Xuan (Tan Zhi Xuan)

Pronunciation: ɕɥɛn / sh-yen


I am a PhD student in the MIT Probabilistic Computing Project and Computational Cognitive Science lab, advised by Vikash Mansinghka and Josh Tenenbaum.

My research sits at the intersection of Bayesian modeling, AI alignment, and cognitive science, asking questions like:

  • How can we specify rich yet structured generative models of human reasoning, decision-making, and value formation?
  • How can we perform Bayesian inference over such models, in order to accurately learn human goals, values, and cooperative norms?
  • How can we build AI systems that act reliably in accordance with these inferred goals and norms?

To answer these questions, my work includes the development of infrastructure for probabilistic programming and model-based planning, so as to enable fast and flexible Bayesian inference over complex models of agents and their environments. By developing engineering platforms for more auditable AI systems with stronger algorithmic guarantees, I hope to support the growth of well-founded and human-compatible AI.

I am committed to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) in computer science, and to helping steer the development of AI towards beneficial and equitable outcomes for all. To those ends, I help to organize DEIJ groups such as THRIVE at MIT and Julia Gender Inclusive, and serve as a community council member of the Collective Intelligence Project.

I publish under the name “Tan Zhi-Xuan”. This means an APA citation should look like (Zhi-Xuan, YYYY). “Tan” is my surname (transliterated from Hokkien), “Zhi Xuan” is my given name (in Mandarin / pinyin), and “Xuan” (pronounced ɕɥɛn / sh-yen) is the name I usually go by.