Professors Wenhu Chen and Xi He from the Cheriton School of Computer Science have been named Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. They are among eight leading researchers across Canada who are building a robust artificial intelligence research ecosystem to advance the nation’s leadership in priority areas under the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy at CIFAR.

Chen and He’s appointments will contribute to Canadian research in fields of inquiry identified through the second phase of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy as priority areas — AI for health, AI for energy and the environment, the fundamental science of AI, and responsible use of AI.

“Congratulations to Wenhu and Xi on their being named Canada CIFAR AI Chairs,” said Raouf Boutaba, professor and director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “Wenhu joined the Cheriton School of Computer Science this fall as an assistant professor. He has made significant contributions to designing reasoning models over knowledge forms, specifically natural language processing models that reason over tables — novel research that has resulted in a sequence of papers that have been widely adopted by the research community.

“Xi’s research focuses on privacy and security for big data, including developing usable and trustworthy tools for data exploration and machine learning with provable security and privacy guarantees,” Professor Boutaba continued. “Among her many important research contributions, she recently published a book for practitioners called Differential Privacy for Databases. This how-to book compiles, summarizes and illustrates state-of-the-art techniques, algorithms and systems to answer database queries to learn useful information from data while protecting the privacy of the individuals who contributed it.”

Of the eight new CIFAR AI Chairs, seven are affiliated with the Vector Institute in Toronto and one with Amii in Edmonton.

“The new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs joining Amii and the Vector Institute are an extraordinarily talented group of researchers who will continue to educate and inspire the next generation of AI leaders and advance research in exciting and important areas,” said Elissa Strome, executive director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, in the CIFAR press release. “We look forward to seeing how their research will advance the development of artificial intelligence and its applications for the benefit of Canadians and the world.”

The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs program is a cornerstone of the strategy, recruiting the world’s top AI researchers to Canada while retaining existing talent. The prestigious program provides university-affiliated faculty with long-term, dedicated funding to support cutting-edge research programs and help them train the next generation of AI leaders.

About the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy

The Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy at CIFAR drives cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of diverse AI leaders, and fosters cross-sectoral collaboration for innovation, commercialization and responsible AI adoption. Funded by the Government of Canada, they are building a dynamic, representative, and rich community of world-leading researchers who are creating transformative, responsible AI solutions for people and the planet.


CIFAR is a Canadian-based global research organization that convenes extraordinary minds to address the most important questions facing science and humanity. CIFAR is supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.