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CIFAR leaders Yoshua Bengio and Louis Taillefer honoured with Quebec science prize

by Jon Farrow Jun 4 / 19

Two CIFAR program co-directors earned the 2019 Prix d’excellence from the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FRQNT) for exceptional research and impact.

Louis Taillefer and Yoshua Bengio
Yoshua Bengio (left) and Louis Taillefer (right)


The FRQNT Prix d’excellence recognizes impact on the regional and international levels, as well as the quality of the honorees’ scientific research, their contributions to training the next generation of researchers, and their leadership ability. The award was officially given at the Journée de la recherche celebration in Quebec City and carries a $10,000 prize for each laureate.

CIFAR provides the freedom to explore new questions by providing long-term, structured and ongoing opportunities for collaboration and knowledge mobilization. Our goal is to create global communities of top scientists and scholars in which members are free to take risks, offer constructive criticism and explore bold new ideas in collaboration with their most accomplished peers. Our fellows are internationally recognized for being among the very best in their fields. With time, and the freedom that CIFAR offers, we believe their ideas today will be tomorrow’s reality.

The CIFAR Quantum Materials program has had a huge impact on my career" - Louis Taillefer

Louis Taillefer is the co-director of the CIFAR Quantum Materials program, a professor of physics at the Université de Sherbrooke and a Canada Research Chair in Quantum Materials. He is a highly decorated physicist, having received the Simon Memorial prize in 2017 and the Kamerlingh-Onnes prize in 2018. He is the first Canadian to win either prestigious international award.

“The CIFAR Quantum Materials program has had a huge impact on my career, as well as that of my team and my collaborators,” says Taillefer. “It has enabled us to create and develop a culture of scientific collaboration in Canada and across the world.”


The current success of deep learning and neural nets spawned from CIFAR was only possible because of decades of long-term ambitious investments in basic research" - Yoshua Bengio

Yoshua Bengio is a Canada CIFAR AI Chair, the co-director of the CIFAR Learning in Machines & Brains program, a professor of Computer Science and Operations Research at the Université de Montréal, a Canada Research Chair in Statistical Learning Algorithms and the Founder and Scientific Director of Mila. He is one of the world’s leading experts in artificial intelligence and a pioneer in deep learning, for which he was recently recognized with the ACM’s A.M. Turing Award and Killam Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts.

“The current success of deep learning and neural nets spawned from CIFAR was only possible because of decades of long-term ambitious investments in basic research, at times when neural nets were not fashionable and had no traction in industry.” says Bengio, “I think it’s really important for us to have this place, this group that allows us to focus on the long-term challenges and questions.”

Three previous FRQNT Prix d’excellence have been awarded to CIFAR fellows, including in 2017 to Victoria Kaspi, in 2015 to Isabelle Peretz and in 2013 to Gilles Brassard. This is the first time two CIFAR co-directors have been honoured in the same year.