ucla amazon science day photo.jpg
Left to right, Pietro Perona, Amazon Fellow; Prem Natarajan, Alexa AI vice president of Natural Understanding; Leonard Kleinrock, distinguished professor of computer science at UCLA; Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of UCLA Samueli; Andrea Ghez, Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics at UCLA; Jens Palsberg, UCLA computer science professor; and Stefano Soatto, vice president for applied science for Amazon Web Services mark the launch of the Science Hub for Humanity and Artificial Intelligence.
Courtesy of UCLA

Amazon and UCLA establish Science Hub for Humanity and AI

The collaboration, Amazon’s first of this type with a public university, will support academic research, education, and outreach efforts in areas of mutual interest around artificial intelligence and its applications to benefit humanity.

Amazon and UCLA today announced the establishment of the Science Hub for Humanity and Artificial Intelligence. The collaboration, Amazon’s first of this type with a public university, will support academic research, education, and outreach efforts in areas of mutual interest around artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications to benefit humanity. Initially, Amazon will provide gift and sponsored research funding to support a combination of research projects and doctoral fellowships on UCLA’s campus.

The hub’s goals are to ensure that AI research and engineering are aimed at addressing humanity’s most pressing challenges, while creating solutions whose benefits are shared broadly across all sectors of society, with particular attention to issues of bias, fairness, accountability, and responsible AI.

The hub, which will be based at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, will engage Amazon scientists and UCLA faculty to jointly identify and solve research challenges, and will support AI research by UCLA faculty and students through an advisory group headed by Jens Palsberg, a UCLA computer science professor. The group will develop, solicit, and select research proposals, and review nominations for fellowship recipients.

The Science Hub for Humanity and Artificial Intelligence will advance AI-related discoveries and deepen our understanding of a discipline that is revolutionizing the way we use and understand modern technology.
Gene Block, UCLA chancellor

“We are delighted to collaborate with Amazon on this effort to examine the future of artificial intelligence and its implications for our world,” said Gene Block, UCLA chancellor. “The Science Hub for Humanity and Artificial Intelligence will advance AI-related discoveries and deepen our understanding of a discipline that is revolutionizing the way we use and understand modern technology.”

The hub is designed to foster the educational mission of the university, so it can best educate the diverse talent needed to sustain the AI revolution in the years to come, in a way that benefits all sectors of society. It will also create opportunities for university researchers, by exposing them to challenging unsolved problems that arise in the diverse array of Amazon businesses,” said Stefano Soatto, vice president for applied science for Amazon Web Services AI. Soatto, who is on leave from his position as a UCLA professor of computer science, has taught at UCLA for more than 20 years. “These collaborations with Amazon scientists can lead to new avenues of academic investigation that expand their research scope. The hub is also designed to enable faculty who think big to realize their vision, if it is not attainable within the resources of their labs.”

Hub funding will include annual fellowships contributing to living and tuition expenses for students in the second, third, or fourth year of a doctoral program within UCLA Samueli. As Amazon Fellows, they will have an opportunity to pursue paid summer internships at the company.

In an effort to expand access to AI research, the hub also will support community and outreach activities, such as symposiums and workshops designed to facilitate networking and collaboration among UCLA and Amazon researchers, and across the Los Angeles metro area.

The new hub represents an extension of Amazon’s commitment to connecting with universities to advance research in AI and other fields of research. The hub also underscores Amazon’s and UCLA’s shared vision of improving access to AI technologies and diversifying the perspectives and practices involved in AI research and technology development.

“Amazon has long been at the forefront of AI breakthroughs, and we are incredibly excited to be working with them,” Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of UCLA Samueli said. “We will strive to harness the power of AI for the greater good and to provide myriad opportunities for students and faculty alike.”

Amazon Science Day

To mark the launch of the hub, UCLA Samueli held “Amazon Science Day at UCLA,” an event that coincided with the 52nd anniversary of UCLA computer science professor Leonard Kleinrock’s supervision of the first internet transmission from his lab in UCLA’s Boelter Hall to the Stanford Research Institute on Oct. 29, 1969. Kleinrock is now a UCLA distinguished professor of computer science.

The daylong program featured speakers from both institutions including Kleinrock; UCLA astrophysicist Andrea Ghez, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics; Murthy, and Soatto. Soatto was instrumental in helping Amazon and UCLA establish the collaboration.

Amazon participants included Prem Natarajan, Alexa AI vice president of Natural Understanding; Gerard Medioni, vice president and distinguished scientist; and Pietro Perona, Amazon Fellow for Amazon Web Services Deep Learning.

Amazon in Southern California

The UCLA collaboration builds upon existing relationships Amazon has with several UCLA professors, in addition to Soatto. Ying Nian Wu, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Statistics, joined Amazon as a Scholar in November 2020, and Yizhou Sun, an associate professor at the Department of Computer Science, joined as a Scholar in June. Additionally, Cho-Jui Hsieh, Kai-Wei Chang, and Violet Peng, each of whom is an assistant professor of computer science, are Amazon Visiting Academics.

The collaboration is also intended to foster connections among UCLA academics and Amazon researchers in the Southern California area. Several Amazon research teams are located in the region, including scientists working in artificial intelligence, applied mathematics, machine learning, quantum computing, and computer vision. In just the past few years, Amazon’s presence in Southern California has grown significantly and includes Amazon Studios in Culver City, Prime Video in Santa Monica, just minutes from UCLA, Gaming in Irvine, Alexa Search in Marina del Rey, and Quantum Computing in Pasadena.

In addition, Amazon Air launched a new facility at San Bernardino International Airport, marking Amazon’s seventh air site in California and creating hundreds of jobs. Amazon has invested tens of billions across California, creating more than 150,000 jobs.

In the 2021 cycle, the Science Hub will award funding in foundations of AI and machine learning; fairness, explainability, and accountability in AI; AI for robotics, computer vision, speech, and natural language processing; AI in medicine and biology; and AI in business, law, humanities and art.

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