Mila’s Sasha Luccioni gets a $20,000 award

Sacha Luccioni

Sacha Luccioni

Credit: Mila

In 5 seconds

Supervised by UdeM professor Yoshua Bengio, the polyglot postdoctoral student is the 2021 winner of the Antidote Scholarship, funded by Montreal software company Druide Informatique.

Mila postdoctoral student Sasha Luccioni has been awarded a $20,000 bursary from Montreal-based software company Druide Informatique, makers of the popular Antidote writing-assistance tool in French and English.

Luccioni was named the winner Wednesday of the 2021 Antidote Scholarship, funded through the $1-million Druide Fund for Research in Text Analysis created in 2016 for the Mila lab of UdeM computer-science professor Yoshua Bengio, where Luccioni works.

The 31-year-old leads projects in socially oriented machine learning in areas including climate change, education and ethics. With a doctorate from Université du Québec à Montréal and two years in industrial research, Luccioni joined Mila in 2019.

Affiliated with UdeM, Mila has nearly 700 researchers from all over the world and is one of the leading research centres in its field.

We asked Luccioni about her latest honour – and about what’s next.

What does getting the Antidote Fellowship mean to you?

It means that the AI for humanity projects that I’ve been working so hard on are being recognized by the broader community, which is a great sign!

For over a year now, you’ve been working with UN Global Pulse scientists to look at research on how AI can counter the COVID-19 pandemic. How’s that going?

We are almost done creating a radio analysis dashboard that we will share with WHO country teams, so they can glean insights about what is going on in countries, what people are worried about, what’s missing and what can be done. This means that a WHO field worker in a country such as Mali or Madagascar can figure out whether people are getting vaccinated, whether they are using any folk remedies that are doing more harm than good, things like that.

You came to Mila in early 2019 to head up a project called Visualizing Climate Change, under the supervision of Yoshua Bengio. Can you sum up what you’ve learned so far?

I learned a great deal about climate science and sustainability, about the role that AI can play in tackling climate change. We are only a part of the puzzle, and it’s important to work hand-in-hand with domain experts in fields like ecology and climatology to move the needle forward together. So on one hand I’m very optimistic, but on the other we have our work cut out for us!

On a personal note, as a polyglot – born in Russia, raised in Toronto, educated in Paris and Montreal, with stints in South Korea and Argentina – what’s next for you?

Raising my two young daughters and teaching them to be curious and empathetic, and to care deeply about our planet and all of its inhabitants.