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February 27, 2020

HPI at UCI: New ICS Partnership Supports Research into Real-World AI

The Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI), dedicated to pioneering research into information technology, announced on Feb. 26, 2020 the opening of its newest research school, the HPI Research Center in Machine Learning and Data Science at UCI. The goal is to “promote research and educational activities in these two fields between the two leading universities.”

“HPI at UCI” will fund three-year fellowships for 15 Ph.D. students in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), starting with five students this spring and adding five students each winter over the next two years. In particular, the fellowships will fund research into

  • online and adaptive AI systems that are less data-intensive and thus more accessible for a wide range of applications;
  • robust and safe AI that can identify decisions made with low confidence and accurately assess its own limitations; and
  • human-centered AI that offers transparency in predictions and decisions, reducing bias.

“These very broad areas provide flexibility, giving researchers the freedom to be innovative in exploring new directions,” says Erik Sudderth, associate professor of computer science and statistics in the School of ICS and the director of HPI at UCI. “We will work with our colleagues at HPI to make artificial intelligence more adaptive, safe and human-centered.”

Joining Sudderth in this HPI at UCI research are seven additional ICS faculty members, including senior researchers Michael Carey and Padhraic Smyth, as well as recently hired researchers Sameer Singh, Stephan Mandt and Roy Fox, all of whom are conducting cutting-edge work in AI and machine learning. Sharad Mehrotra and Alex Ihler, faculty with established and award-winning research groups in these areas, will also be participating.

Erik Sudderth

“We are thrilled by this opportunity to further study the issues that arise when machine learning is applied to important scientific, commercial and societal problems,” says Sudderth. The team will also have opportunities to collaborate with others by attending two related workshops each year, one held at UCI and the other at HPI in Germany. As HPI Professor Felix Naumann has noted, “UCI is among the top universities in this field and we all look very much forward to future collaboration opportunities.”

Sudderth explains the pressing need for such collaborations as AI grows more mainstream. “At a high level, we’re working on research problems and developing new theory, but they’re problems that are motivated by what happens when you take machine learning and put it in real applications in companies and society and science,” he says. Pointing to the steady stream of AI news coverage related to bias, he says that issues of accessibility, safety and fairness can no longer be treated as afterthoughts. “You have to think of these as first principles,” says Sudderth.

With projects focused on real-world deployment, HPI at UCI aims to build these principles into AI systems.

“This international collaboration will create an unparalleled research environment for exploring artificial intelligence technologies that have a positive impact on our world,” says Professor Marios Papaefthymiou, dean of the School of ICS. “I look forward to the outcomes of this tremendous partnership between two of the world’s leaders in computing and information technology research and education.”

Shani Murray

HPI at UCI: New ICS Partnership Supports Research into Real-World AI

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