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St John’s academic wins Royal Society award for outstanding work in computer science

“The Royal Society’s medals and awards celebrate those researchers whose ground-breaking work has helped answer fundamental questions and advance our understanding of the world around us”

A world-leading computer scientist from St John’s has been named the winner of a top award by the prestigious Royal Society.

Professor Zoubin Ghahramani FRS, Professor of Information Engineering and a Fellow of St John’s, was awarded the Royal Society Milner Award and Lecture 2021 for his ‘fundamental contributions to probabilistic machine learning’.

The Royal Society is a Fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and its annual prizes celebrate exceptional researchers and outstanding contributions to science across a wide range of fields. Professor Ghahramani has been named as one of 25 new medal and award winners, including eight other recipients from the University of Cambridge.

Prof Zoubin

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: “The Royal Society’s medals and awards celebrate those researchers whose ground-breaking work has helped answer fundamental questions and advance our understanding of the world around us. They also champion those who have reinforced science’s place in society, whether through inspiring public engagement, improving our education system, or by making STEM careers more inclusive and rewarding.

“This year has highlighted how integral science is in our daily lives, and tackling the challenges we face, and it gives me great pleasure to congratulate all our winners and thank them for their work.”

Professor Ghahramani is University Liaison Director and Executive Board Member of the Alan Turing Institute and a world leader in the field of machine learning, significantly advancing the state-of-the-art in algorithms that can learn from data. He is known in particular for fundamental contributions to probabilistic modelling and Bayesian nonparametric approaches to machine learning systems, and to the development of approximate variational inference algorithms for scalable learning.

He is one of the pioneers of semi-supervised learning methods, active learning algorithms, and sparse Gaussian processes. His development of novel infinite dimensional nonparametric models, such as the infinite latent feature model, has been highly influential.

He said: “I’m delighted and honoured to have received the Milner Award from the Royal Society. This work would not have been possible without my many brilliant mentors, collaborators and students over the years. This award recognises our work on laying the foundations of the field of probabilistic machine learning and artificial intelligence. This work allows more powerful modern AI systems that learn from data and are able to take into account their uncertainty when they make automated predictions and decisions. I look forward to giving the 2021 Milner Lecture at the Royal Society.”

The Milner Award and Lecture, supported by Microsoft Research, is the premier European award for outstanding achievement in computer science. It is awarded to candidates at the peak of their career who have made a substantial contribution to computer science in Europe, with the strategic aim of supporting European researchers and institutes.

The award is named in honour of computer science pioneer Professor Robin Milner FRS (1934-2010) and past winners include Dr Cordelia Schmid (2020), Professor Dr Eugene Wimberly Myers Jr (2019) and Professor Marta Kwiatkowska FRS (2018). Professor Ghahramani will be awarded a medal and gift of £5,000 at the associated prize lecture in 2021.

All Cambridge winners of this year’s Royal Society medals and awards

Published: 05/08/2020

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