Virginia Tech and Amazon Establish Machine Learning Research Partnership

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January 21, 2020 – Data Analytics Center students and faculty work together at Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington. (Photo by Erin Williams/Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech and Amazon are partnering to advance research and innovation in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Amazon – Virginia Tech Initiative for Effective and Robust Machine Learning will include research projects focused on machine learning, scholarships for doctoral students, community outreach activities, and the creation of a shared advisory board.

“This partnership affirms the value of our connection to Amazon as we develop project-based learning and research programs in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Virginia Tech President. , Tim Sands. “Building Virginia Tech’s strength and expertise in these areas will support critical technology advancements and our commitment to fueling workforce development in the Commonwealth.

“We are excited to partner with Virginia Tech to launch this new initiative that brings together top talent from both our organizations in a joint mission to achieve breakthrough advancements in robust machine learning,” said Prem Natarajan, Vice President from Alexa AI – Natural Understanding at Amazon. “This initiative’s proximity to Amazon headquarters will catalyze research efforts that will leverage the depth of talent in the Northern Virginia region to address some of the most pressing AI challenges.

Amazon and Virginia Tech share a unique history related to Amazon’s selection of Arlington, Virginia for its headquarters2. The Commonwealth’s billion-dollar investment in higher education, seeding the doubling of existing computer science and computer engineering programs in Blacksburg, Virginia, helped attract Amazon and was the catalyst for the launch of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

Housed in the College of Engineering and led by researchers at the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at the Virginia Tech campuses in Blacksburg, Va., and the Innovation Campus, Alexandria, Va., the partnership will support the Faculty- and student-led development and implementation of innovative approaches to machine learning.

“Virginia Tech develops research and graduate programs in critical disciplines to meet industry needs and fuel the economy of the technology sector in the Commonwealth and beyond,” said Julia M. Ross, Dean of Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Engineering. “This new partnership with Amazon will fuel current and future investments in research and education in AI-centric fields, and provide important support for graduate students in these fields. We are also excited to have faculty and engineering students working alongside industry leaders on these important technological advances and discoveries.

The new partnership will create opportunities for Virginia Tech graduate and doctoral students who are interested in and are currently pursuing teaching and research experiences in areas focused on artificial intelligence. Scholarships will be awarded to Virginia Tech doctoral students that will include an Amazon internship to provide students with a better understanding of industry and goal-oriented research. Appointed Amazon Fellows in recognition of their academic achievements, doctoral students currently enrolled in their second, third, or fourth year at the College of Engineering will be eligible to apply. Each scholarship recipient will be invited to interview for a paid Amazon internship during the summer following the internship year.

As part of this initiative, Virginia Tech faculty members will be invited to submit machine learning-sponsored research projects for Amazon that aim to revolutionize the way the world uses and understands this area of ​​modern technology. Research project proposals may include student and staff support.

“The Sanghani Center brings extensive research expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence that spans the disciplines of computer science, statistics, electrical and computer engineering, and mathematics,” said Naren Ramakrishnan, Sanghani Center Director and Professor. of Engineering Thomas L. Phillips. “This initiative will focus on efficient and robust machine learning, for example by ensuring that algorithms and models are error and adversarial resistant. We are excited to continue our work with Amazon and expand machine learning research capabilities that could solve global industry problems.

The center collaborates with dozens of global companies and federal agencies on machine learning projects that emphasize the algorithmic aspects of converting data into knowledge, coupled with the importance of human analysis in the loop for information, says Ramakrishnan.

Invested in Research Frontiers, which includes the frontier of artificial intelligence, the university is committed to bringing together diverse expertise that transcends disciplinary boundaries to address emerging challenges that seek to improve the human condition and create a better world for all.

“Establishing new and expanding partnerships with industry leaders like Amazon is critical to enabling growth of Virginia Tech’s research portfolio and capabilities,” said Dan Sui, senior vice president and director. research and innovation at Virginia Tech. “With Amazon researchers and Virginia Tech’s deep expertise in research related to artificial intelligence, we aim to accelerate human-centered technological advances that will have implications for future generations.”

In addition to the opportunity to expand machine learning-focused research projects and doctoral scholarships, Virginia Tech will host an annual public research symposium to share knowledge with the machine learning and research communities. In conjunction with Amazon, the university will co-host two annual workshops and training and recruitment events for Virginia Tech students.

Amazon and Virginia Tech will establish a collaborative advisory board to provide input on strategic directions for the partnership, review research project proposals, award scholarships, and engage in community outreach.

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