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Kevin Leyton-Brown elevated to 2020 ACM Fellow for lifetime achievements

Kevin LB
Professor Kevin Leyton-Brown

Up until this year, four current UBC computer science faculty members had been named Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellows for lifetime achievements in the field.

Now, make that five.

Professor and researcher Kevin Leyton-Brown was nominated by his international colleagues in 2020 and received the designation this month. That means Kevin joins the top 1 per cent of ACM members who are recognized for outstanding lifetime accomplishments in computing. To put the numbers into perspective: in 2020, only 95 ACM Fellows were named worldwide across all areas of computer science.

Kevin explains how this level of recognition is gratifying yet deeply humbling. “It’s such a tremendous honour to have my research acknowledged at this level. But when I look at the list of other Fellows, I recognize names of people I’ve admired and respected since I was a student,” Kevin said. “It’s very humbling.”

Accomplished on all fronts

No stranger to being recognized for his accomplishments, Kevin is a past recipient of the NSERC Steacie Memorial Fellowship and the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award in operations research, amongst many other awards.

"One of the leading voices in AI, Kevin’s scientific contributions span multiagent systems, game theory, optimization, and much more."
~ Professor Yoav Shoham

Kevin has the distinct privilege of being Program Co-Chair for AAAI 2021 (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence), and he is director of the onsite UBC ICICS Centre for Artificial Intelligence Decision-making and Action (CAIDA). He’s affiliated with the Institute for Computing, Information & Cognitive Systems (ICICS), the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), the Laboratory for Computational Intelligence (LCI) and the Algorithms Lab. He runs the Game Theory and Decision Theory Seminar (GT-DT) and is a faculty associate at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

Kevin grew up in Canada and earned his BSc at McMaster University, then attended Stanford for his Master’s and PhD. But his longing to return to Canada brought him to Vancouver in 2004 to take his first job in higher education as a UBC assistant professor in computer science. Kevin hasn’t stood still since.

“I’m an AI guy,” says Professor Leyton-Brown about his research. In particular, Kevin’s focus is on Machine Learning (ML). The ACM Fellowship citation says it best: For contributions to artificial intelligence, including computational game theory, multi-agent systems, machine learning, and optimization.

Kevin explains what optimization means in his ML research. “It’s about configuring computers to teach themselves to make better and more effective decisions while optimizing positive global impacts.” One of his major areas of focus (and with astounding success) has been game theory/market design. His research has translated into extensive facilitation of optimizing the process of market design, which has greatly helped industry organizations and government bodies in propelling world economics.

Professor Yoav Shoham of Stanford University, who helped nominate Kevin for the award said this: “Professor Leyton-Brown’s achievements are breathtaking. One of the leading voices in AI, Kevin’s scientific contributions span multiagent systems, game theory, optimization, and much more. His chairing of prestigious conferences and multiple awards are testament to all this.”

Does the man ever sleep?

With two books and countless papers published with citations numbering over 17,000 and remarkably high bibliometrics, Kevin's bookwith an h-index of 51 and i10-index over 100, Kevin has contributed much to the computer science research world.

His desire to share this knowledge manifests itself through a genuine love of teaching. Having received the UBC Killam Teaching Award for excellence in teaching, Kevin says, “That’s an award I was very proud to receive because I simply love to teach!”

So much so, that Kevin extended his teaching reach worldwide through Massive, Open Online Courses (MOOCs). “Between myself and two co-instructors, we’ve taught 900,000 students from over 200 countries through MOOCs.” Kevin says.

Professor Shoham said, “The fact that Kevin’s achievements are coupled with a caring and deeply ethical personality, evidenced by his work in Uganda but also his daily interactions, make it an even sweeter package. It’s a privilege to have been his advisor many moons ago, and a pleasure to now be his colleague.”

Now as an ACM Fellow, has Kevin’s research reached its pinnacle? Definitely not. “I am still that excited scruffy kid pushing his research forward.” said Kevin.

We can’t wait to see what’s next, Kevin.

More about ACM

More about Kevin  

Other ACM Fellows in the UBC Computer Science Department:

Gail Murphy (named 2017)
Gregor Kiczales (named 2012)
Margo Seltzer (named 2011)
Anne Condon (named 2010)