Strengthening the AI pipeline, one deep mind at a time

    UAlberta announces new DeepMind chair in artificial intelligence, Martin Mȕller

    By Jennifer Pascoe on September 11, 2019

    Studying one of the hottest topics in science today—artificial intelligence—is arguably akin to creating a golden ticket for a lucrative career. While industry demand is only increasing for graduates, the AI industry leader—DeepMind—is focused on strengthening the research pipeline.

    “At the most basic level, we are a training ground for industry,” said Martin Mȕller, professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Computing Science. “Most students don’t stay in the university system. They go out to work in the ‘real world’ for industry. By strengthening our research pipeline and campus community, we can teach the next generation and build strong minds one student at a time.” 

    One of the most well-known names in heuristic search—a specialization of artificial intelligence designed to solve problems more quickly—Mȕller has just been named the DeepMind Chair in Artificial Intelligence, a position at the University of Alberta which will allow him to strengthen his research portfolio and research group, most immediately with the addition of a new postdoctoral fellow.

    Though the search for talent is competitive, given the aforementioned industry demand, studying with Mȕller may turn that golden ticket to platinum. With a sterling track record for teaching and training some of the best and brightest minds in AI today, Mȕller’s former students line the ranks at some of the world’s top tech companies—including Google, IBM, Amazon, BioWare, and, of course, DeepMind.

    “In terms of research, DeepMind is always setting a very high bar, and they certainly changed the landscape of what we think is possible in artificial intelligence,” said Mȕller.

    In fact, the head of reinforcement learning at DeepMind, David Silver, was one of Mȕller’s PhD students, whom Mȕller co-supervised with fellow UAlberta computing science professor Rich Sutton. Studying with Mȕller and Sutton gave Silver the best of both worlds in computer games—courtesy of Mȕller, who has been studying Computer Go for three decades—and reinforcement learning via Sutton. Silver then went on to lead DeepMind’s landmark discoveries, AlphaGo and AlphaZero, combining reinforcement learning with heuristic search, and in particular, Monte Carlo Tree Search, one of Mȕller’s specialties. 

    Mȕller points to DeepMind’s support for investing in the next generation of AI minds as paramount to student success. “DeepMind’s leadership in AI encourages us and motivates us to be more ambitious. I am grateful for their support, because it allows me to do more and hire talented people, and it means more students can be trained in these areas.”

    “Congratulations to Martin on his appointment as the DeepMind Chair in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Alberta,” said Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind. “Martin is a distinguished researcher with deep expertise in the field of gaming. I have no doubt that as chair he’ll further the University's reputation for excellent research, and support a whole new generation of researchers to pursue work at the leading edge of the field.”