Prof. Graham Taylor

University of Guelph engineering professor Graham Taylor has been named among 17 Canada CIFAR Artificial Intelligence (AI) Chairs.

An expert in machine learning in U of G’s School of Engineering and head of a new multidisciplinary AI graduate program on campus, Taylor was named along with other experts today from across Canada under an expansion of CIFAR’s prestigious national AI chair program.

“I’m honoured and excited by this news,” said Taylor, who will return to Guelph this spring following a research leave in Montreal.

He said the new chair will allow him to continue building global connections and elevating U of G’s international profile in AI technology and implications.

Since being selected in 2016 as an Azrieli Global Scholar under CIFAR’s Learning in Machines and Brains program, Taylor has attended numerous international gatherings and developed relationships with leaders in the field worldwide.

“This richly deserved recognition speaks to Dr. Taylor’s leadership in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning generally, and specifically to the role he has played in developing the underlying technological innovations to support applications of AI that have positive impact in day-to-day life,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

Taylor said his new chair will also help to highlight two new AI initiatives at U of G.

Last December, he became academic director of U of G’s newly announced Centre for Advancing Responsible and Ethical Artificial Intelligence (CARE-AI).

Involving almost 90 researchers and scholars from across campus, CARE-AI aims to ensure benefits and minimal harm from artificial intelligence and to inform public policy and regulations.

This fall will see the launch of U of G’s new collaborative specialization in artificial intelligence. Under this interdisciplinary graduate program, master’s students in bioinformatics, computer science, mathematics and statistics, and engineering will take AI -related courses intended to help prepare them for careers in growing fields such as machine learning, computer vision and data science.

The specialization will involve several dozen faculty members – mostly from the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences – who study everything from robotics and precision agriculture to human-computer interaction and cybersecurity.

Taylor, who is graduate program coordinator of the specialization, expects his CIFAR chair will help draw attention to this new U of G program. “It adds weight to the program when students see U of G affiliated with the announcement of these new chairs. They can see that good things are happening here at Guelph and it’s being recognized by authorities like CIFAR.”

He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and belongs to NextAI and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, both in Toronto.

He’s one of nine new CIFAR chairholders affiliated with the Vector Institute, according to today’s announcement. (Master’s students in U of G’s new collaborative specialization can apply for Vector Scholarships in AI.)

Today’s announcement brings the number of Canada CIFAR AI Chairs to 46 researchers. The inaugural cohort of 29 researchers was announced last December. The program is expected to include more than 60 chairs by 2020.

Funded by $86.5 million over five years from the federal government, the CIFAR AI chairs program provides investigators with long-term, dedicated funding to support their research and help them train future AI leaders.

Researchers are affiliated with one of three national AI institutes located in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton that are supported by the Pan-Canadian AI strategy announced in the 2017 federal budget. That strategy is intended to nurture research, connect Canadian researchers in the field and explore implications of artificial intelligence.