Robert Holte receives CS Can|Info Can Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr Robert Holte, Fellow and one of the founding researchers of Amii, has been given the Award for Lifetime Achievement in Computer Science from CS Can|Info Can for his contributions to machine learning and heuristic search.

"I see it as recognition of the department and Amii," Holte said, cementing his reputation for humility.

"Obviously, it is a personal award, but you have to thank the environment that made it possible."

The CS Can|Info Can award recognizes Canadian computer science faculty members "who have made outstanding and sustained contributions to Canadian computing over the duration of their careers."

Holte received both his B.Sc. and M.Sc from the University of Manitoba before earning his doctorate at Brunel University in the UK. He worked in the computer science department at the University of Ottawa for more than a decade before joining the University of Alberta in 2001. In 2002, he became one of the founding researchers of the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Machine Learning, which would eventually become Amii.

"Like a lot of us, studying artificial intelligence is about curiosity. 'What are you curious about?' I just had a fascination with learning," he says.

While Holte might be humble about his accomplishments, his colleagues are just as eager with their praise. Dr Russ Greiner, Fellow & Canada CIFAR AI Chair, helped recruit him to the U of A. He says he was familiar with Holte's work as the editor of Machine Learning, the field's preeminent journal, where Holte had a reputation for an encyclopedic knowledge of machine learning.

"Like a lot of us, studying artificial intelligence is about curiosity. 'What are you curious about?' I just had a fascination with learning."

Dr. Rob Holte

Holte has made landmark discoveries in both machine learning and heuristic search, which became his focus later in his career. He's authored more than 140 papers that have achieved 11,000 citations. Among his contributions, many point to two highly influential works: his development of 1R, a simple but highly effective classification algorithm; and his work on Cost Curves, which help evaluate the costs of incorrect predictions when the costs for false positives and false negatives are unbalanced. Both have had huge impacts on AI research and continue to inspire others in the field.

"Rob's brilliant. He found a way to solve a problem that people did badly for decades," Greiner says about cost curves.

"I know a lot of people who brag a lot about things they don't need to brag about. But Rob, he has a lot to brag about and he doesn't."

Holte joins previous winners of the lifetime achievement award, including fellow U of A researcher Jonathan Schaeffer, who is also an Amii founding researcher.

Amii's team of researchers are advancing the frontiers of AI and machine learning. Learn more about the work being done by Fellows and Canada CIFAR AI Chairs on our Research page

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