The University and Google held an inaugural event for the new Google AI lab located just north of campus in Palmer Square on Thursday, May 2.
The event hosted speakers such as Professor of Computer Science Elad Hazan, New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, New Jersey Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, alumnus and former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt ’76, and President Christopher Eisgruber ’83.
Eisgruber described the partnership as historic for the University and stated that it will have impacts throughout the region.
Eisgruber mentioned his belief that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the future for many fields, including genomics, chemistry, psychology, and more. He described the importance of collaboration and partnerships with the private sector.
“Our collaboration with Google exemplifies this vibrant new strand in Princeton’s educational mission,” he said. “People might [one day] point to this site and say ‘a lot of it started right here.’”
Governor Murphy expressed his excitement at Google’s choosing to open its lab in New Jersey. He described it as a unique addition to both the University and the state.
He described the New Jersey economy as being composed of both infrastructure and innovation.
“The infrastructure economy is pretty simple — it’s based on where we are. The innovation economy is who we are,” Murphy said.
The New Jersey Governor announced on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development the creation of the New Jersey Innovation Research Fellowship Program, which will provide aid to pre- and post-Ph.D. research in the form of two-year grants.
Murphy invited Coleman to say a few words about the creation of the lab. She thanked all those who were involved in the partnership and expressed her admiration of the work that was already being conducted by students.
“Even in the field of artificial intelligence, it’s about making our world better,” she said.
She explained her view that it is necessary for the world to be made better through the presence of minorities and women in all working fields, and for research to be conducted that applies to people from all walks of life.
“Things that work for some, do not work for all,” she said.
Hazan began his remarks by thanking Eric Schmidt ’76 for his support of the project, while noting Schmidt’s recent decision to step down from the Alphabet board.
Hazan also thanked Eisgruber for his involvement in creating the partnership between Google and the University. He expressed further gratitude for other members of the team and emphasized the importance of student involvement in the project.
“We can collaborate with the brilliant minds we have here of students and researchers and build upon these foundations … together, we can really find out some new, amazing scientific discoveries,” he said.
Schmidt described the state of the University’s computer science program when he arrived as a student, saying it was virtually non-existent.
He recalled listening to Professor Brian Kernighan GS ’69’s lectures, saying that they sparked his interest in computer science. Schmidt also described his trips to Bell Labs with Professor Jeffrey Ullman GS ’66 as a 19-year-old.
“It was where all the really smart people were — all the hardware, all the computers,” he said, describing why he chose to make the trip so often.
Schmidt used his experience to explain the significance of Google opening an AI lab across the street from the University. He described the importance of having Professors Elad Hazan and Yoram Singer both teaching and working with Google.
“They’re both teaching with this extraordinary set of people,” Schmidt said. “But they’re also embedded inside this amazing set of technologies that is accessible to Google employees.”
Schmidt described his vision for combining the minds available at the University with the leadership and technology available at Google.
Guests had the opportunity to meet the student researchers who have already begun work in the lab and hear about their research.
Second-year graduate student Udaya Ghai described the importance of “building algorithms that are efficient but robust” in the research taking place.
The event took place at 3:30 p.m. on the third floor of 1 Palmer Square.