UCL Computer Science


UCL’s first-ever DeepMind Academic Fellow joins UCL Computer Science

21 September 2022

David Ifeoluwa Adelani will take up the three-year appointment to advance his research in natural language processing for low-resource African languages, following a donation from leading global artificial intelligence company, DeepMind.

David Ifeoluwa Adelani DeepMind  UCLAcademic Fellow

David Ifeoluwa Adelani joins UCL as the DeepMind Fellow in Sustainable Artificial Intelligence from Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, where he is a final year doctoral student of computer science.  

He is an active member of Masakhane - a grassroots organisation whose mission is to strengthen and spur natural language processing (NLP) research in African languages, for Africans, and by Africans. 

David led the creation of two popular NLP benchmark datasets for 21 African languages -- MasakhaNER and MAFAND-MT, for named entity recognition (NER) and machine translation (MT).  

He also developed the current state-of-the-art Africa-centric pre-trained language model (AfroXLMR) for natural language understanding tasks. 

As well as continuing his research on NLP in his new position, David will serve as a role model to underrepresented communities and encourage future generations to engage in research on AI. 

Commenting on his appointment, David said: “I am very excited to be appointed as a DeepMind Academic Fellow at UCL, and really grateful for this fantastic opportunity. I am looking forward to mentorship and research collaborations with AI and NLP researchers at the UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence.” 

Professor David Barber, Director of the UCL Centre for AI, said: “I’m delighted that David is joining us. Understanding language is a central challenge in AI and David’s efforts and interest in African languages is particularly relevant to ensuring that AI benefits the broadest possible community globally. DeepMind’s generous donation and David’s research will help the AI Centre to realise our vision to use AI to help make a healthier, happier and more sustainable future for all.” 

Professor Marc Deisenroth, DeepMind Chair for Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence, said: “I’m excited about David joining UCL. David’s research on low-resource African languages will complement our research at the UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence, and we are looking forward to collaborating with him and supporting him throughout the next stages of his career. We are grateful to DeepMind’s generous support, which made David’s appointment possible.” 

Obum Ekeke OBE, Head of Education Partnerships at DeepMind, said: "Increasing representation in AI offers a huge opportunity to bring diverse values, hopes, and concerns into conversations about the design and deployment of AI – and this is critical if AI is going to be a technology that benefits everyone. 

The DeepMind Academic Fellowship Programme is designed to support talented early career researchers like David to pursue postdoctoral study and enable them to progress to full academic or other research leadership roles in future. We're thrilled to continue our existing partnership with UCL through this programme and wish David all the best in his new role."

The DeepMind Academic Fellowship in Sustainable Artificial Intelligence complements the other elements of UCL and DeepMind’s five-year partnership.  

Since 2017, DeepMind has funded 25 DeepMind MSc scholars, five PhD candidates in the UKRI Foundational AI CDT, a DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and collaborative research between UCL academics and DeepMind.