Carnegie Mellon's Sandholm Wins AAAI Award for AI That Benefits Humanity

Carnegie Mellon’s Sandholm Wins AAAI Award for AI That Benefits Humanity

The award is one of the most prestigious awarded by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Awarded annually since 2021, it recognizes the positive impacts of artificial intelligence in protecting, enhancing and improving human life in a significant way with lasting effects. Sandholm, a computer science professor at Angel Jordan University and a professor in the computer science department, is the first from CMU to receive the award.

The AAAI has called Sandholm one of the most prolific and influential scientists in AI. His work covers many topics, including his long-standing research on kidney exchange. Kidney exchanges allow exchanges between donor-patient pairs, increasing the chances of finding compatible living donors.

Sandholm is a pioneer in designing powerful computational methods to take full advantage of kidney exchanges, using state-of-the-art AI and optimization techniques to improve the scalability and flexibility of donor-patient matching . Since 2010, his algorithms have powered the National Kidney Exchange for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit organization that operates the United States organ transplant system. About 80% of US transplant centers are now part of this exchange. Sandholm licensed its software to UNOS free of charge.

Sandholm also co-invented endless altruist-donor-initiated (NEAD) chains, and his algorithms created the first such chain in 2006. After this work was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, NEAD chains were adopted quickly and widely. These chains have become the main method of kidney exchange worldwide and have led to approximately 10,000 life-saving transplants.

Kidney transplants are more common than all other solid organ transplants combined, but Sandholm showed that additional life-saving benefits could be obtained by turning to other organs. He introduced liver lobe exchanges and multi-organ (aka inter-organ) exchanges in 2010. Based on his research contributions, the world’s first liver-kidney exchange took place in 2019. UNOS launched the first multicenter liver lobe exchange last month.

“Sandholm has been a leader in design innovations and is involved in the politics around this life-saving work. By blending cutting-edge science and software with tireless efforts to put these methods into practice, its impact on the lives of individuals, families and society is inspiring,” the AAAI said in the award announcement.

The award will be presented at the AAAI conference this month and comes with a prize of $25,000 plus travel expenses to the conference. Squirrel AI provides financial support for the award.

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