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Jhonatan Oliveira has been awarded the CAIAC Best Doctoral Dissertation

Jhonatan Oliveira is a doctoral candidate in the Computer Science Department. He defended his dissertation in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Cory Butz. We are pleased to announce that Jhonatan has won a prestigious national award.

Jhonatan Oliveira was awarded the 2019 Best Doctoral Dissertation Award by the Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association (CAIAC). This award is given annually to the best doctoral dissertation in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) from a Canadian institution. The award comes with a commemorative plaque, a cash prize, free registration to the Canadian AI conference, and a 30-minute talk at the conference. Some background information will emphasize what an impressive feat this is.

First, the ACM Turing Award (a.k.a. the Nobel Prize of Computing) was awarded in 2018 to Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yann LeCun for major breakthroughs in AI. More specifically, for conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing. Jhonatan's doctoral dissertation showed that when certain restrictions are imposed upon deep neural networks, they assume clear probabilistic semantics. This, in turn, allows various probabilistic reasoning tasks designed for probabilistic graphical models to be applied in deep neural networks. Numerous experimental results show the significant benefits of adopting these techniques. Thus, Jhonatan has made significant advancements in the same area in which the 2018 Turing Award was given.

Second, Jhonatan's win is the first time the CAIAC Best Doctoral Dissertation has been awarded to a student from the University of Regina. Since its inception, the award has exclusively gone to students from four universities (University of Toronto (2), UBC (2), University of Alberta (3), and University of Waterloo (1)). Furthermore, AI is currently in the media and is one of the hottest topics in computer science. Thus, the competition was surely especially stiff.

The fact that an adjudication committee comprised of senior researchers in AI recognized the significant contributions made in Jhonatan's doctoral dissertation on a cutting-edge topic is a large feather in his cap.

Congratulations to Jhonatan Oliveira for receiving this award!