The activities of the Max Planck - ETH Center for Learning Systems (CLS) are guided by the Leading Team, made up of one scientist from each partner, MPI-IS and ETH Zurich. These two Co-Directors take responsibility for the Center, in conjunction with the Steering Board. A change has been agreed on the ETH side: Prof. Dr. Thomas Hofmann, Professor for Data Analytics, Department of Computer Science, will step down as Co-Director and hand over this role to Prof. Dr. Niao He, Assistant Professor for Data Science, Department of Computer Science, at the end of May 2023.
Thomas Hofmann has been involved with CLS since the inception of its precursor, the Research Network on Learning Systems (RNLS), in 2013. He was instrumental in the initial Center application in 2014, the evaluation of CLS in 2018 and extension for a second funding period in 2020. He has been involved with eight doctoral recruitment rounds, not to mention diverse and numerous CLS activities including workshops and retreats.
Bernhard Schölkopf, CLS Co-Director for the Max Planck side comments: “We would like to thank Thomas for his vision and dedication. Today, CLS is one of the leading international PhD programs for AI. ETH and Max Planck have created something rather unique together, and we would not have been able to do this without Thomas’ leadership.” Niao He says: “I am excited to work alongside the exceptional CLS faculty, students, and staff and help reinforce our collaboration, innovation, and excellence in AI research across the two institutes.”
Thank you, Niao, for taking on this role and thank you, Thomas, for your extensive contributions to CLS over the past years. For an overview of the CLS leadership, visit Organization.
Prof. Thomas Hofmann has been actively involved in research in machine learning since 1993, when he worked on neural networks for robust model-based control. He then developed an interest in unsupervised learning techniques, in particular methods for data clustering, which led to various contributions in the area of similarity-based and distributional clustering. He has held positions at MIT and UC Berkeley, Brown University, TU Darmstadt and was the founding Director of the Google R&D Center in Zurich. He joined ETH Zurich as Professor for Data Analytics in 2013. He has since built a sizeable group and developed a new focus on deep learning, making research contributions to its mathematical foundations as well as to its applications. Thomas Hofmann’s academic achievements are best captured by his many highly influential publications, recognised for example by best paper awards (CVPR 2008, ICDM 2004, ECML 2002) and the Test of Time Award at SIGIR (2017). Since 2021, Thomas Hofmann has held a Max Planck Fellowship at MPI-IS Tübingen.
Prof. Niao He joined ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor in 2020. She leads the Optimization & Decision Intelligence (ODI) Group at the Department of Computer Science. She is an ELLIS Scholar and also a core faculty at the ETH AI Center. Her work lies at the interface of optimization and machine learning, with a primary focus on the algorithmic and theoretical foundations for intelligent decision-making. She is further interested in developing machine learning models and algorithms for interdisciplinary applications in operations management, control & robotics, etc. Prior to joining ETH, Niao He was Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, following doctoral studies at Georgia Institute of Technology.