1999 was the year of prominent growth for the PC gaming market, redefined modern computer graphics and revolutionized parallel computing, and recently, GPU deep learning has ignited the modern AI. For the Da Vincis and Einsteins of this time, NVIDIA pioneered a supercharged form of computing loved by the most demanding computer users in the world — scientists, designers, artists, and gamers. Fueled by the insatiable demand for better 3D graphics, and the massive scale of the gaming market, NVIDIA has evolved the GPU into a computer brain at the exciting intersection of virtual reality, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence. Powering this AI revolution is Anima Anandkumar, the Director of Machine Learning Research at NVIDIA (since 2018) and the Bren Professor of Computing at California Institute of Technology. She is a renowned name in the world of GPU computing. Her research is focused on tensor algebraic methods, deep learning, and non-convex optimization. Here’s her story of becoming a world-class AI expert.
Anima was born in Mysore, India. Belonging to a family of engineers and mathematicians, appreciably she studied electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and graduated in 2004. In 2009, at Cornell University, she earned a Ph.D. in EE under the supervision of Lang Tong. Post-doctorate, she was a scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she worked in the Stochastic Systems Group with Alan Willsky. Later, in 2010, she joined the University of California as an assistant professor and began her work on tensor decompositions of latent variable models. She joined Microsoft Research in New England in 2012, as a visiting scientist after which she achieved a National Science Foundation Career Award for investigating big data and social networks in 2013. She is also the recipient of the Sloan award. Soon, she joined as an associate professor with tenure at UC, Irvine and after almost a year, she was honored with Bren named chair professorship at Caltech in June 2017. From 2016-2018, she was a principal scientist at Amazon Web Services, where she worked on and the launch of Amazon Sagemaker, and represented AWS on various renowned platforms to discuss deep learning, until she finally came with NVIDIA as director of ML research in September 2018. The list of her accomplishments is never-ending. Recently, she was nominated to the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network consisting of leading experts from academia, business, government, and the media. She has also been featured in documentaries by PBS, KPCC, wired magazine, and in articles by MIT Technology Review, Forbes, Yourstory, O’Reilly media, and so on. She is the co-director of the Center for Decision Making, Optimization and Learning (DOLCIT) at Caltech and is on the scientific advisory committee for the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST). Anima has worked to democratize AI, promote ethical use and bring diversity and inclusion in the industry. Therefore, in 2018, she was presented with the good tech award by NYTimes for her efforts.