Renowned artificial intelligence researcher Manuela Veloso tells class of doctoral graduates that their Northeastern education has prepared them to excel in life

Manuela Veloso, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and head of J.P. Morgan AI Research, praised the graduates for persevering through their long and challenging journeys to reach their academic goals. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern students who received their doctoral degrees on Wednesday had to complete rigorous coursework, take qualifying exams, and conduct extensive research for their dissertations to reach the pinnacle of academic excellence. Now, they are prepared to tackle any challenges and uncertainty that they will face in their careers, says Manuela Veloso, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University and head of J.P. Morgan AI Research.  

“Without a doubt this has been a fantastic preparation for life,” said Veloso, who delivered the graduation address at the Doctor of Philosophy Hooding and Graduation Ceremony, which was held at the university’s Cabot Center.

Veloso praised the 171 graduates for persevering through their long and challenging journeys to reach their academic goals and urged them to bask in their achievements.

“You are not going to have in life this feeling of accomplishment that often,” she said. “So I think you need to enjoy it. Take yourself out for dinner, by yourself. Enjoy the fact that you finished, that you know more than anyone on your specific discipline.”

Veloso’s research focuses on artificial intelligence, with a particular emphasis on machine learning and robotics. In 1997, she co-founded RoboCup, an international initiative launched with the formidable dream of fielding a team of autonomous robots capable of beating the human World Cup champions by 2050. The robot soccer teams designed by Veloso and her students have been RoboCup Small Size League world champions several times.

She has also developed CoBots, autonomous mobile service robots that are capable of performing tasks around the office. When the CoBots cannot complete a task, because, say, they don’t know where the coffee maker is or they don’t have arms to push the elevator buttons, they ask nearby humans for assistance.

Veloso is currently on leave from Carnegie Mellon, where she is the past head of the machine learning department, to work as the head of J.P. Morgan AI Research. In this role, she is pursuing fundamental research into how artificial intelligence can help the financial sector.

“For more than two decades, your achievements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics have illuminated the possibilities for humankind in the age of AI, firing imaginations the world over,” said James C. Bean, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern.

The Northeastern graduates, who were each presented with a doctoral hood by their faculty advisors, earned doctor of philosophy degrees across many disciplines, including computer science, bioengineering, pharmaceutical sciences, physics, political science, and criminology and justice policy. Bean said that this moment marks “the completion of a profound intellectual journey, one that advisors and graduates travel together.”

“This journey is transformative on both the student and the advisor,” Bean said, “and the bond created between them will last for their lifetimes.”

After the graduates received their hoods and diplomas, Bean closed the ceremony by congratulating the graduates for their academic achievements.

“Graduates, as you leave here today you will carry the Northeastern name,” he said. “It’s a name that will serve you well. We are very proud of your accomplishments. We are proud that you will be members of the Northeastern family throughout your continuing intellectual journey.”

Laura Castañón contributed to this report.

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