2021 Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference Held on October 25-27

The 5th annual conference was hosted by the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University and drew more than 400 leaders from industry and academia.

Networking Reception

The 5th Annual AI and Data Science Conference, organized by the Ken Kennedy Institute at Rice University, held the conference presentations and sponsored booths virtually (due to COVID-19) on October 25-26 with an in-person networking reception to conclude the main conference in the afternoon on October 26. An in-person add-on day with a technical workshop highlighting deep learning and high performance computing was held on October 27.

Over the past five years the Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference has explored how data science can be used to address the challenges of translating data to knowledge through advances in data engineering, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the use of novel hardware platforms.

This year’s conference included six keynote presentations, 14 technical talks (on ai for good, algorithms and foundations, business impact, and healthcare), one lunch workshop, five sponsored presentations, 16 student posters, and one post-conference workshop (Tuesday, November 30). The annual conference drew more than 400 attendees, with a strong international participation due to the conference being virtual with attendees from 29 states and 40 countries.

Keynote speakers included Rama Akkiraju, IBM; Ronnie Clayton, NASA Johnson Space Center; Farès El-Dahdah, Rice University; Katherine Ensor, Rice University; Rodrigo Ferreira, Rice University; Megan Price, Human Rights Data Analysis Group; and Brian Van Essen, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Dr. Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science at Rice University and director of the Ken Kennedy Institute, shared that “AI is touching our lives in myriad ways. It is changing the way we work but also the way we learn, monitor our health, shop, and relax. It is accelerating biological discoveries. It is helping us understand our planet and the universe. Through automation, it is transforming several industries. The use of AI is also raising concerns of privacy and equity that we must confront sooner than later. There is no doubt that AI and Data science research are key to solving impactful problems in the world. Meetings such as this foster innovation by encouraging new ideas, research, and conversation. Data scientists will be future leaders and large contributors from developing new medicines and treatments, to using energy sources effectively, to creating safe & smart cities, and to helping understand and mitigate our changing climate.”

The main portion of the conference concluded with an in-person networking reception at Holman Draft Hall. The reception was the highlight of the conference for attendees and sponsors being able to network together.

Wednesday, October 27 was an in-person add-on day with a technical workshop highlighting deep learning and high performance computing at the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) on Rice University campus titled “Scalable and Sustainable AI Workshop: Overcoming the Wide Gap Between AI in Theory and AI in Production”. This workshop explored recent advances in designing a new generation of scalable and sustainable AI algorithms that are exponentially cheaper and can cope with future demands. Keynote speakers included Alex Smola, Amazon Web Services and Anshumali Shrivastava, Rice University, ThirdAI.

In addition to Angela Wilkins, executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute, the conference committee included Denis Akhiyarov, TotalEnergies; Natalie Berestovsky, Bill.com; Licong Cui, UTHealth; Scott Ferguson, New Era Technology; Luca Giancardo, UTHealth; Max Grossman, Cruise; Giewee Hammond, Aramco Services; Xiaoqian Jiang, UTHealth; Roy Keyes, Houston Data Science Group; Zhandong Liu, Baylor College of Medicine; Scott Morton, Rice University; Risa Myers, Rice University; Jan E. Odegard, The Ion; Liliia Reddy, Chevron; Craig Rusin, Baylor College of Medicine; Rodney Cavero Samaco, Baylor College of Medicine; Akane Sano, Rice University; Santiago Segarra, Rice University; Rachel Shaffer, Chevron; Julianna Toms, Halliburton; Tamas Toth, ExxonMobil; Eric Venner, Human Genome Center, Baylor College of Medicine; Jim Ward, Two Sigma; Yan Xu, PROS; Cheng Zhan, Microsoft; Licheng Zhang, Houston Methodist Research Institute; W. Jim Zheng, UTHealth.

Seven sponsors (Bright Data – The Bright Initiative, DDN, Microsoft, PROS, SambaNova Systems, Two Sigma, and VAST Data) helped support the conference and provided free registration to conference attendees.

The full program can be viewed on the 2021 Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference website.

Recorded presentations can be found on the Ken Kennedy YouTube channel.

The Ken Kennedy Institute looks forward to hosting the next Ken Kennedy AI and Data Science Conference in fall 2022.



The Rice Ken Kennedy Institute is located on the campus of Rice University inside Duncan Hall. Click the map below for directions.

Rice Map


Rice University
Ken Kennedy Institute
6100 Main Street, MS-39
Houston, Texas 77005


Phone: 713-348-5823
Email: kenkennedy@rice.edu

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