University of Alberta

Jonathan Schaeffer is Distinguished Professor of Computing Science at the University of Alberta.  In a career spanning over 35 years, Jonathan has had impact locally in Edmonton, nationally in Canada, and internationally. He has excelled in research, teaching, and service.

Jonathan’s research is in artificial intelligence (AI). As a graduate student, he was advised to work on AI applications of societal benefit, such as medical. But as Jonathan’s non-academic passion was playing games, he decided to combine his pastime with his career. His AI research was concentrated in the areas of search (looking for solutions) and knowledge (assessing “goodness”), both areas of importance to building high-performing game-playing programs. He developed a chess program that tied for first in the 1986 World Computer Chess Championship. He wrote a checkers program that made computing science history by being the first program to earn the right to play for the human World Championship. In 1992 his program narrowly lost, but in 1994 it became World Champion — a feat recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records . He continued work on checkers and in 2007 announced that checkers was solved — his program would never lose. He led an effort to create the first strong poker-playing program in 2003. In 2008, the University of Alberta’s Poker Research Group achieved AI history by defeating world-class human players — another feat in the Guinness Book of World Records . In the 2000s he also worked on video games, helping develop software that was deployed by major games companies.

Jonathan’s research has been recognized nationally and internationally -with over 12,000 citations and an impressive H-index of 58. He has trained over 75 graduate students and worked with many undergraduates. He is a popular teacher. Jonathan was one of the architects for the building of a national vision for high-performance computing (HPC) in Canada. As a co-author of the national long-range plan for Canadian HPC, in 2005 Jonathan brought the country together to successfully make the case for almost $250 million of funding to build this infrastructure of national importance.

Jonathan is a co-founder of the world-famous Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii). His first startup company, BioTools (1995-2009), built world-class bioinformatics software. He is the co-owner of Onlea (onlea.org, 2014-present), which builds engaging online learning experiences.

View all winners