Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (second from left) with a graduate. Also seen are Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber (extreme right), Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, President-Designate of COP28 UAE and Chairman of MBZUAI’s Board of Trustees, and Professor Eric Xing, MBZUAI President and University Professor. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In the presence of Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) today hosted the Commencement for the Class of 2023, its second cohort, strengthening AI talent capacity and contributing solutions to global challenges, including in health, education, and climate.

The MBZUAI commencement ceremony celebrated 59 students from 25 countries graduating with a master’s in computer vision (CV) and machine learning (ML), along with its first-ever natural language processing (NLP) graduates.

Hosted at the Abu Dhabi Energy Centre, the event was attended by Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, President-Designate of COP28 UAE and Chairman of MBZUAI’s Board of Trustees, and Professor Eric Xing, MBZUAI President and University Professor, in addition to Members of the Board of Trustees and university faculty.

Dr Al Jaber said: “The importance of AI is undisputed, which is why MBZUAI continues to push the boundaries of this technology through advanced research, strategic industry collaborations, and, of course, by empowering the next generation of AI experts. I am confident that the Class of 2023 will make a profound social and economic impact and develop tangible AI solutions that will help to overcome some of society’s major challenges, particularly in the areas of climate, healthcare, and education.”

He added: “This December, the UAE will host COP28 – a task we approach with humility, a clear sense of responsibility, and a great sense of urgency. We must use every tool available to us to make transformational progress across the climate agenda and AI is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.”

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Class of 2023

Today, 46 per cent of the graduating class have confirmed employment, Ph.D. placements, or paid internships. Employment has been secured with organisations such as Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO), Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Abu Dhabi Police, G42 Healthcare, Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence (IIAI)/G42 and SnapChat UK.

Among the 59 students who graduated, 32 majored in ML, 20 CV, and seven in NLP. The Class of 2023 comprised 25 nationalities, hailing from countries including China, UAE, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Italy, and Jordan. More than half the graduating class undertook a voluntary industry internship to prepare them to become “changemakers” in healthcare, technology, energy, transport, and government.

Class of 2023 Image Credit: Supplied

The Class of 2023 also had 17 academic papers published or accepted at major conferences and journals of international standing, including the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2023), Journal of Physics Energy, and IEEE Access journal.

Several of them were invited to deliver workshops at leading conferences, including Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2022), the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2022), and International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR 2023).

The ceremony included an MBZUAI Research Showcase, where faculty and students presented current projects highlighting the university’s three key research pillars - health, climate, and education. Guests and attendees gained insight into the exploration taking place at MBZUAI and the importance of these projects utilising AI to solve humankind’s most pressing challenges.

‘Pivotal time’

MBZUAI President and University Professor Eric Xing said: “This is a pivotal time as wider public interest turns its attention to AI – and with the UAE’s pace, scale, and ambition as a young nation, it offers a cosmopolitan hub of innovation that attracts the world’s greatest minds in the field."

He added: "I extend my congratulations to the Class of 2023 as they embark on the next stage of their journey. I encourage them to become RenAIssanceScholars, stay curious – continue to learn, to explore and to understand the world, but most importantly to think deeply about how they will use the potential of AI to make a difference in the world.”

Prof Xing Image Credit: Supplied

Students from the Class of 2023 also represented MBZUAI in top national and international hackathons, achieving first and second places at IEEE SLT international hackathon (Qatar Computing Research Institute), G42’s HackforSpace Hackathon, GITEX x AI-everything High Flyer challenge, Pioneers 4.0 Hackathon Series (MoIAT and EDGE), Cisco Power of the Future Challenge, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) Transport Hackathon, and Agritech Hackathon (Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Security Authority (ADAFSA), among others.

‘AI is the bridge’

Prof Xing told Gulf News this is the second batch of graduate students with a master’s degree - the first batch had graduated in January. He said MBZUAI majors meet the requirements of the local labour market and are in line with the vision of the leadership of the UAE to fully benefit from advanced technology.

“The [MBZUAI] students are aware of the importance of artificial intelligence and its uses in all aspects of the daily life of society and the need for human societies to benefit from artificial intelligence programmes to manage the wheel of the economy and industry in the future,” the president added.

“Artificial intelligence is the bridge for establishing an industrial, technical and scientific society in the future, and this is what students who belong to this university understand and realise.”

New majors

Prof Xing said: “Currently, we have three major majors, and we plan to add a fourth major in the next academic year. We are currently preparing a study to add other majors, so that the total number of majors over the next few years will be seven, covering all aspects of human life. Artificial intelligence programmes are like an orchestra, each player complements the other in a perfect arrangement so that the end result is a piece of fine music.”

‘Focus on a point’

Emirati graduate Hussein Al Asmawi, who specialised in Master of Machine Learning, told Gulf News: “The field of AI is developing very quickly; I personally noticed this over the past two years. AI is a very broad field, and you must focus on a specific point and specialise in its study in order to benefit from the knowledge of this field."

He added: "My advice to young Emiratis: Studying at the university is not difficult, and whoever has any interest in computer science, machines, software and various industries, I advise them not to hesitate to enrol in MBZUAI and choose the specialisation they are inclined towards.”

Mohammed Khaled Al Mansoori

Another Emirati graduate, Mohammed Khaled Al Mansoori, who specialised in Computer Vision, said: “My experience with the university and with the major I studied was wonderful, comfortable and successful. There were challenges I faced, but I overcame them.”

He added: “I advise the youth of the UAE to not be afraid of studying in the artificial intelligence sector and to enrol in MBZUAI. Studying in the field of artificial intelligence is interesting and important and its specialities are included in all fields such as medicine, engineering, statistics, research, studies, media, tourism, industry and others.”

Machine Science major Farah Albreiki, a UAE national, said: “The major that I studied and obtained a master’s degree in is Machine Learning Language, which represents one of the most important majors in the field of artificial intelligence that will lead the future. I invite the sons of the Emirates to benefit from studying at MBZUAI because the government provides the citizens with a golden opportunity to benefit from this important scientific field.”