Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Artificial Intelligence 2023

Thomas Strohmer

The mathematician Thomas Strohmer is a theoretician with a close relationship to practice. For example, he develops data synthesis methods in order to drive progress in the field of personalised medicine without endangering data protection.

  • Nominating University: University of Cologne
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Numerics, Optimisation, Simulation

A hospital's intensive care unit is not the place you'd expect to find a distinguished mathematician at work. But a mass of different data is generated there, from X-rays to laboratory values to handwritten notes, and therapy decisions are made on the basis of data. Improving the quality of these decisions using artificial intelligence could increase therapy success rates and reduce costs at the same time. However, data scientists face major challenges, such as how to make it possible to evaluate the many different (in technical jargon: multi-modal) data sources whilst collating the data on large numbers of patients, ideally from several hospitals, to achieve a sufficiently large database. This is all complicated by the need to protect what are highly sensitive patient data.

Thomas Strohmer's preferred solution to this problem is not to use the actual dataset, but a synthetic dataset, created by an AI, that is very similar to the real dataset. Just as artificial intelligence can generate fake faces that look genuine, it can also generate data sets that are close to reality.  Thomas Strohmer has developed a basic statistical framework to ensure mathematically that the synthetic data do not deviate significantly whilst still preventing conclusions being drawn about the original data.

Algorithms derived from this framework can be used not only in personalised medicine but also in demography and many other data science disciplines.  Moreover, as head of the projected Cologne Center for Artificial Intelligence (CCAI), Thomas Strohmer wants to work on AI-supported predictions of extreme weather events and the development of quantum computers for AI.


Brief bio

Thomas Strohmer completed his doctorate in 1994 after studying mathematics at the University of Vienna. Born in Austria, he moved to the United States in 1997 and conducted research as a postdoc at Stanford University. In 1998, he became an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, United States, where he has been a full professor of mathematics since 2004.