Imperial academic scoops a Samsung AI Researcher of the Year Award


Seth Lakeman

Dr Seth Flaxman is one of five academics worldwide, and the only one in Europe, to be named Samsung AI Researcher of the Year.

The Samsung AI Researcher of the Year Award is a new initiative for 2020, which “supports promising researchers who are pursuing cutting-edge research in AI” (artificial intelligence) and “recognizes individuals who have made outstanding research or contributions to the field of AI”.

Dr Seth Flaxman is a Senior Lecturer in Statistical Machine Learning in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial, where he develops new computational statistics and machine learning methods for public policy and global health applications.

He is recognized by Samsung for “his work in applying statistics and AI, through statistical machine learning, to public health. Most notably, his recent work on modelling and understanding COVID-19 and its impact. We expect that he will continue to apply his skills to confronting global challenges.”

COVID-19 modelling and beyond

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been working with colleagues in the Department of Mathematics together with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (GIDA)Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA) at Imperial on a new set of statistical and epidemiological models to track the spread of the disease.

Dr Flaxman and colleagues’ work has included estimating the number of lives saved across Europe by non-pharmaceutical interventions like lockdowns and social distancing, reporting that US COVID-19 transmission is driven by people ages 20-49, and creating a map of COVID-19 hotspots in the UK, which is updated daily and informs the new tiers in place in Scotland.

Previously, Dr Flaxman has worked on public health, such as trends in avoidable blindness, and also on AI and machine learning in criminology, voting patterns, echo chambers in media, and emotions, as well as investigating the regulation of machine learning algorithms.

The Samsung AI Researcher of the Year Award is given to researchers under 35 working in the field of AI at a university or public institute. The five winners of the inaugural awards this year will receive a plaque and monetary award of $30,000 USD, and deliver a talk about their research at the Samsung AI Forum on 2 November 2020 (online).

Watch Dr Flaxman's talk below:

AI Researcher of the Year - Seth Flaxman

Tackling pressing challenges

On winning the award, Dr Flaxman said: “I am honoured to receive this award. I want to thank my collaborators in statistics and machine learning. I especially want to recognize my collaborators in the social sciences, epidemiology, and at international organizations.

"They have patiently shared their real-world expertise with me, guided me towards important problems to work on, and inspired me to develop statistically grounded machine learning methodologies for public policy and global health.

“I hope my research will inspire students and AI researchers to join me in collaborating with and learning from researchers in other academic disciplines, and the public sector, to tackle some of the most pressing challenges we face as a global community.”

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research) at Imperial, said: “Imperial has a strong track record in AI and machine learning spanning a broad range of expertise and applications, including using it to diagnose and monitor disease, constructing safe and trustworthy AI, and understanding human behaviour.

“Seth’s excellent work in applying AI to the challenges affecting our health and wellbeing embodies the College’s mission to achieve excellence in research for the benefit of society. He is a very deserving winner and I offer my warmest congratulations.”

The other winners are: Kyunghyn Cho (NYU), Chelsea Finn (Stanford), Jiajun Wu (Stanford) and Cho-Jui Hsieh (UCLA).


Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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Coronavirus, COVIDWEF, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Artificial-intelligence, Strategy-multidisciplinary-research
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