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McGill welcomes DeepMind Fellows

DeepMind Technologies is providing support for graduate student fellowships intended to bring diversity to the field of AI and machine learning

Computer circuit board

McGill University graduate students studying and conducting research in the field of artificial intelligence, including machine learning and related subjects, will benefit from a generous gift from UK-based DeepMind, a world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application to the real world.

The gift will fund three two-year Master’s fellowships and two five-year PhD fellowships, with a strong preference given to students from groups normally underrepresented in the field of artificial intelligence, including students who identify as female and/or of minority ethnic or Indigenous background.

In addition to a stipend support, Fellowship recipients will receive an equipment budget to launch their studies and an annual travel grant covering attendance at an academic conference. Recipients will also be matched with a DeepMind mentor and will have opportunities to participate in DeepMind programs and other industry events.

“This visionary graduate fellowship program sponsored by DeepMind signals to all that AI has to be for all,” says Bruce Lennox, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Tomlinson Professor of Chemistry. “There is no doubt that inclusive participation at the research and development stages of AI is key to ensuring that AI is indeed for all. McGill is very excited to partner with DeepMind in this regard.”

“The Fellowship’s goal of fostering diversity in this field is very much in line with McGill’s broader commitment to challenge systemic barriers to participation in university life,” adds Professor Laura Nilson, Associate Dean (Graduate Education) in McGill’s Faculty of Science and Chair of the Faculty of Science Committee on Equity and Climate for Working and Learning.

“It is a great honor to be a recipient of the DeepMind scholarship,” says Oumar Kaba, who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree under the supervision of Professor Siamak Ravanbakhsh in the School of Computer Science at McGill. “This invaluable support will be used to perform research at the crossroads of machine learning and physics. The goal will be to design algorithms that can efficiently learn and predict material properties, thus helping to discover new ones. Conference travel funds and mentorship offered by DeepMind will also allow me to acquire greater research expertise in the field.”

Obum Ekeke, DeepMind’s educational and university partnerships lead, says, “We’re incredibly excited to welcome McGill’s DeepMind fellows into our graduate fellowship program. Bringing new voices and different perspectives into the field of AI is vital – and our program is designed not only to remove some of the financial barriers that prevent access, but to provide a support network and mentorship to help students thrive. Montreal has a dynamic AI research ecosystem, and we can’t wait to see how the DeepMind fellows contribute towards it.”

The DeepMind Fellowships reflect McGill’s and Montreal’s reputation as a global centre of excellence in the field of artificial intelligence research and development. McGill’s School of Computer Science counts world-leading researchers in machine learning among its faculty members, including Joelle Pineau, Doina Precup, and Gregory Dudek. McGill is also a partner in Mila (the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms), a globally recognized research centre in artificial intelligence that brings together around 500 researchers specializing in the field of deep learning.

Professors Precup and Pineau, together with colleagues Prakash Panangaden and Jackie Cheung, co-direct McGill’s Reasoning and Learning Laboratory, based at Mila and home to 80-plus graduate students with research interests spanning reinforcement learning and computational linguistics. As Director of DeepMind’s Montreal lab, Precup is just one of many examples of McGill computer scientists leading the way in connecting research to companies that are advancing the social and commercial applications of artificial intelligence. Precup is also notable for her commitment to fostering inclusion and diversity through her involvement in AI4Good, a program expressly aimed at getting more women working with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

McGill is delighted to welcome the DeepMind Fellows, one each at the MSc and PhD level, who commenced their studies in the School of Computer Science in the Fall 2020 term. Applicants to graduate programs in the School of Computer Science will automatically be considered for the remaining two MSc Fellowships and one PhD Fellowship, for studies that will begin in Fall 2021.

Philanthropic gifts, like this gift from DeepMind Technologies, contribute to Made by McGill: the Campaign for Our Third Century, the University’s ambitious $2-billion fundraising campaign to support its bold aspirations for research, discovery and learning.