USI Alumni Award


On the occasion of its 28th Dies academicus (2024), USI has instituted the USI Alumni Award to recognise and honour its graduates who have particularly distinguished themselves in their professional careers.

The first USI Alumni Award has been awarded to

Shane Legg,
PhD in Informatics USI, 2008
Co-founder of Google DeepMind

Shane Legg, originally from New Zealand, is a leading figure in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). He is best known for his work on artificial general intelligence (AGI) and for co-founding DeepMind Technologies, later acquired by Google. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Waikato in 1996 and earned his MSc with a thesis on Solomonoff Induction at the University of Auckland in the same year. Legg, together with Ben Goertzel, played a significant role in promoting the term “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) in the early 2000s. This term has been instrumental in shifting the focus of AI research towards creating systems that can perform any cognitive task that a human can perform. He expressed concerns about the existential risks posed by AI and signed a statement on the risk of AI's extinction in 2023. Before completing his PhD at the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA) at Università della Svizzera italiana, where he worked on theoretical models of super-intelligent machines with Marcus Hutter, Legg held various positions in software development and worked on big data projects. His doctoral thesis, "Machine Super Intelligence", laid the foundation for his later work. After his PhD, he completed a post-doc in finance and then continued his research at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London.

In 2010, he co-founded DeepMind Technologies with Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman. The startup quickly became a leading AI research lab, focusing on learning and neural networks, before being acquired by Google in 2014. 

Dr. Legg is one of the world's 100 most influential people in artificial intelligence.

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The next USI Alumni Award will be awarded during USI’s 29th Dies academicus in 2025. Stay tuned.