By: Krista Davidson
9 Jun, 2021
Five new exceptional AI researchers are joining Canada’s thriving AI ecosystem. Appointed through the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs are all affiliated with Amii, based in Edmonton, one of the world’s preeminent centres of AI, and will take up faculty positions at the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia (UBC). The Chairs are leading research in reinforcement learning, privacy-preserving machine learning, and AI for health.
“The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs program attracts and retains in Canada the highest caliber of machine learning researchers. Our newest cohort will strengthen Canada’s position as a world-class destination for AI research talent, training, and industry innovation,” says Dr. Elissa Strome, Executive Director, Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, CIFAR.
To date, the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy has established more than 100 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs since March 2017, bringing the total number of Canada CIFAR AI Chairs at Amii to 31, and the total number of Amii-associated faculty at Canadian universities to 35.
“Alberta and B.C. have experienced rapid growth in the development and deployment of AI since the launch of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy. These exceptional researchers will enable us to continue on this upward trajectory and reaffirm Alberta as a global AI hub,” says Amii CEO Cam Linke.
Three of the newly appointed Canada CIFAR AI Chairs have ties to industry. Neil Burch and Marlos Machado are cross-appointed to both DeepMind and the University of Alberta.
DeepMind, a U.K.-based AI research lab, opened its first international research lab in 2017 in Edmonton, Alta., and appointed reinforcement learning pioneer, Richard S. Sutton, to lead it. Sutton is a CIFAR Distinguished Fellow, Canada CIFAR AI Chair, Chief Scientific Advisor at Amii, and professor at the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta. The DeepMind Alberta lab boasts a number of other Canada CIFAR AI Chairs and Amii researchers, including Michael Bowling, Patrick M. Pilarski, Adam White and Csaba Szepesvári.
Burch and Machado both graduated from the University of Alberta under the supervision of Michael Bowling. Bowling and his team made headlines around the world for developing the first AI system capable of beating human professionals at heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em poker. Burch was a contributor to that work while Machado’s research focused on developing generalizable techniques for Atari learning.
In addition to its contributions to reinforcement learning, Alberta is accelerating AI for health. New Canada CIFAR AI Chair Jacob Jaremko (Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta) is a pediatric musculoskeletal radiologist and an associate professor and AHS Endowed Chair at the University of Alberta. A co-founder of Medo.ai, Jaremko is known widely for using AI to automate real-time diagnosis for image analysis for developmental hip dysplasia and thyroid conditions, among other conditions.
“Canada is a wellspring of AI talent, and we have an enormous opportunity for global leadership with our pan-Canadian strategy,” says Bill Flanagan, President and Vice-Chancellor for the University of Alberta. “AI researchers at the U of A are revolutionizing sectors like health, agriculture and transportation, and working together with industry to drive growth in Alberta and around the world.”
Both Danica Sutherland and Mijung Park have been recruited to Canada as faculty members at UBC.
“On behalf of our faculty and students, I congratulate Danica Sutherland and Mijung Park on their appointment as Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. Their expertise and training will complement UBC’s vibrant community of faculty and students, and contribute to B.C.’s growing AI ecosystem,” says Dr. Santa J. Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor, UBC.
Sutherland (Department of Computer Science, UBC) was recruited to Canada from the U.S. where she worked as research assistant professor at Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago. Sutherland specializes in representation learning, a machine learning technique that enables AI systems to extract from unlabelled datasets.
Mijung Park (Department of Computer Science, UBC) was also recruited to Canada. She previously worked as a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. Park’s area of expertise is in developing machine learning algorithms that are capable of preserving the privacy of public data.
About the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy
The CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, the world’s first national AI strategy, advances AI research, training, and innovation to stimulate the economy and improve the lives of all Canadians.
The goal of the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs Program is to recruit the world’s leading AI researchers to Canada, while retaining our existing top talent. The program provides long-term, dedicated research funding to support their research programs and help them train the next generation of AI leaders.
To date, more than 100 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs have been announced across three national AI institutes — Amii in Edmonton, Mila in Montreal, and the Vector Institute in Toronto.
One of Canada’s three centres of AI excellence in the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Amii (the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) is an Alberta-based non-profit institute that supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning and translates scientific advancement into industry adoption. Amii grows AI capabilities through advancing leading-edge research, delivering exceptional educational offerings and providing business advice — all with the goal of building in-house AI capabilities. Learn more at www.amii.ca
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.