Amii welcomes two new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs

Elina Robeva, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia and Geoffrey Rockwell, Amii Fellow and University of Alberta professor, and named as new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs.

We’re excited to announce two Amii-affiliated researchers have been nominated as new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs.

The appointment of Geoffrey Rockwell, Amii Fellow and University of Alberta professor, and Elina Robeva, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, adds to the world-leading research capacity at Amii.

The announcement also comes with a renewal for Amii Fellow and existing CIFAR AI Chair Martha White.

"The CIFAR AI Chairs program, coupled with the continued investments into the National AI Centres, has cemented Canada's leadership in fundamental AI research,” said Cam Linke, CEO of Amii. “ Through their support, Amii can continue to drive the field further steering towards a positive AI future of innovation and commercialization. We are glad to see the renewal of Martha's appointment and look forward to the contributions and demonstrations of scientific excellence from Geoffrey and Elina. Congratulations, to all the incoming Canada CIFAR AI Chairs."

The AI Chair program is a foundational part of CIFAR’s Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Through the program and other investments into Canada’s three national centres for AI research — Amii in Alberta, Mila in Montreal and Toronto’s Vector Institute — CIFAR continues to build a strong AI ecosystem in Canada, attract world-class talent, and expand commercialization opportunities.

“These new and renewed Canada CIFAR AI Chairs bring extraordinary expertise across a range of strategic domains and applications within the rapidly moving field of AI,” commented Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy at CIFAR. “As the science and application of AI continue to advance rapidly, the ability to attract and retain great researchers advancing diverse aspects of the field will be critical to Canada’s leadership in developing and deploying responsible AI. It’s a testament to Canada’s international reputation that these outstanding academics have chosen Canada to advance their careers and research while training the next generation.”

Geoffrey Rockwell - AI Ethics and Culture

Geoffrey Rockwell is a professor of Philosophy and Digital Humanities. He received an MA and PhD in Philosophy, both from the University of Toronto and served as the Director of the Humanities Media and Computing Centre at McMaster University for a decade.

Rockwell's research includes work on textual visualization, text analysis, computing in the humanities and the ethics of technology. His work also explores the ethical use of artificial intelligence and the effects that machine learning might have on culture and the humanities.

Some of his recent work has focused on human-AI dialogues using Large Language Models and the impact it could have on both research in the humanities and philosophy. He says the support from CIFAR can help him continue that exploration.

“I heard about the decision just before Christmas and it was like a Christmas present.”

Rockwell added that one of the biggest benefits of being named a CIFAR Canada AI Chair is that it makes it easier to connect and collaborate with other researchers, opening up new avenues of research into artificial intelligence.
“One thing that has sunk in is how I can use the support and the networking to maybe rethink the research I do over the next five years.”

Elina Robeva - The Intersection of Math and Machine Learning

Elina Robeva is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Mathematics at UBC and is a member of the Institute of Applied Mathematics and CAIDA. She received her Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Berkley and previously worked as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at MIT.

In 2023, Robeva was one of the recipients of the Andre Aisenstadt Prize, which recognizes outstanding research results in pure or applied mathematics by a young Canadian mathematician.

Her work involves developing machine learning and optimization methods for causal inference in areas with complex dependencies in data — helping to determine cause-and-effect relationships in datasets with many interacting variables.

Some of Robeva’s recent collaborations include finding casual links among variables in climate data and exploring the environmental impact that might come from agricultural development and other projects. The support and funding from the Canada CIFAR AI Chair program will allow her to expand upon this type of work.

“I really love math and computing. I love algorithms and I love combinatorics … these are things I’ve always loved since high school. And application-wise, I’ve always been passionate about helping the world in some way,” she says.

“It's a great honour and also a great opportunity to be part of this amazing community. It also allows me to expand my group, which is great for me because I love training students and postdocs and working together with them.”

Five new chairs announced

In addition to Robeva and Rockwell, three new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs have been awarded: David Ifeoluwa Adelani at Mila, and Geoff Pleiss & Xiaoxiao Li at Vector Institute. Two existing positions were also renewed at Mila: Joelle Pineau and Reihaneh Rabbany.

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