RBC’s Borealis AI adds two senior researchers to its team

Borealis AI, an RBC Institute for Research that announced the opening of yet another AI lab in Montreal in November, has expanded its artificial intelligence research team with the addition of Professor Pascal Poupart of the University of Waterloo and Professor Marcus Brubaker of York University. Both join as senior researchers.

The new RBC Borealis AI lab will open its doors this year with McGill University professor Jackie Cheung as academic advisor.

“Montreal has emerged as a global centre for research in artificial intelligence and I’m excited to be participating in this community,” Dr. Foteini Agrafioti, chief science officer and head of Borealis AI, said at the time of the lab’s announcement. “We’re committed to helping advance the field through the creation of intellectual property and look forward to providing new opportunities for the enormous talent already doing exceptional research in the region.”

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Professor Cheung, who will act as academic advisor to the lab, is an expert in the field of natural language processing (NLP), which is a computer’s ability to understand human language. NLP is considered one of the key focus areas of AI research, with potential applications in the financial and other sectors, such as the analysis of unstructured text that is prevalent in public and RBC proprietary datasets.

We are thrilled to have Professor Poupart and Professor Brubaker continue their research as part of Borealis AI,” said Agrafioti. “We are at a tipping point in Canada – the AI ecosystem is poised to become the true and material world leader in AI. When top talent chooses to join a Canadian company, and stay in Canada, we all benefit.”

Professor Poupart’s team will be based out of Waterloo, and he will split his time between the Toronto-based Borealis AI centre, and teaching at the University of Waterloo. During his tenure there, he collaborated with numerous international corporations like Huawei, Google, Intel, and Ford. Much of his research has focused on real-world applications and expansion into financial services applications. Professor Poupart is part of the cohort of influential, long-time researchers whose work has helped shape the current explosion of interest in AI.

“Right now, it’s not just academic institutions that are advancing this field, but the industry as well, and Borealis AI is at the forefront of this space,” said Poupart, senior researcher, Borealis AI. “This is the perfect opportunity for me to continue to work on the things I’m passionate about as a scientist, while translating that work into real advances that will impact people in their everyday lives through RBC.”

Professor Brubaker has noted expertise in computer vision and probabilistic models, and will be overseeing Borealis AI’s fundamental and applied research team in Toronto. His expertise in Bayesian machine learning, a set of methods for inferring things about the world in the presence of uncertainty, has previously led him to accelerate the discovery of molecular structures from cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM). Cryo-EM recently won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“Borealis has built an exceptional team of researchers working on a range of problems in AI and I’m proud to become a part of that,” said Brubaker. “It will be an opportunity to really push the boundaries of what can be done with machine learning and as we continue to create opportunities in the lab we hope more researchers will join us in that effort.”

Established in 2016, with labs in Toronto/WaterlooEdmonton, and Montreal, Borealis AI supports open academic collaborations and teams up with world-class research centres in artificial intelligence.


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