MIT announces leadership of its Quest for Intelligence. Faculty from across the Institute tapped to lead new initiative in human and machine intelligence.

Photo of Prof. Antonio Torralba
June 11, 2018

On June 11, 2018, Provost Martin A. Schmidt announced that Prof. Antonio Torralba has been named the inaugural director of the MIT Quest for Intelligence, effective immediately.

“The range of questions we aspire to explore through the Quest is simply breathtaking,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “There are moments in the history of science when the tools, the data, and the big questions are perfectly synchronized to achieve major advances. I believe we are in just such a moment, and that we are poised to advance the understanding of intelligence in every sense in a profound way. Antonio is exactly the leader we need to move this effort forward.”

In addition, Schmidt announces the Quest leadership team:

Aude Oliva, a principal research scientist at CSAIL and the MIT executive director at the MIT–IBM Watson AI Lab, will serve as the Quest’s executive director.

The Core Leadership:

James DiCarlo, the Peter de Florez Professor of Neuroscience and head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, will be director of “The Core.” One of the Quest’s two linked entities, The Core will advance the science and engineering of both human and machine intelligence.

Daniela Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and director of CSAIL, will be associate director of The Core.  

The Core’s scientific directors will be Josh Tenenbaum, professor of computational cognitive science, a research thrust leader at the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and a member of CSAIL; and Leslie Kaelbling, the Panasonic Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and a member of CSAIL.

The Core’s founding scientific advisor will be Tomaso Poggio, the Eugene McDermott Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, director of the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, and a member of CSAIL.

Together, the leadership of The Core will bring together teams of researchers to tackle the most ambitious “moonshot” projects focusing on the science and engineering of intelligence.  

The Bridge Leadership:

Nicholas Roy, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and a member of CSAIL, will be the director of the Quest’s second linked entity, “The Bridge.” Dedicated to the application of MIT discoveries in natural and artificial intelligence to all disciplines, The Bridge will host state-of-the-art tools from industry and research labs worldwide.

The Bridge’s associate director of strategic initiatives will be Cynthia Breazeal, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Lab.

Roy and Breazeal will work with faculty from across MIT to ensure the discoveries and developments facilitated by the Quest have an impact, both within and beyond academic research.



CBMM Director Tomaso Poggio shared his thoughts with CBMM Community via email.

Prof. Poggio's message is shared below:

Dear CBMM Colleagues,

As you may have seen, MIT Provost Marty Schmidt just announced the leadership team for the MIT Intelligence Quest (to be spelled QI).   This is expected and great news for CBMM as we are well-represented in the leadership of the Quest Core –  with Jim DiCarlo, Josh Tenenbaum and myself as a kind of grandfather figure.

The Core part of the Quest consists of research in the science + the engineering of intelligence.  CBMM sits at the “Intersection” of these efforts, focused on the science AND the engineering of intelligence.  Indeed CBMM is the “Core of the Core”!    As such, the MIT Quest  will be an opportunity to both highlight and promote the research and activities of our CBMM community, and will enable us to expand upon the foundation we have built.  This is the beginning of an exciting time for research on intelligence at MIT!