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  • BOG 2018: Leading an AI Revolution

    The Yandex Machine Learning Initiative will boost Tel Aviv University’s capacity to train new generations of leaders for the high-tech industry
    27 June 2018
    From left: Prof. Amir Globerson, Head of the Yandex Initiative and Arkady Volozh Credit: Israel Sun

    Humans are unique in our ability to learn highly complex behaviors and rules, which gives us our language, our understanding of visual input and our decision-making processes. The question is: Can we build machines that behave as we do?

     

    This is the goal of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) worldwide; and it is at the very core of computer science research today. AI is set to revolutionize medicine, education, environment, manufacturing, transportation and cybersecurity.

     

    Over the past few years, TAU has made it a priority to recruit faculty members whose research backgrounds and interests include machine learning. Now, with the inauguration of the Yandex Machine Learning Initiative at TAU’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science, the field of AI, specifically machine learning, has been augmented both in terms of teaching and research.

     

    The Yandex Initiative comprises a dedicated machine learning track to be run in the framework of the BSc Program in Computer Science at the Blavatnik School. Dozens of students will pursue the track annually, with a rise in enrollment numbers annually. Graduates are anticipated to be snapped up by industry upon graduation. As such, the track is expected to have a strong impact on Israel’s high-tech sphere and national economy.

     

    The track will consist of a cluster of courses on machine learning, deep learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), vision and robotics. It will also include a Yandex Visiting Scholars Fund and Distinguished Lecture Series which will bring scientists and scholars from overseas institutions to the TAU campus for short-term visits to give lectures 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.

     

    The Initiative was established by TAU benefactor Dr. Arkady Volozh, founder and World CEO of the Russian Internet giant, Yandex. Volozh is a Russian technology entrepreneur, investor, computer scientist and philanthropist. Before founding Yandex, he co-founded several IT enterprises and pioneered technological advancements in search methodologies. 

     

    Speaking at the ceremony, TAU President Joseph Klafter said, “This is a foundational gift that will go far in boosting the field of machine learning at Tel Aviv University and ensure a sufficient supply of high-caliber AI experts to lead the anticipated machine learning revolution. And it will ensure that Tel Aviv University and Israel are at the forefront of that revolution.”

     

    Dr. Volozh said, “For 25 years I have been coming to Israel and I’m always sure that this is the land of talent. Three years ago, I came as a new Oleh and realized to my great surprise that although there are a lot of scientists in Israel there was no dedicated teaching program in the field of machine learning. Now, industry is realizing that machine learning is the key to many technological advances. I am therefore delighted to create this hub for machine learning at Tel Aviv University.”

     

    He spoke about Yandex, noting that it employs 7700 people and is aimed at Russian speaking populations with 45 Russian services based on machine learning. He also spoke about the Yandex School of Data Analysis which he founded 10 years ago, to offer free master’s-level programs in engineering, mathematics, computer science or related fields in the Russian language.

     

    Dr. Volozh was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Tosha Volozh. Also participating in the ceremony were Prof. Hanoch Levy, Head of the Blavatnik School of Computer Science; Prof. Amir Globerson, Head of the Yandex Machine Learning Initiative; and Dr. Jonathan Berant of the Blavatnik School. 

     

     

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