Amii News

Amii welcomes two additional Canada CIFAR AI Chairs

Together with the University of British Columbia, Amii is pleased to welcome two additional Canada CIFAR AI Chairs to our family! Congratulations to Mark Schmidt and Kevin Leyton-Brown as they join a rapidly growing community of world-leading researchers in Canada.

The prestigious Canada CIFAR AI Chairs program, funded by the Federal government with $86.5 million over five years, provides researchers with long-term, dedicated research funding to support their research programs and help them to train the next generation of AI leaders.

Learn more about the brilliant researchers who are helping to drive the future of machine intelligence below:


Using big data to make big decisions

Headshot of Mark Schmidt

The data we collect today – both in the physical and digital world – is vast, and growing exponentially. What can we do with such information? Mark Schmidt, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, has dedicated his career to exploring the challenges that come with learning complicated models from large datasets.

“My work is mainly focused on foundational aspects of machine learning,” explains Schmidt. “In order to improve our ability to deal with larger and larger datasets, I focus on mathematical explainability and on accelerating and verifying fundamental machine learning algorithms.”

Schmidt received his PhD at the University of British Columbia, where he is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science. Originally from Edmonton, Schmidt completed his MSc at the University of Alberta and was one of the first students employed at Amii (then AICML). In 2018, Schmidt received the prestigious Lagrange Prize in Continuous Optimization, awarded once every three years by the Mathematical Optimization Society (MOS) and SIAM for an outstanding contribution in the area of continuous optimization. He is currently an Associate Fellow in the CIFAR Learning in Machines & Brains program and Canada Research Chair in Large-Scale Machine Learning.


Drawing together theoretical tools from different disciplines

Headshot of Kevin Leyton-Brown
Photo Credit: Paul Joseph for UBC Brand and Marketing

You can find Kevin Leyton-Brown at the intersection of computer science and microeconomics. Inspired by interdisciplinary collaboration, Leyton-Brown conducts research in two distinct areas: the design and analysis of markets (“algorithmic game theory”) and the automated construction of algorithms.

“My current research focuses on using machine learning to customize algorithms for different practical settings,” says Leyton-Brown. “Recent projects have included helping to design and to conduct a $20 billion reallocation of radio spectrum across the US and Canada from broadcast television to mobile; helping Ugandan farmers to sell surplus crops using basic phones; designing an open-source peer grading system that incentivizes hard work; and building realistic computational models of human behaviour in strategic settings.”

Leyton-Brown is a professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia and an associate member of the Vancouver School of Economics. He holds a PhD and MSc from Stanford University. He has co-written two books and over 100 peer-refereed technical articles. He was elected Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) in 2017 and ACM Distinguished Member in 2018. With a team of 18 others, he was awarded the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences, described as “the leading O.R. and analytics award.” He is currently Chair of ACM SIGecom and has served as associate editor for the Artificial Intelligence Journal (AIJ) and the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR).


In 2017, CIFAR was chosen by the federal government to lead the $125M Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy in collaboration with artificial intelligence research centres in Edmonton (Amii), Montreal (Mila), and Toronto (Vector Institute). The 16 newly named Canada CIFAR AI Chairs come from universities from across Canada, including Université de Montréal, McGill University, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, as well as the University Hospital Network. The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs Program is expected to grow to more than 60 Chairs by 2020.

Edmonton’s history of global AI dominance

The University of Alberta launched Canada’s first computing science department, dating back to 1964. Recent events—including the announcement of DeepMind’s first international research laboratory—have truly cemented Edmonton’s excellence on the global map. According to the acclaimed CS Rankings, UAlberta ranks within the top five in the world for artificial intelligence and machine learning research.

Amii was founded in 2002 as a joint effort between UAlberta and the Government of Alberta with the goal of creating a world-class machine intelligence research centre. The organization has since spun out from UAlberta, while maintaining a strong partnership, with support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of Alberta and CIFAR—in order to drive new levels of discovery and innovation in AI and machine learning.