Ashvini Varatharaj

About Me

I am currently a first year PhD student at University of California, Santa Barbara. My research interests are in computational psycholinguistics, language acquisition and language change, complexity. At UCSB, I am currently working with Professor Simon Todd.

I am also working with Professor Gregory Scontras at University of California, Irvine and Professor Kyle Mahowald at UT Austin on using information-theoretic methods to look at language change over time. My past collaborations in this area include working with Professor Scontras and Professor Naomi Nagy at University of Toronto on information-theoretic based heritage language research .


Refereed Conference Presentations

  1. Varatharaj, Ashvini, Gregory Scontras, and Naomi Nagy. 2021. On the role of language dyads in heritage language complexity: An information-theoretic analysis. Poster presented at the 13th Heritage Language Research Institute.

  2. Varatharaj, Ashvini, Gregory Scontras, and Naomi Nagy. 2021. Heritage language complexity in flux: An information-theoretic analysis. International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB13)


1. Botelho, A. F., Varatharaj, A., Patikorn, T., Doherty, D., Adjei, S. A., Beck, J. E. (2019). Developing Early Detectors of Student Attrition and Wheel Spinning Using Deep Learning. Journal of IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies. (link).

2. Closser, A. H., Erickson, J. A., Smith, H., Varatharaj, A., & Botelho, A. F. (2021). Blending learning analytics and embodied design to model students’ comprehension of measurement using their actions, speech, and gestures. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 100391.

2. Dharani Sethuram, Lakshmi N, Ashvini V (2015 ). Home Security Robot. In International Journal of Computer Science & Communication Networks,Vol 5(3),169-172 [pdf]

Full Paper

1.Varatharaj, A.,Botelho, A., Lu, X., Heffernan, N. T. (2020). Supporting Teacher Assessment in Chinese LanguageLearning Using Textual and Tonal Features.[Accepted in the 21th International Conference on Artificial Intelligencein Education (AIED)]

2.Botelho, A. F., Varatharaj, A., VanInwegen, E., & Heffernan, N. T. (2019, March). Refusing to Try: Characterizing Early Stopout on Student Assignments. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge. (Accepted) [ pdf]

3.Erickson, J., Botelho, A.F., McAteer, S., Varatharaj, A., Heffernan, N. T. The Automated Grading of Student Open Responses in Mathematics [Accepted in 10th International Conference on Learning Analytics Knowledge. 2020.]


1. Ashvini Varatharaj, Anthony Botelho, Xiwen Lu and Neil Heffernan. Hǎo Fā Yīn: Developing Automated Audio Assessment Tools for a Chinese Language Course. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Educational Data Mining 2019.

Recent Events

New Venture Fair 2022

Presented our idea at the New Venture Competition at UCSB. As a team of two, we worked on building an app to help address the challenge of under-resourced mental health resources for students at universities using wearable and behavioral data. Was selected from a twenty teams to proceed to the next round!

featured by women in AI Asia pacific

Happy to be featured as a part of the #NextInAICampaign initiated by Women in AI, Women in AI Asia Pacific (APAC) and WaiCOUNCIL( by Women in AI India).

Presented our work on Heritage language at nhLrC and isb13

Interesting research on heritage languages and studying complexity change in languages using information theoretic methods. I worked with Prof. Gregory Scontras from UC Irvine and Prof. Naomi Nagy from University of Toronto on this work. Hope to continue this work during my PhD.

Presented at the 13th Heritage Language Research Institute and International Symposium on Bilingualism ISB13.

Regents fellow 2021

Really happy to receive the Regents fellowship to start my PhD in Fall 2021.

The Regents of the University of California established the prestigious Regents Scholarship Award in 1962 to recognize students of outstanding academic achievement and promise.

Defended my Masters Thesis! ( Summer 2020)

After two years of exciting research, learning about student learning and understanding how we can use AI to improve education, I finally defended my thesis work on "Developing Automated Audio Assessment Tools for a Chinese Language Course". Could not have done it without the support and mentorship from

My advisor : Dr. Neil Heffernan , mentor :Dr. Anthony Botelho

Thesis Reader : Dr. Jacob Whitehill

Collaborator : Prof. Xiwen Lu

Please find my thesis here.

AIED 2020

Presented my work on "Supporting Teacher Assessment in Chinese Language Learning Using Textual and Tonal Features" in Artificial Intelligence in Education Conference 2020.

Varatharaj, A., Botelho, A. F., Lu, X., & Heffernan, N. T. (2020, July). Supporting Teacher Assessment in Chinese Language Learning Using Textual and Tonal Features. In International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (pp. 562-573). Springer, Cham.

Graduate Research and Innovation Exchange (GRIE) 2020

One of the finalists in the GRIE

Presented my research at the annual Graduate Research Innovation Exchange (GRIE). It is a poster celebration and competition that highlights the breadth, diversity, and quality of WPI's graduate research.

Update: All the finalists ended up receiving the split prize money due to the final event being cancelled due to covid-19 .

Tech Together Hackathon 2020

IBM Research Challenge Winning Team and

DELL Driving Human Progress Challenge Winners.

Had an amazing time at TechTogether 2020 with a passionate and hardworking team. Our project was based on "Drug Re-purposing for Cancer - A Data Driven Approach ". The data-set was provided by IBM. Check out our project here.


WRAMP (Women in Reseach and Mentorship Program) , Dec 2019

Successfully completed the WRAMP program which involved me mentoring two high school students and one undergraduate student to complete a research project. Check out our final project on 'Data Science for Social Good' below. It was an amazing experience to be part of this program.