Collaborating Authors


New AI-powered deep learning model to support medical diagnostics


A new deep-learning model can learn to identify diseases from medical scans faster and more accurately, according to new research by a team of University of Alberta computing scientists and the U of A spinoff company MEDO. The breakthrough model is the work of a team of researchers in the Faculty of Science--including the contributions of Pouneh Gorji, a graduate student lost in Flight PS752. Deep learning is a type of machine learning--a subfield of artificial intelligence; deep learning techniques are computer algorithms that find patterns in large sets of data, producing models that can then be used to make predictions.These models work best when they learn from hundreds of thousands or even millions of examples. But the field of medical diagnostics presents a unique challenge, where researchers typically only have access to a few hundred medical scan images for reasons of privacy. "When a deep-learning model is trained with so few instances, its performance tends to be poor," said Roberto Vega, lead author of the study and graduate student in the Department of Computing Science.

Digitization in the energy industry - the machine learning revolution


In researching for this blog, I reached out to Brendan Bennett, a Reinforcement Learning Researcher at the University of Alberta, for his thoughts on how emerging digital technologies may be deployed in the energy industry. Brendan and I discussed how some recent landmark accomplishments in artificial intelligence might soon make their way into the energy industry. Digital innovation in commercial spheres has largely been a story of improving efficiency and reliability while reducing costs. In the energy sector, these innovations have been a result of oil and gas companies doing what they do best: relying on talented engineers to improve on existing solutions. Improvements have quickly spread across the industry, bringing down costs and making processes more efficient.

Data Science is Where to Find the Most AI Jobs and Highest Salaries - AI Trends


Jobs in data science grew nearly 46% in 2020, with salaries in the range of $100,000 to $130,000 annually, according to a recent account in TechRepublic based on information from LinkedIn and LHH, formerly Lee Hecht Harrison, a global provider of talent and leadership development. Related job titles include data science specialist and data management analyst. Novacoast, which helps organizations build a cybersecurity posture through engineering, development, and managed services. Founded in 1996 in Santa Barbara, the company has many remote employees and a presence in the UK, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala. The company offers a security operations center (SOC) cloud offering called novaSOC, that analyzes emerging challenges.

'I was terrible at crosswords so I built an AI to do them'

BBC News

Michael Bowling, senior research scientist at DeepMind and professor of computing science at the University of Alberta, said of the win: "Congratulations to Dr Ginsburg and the Berkeley team. It's a terrific achievement and an inspiring collaboration, both seeing leading AI researchers combining forces, and seeing powerful AI building blocks of search and learning being employed together.

Attabotics Partners With AltaML and Amii to Bolster Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning …


New Collaboration Will Support the Growth of Calgary as an Innovation Hub for Emerging Technologies. Attabotics, the 3D robotics supply chain …

AI Used to Predict Early Symptoms of Schizophrenia in Relatives of Patients - Neuroscience News


Summary: Combining brain scans with AI technology, researchers were able to accurately predict the likelihood of a person developing schizophrenia in those with a family history of the psychiatric disorder. University of Alberta researchers have taken another step forward in developing an artificial intelligence tool to predict schizophrenia by analyzing brain scans. In recently published research, the tool was used to analyze functional magnetic resonance images of 57 healthy first-degree relatives (siblings or children) of schizophrenia patients. It accurately identified the 14 individuals who scored highest on a self-reported schizotypal personality trait scale. Schizophrenia, which affects 300,000 Canadians, can cause delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation, and is usually treated with a combination of drugs, psychotherapy and brain stimulation.

A Two-stage Framework and Reinforcement Learning-based Optimization Algorithms for Complex Scheduling Problems Artificial Intelligence

There hardly exists a general solver that is efficient for scheduling problems due to their diversity and complexity. In this study, we develop a two-stage framework, in which reinforcement learning (RL) and traditional operations research (OR) algorithms are combined together to efficiently deal with complex scheduling problems. The scheduling problem is solved in two stages, including a finite Markov decision process (MDP) and a mixed-integer programming process, respectively. This offers a novel and general paradigm that combines RL with OR approaches to solving scheduling problems, which leverages the respective strengths of RL and OR: The MDP narrows down the search space of the original problem through an RL method, while the mixed-integer programming process is settled by an OR algorithm. These two stages are performed iteratively and interactively until the termination criterion has been met. Under this idea, two implementation versions of the combination methods of RL and OR are put forward. The agile Earth observation satellite scheduling problem is selected as an example to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed scheduling framework and methods. The convergence and generalization capability of the methods are verified by the performance of training scenarios, while the efficiency and accuracy are tested in 50 untrained scenarios. The results show that the proposed algorithms could stably and efficiently obtain satisfactory scheduling schemes for agile Earth observation satellite scheduling problems. In addition, it can be found that RL-based optimization algorithms have stronger scalability than non-learning algorithms. This work reveals the advantage of combining reinforcement learning methods with heuristic methods or mathematical programming methods for solving complex combinatorial optimization problems.

Four Alberta Schools Soon to Offer Programs for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning -


Students looking for opportunities in the field of Artificial Intelligence can get help through a new educational partnership. Bow Valley College and three other post-secondary institutions in Alberta are making careers in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning accessible and available here in Alberta. The AI Pathways Partnership is a consortium of the four schools in collaboration with Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and made possible through funding provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada. The partnership helps connect learners to flexible, career-focused education from high school to post-secondary and graduate-level credit and non-credit programs. Programs begin in 2021 and include all the instruction needed for success for employees, employers and industry organizations.

Forecasting Photovoltaic Power Production using a Deep Learning Sequence to Sequence Model with Attention Machine Learning

Rising penetration levels of (residential) photovoltaic (PV) power as distributed energy resource pose a number of challenges to the electricity infrastructure. High quality, general tools to provide accurate forecasts of power production are urgently needed. In this article, we propose a supervised deep learning model for end-to-end forecasting of PV power production. The proposed model is based on two seminal concepts that led to significant performance improvements of deep learning approaches in other sequence-related fields, but not yet in the area of time series prediction: the sequence to sequence architecture and attention mechanism as a context generator. The proposed model leverages numerical weather predictions and high-resolution historical measurements to forecast a binned probability distribution over the prognostic time intervals, rather than the expected values of the prognostic variable. This design offers significant performance improvements compared to common baseline approaches, such as fully connected neural networks and one-block long short-term memory architectures. Using normalized root mean square error based forecast skill score as a performance indicator, the proposed approach is compared to other models. The results show that the new design performs at or above the current state of the art of PV power forecasting.

News at a glance


SCI COMMUN### Politics The U.S. presidential race was upended in the first days of October as President Donald Trump tested positive for the pandemic virus and spent 3 days in the hospital. He was aggressively treated with two experimental medicines—monoclonal antibodies and the repurposed antiviral remdesivir—and a steroid used in severe COVID-19 cases. Trump returned to the White House on 5 October saying people should not fear the disease. But public health specialists voiced astonishment when he re-entered the building maskless, trailed by questions about his medical condition and a lack of information about how staff members would be protected from infection. All that followed a rancorous first debate on 29 September between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Trump mocked Biden for having worn a mask at other times, despite evidence that the precaution reduces transmission of the virus. The president also left scientists puzzled when he described as a “disaster” Biden's role in the response to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009. Then-President Barack Obama, whom Biden served under as vice president, declared it a public health emergency 6 weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. That flu killed an estimated 12,000 Americans—far fewer than the 210,000 U.S. deaths recorded so far from COVID-19. > “Very few don't have some sort of connection to Big Tech.” > > Doctoral student Mohamed Abdalla , in Wired , about a study he led of faculty members specializing in artificial intelligence at four leading research universities. He found 58% (48 of 83) had received a grant or fellowship from one of 14 large technology companies, which may distort research priorities. ### Conservation High-tech fake turtle eggs can spy on poachers and wildlife trafficking routes. The real eggs are a delicacy in Central America, and illicit trading of them adds to other hazards to the survival of turtle species that are threatened. Researchers slipped 101 decoy eggs with GPS trackers embedded (left) into nests on four Costa Rican beaches. The scientists tracked five eggs to learn where the poachers took them; the farthest ended up 137 kilometers inland, the multinational team reported on 5 October in Current Biology . The researchers did not share this information with authorities, noting ethical concerns; many poachers live in poverty, and in Costa Rica, buying the eggs is not illegal. But, the authors say, the study shows that law enforcement agencies could use the method. ### Public health Coronavirus guidelines issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again stirred controversy and concerns that undue political pressure had influenced some of its decisions. CDC announced that on 31 October it will lift an order barring cruise ships from sailing despite a recommendation by its director, Robert Redfield, to extend the ban until February 2021. The industry shut down in March after severe COVID-19 outbreaks occurred on multiple ships. Last week, CDC also drew fire for its updated guidelines on when colleges should test students and faculty and staff members for the pandemic virus. The agency recommended different frequencies of testing, including just a single, initial one, depending on circumstances such as whether students lived in residences with others who tested positive. Critics said the new guidelines should have recommended more regular testing of asymptomatic individuals. CDC addressed another uproar this week by acknowledging evidence that the virus can travel by air and infect people standing more than 2 meters apart in indoor spaces. The agency was faulted last month after it posted, and then withdrew, a draft suggesting otherwise. ### Infectious diseases An international program to reduce the risk of new zoonotic diseases, allowed to expire by the U.S. government in 2019 but extended until last month, will get a successor. On 30 September, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a $100 million grant to help countries in Asia and Africa curb viruses jumping from animals to humans. The 5-year Strategies to Prevent Spillover program will have a different focus from its predecessor, PREDICT, whose termination was criticized by the scientific community: Rather than studying the drivers of spillover, it will seek interventions to reduce viral jumps, a USAID spokesperson says. A key goal is to “help partners at the country level build their expertise and ability to take action,” says veterinarian Deborah Kochevar of Tufts University, which leads a 13-institute consortium that won the grant. ### International affairs Yuri Orlov, the Russian physicist who championed human rights in the Soviet Union before being exiled in 1985, died on 27 September at age 96. Orlov helped organize the Soviet Union's branch of Amnesty International in 1973 and 3 years later co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, which monitored Soviet adherence to the civil rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords between the Soviet Union and the West. In 1977, Orlov was arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor and exile in Siberia. After coming to the United States in a prisoner exchange, Orlov, an expert in particle accelerators, worked at Cornell University. He didn't think much of Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing in 2004 that “Russia is flying backward in time.” ### Governance Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has disrupted the process by which scientists are appointed to serve on the governing body of the country's leading academic society, the Science Council of Japan (SCJ). Researchers are criticizing the move as a threat to academic freedom. SCJ makes policy recommendations, promotes scientific literacy and international cooperation, and represents the interests of more than 800,000 scholars in virtually all academic disciplines. The prime minister customarily ratifies appointees recommended by SCJ for its governing body, the General Assembly. But according to an announcement last week, Suga withheld his blessing from six academics, in a list of 105 put forward, who work in the social sciences, law, and the humanities. All six had criticized legislation adopted by Japan's previous government, in which Suga was chief cabinet secretary. His failure to appoint them violated a law governing SCJ, said Satoshi Ihara, secretary general of the Japan Scientists' Association. ### Policy Mexican scientists this week blasted a move by the national legislature to eliminate 109 trust funds run by public research centers and government institutes, one-third of them devoted to science and technology. The government wants to use the money, some $3 billion in total, for the coronavirus pandemic. The funds support everything from student scholarships and emergency maintenance of equipment to major research projects at dozens of government centers. The money also helps pay for biosecurity and biotechnology research, fighting climate change, and disaster relief. On 6 October, Mexico's Chamber of Deputies approved a bill to terminate the funds, but with “reservations” that require further debate; it is expected to pass in the Senate. The plan is “a brutal blow” and the worst hit to Mexican science in 50 years, says Antonio Lazcano, an evolutionary biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, University City. ### Virology There's been a new case of infection with Alaskapox virus, a recently discovered pathogen that's related to smallpox. Alaska state health authorities reported on 30 September that they had found the virus in a woman from the Fairbanks area with a mild, gray skin lesion on one arm, similar to one seen in 2015 in the first known patient, also a woman from Fairbanks. Human infections with pox-viruses are on the rise, presumably because vaccination against smallpox—which offers some protection against related viruses—was halted after that deadly disease was eradicated 40 years ago. But the Alaska cases are no cause for alarm: There is no evidence the virus can be transmitted between humans—scientists think it came from wild mammals—and the lesions went away by themselves. ### Medicine prize goes to discoverers of virus that destroys the liver The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded this week for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, one of the most common causes of liver cancer. The prize went to Harvey Alter of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Michael Houghton of the University of Alberta, Edmonton; and Charles Rice of Rockefeller University. The hepatitis C virus, transmitted via blood, can cause chronic inflammation of the liver that quietly destroys the organ over decades, ultimately leading to cirrhosis and cancer. The laureates did work over 3 decades to identify the virus and show it was responsible for unexplained cases of hepatitis in people who received blood transfusions. They also developed a test to screen blood donations for the virus, which has nearly eliminated the risk of hepatitis from blood transfusions. Their research ultimately led to a successful treatment for the disease, which has cured millions of people. But about 71 million people worldwide still have chronic hepatitis C, and transmission continues via contaminated medical equipment, sharing drug injection needles, and from infected mothers to newborns during birth. The disease causes few acute symptoms, and testing in many developing countries is limited. ### Black hole hunters receive physics prize The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded for pioneering discoveries regarding black holes—self-sustaining gravitational fields so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape. Roger Penrose, a mathematician at the University of Oxford, received half of the $1.1 million prize for his theoretical work, conducted in part with the late Stephen Hawking, that proved a black hole would be stable and thus could be a real astrophysical object and not a mere mathematical curiosity. Astronomers Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles, share the other half of the prize for deducing the presence of the supermassive black hole that lies in the heart of our Galaxy. Since the 1990s, Genzel and Ghez have led rival research groups that observed stars there, 26,000 light-years from Earth. They found ones orbiting a heavy, unseen object, called Sagittarius A*, at incredible speeds—some of the most convincing evidence for a behemoth black hole, with the mass of millions of Suns. ### Fauci: ‘Skunk at the picnic’ On 23 September, in the relative calm before President Donald Trump's coronavirus infection was revealed, Anthony Fauci relaxed at home after tangling earlier that day with U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R–KY) during a hearing on COVID-19. Fauci still had 200 emails in his inbox to read that night, but the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who also serves on the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, sat down with Science to discuss the pandemic and research on vaccines. (Read the full interview at [][1].) Some excerpts: On his showdown with Paul: “I said to myself, you know, ‘I'm sorry, I'm not gonna disrespect him, but I'm not gonna let him get away with saying things that are cherry-picked data.’” (Paul had suggested that the United States follow Sweden's COVID-19 policies because it had a lower death rate from the disease.) On speaking bluntly at the White House: “I'm walking a fine line of being someone who is not hesitant to tell the president and the vice president what they may not want to hear. There are some people in the White House, who, even when I first started telling it like it was in the task force meetings, they were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ That's when I got that nickname ‘the skunk at the picnic.’ … I say, ‘I'm sorry, I'm not trying to undermine the president. But there is something that's called reality.’” On the state of the pandemic: “Yes, there are parts of the country that are doing well. But this country is a big forest, and when you have fires in some parts of the forest, the entire forest is at risk.” [1]: