SA Robotics Researcher Selected for Prestigious International Scholarship


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics researcher, Professor Benjamin Rosman, is one of 18 early-career researchers in the world to be selected for the prestigious CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar programme for 2022-2024.

Chosen for their outstanding early-career research in diverse fields, being a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar provides researchers like Rosman, the rarest of commodities: freedom to take the kinds of intellectual risks that are essential for creating truly transformative knowledge.

The CIFAR is a Canadian-based global research organisation, and this year it is commemorating 40 years of exploration of the most pressing questions facing science and humanity.

Rosman is one of 18 researchers selected from more than 200 eligible applications from 32 countries for the Global Scholars program which is part of a range of next-generation initiatives at CIFAR that aims to boost the potential of early-career researchers pursuing high-risk, high-reward ideas.

Recently promoted to full Professor in Machine Learning and Robotics in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Wits University, Rosman also runs the Robotics, Autonomous Intelligence, and Learning (RAIL) Laboratory and is the Director of the National E-Science Postgraduate Teaching and Training Platform (NEPTTP).

With this scholarship, he will join the “Learning in Machines & Brains” programme, which is one of 12 CIFAR research programmes where researchers can collaborate with CIFAR fellows.

“It is a real honour to receive this recognition from CIFAR, an organisation that has played such an important role in science, and particularly artificial intelligence, and I am excited about the opportunity to work with global thought leaders in many different fields and receive mentorship from one of the most influential networks of scientists,” says Rosman.

His research asks how the knowledge gained from robots and other artificial agents solving one task can be reused in the next, by drawing insight from humans’ ability to decompose complex problems into reusable pieces.

“This award recognises the novel work we are doing in artificial intelligence and machine learning in my lab, and confirms the calibre of the cutting-edge research conducted at Wits University,” he adds.

Among his career highlights, Rosman is a founder and organiser of the Deep Learning Indaba machine learning summer school, with a focus on strengthening African machine learning.

In 2017 he was the recipient of a Google Faculty Research Award in machine learning, and a 2021 recipient of a Google Africa Research Award. In 2020, he was made a Senior Member of the IEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organisation for the advancement of technology.

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program

It is a unique program that provides the US $100,000 in unrestricted research support, in addition to mentorship, global networking, and professional skills development.

For two years, scholars join one of CIFAR’s 12 research programs where they have the opportunity to collaborate with CIFAR fellows. This year’s cohort will be contributing to the Bio-inspired Solar Energy, Child & Brain Development, Gravity & the Extreme Universe, Learning in Machines & Brains, Quantum Information Science, and Quantum Materials programs. Once their term ends, many scholars continue to contribute to the CIFAR community, joining as fellows, Canada CIFAR AI Chairs, or workshop participants.

“I would like to congratulate and welcome our seventh cohort of CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars. They are amongst some of the most promising young researchers in the world,” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, O.C., President and CEO of CIFAR.

“Humanity faces many complex and pressing challenges, from income inequality to climate change. We need creative and talented scholars and scientists, especially the next generation of investigators, to contribute to the global effort to address these challenges and exciting science questions. It is of utmost importance to provide an opportunity for this next generation of innovative thinkers,” adds Dr. Bernstein.

“That is why programs like the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program are so important for both advancing science and enabling positive change in the world,” he says.

Edited by Zintle Nkohla 

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