The Virginia Tech College of Science begins its 2019 J. Mark Sowers Distinguished Lecture Series later this month with guest speaker Michael Irwin Jordan, one of the world’s leading experts of machine learning.

The Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, Jordan will deliver the first Sowers Distinguished Lecture of the spring semester at 7:30 p.m. March 28 at 100 McBryde Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.  

Jordan’s research combines computational, statistical, cognitive and biological sciences, with an eye toward machine learning, natural language processing, signal processing, and statistical genetics. In 2016, Science magazine reported him as the world’s most influential computer scientist. 

His March 28 talk will focus on recent strides made in the interface of statistics and computer science and fundamental challenges that remain to advance areas of decision-making, sampling in high-dimensional spaces, and the economics of scarcity and two-way markets.

A member of the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Science, Jordan also received the Association for Computing Machinery/ Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Allen Newell Award in 2009. In 2015, he was awarded the David E. Rumelhart Prize for Contributions to the Theoretical Foundations of Human Cognition. He was named a Neyman Lecturer and a Medallion Lecturer by the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.

The Sowers lecture series launched in 2017 with debut speaker Professor David Reitze, phexecutive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Project at California Institute of Technology. Since then, five other renowned scientists, including Naomi Halas of Rice University and Steven Strogatz of Cornell University, have visited Virginia Tech.

The lecture series is funded by J. Mark Sowers, a Richmond, Virginia-based businessman and longtime supporter of the College of Science. “I hope that people will be inspired by the lecture series and it brings attention to Virginia Tech and its brilliant researchers for the advancement of fundamental physics,” Sowers has said of the talks.

Additional 2019 speakers include:

  • Patricia Kuhl, the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning at the University of Washington, on April 24
  • Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Finance and Economics at Cal Tech, on Sept. 12
  • Geraldine Richmond, presidential chair in science with the University of Oregon’s Department of Chemistry on Oct. 24

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