UMass Amherst AI expert wins major US Army civilian award

“Such a large leap in AI technology can only be achieved when top researchers put our strengths together and learn from each other.”

Artificial intelligence (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Artificial intelligence
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Prof. Hava T. Siegelmann of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) was awarded the coveted Meritorious Public Service Medal from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Defense Department for the advancements she and her team made in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).
The medal, which is the third-highest honor the Defense Department can give a civilian, was given because “She created and managed some of DARPA’s largest and most advanced AI programs including L2M – developing next-generation advanced AI systems capable of learning in real time and applying learning to environments and circumstances not specifically trained for,” according to her award citation.
This project took advantage of Siegelmann's reputation for outside the box thinking, with her insistence leading to the formation of large and diverse teams of researchers she selected from the top US universities and research centers to actively work together.
“Such a large leap in AI technology can only be achieved when top researchers put our strengths together and learn from each other,” Siegelmann explained.
Other notable developments made by Siegelmann include a system to administer insulin and dextrose to maintain glucose levels for patients in critical care and with diabetes; sensors to safely identify dangerous chemicals at a distance; collaborative learning systems to share information without revealing any sensitive data; and the Guaranteeing AI Robustness against Deception (GARD) program, which establishes "the theoretical machine learning system vulnerabilities, characterize properties that will enhance system robustness and encourage the creation of effective defenses,” the citation states.
Siegelmann expressed surprise at winning the award.
“I didn’t know that anyone was noticing what I do. It was so touching, and a complete surprise. I feel honored to be contributing,” she said in a statement. “I think UMass should get credit for supporting me to run a very advanced AI lab such that the government wanted to invite me, and for allowing me to join what is literally the world’s most advanced and sophisticated AI initiative.”
She added that  “DARPA was a wonderful, highly productive experience. I can’t say enough about my DARPA colleagues and the truly bright and far-seeing researchers I worked with. My goal now is to continue my research – advancing AI learning and, equally as important, to start teaching the next generation of computer scientists, giving them the new skills they’ll need, skills not yet taught in current AI programs, to create and advance the systems that will increasingly be part of our infrastructure.”
“I am extremely proud of Hava's service to DARPA and the nation," CICS dean Laura Haas said. "Our college is dedicated to a vision of Computing for the Common Good, and Hava’s work at DARPA has helped to advance AI for us all.”