U-M, Schmidt Futures to partner on new AI research program

$10M will fund training for 60 postdoctoral fellows as part of international cohort.

The University of Michigan will recruit and train 60 postdoctoral fellows over the next six years as part of a new global partnership that aims to accelerate the next scientific revolution by applying artificial intelligence to research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

U-M is one of nine universities across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore selected this month to join the Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, a program of Schmidt Futures.

With more than $10 million in support from Schmidt Futures, the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS) at U-M will hire 10 postdoctoral fellows annually for up to six years so they can learn and apply AI methods to their academic research projects.

As part of the program, U-M will provide advanced AI training, funded research support and professional development opportunities to postdoctoral fellows in an effort to build a global network of scientists trained in AI. And with the fellowship program as the core, MIDAS will support the adoption of AI methods to shape research across disciplines for an expanded number of U-M researchers.

“If we, as a society, want to address and solve some of the greatest challenges that lie ahead, it is absolutely essential to expand and strengthen our collective efforts in AI enabled discovery,” said H.V. Jagadish, director of MIDAS and the Edgar F. Codd Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“This new fellowship program is designed to effectively incorporate AI techniques into the natural sciences, engineering and mathematical sciences, training the sharpest minds on the frontlines of scientific innovation so that together we can accelerate the speed of research and innovation.”

MIDAS, launched in 2015 by the Office of the Vice President for Research, partners with schools, colleges and units across U-M to enable the transformative use of AI and data science in research, to advocate for responsible AI and data science, and to enhance training for postdoctoral researchers.

This fellowship network expands on Schmidt Futures’ portfolio of AI programs, which aims to generate breakthroughs across a range of scientific fields – from creating new drugs to fight disease, to detecting some of the faintest objects in the solar system, to helping produce and store energy more efficiently.

“Scientific innovation today is too often defined by new use cases for existing technologies or refining previous advancements, rather than the creation of entirely new fields of discovery,” said Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures.

“This is why we need to accelerate the next global scientific revolution—by supporting broad and deep incorporation of AI techniques into scientific and engineering research.”

The first cohort, which will represent various academic disciplines, is expected to join U-M by the end of the year. In addition to U-M, Schmidt Futures selected eight other universities to participate in its fellowship program, including: the University of Toronto, Nanyang Technological University, the National University of Singapore, University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Cornell University, University of California, San Diego and University of Chicago.

“AI is already revolutionary, but it is not yet as accessible, equitable or interdisciplinary as it needs to be,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president of The Schmidt Family Foundation.

“By supporting postdoctoral candidates around the world in fields beyond computer science, we hope to create a community that can develop and improve this technology and find novel ways to apply it in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

Jagadish is also the Bernard A. Galler Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.