American University of Beirut

Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, and Computing Hub launched at AUB

​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​​

AUB launched a portal that will serve as a hub for all education, research, and other activities and efforts in artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and computing. The portal brings together related educational programs and research activities and serves as a source of information for interested researchers and a platform for potential collaboration or support.

The hub consists of a portal website, an infrastructure that unifies AUB research efforts and education programs towards advancing the fields of AI, data science, and computing and with them serve humanity regionally and globally. It offers information to students about ongoing courses in the field and offers a unique platform for individuals within or outside the AUB community to learn about computing resources on campus and allows for interdisciplinary research that brings together accessible experts in these technologies and their applications. The portal also features news on related areas and offers a space where researchers can interact, collaborate, and support each other.

The hub was introduced by the Office of the Provost and implemented by a team of faculty members from across campus, in collaboration with the Office of Communication and the Office of Information Technology at AUB. Its task force has been co-chaired by Dr. Zaher Dawy, associate provost, and Dr. Jihad Touma, chair of the AUB graduate program in computational science. The wellbeing of humanity is at the core of this initiative, which promotes high standards of ethics and civic responsibility in the use of these technologies for that purpose.

During a virtual launch that brought together experts in the world of data science and computing at AUB and from around the world, Dr. Dawy emphasized the importance of the hub for state of the art research and promising opportunities for collaboration and multidisciplinary studies. Dr. Hazem Hajj, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, then introduced the portal's components and explained the vision behind establishing it.

The launch held on April 28, 2021 hosted three speakers who are experts in the fields of computing and data science: First to speak was Dr. Azer Bestavros, inaugural associate provost for computing and data sciences and the William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of computer science in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University (BU). He spoke about the experience of the Faculty of Computing and Data Science at BU and its vision, mission, and work progress. Dr. Bestavros works on establishing the policies, operating principles, and strategic issues which will guide the Faculty of Computing and Data Sciences.

Next was Dr. Rania Khalaf, director of AI Engineering in IBM Research AI, who works on platforms, program models, and tools to facilitate AI experience for data scientists and developers. Dr. Khalaf spoke about what IBM does in AI and the modalities, possible algorithms, challenges, and issues to consider in making AI easier, faster, and safer.

Dr. Peter Kairouz, research scientist at Google, gave a presentation ​under the title, “Good AI… and AI for Good." He spoke about how AI can be used for the good of humanity, reaching the vulnerable, rather than adding to the wealth of the wealthy. Kairouz raised ethical concerns and considerations such as security, privacy, and sustainability and energy efficiency of AI. Kairouz focuses at Google on federated learning research and privacy-preserving technologies.

The event concluded with a Q&A session engaging experts among the participants and a general agreement on the various considerations, challenges, and opportunities in the way ahead in research and life applications of AI and data science. The launch acted as a launching pad for collaboration and further research moving forward. 

“The hub brings together, in a practical and dynamic form, extensive and complementary work across disciplines; it reflects depth and diversity, as it aims to propel forward the university's educational offerings, research discoveries, and impact in AI, computing and data science," said Dr. Jihad Touma and Dr. Zaher Dawy in a joint statement. 

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