Cătălina Cangea

PhD in Machine Learning

University of Cambridge


On May 25th 2021, I passed my PhD viva with no corrections! During my PhD at the Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge, I have been supervised by Pietro Liò and a member of King’s College. My research focuses on learning multimodal and graph-structured representations of the world.

Until November 2020, I was a Research Scientist intern at DeepMind, hosted by Piotr Mirowski in the Robotics, Embodied Agents and Lifelong learning (REAL) team led by Raia Hadsell. I am co-organising the Visually Grounded Interaction and Language Workshop taking place at NAACL 2021.

My professional experience includes undergraduate Software Engineering internships at Google and Facebook. During the PhD, I was a Research Intern at Mila and an AI Resident at X. In 2020, I briefly worked for Relation Therapeutics as a (graph) ML consultant.

I have a great passion for teaching and am constantly involved in academic and departmental life - supervising undergraduate courses, final year projects and Master’s research projects (+200h and ~60 students), interviewing CS applicants, chairing women@CL and introducing professionals to Machine Learning concepts as a Cambridge Spark Teaching Fellow. I also helped prepare and deliver Master’s courses, both on the practical (L42 Neural Networks in 2018 and 2019) and theoretical side (R250 Graph Neural Network seminars in 2020 and 2021).

Outside work, I love rowing with the Women’s First Boat in King’s College, travelling, playing the piano/guitar/singing in a rock band and chasing my favourite bands on tour. 🎼 I’ve also revived an old habit of writing poetry and taken up cycling!


  • Graph Representation Learning
  • Embodied Learning
  • Multimodal Learning
  • Visual Reasoning


  • PhD in Machine Learning, 2021

    University of Cambridge

  • MPhil in Advanced Computer Science, 2017

    University of Cambridge

  • BA in Computer Science, 2016

    University of Cambridge


On May 25th, after a fruitful discussion with my examiners Nic Lane and Xavier Bresson, I passed my PhD viva without corrections! My thesis is titled ‘Exploiting multimodality and structure in world representations’ and will soon be publicly available. I am endlessly grateful to my supervisor Pietro Liò for all the unconditional, mindful and thoughtful support he has given me throughout the degree.

An updated and extended version of our study Deep Graph Mapper has been accepted to Frontiers in Big Data, under the topic Topology in Real-World Machine Learning and Data Analysis! Full version soon available.

It’s Feb 23rd and I finished writing my thesis! :)

Two (Deep Graph Mapper, Goal-Conditioned RL in the Presence of an Adversary) papers accepted at TDA and DeepRL NeurIPS workshops.

I am co-organising the Visually Grounded Interaction and Language (ViGIL) workshop - just confirmed to take place at NAACL 2021!

Was awarded a Top Reviewer Certificate of Appreciation for the ‘excellent service as a reviewer for ICML 2020’ by the Program and General chairs!

One paper accepted at BMVC.

Two (1, 2) papers accepted at ICML workshops.

Started the Research Scientist internship at DeepMind, working with Piotr Mirowski!

Péter Mernyei, whom I supervised this year, got one of the three contributed talks on Novel Applications at the ICML GRL+ workshop! He will be presenting his undergraduate project, Wiki-CS.

Cris and I (virtually) presented our work Deep Graph Mapper at the ELLIS Workshop on Geometric Deep Learning!

Gave a spotlight talk at the NeurIPS ViGIL workshop on VideoNavQA!

Two (1, 2) papers accepted at NeurIPS workshops.

Received the departmental Wiseman Prize (only six recipients this year!)

Tea Talk at Mila on VideoNavQA, our new study and benchmark.

Supervising two undergraduate projects and one master’s project this year!

One paper published by IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems.

Released the VideoNavQA benchmark!

One paper accepted at BMVC.

Started the AI Residency at X, the moonshot factory.

Two papers (1, 2) accepted at ICLR workshops.

Two papers (1, 2) accepted at NeurIPS workshops.

Co-supervising one undergraduate and two master’s projects this year.

Started the research internship at Mila, working with Aaron Courville.

Recent Publications

Deep Graph Mapper: Seeing Graphs through the Neural Lens

Graph summarisation has received much attention lately, with various works tackling the challenge of defining pooling operators on data …

Wiki-CS: A Wikipedia-Based Benchmark for Graph Neural Networks

We present Wiki-CS, a novel dataset derived from Wikipedia for benchmarking Graph Neural Networks. The dataset consists of nodes …

Graph Density-Aware Losses for Novel Compositions in Scene Graph Generation

Scene graph generation (SGG) aims to predict graph-structured descriptions of input images, in the form of objects and relationships …

The PlayStation Reinforcement Learning Environment (PSXLE)

We propose a new benchmark environment for evaluating Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms: the PlayStation Learning Environment …

XFlow: Cross-modal Deep Neural Networks for Audiovisual Classification

In recent years, there have been numerous developments towards solving multimodal tasks, aiming to learn a stronger representation than …



Research Scientist Intern


Jul 2020 – Nov 2020 Cambridge, UK (remote)
Hosted by Piotr Mirowski, in the Robotics, Embodied Agents and Lifelong learning (REAL) team led by Raia Hadsell.


Relation Therapeutics

Jun 2020 – Jul 2020 Cambridge, UK (remote)
Developing (graph-)ML solutions to aid in drug development and repurposing efforts.

AI Resident

X, the moonshot factory

May 2019 – Aug 2019 Mountain View, California
Worked on a real-world challenging problem, using and adapting state-of-the-art ML techniques.


Conferences and workshops

Nov 2018 – Present
Reviewer for ICML 2020 (was awarded a Top Reviewer Certificate of Appreciation), NeurIPS 2020, BMVC 2020 and WiML 2018, RLGM 2019, LRGR 2019, GRL 2019, ViGIL 2019, GRL+ 2020, ViGIL 2021 (also co-organising).

Research Intern


Jul 2018 – Sep 2018 Montréal, Canada
Collaboration with Aaron Courville on a visual reasoning project involving a novel benchmark and alternative perspective on EQA-style tasks.

Machine Learning Teaching Fellow

Cambridge Spark

May 2018 – May 2021 Cambridge, UK
Teaching the Neural Networks module from the Applied Data Science London Bootcamp to industry professionals.

Admissions Interviewer

University of Cambridge

Dec 2016 – Dec 2017 Cambridge, UK
Undergraduate admissions interviews for the Computer Science Tripos, in Murray Edwards College (Dec 2016) and King’s College (Dec 2017).


University of Cambridge

Oct 2016 – Jun 2021 Cambridge, UK

Master’s research projects: Structure-aware Generation of Molecules in Protein Pockets (Pavol Drotar, 2020-21), Machine Unlearning (Mukul Rathi, 2020-21), Goal-Conditioned Reinforcement Learning in the Presence of an Adversary (Carlos Purves, 2019-20) (87100), Representation Learning for Spatio-Temporal Graphs (Felix Opolka, 2018-19) (85100) (presented at ICLR RLGM), Dynamic Temporal Analysis for Graph Structured Data (Aaron Solomon, 2018-19) (presented at ICLR RLGM)

Computer Science Tripos Part II projects: Benchmarking Graph Neural Networks using Wikipedia (Péter Mernyei, 2019-20, Novel Applications spotlight talk at ICML GRL+), Multimodal Relational Reasoning for Visual Question Answering (Aaron Tjandra, 2019-20), The PlayStation Reinforcement Learning Environment (Carlos Purves, 2018-19) (80100) (presented at NeurIPS Deep RL), Deep Learning for Music Recommendation (Andrew Wells, 2017-18) (76100).

Undergraduate courses for Murray Edwards, King’s, and Queens’ Colleges: AI, Databases, Discrete Mathematics, Foundations of Computer Science, Logic and Proof, Machine Learning and Real-world Data.


Software Engineer Intern


Jun 2016 – Sep 2016 London, UK
LogDevice team. I optimised client operations on a RocksDB database and implemented a new API required by another team in Facebook.

Software Engineer Intern


Jul 2015 – Sep 2015 New York, USA
iOS Product Infrastructure Team. I worked towards delivering a better experience for users of the Facebook iOS app. My project aimed to reduce the time taken to load content close to the area currently being viewed on screen, by improving the prioritization system for network requests.

STEP Intern


Jun 2014 – Sep 2014 Zurich, Switzerland
YouTube Uploads team. I added processing progress for video uploads on several YouTube pages, as the Upload page was the only one displaying this information.

Recent & Upcoming Talks

Graph generation and probabilistic methods

An overview of several graph generation and probabilistic approaches, part of the R250 MPhil course at the Cambridge CS department.

Meta-learning with Neural Processes

A reading group-style session focused around MetaFun (Xu et al. ICML 2020).

Graph Representation Learning under Uncertainty

Introducing a novel framework for learning graph representations while incorporating uncertainty modelling.

Deep Graph Mapper: Seeing Graphs through the Neural Lens (remote talk, with Cristian Bodnar)

A novel method based on topology and GNNs for graph visualisation and pooling.

Graph generation methods

A short intro to graph generation methods in recent ML research.


Top Reviewer Certificate of Appreciation

The Top Reviewer Certificate of Appreciation acknowledges ‘excellent service as a reviewer for ICML 2020’, awarded by the Program and General chairs.

Wiseman Award

The award acknowledges those who make a commendable contribution to the work of the Department, going above and beyond the requirements of their course or project.

Travel Grant

Travel award to attend the Machine Learning for Health (ML4H) Workshop at NeurIPS 2018.

Travel Grant

Partial funding for travelling to NeurIPS 2018 and presenting my poster at the WiML workshop.

MPhil Graduation Prize

Awarded for obtaining a Distinction in the MPhil degree.

Master of Philosophy in Advanced Computer Science

Graduated with Distinction.

Bronze Medal

Won 3rd place at the Hack Cambridge MLH hackathon, as part of team facejack.

Rosemary Murray Scholarship

Awarded for obtaining a First Class result in Part II of the Computer Science Tripos.

Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science

First Class honours in final year.

Paula Browne Scholarship

Received the scholarship every year during my undergraduate degree. The scholarship was given to only one other student in my year.

Silver Medal

Awarded for obtaining 10th place at the National phase of the Olympiad during 10th grade.

Special Prize for Best Writing Style

Awarded for obtaining the highest score on the essay that was part of the written task.