Amazon gift supports studies in responsible AI at University of California, Santa Barbara
Gift supports UCSB's new Center for Responsible Machine Learning, which is committed to advancing research in AI and machine learning.
The age of artificial intelligence (AI) is upon us, and it is transforming everything from healthcare and transportation, to manufacturing and home automation.
In support of the rapidly expanding field of AI research, Amazon recently made a substantial gift to the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). This gift supports UCSB's new Center for Responsible Machine Learning, which is committed to advancing research in AI and machine learning as well as understanding the societal impacts of these technologies as it relates to fairness, bias, privacy and transparency among other issues.
UCSB officials say they “envision the center becoming an indispensable locus of innovation, where bold leaders produce visionary software and revolutionary techniques that powerfully serve the greater good.”
The funding from Amazon will support one year-long graduate student research fellowship, administered by the university’s computer science department that will focus on natural language processing. Four additional student top-off fellowships will be administered by the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability. The gift also supports a one-year diversity scholarship for a student pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science.
“UCSB is a key collaborator for Amazon Santa Barbara, where we focus on making Alexa more knowledgeable about the world”, said Kevin Davis, director, Alexa AI Knowledge. “Our mutual goals for innovation and responsible AI will accelerate the tech hub that is growing here in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast region with a focus on fairness in AI.”
The gift also includes funding for the Responsible Machine Learning Summit. The event, which was held in October, brings together representatives from academia and industry to discuss challenging research questions and potential solutions on responsible AI. This year’s event was held virtually and touched on a variety of topics, including AI and ethics, wildlife protection, social justice, security and privacy, public policy, and global development.
“We are deeply grateful to Amazon's continued support of our Center for Responsible Machine Learning,” said William Wang, the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Designs within UCSB’s computer science department, and director of the Center for Responsible Machine Learning. “Together with Amazon, we hope to make Santa Barbara an innovation hub for computing, artificial intelligence research, engineering, and technology.”
Wang said he sees the collaboration with Amazon as an opportunity to strengthen the school’s research initiatives, and attract talented students, engineers, and scientists to Santa Barbara.
One student has already benefited from the Amazon gift: Sharon Levy, a fourth-year PhD student studying natural language processing under Wang.
“I’m very grateful for Amazon’s support,” Levy said. “It has given me the freedom to focus on my studies and, in particular, my research. I was given a lot of flexibility with my projects, which has allowed me to pursue my research interests and think creatively. And I have enjoyed meeting with and presenting my work to Amazon research scientists to get feedback and gain from their expertise.”