U of A scientist named one of the world’s top AI researchers to watch

Computing scientist Martha White is recognized as an outstanding early career researcher by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Katie Willis - 26 February 2021

For those keeping an eye on the future of artificial intelligence, University of Alberta computing scientist Martha White is one to watch. 

White was recently named one of the world’s top 10 artificial intelligence researchers to watch by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This select group of 10 early career researchers with remarkable achievements in artificial intelligence (AI).

An expert in machine learning, White’s research is focused on creating intelligent systems that can function autonomously, adapting and responding to the world around them in real time. “We have an opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our systems,” explained White, associate professor in the Department of Computing Science. “This has many potential positives, including producing systems that are more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective.”

Wondering what that could look like in action? Imagine an office building with a smart heating system. Sensors throughout the building provide feedback in real time on how efficiently the system is operating, allowing it to make adjustments in real-time, explained White. “A learning system could adapt to different buildings and to different outdoor temperatures. If we could improve the efficiency by even 10 per cent across many buildings, the environmental and cost savings would be significant.” 

The human element

It is seeing the potential in both intelligent systems and the people who operate them that makes White a brilliant AI researcher. 

“We have the opportunity to make our systems better, but only if we develop algorithms that can make use of that sensory information and only if we develop the expertise—people who know how to use those algorithms—to translate that knowledge to real world systems,” she said.

“Martha has simply set new (and high) quality standards for research output, teaching, and service in our department—and she did that before getting tenured,” addedMario Nascimento, professor and chair in the Department of Computing Science. “We are all very pleased to see her career being recognized beyond our walls.” 

White is also a CIFAR AI chair and a fellow at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), an Edmonton-based organization designed to accelerate the adoption of AI in industry. In 2020, she received the Killam Accelerator Research Award, supporting her cutting-edge research on machine learning. This field of data analysis and decision-making is closely linked with artificial intelligence, one of the U of A’s five signature research areas.

The Faculty of Science is home to some of the top AI and machine learning (ML) research in the world. In fact, Since 2000, metrics-based CSRankings.org has placed our expertise in AI in the top four in the world—and second in North America. Learn more about AI at the U of A.