 1994-1997)
  • Mapping between corpus annotation schemes (Nuffield Foundation, £6K, 1994)    
  • Computer based resources in KBS & SALT (Higher Education Funding Council, £92K, 1994-1996)
  • Knowledge based timetable information (Higher Education Funding Council, £39K, 1994-1995)
  • Mapping AMALGAM corpus (Science and Engineering Research Council, £176K, 1993-1997)
  • Computer analysis of language and speech (Higher Education Funding Council, £79K, 1993-1995)
  • Pilot project for CCALAS (Leeds University Research Support, £20K, 1993-1994)
  • A speech-oriented stochastic parser (Ministry of Defence, £178K, 1992-1993)
  • Knowledge-Based Systems Initiative (Joint Information Systems Committee, £149K, 1991-1994)
  • Neural network parsers trained with realistic corpora (British Telecom, £10K, 1990-1991)
  • Advanced Fellowship in IT (Science and Engineering Research Council, £220K, 1990-1994)
  • COMMUNAL Convivial man machine understanding (Ministry of Defence, £83K, 1987-1989)


  • Cancer patient records analysis (PinPoint, £52K, 2019-2020)
  • e-Health GATEway to the Clouds (Joint Information Systems Committee, £52K, 2012)
  • ABC Arabic By Computer (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, £26K, 1989-1990)
  • A simulated annealing parser for authentic English (Ministry of Defence, £117K, 1986-1989)

PhD research supervision

  • M Aleedy, due 2024, Chat and chatbots for university education
  • A Alsaleh, due 2024, Semantic similarity in Arabic text understanding
  • S Altammami, due 2022, Parallel corpus and knowledge-base for Islamic Hadith
  • T Tarmom, due 2022, Classifying Arabic Hadith
  • M Alshammeri, due 2022, Deep learning and distributional semantics for the Quran
  • M Alamr, due 2022, Authorship Attribution and Online Identity in Najdi Arabic Tweets
  • J Alasamari, due 2021, Arabic and English verb systems in the Quran corpus
  • N Ahmad, due 2021, Malay natural language processing for retrieval from Malay Qur'an
  • A Alshutayri, 2019, Arabic dialects classification
  • L Aldhubayi, 2019, Corpus-based methods and to extend Arabic WordNet
  • A Alghamdi, 2018, Arabic corpus-informed lexicon of formulaic sequences
  • M Alqahtani, 2019, Quranic Arabic semantic search tool based on ontology of concepts
  • A Alosaimi, 2018, Ensemble morphosyntactic analyser for classical Arabic
  • S Alrehaili, 2018, Ontology concept and relation learning from the Qur’an corpus
  • J Jaafar, 2018, Data mining and machine learning to predict acute coronary illness
  • A Alfaifi, 2016, Arabic learner corpus and a system for Arabic error annotation
  • S Danso, 2016, Text analytics to predict time and cause of death from verbal autopsies
  • K Dukes, 2013, Statistical parsing by machine learning from a Classical Arabic treebank
  • S Hina, 2013, Semantic tagging of medical narratives using SNOMED CT
  • A Muhammad, 2012, Annotation of conceptual co-reference and similarity in the Qur'an
  • J Washtell, 2011, Distributional meaning in text: distance, expectation, and composition
  • M Sawalha, 2011, Open-source resources and standards for Arabic word structure analysis
  • C Brierley, 2011, Prosody resources for automated phrase break prediction
  • O Nancarrow, 2011, Tagging of adverbs in modern English corpora
  • F Su, 2010, Computational modelling of word sense sentiment
  • N Abbas, 2009, Qurany 'Search for a Concept' tool and website
  • A Roberts, 2008, Unsupervised machine learning for grammatical inference
  • D Elliott, 2006, Corpus-based machine translation evaluation via automated error detection
  • B AbuShawar, 2005, A corpus based approach to generalise a chatbot system
  • L Al-Sulaiti, 2004, Designing and developing a Corpus of Contemporary Arabic
  • T Oba, 2003, HTK to analyse prosody in the ISLE corpus of spoken learner's English
  • J Elliott, 2003, Natural language learning for SETI Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
  • X Duan, 2001, Lexical Semantic Association Between Web Documents
  • G Churcher, 1997, Speech dialogue analysis using linguistic knowledge
  • G Demetriou, 1997, Lexical semantics for human-computer speech communication.
  • M Schillo, 1996, Working while driving: corpus-based in-car personal assistant
  • X Zhang, 1996, MIRTH Chinese and English search engine: a multilingual retrieval tool
  • C Souter, 1996, A corpus-trained parser for systemic-functional syntax
  • A Bull, 1996, Aerobic dance exercise: a corpus-based computational linguistics approach
  • U Jost, 1994, Probabilistic language modeling for speech recognition
  • S Arnfield, 1994, Prosody and syntax in corpus-based analysis of spoken English
  • J Hughes, 1993, Automatically acquiring a classification of words
  • T O’Donoghue, 1993, Reversing the process of generation in Systemic Grammar

Academic visits away from the University of Leeds

2018-2020: visiting professor, Leeds-SWJTU Joint School, SWJT University, Chengdu
2013 - 2017: visiting scholar, SUSTECH Sudan Uni of Science and Technology, Khartoum  
2012 - 2013: visiting scholar, Linguistics and English Language Dept, University of Manchester
2011 -2013: visiting scholar, Computing Dept, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2000: visiting scholar, Dept of Computer Science, University of Sheffield  
1994 - 1996: JISC Computer Analysis of Language And Speech New Technologies Initiative
1995: visiting scholar, Dept of Computer Applications, Dublin City University
1994: visiting scholar, Inst for Language & Artificial Intelligence, Tilburg University  
1991 - 1994: National Coordinator, JISC Knowledge Based Systems Initiative
1990 - 1991: Science and Engineering Research Council, Advanced Research Fellowship
1989: visiting scholar, Max Planck Institute and Dept of Language, Nijmegen University


  • Director of Research Postgraduate Studies
  • Online Distance Learning ODL MSc Artificial Intelligence programme leader
  • Artificial Intelligence for Language research leader

Research interests

My research speciality is Artificial Intelligence for Language research: AI applied in corpus linguistics and text analytics: Machine Learning and Data Mining analysis of a CORPUS of text - in English, Arabic, or other languages - to analyse the text and detect "interesting" and "useful" features or patterns. For example:

  • Detecting cancer symptoms in GP referral letters and patient records
  • Detecting terrorist activities, by analysis of documents from terrorist suspects, to highlight suspicious parts of the text.
  • Understanding religious texts such as the Quran, to find links and patterns in the Quran verses and chapters whcih are of interest to religious scholars and the general public.
  • Detecting cause of death from verbal autopsy text documents describing the circumstances of the death.

I have led research projects, including EPSRC-funded project Natural language processing working together with Arabic and Islamic Studies , EPSRC/ESRC/CPNI-funded research project IDEAS factory - detecting terrorist activities: making sense , JISC-funded project e-Health GATEwayto the Clouds , HEA-funded project web-based resources for teaching and research in Islamic Studies .

I work with the Artificial Intelligence Research Theme and and LIDA Leeds Institute for Data Analytics

I am proud of over 40 research students I have supervised, who went on to work in a range of careers, including web search, banking and finance, text analytics, translation and language consulting, online news, voice-to-text, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and university researchers and professors..


  • PhD (Leeds) Corpus linguistics and language learning, 2008
  • BA 1st Class (Lancaster) Computing and Linguistics, 1981

Professional memberships

  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council) Peer Review College
  • AHRC (Arts and Humanties Research Council) Peer Review College

Student education

My teaching includes: supervision of PhD, MSc, MEng and BSc student research projects; lecturing to Computing MSc, MEng and BSc students; and personal tutorials for students. I have also taught at international conference tutorials and summer schools, for example Aston Summer School on Corpus Linguistics, and Leeds International Summer School.

I have taught a range of subjects, including Corpus Linguistics, Data Mining, Text Analytics, Language, Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics, Knowledge Management and Adaptive Systems, Technologies for Knowledge Management, Object Oriented Programming, Professional Development, Knowledge Based Systems, Knowledge Discovery, Perceptual Systems, Future Directions in Distributed Multimedia Systems, Introductory Programming, Numerical Methods, Artificial Intelligence, Databases and Information Systems, Arabic Natural Language Processing, Java, Python, Prolog, Pascal..

Previous academic responsibilities

2013 - 2017: Associate Professor, U of Leeds: Research, Teaching within AI group
1996 - 2013: Senior Lecturer, U of Leeds: Research, Teaching, NLP group leader
1994 - 1996: Director, JISC CALAS NTI: JISC UK R&D programme leader
1991 - 1994: National Coordinator, JISC KBSI: JISC UK R&D programme leader
1990 - 1991: SERC Advanced Research Fellow: SERC/MoD network coordinator
1984 - 1990: Lecturer, U of Leeds: Teaching, Research, leading NLP within AI team
1981 - 1984: Research Associate, University of Lancaster: Research, grant applications

Research groups and institutes

  • Applied Computing in Biology, Medicine and Health
  • Artificial Intelligence

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>