A new scholarship program funded by DeepMind is helping to foster diversity in artificial intelligence research at the University of Alberta.

The program, which will support two master’s students in the U of A’s Department of Computing Science, is targeted toward graduate students including women, Indigenous people and other groups that are under-represented in the field of AI.

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell

“Our education, our teaching, our research and the entire community are enriched by the contributions of scientists from diverse backgrounds who bring unique and important perspectives,” said Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, dean of the Faculty of Science. “The University of Alberta is a world leader in the field of AI, and we are honoured to partner with DeepMind on this important initiative.”

As a company, DeepMind is focused on developing programs that can learn to solve complex problems without being taught how – a signature area of research at the U of A. Given their world renown for cutting-edge work in the dynamic field of AI, it’s no surprise that DeepMind values diverse ideas, new perspectives and different ways of thinking.

Obum Ekeke, global lead of university relations and education partnerships at DeepMind, said, “We’re proud to work with the University of Alberta to give talented under-represented students the chance to get more from their graduate study, and support their journey into the AI community. We hope these scholarships will contribute towards making the world of AI more diverse and more inclusive.”

Scholarship recipients at the U of A will receive funding for equipment and travel expenses for attendance at an academic conference – in person or remotely – in the first year of the award. In addition to financial support, recipients will be matched with a mentor from DeepMind, all with the goal of building relationships and facilitating experiences that prepare students for bright futures.

The gift further strengthens the powerful partnership between DeepMind and the U of A. In 2017, DeepMind opened offices in Edmonton, the company’s first international research base outside the United Kingdom. The lab, known as DeepMind Alberta, has close connections with the university, including leadership by computing science professors Richard Sutton, Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski, who is also a medical researcher. All three are also connected with the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), an Edmonton-based organization designed to accelerate the adoption of AI in industry.

The U of A is the latest institution to join the DeepMind Scholarship Program, alongside Canadian counterparts McGill University and the University of Toronto. Other international partners include Cambridge, Oxford and Queen Mary University of London.

The U of A is home to some of the top AI and machine learning research in the world. Since 2000, the metrics-based CSRankings.org has placed the university’s expertise in AI in the top four in the world and second in North America.

| By Katie Willis for Troy Media

This article first appeared in Folio, published by the University of Alberta. Folio is a Troy Mediaai Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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