Penn Engineers Help Launch TILOS, a New NSF Artificial Intelligence Research Institute Focused on Optimization

Vijay Kumar, CJ Taylor, Alejandro Ribeiro, Hamed Hassani and Shirin Saeedi Bidokhti.
Vijay Kumar, CJ Taylor, Alejandro Ribeiro, Hamed Hassani and Shirin Saeedi Bidokhti will contribute to TILOS research on optimization in artificial intelligence, as well as the Institute’s educational and outreach efforts.

Through a $20 Million grant, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has established the Institute for Learning-enabled Optimization at Scale, or TILOS. As one of TILOS’ partner institutions, Penn Engineering will contribute to its research on how algorithm-based systems can learn and improve upon themselves as they work.  

Headquartered at the University of California, San Diego, TILOS also includes researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; San Diego-based National University; the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University. It is part of the National Science Foundation’s National Artificial Research Institute program, a five-year, $220 million investment to create 11 multidisciplinary, multi-institution research institutes that will bring together universities, federal agencies, industry, and nonprofit organizations.

Penn Engineering faculty will play leadership roles in TILOS: Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, will serve as its Associate Director for Translation. CJ Taylor, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Raymond S. Markowitz President’s Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science, will serve as its Associate Director for Diversity and Outreach. 

In addition to Kumar and Taylor, TILOS’ research teams include Professor Alejandro Ribeiro, Assistant Professor Hamed Hassani and Assistant Professor Shirin Saeedi Bidokhti, all of the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering. 

Kumar and Taylor will work with TILOS’ “Robotics” research team, improving the speed and accuracy with which automated systems, such as self-driving cars, perceive their environment.  

Ribeiro and Saeedi Bidokhti are on its “Networks” team; their work will focus on how telecommunications systems can be optimized for reliability and energy efficiency.

Finally, Hassani is a member of TILOS’ “Foundations” research team, which will investigate the theoretical underpinnings of the machine learning techniques used in all of TILOS’ research areas.  

TILOS members will also do more than research; all of the National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes are tasked with helping educate the next generation of AI researchers. Such programming will extend beyond the classroom, with embodied robot demonstrations, community art installations, and portable, adaptable “outreach in a box” modules. These initiatives aim to grow awareness of, and access to, new career and educational opportunities—especially among students and others who are traditionally underrepresented in engineering.