The University of Cambridge has appointed Professor Neil Lawrence as its first DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning, a new position supported by Google-owned, UK-based AI research company DeepMind. It was also announced that DeepMind will support four Master’s students from underrepresented groups in the Cambridge machine learning and computer science program.
Prof. Lawrence leaves his position as director of machine learning at Amazon Cambridge, which he held for three years. He completed his PhD at the Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology in 2000. His research interests mainly focus on probabilistic models with applications in computational biology, personalized health and developing economies. He is also a Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Sheffield, where he will retain a visiting position.
“There’s so much expertise at Cambridge, in all aspects of systems and data: that’s why I’m so excited about joining,” said Prof. Lawrence in a statement. “AI and machine learning have the potential to reshape almost every aspect of our lives, but we desperately need more machine learning specialists, or else the promise of AI will not be realised.”
DeepMind Founder and CEO Demis Hassabis also commented: “I’m delighted to see Cambridge announce its first DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning. Professor Lawrence’s work in computational biology and his thoughtful advocacy for advancing technology in the developing world have been commendable. ” Hassabis earned his undergraduate degree in computer science at Queens’s College, Cambridge.
According to a report from NS Tech, DeepMind laid the foundation for the professorship last year when it gave Cambridge nearly £4m (US$4.9m), of which £3.5m (US$4.4m) was allocated for the position, and a further £290,000 (US$360,676) to support PhD positions in the computer science department and students from underrepresented backgrounds. When announcing this position last year, Cambridge said “the chair will be free to pursue their own research.”
DeepMind has also funded a professorship and research positions at University College London and research and studentships at the University of Oxford.
Industry-supported endowed professorships are common in academia. US chip supplier Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) provided a US$2.5m gift to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Illinois in the form of the AMD Jerry Sanders Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Most donate a sum of money, and then the interest/financial income is handed to the professor. The money is usually used to allure new talents or give rewards to professors who do well,” says Yiran Chen, Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University.
DeepMind is not the only industry company supporting academic research. in Synced’s previous report,Are Commercial Labs Stealing Academia’s AI Thunder?, we look at Google, Facebook and Microsoft academic research assistance with funding, data and computer resources. Also, many university professors are now being offered senior researcher positions at industry labs that allow them to continue teaching at universities.
Author: Yuqing Li | Editor: Michael Sarazen; Tony Peng