Carnegie Mellon University
July 21, 2021

Fang, Sandholm Honored for Significant Contributions to AI

By Aaron Aupperlee

Aaron Aupperlee
  • School of Computer Science
Fei Fang and Tuomas Sandholm, both faculty members in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, were recently recognized by the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) for significant research in AI. They are among the many CMU faculty members investigating AI, expanding its applications, and ensuring its ethical, unbiased and transparent use.

The IJCAI honored Fang with the 2021 Computers and Thought Award for her contributions to integrating machine learning with game theory to tackle societal challenges. The award is presented to outstanding young scientists working in AI.

Fang, the Leonardo Assistant Professor in the Institute for Software Research, uses game theory and machine learning to handle real-world challenges such as security, environmental sustainability, food security and mobility. Her work has helped rangers and local communities to combat poaching, reduced food insecurity, and protected the Staten Island Ferry.

CMU alumni Edward Feigenbaum and Julian Feldman established the award using royalties from their 1963 book "Computers and Thought." Past CMU faculty and alumni to receive the award are Douglas Lenat in 1977, Tom Mitchell in 1983, Hiroaki Kitano in 1993, Sandholm in 2003, Peter Stone in 2007, Carlos Guestrin and Andrew Ng in 2009, Vincent Conitzer in 2011, and Ariel Procaccia in 2015.

Sandholm, the Angel Jordan University Professor of Computer Science, received the 2021 John McCarthy Award for his significant contributions to research and application of multiagent systems, computational economics, optimization and game playing. The award recognizes mid-career researchers for sustained research excellence. The award is named for the late John McCarthy, a founder of the field of artificial intelligence.

Sandholm, director of the Electronic Marketplaces Laboratory and co-director of CMU AI, has developed superhuman AIs for many types of games, including No-Limit Texas Hold'em in two-player and multiplayer settings. His startup, Strategy Robot, builds game-theoretic reasoning products for the Department of Defense, and his startup, Strategic Machine, does so for other applications.

His first startup commercialized 800 large-scale combinatorial multi-attribute auctions, with over $60 billion in trade volume and over $6 billion in generated savings before it was acquired. His startup Optimized Markets is bringing an optimization-powered expressive market paradigm to advertising campaign sales, pricing and scheduling across media.

His algorithms run the national kidney exchange for United Network for Organ Sharing, where they make the transplant plan for 80% of U.S. transplant centers together each week. He co-invented never-ending altruist-donor-initiated chains and his algorithms created the first such chain. Such chains have become the main modality of kidney exchange worldwide and have led to 10,000 life-saving transplants. He invented liver lobe and multi-organ exchanges, and the first liver-kidney swap took place in 2019.

He is the first CMU faculty member to receive the award. Milind Tambe, who earned his Ph.D. from the School of Computer Science in 1991, received the John McCarthy Award in 2018.

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