CIFAR and Mila name five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs

Five talented individuals will receive long-term, dedicated research funding to support their research and help them train the next generation of AI leaders.

December 6, 2021 

Five Mila researchers have been recognized for their leadership by being named Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. The new Chairs contribute diverse expertise to the Canadian ecosystem, from causality to natural language processing, and software engineering to AI-generated music.

They join a thriving Quebec AI ecosystem, centred around Mila, one of three national AI Institutes established through the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy in 2017. 

The ecosystem has grown substantially. In just a few short years, more than 30 international technology companies have set up an AI research lab in Montréal, including DeepMind, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Thales.  

The CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy advances AI research, training, and innovation to deliver economic impact and improve the lives of Canadians. By 2030, Canada will have one of the most robust national AI ecosystems in the world, founded on scientific excellence, high-quality training, world-class AI talent, and interdisciplinary public-private collaboration.

The five new chairs are:

  • Glen Berseth (Mila, Université de Montréal) - With a research focus on robotics and machine learning, Prof. Berseth was part of a Berkeley robotics team that used reinforcement learning to teach robots how to walk, assemble furniture, and clean rooms.
  • Cheng-Zhi Anna Huang (Mila, Google, Université de Montréal) - a composer turned ML researcher, taking a human-centered approach to ML and creativity, with the goal of expanding the creative reach of both novices and experienced artists. Huang was an organizer and judge for the AI Song Contest, creator of Music Transformer and the ML model Coconet that powered Google’s first AI Doodle (the “Bach Doodle”).
  • Foutse Khomh (Mila, Polytechnique Montréal) - As the leader of the SWAT Lab at Polytechnique Montréal, Khomh’s research spans software maintenance and evolution, machine learning systems engineering, cloud engineering, and dependable and trustworthy ML/AI.
  • Bang Liu (Mila, Université de Montréal) - With research interests including natural language processing, data mining, multimodal and multitask learning, Liu’s work also explores the intersection of AI with applications including social media, health, and animation.
  • Dhanya Sridhar (Mila, Université de Montréal) - Moving from Columbia University, Sridhar will pursue work in the areas of machine learning, causality and computational social science. Recent work included developing new methods and results for understanding the effects of language.

Mila is proud to welcome the new chairs to its growing community, bringing the number of active Canada CIFAR AI chairs at Mila to 53.


“The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs are some of the most recognized machine learning researchers in the world. The Chairs program provides a collaborative network for talented researchers to not only push the technical boundaries of their fields but also to examine the role of AI in addressing global societal issues such as climate change; health; and equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy.

"Mila's growth since the launch of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy in 2017 has been exponential. From a handful of professors and students, Mila's community now welcomes more than 800 of the most brilliant AI professors and researchers in the world. Montreal and the Province of Québec have become essential and globally recognized places in the research and development of artificial intelligence. We are thrilled to welcome these five exceptional professors and researchers as new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs at Mila to continue their research and help train the next generation of AI experts in the world," says Yoshua Bengio, Founder and Scientific Director of Mila. 

Facts About the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs Program:

  • 114 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs have been named since the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy was announced in 2017.
  • Canada has recruited 62 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs who are taking up their first faculty position in Canada.
  • Since 2017, a total of $86.5 million has been earmarked to provide dedicated funding to the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs Program and to support the research and training of the next generation of researchers.

Learn more about the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy