Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Artificial Intelligence 2023

Hector Geffner

Hector Geffner is seen as one of the leading minds on the global AI stage and a pioneer of automated planning. In Aachen, he is invited to enhance Germany’s visibility as an AI hub and help to further Europe’s vanguard position in developing trustworthy, human-centred AI.

  • Nominating University: RWTH Aachen University
Portrait von Hector Geffner
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Artificial intelligence and machine learning

In order to achieve a pre-defined goal, complex tasks demand logical action planning, which means actions that follow on from one another in a certain sequence. This is the field in which Hector Geffner is one of the world’s most influential researchers. Things that children learn instinctively or by trial and error have to be programmed for computers in minute detail so that, at some stage, they are able to plan actions autonomously and adapt to changing conditions. Geffner’s work comprises both theories based on logic, probability, heuristics and algorithms as well as practical, computer-assisted experiments. Together with his team, he established a particular form of planning known as heuristic search which has become an accepted standard. Reference is frequently made to the generalisability of his methods as not being tailored to specific areas of application.

At RWTH Aachen University, Geffner is supposed to hold the chair in Foundations of Machine Learning and Reasoning as a Humboldt Professor for AI in RWTH’s Center für Artificial Intelligence.  The center already boasts outstanding expertise in the two basic types of AI research, data-based AI and model-based AI. Geffner is now invited to provide the missing expertise in the important combination of the two fields. In 2020, he was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for a project amalgamating these approaches to data-based and model-based AI. He is also expected to make seminal contributions to human-centred AI, especially as the economic, social and liability demands made on AI are becoming ever more complex and should involve human expert knowledge.

Brief bio

Born in Argentina, Dr Hector Geffner has been a research professor at ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) and in the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Group at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, since 2001. After completing his doctorate in computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), United States, in 1989, he initially became a staff researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York. In 1992, he was appointed to an associate professorship at Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela, becoming a full professor in 1994. Since 2019, he has also been a Wallenberg Guest Professor in AI at Linköping University, Sweden. Geffner is a Fellow of the American and the European Associations for Artificial Intelligence, was a Board Member of the European Association for Artificial Intelligence, EurAI, and has been a Board Member of CLAIRE (Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe) since 2020. He has repeatedly received awards for his publications and, in 2020, an ERC Advanced Grant.

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