New Program for Building Up AI Expertise

The Yandex Initiative for Machine Learning will immerse students in computer science’s most cutting-edge field
22 January 2018
Mr. Arkady Volozh (right) with TAU President Joseph Klafter at the signing

Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), has become one of the hottest fields in global technology today. It aims to make computers smarter with the capabilities to learn, predict outcomes, and make critical decisions. From self-driving cars trained to incrementally learn about obstacles on the road to online recommendation engines – such as friend suggestions on Facebook and product offers on Amazon, machine learning is powering current products and future innovations. The foundations of machine learning and artificial intelligence rely on strong academic research that fosters new methodologies and applications, which can later be implemented across multiple industries.


Recognizing the importance of developing this field for the future of high-tech, TAU has launched the Yandex Initiative for Machine Learning at the Blavatnik School of Computer Science. The Initiative was spearheaded by Mr. Arkady Volozh, co-founder and CEO of Yandex, which is one of Europe’s largest internet companies and operates Russia’s most popular search engine. Mr. Volozh signed the agreement for the Initiative together with TAU President Joseph Klafter at a ceremony that took place at TAU.


The Yandex Initiative for Machine Learning will introduce a cluster of courses within the framework of the BSc Program in Computer Science. Courses will focus on machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision and robotics. Program graduates will be equipped with the expertise to immediately impact the IT sector.  


“We’re deeply grateful to Mr. Volozh for partnering with the University in promoting the field of machine learning,” said President Klafter. “The new teaching program will significantly increase TAU’s contribution to Israel’s high-tech sphere and national economy.” 


Both current faculty members and new faculty members will teach the course cluster. As part of the collaboration, Yandex will provide partial support for new faculty recruitment to TAU. Talented doctoral students will serve as teaching assistants in the courses and receive support from the Yandex Initiative. TAU will also now offer the Yandex Visiting Scholars Fund and Distinguished Lecture Series, which will bring leading data scientists from international institutions to the TAU campus for short-term visits to give talks and collaborate with TAU professors. This will enable TAU students and faculty to benefit from exposure to the latest technologies and methodologies from around the world.


Over the years Yandex has launched several educational initiatives ranging from learning platforms to the Yandex School of Data Analysis (YSDA), a master's-level program in Computer Science and Data Analysis established in 2007.  YSDA, which offers students two vigorous years of training from top experts in the most advanced data science topics, plans to open a branch at TAU in October 2018 to offer a one-year career advancement program. To date, over 600 YSDA graduates have brought their profound understanding of theoretical foundations and hands-on experience at YSDA to academia and leading technology companies across the world.  YSDA welcomes students of diverse educational and professional backgrounds to the upcoming program at TAU.


Established as a standalone company in 2000, Yandex was one of the earliest search engines pioneering the future of search.  Having started as a project on electronic search in patents, Russian classical literature and the Bible in the early 1990s, Yandex has since grown to a global search and a technology company that builds a range of intelligent products and services powered by machine learning.  Today the company is shaping the future of AI through education initiatives, research and innovative products and services such as its intelligent assistant and autonomous vehicles.


Also attending the signing ceremony were TAU Vice President for Resource Development Amos Elad, Senior Executive for Regional Development and Public Affairs Dr. Haim Ben-Yakov, members of Mr. Volozh’s delegation, Head of the Blavatnik School of Computer Science Prof. Hanoch Levy and Blavatnik School computer scientist Prof. Yishay Mansour. 



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