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Mexican National Prize for Arts and Sciences for Raúl Rojas, professor of computer science at Freie Universität Berlin

News from Dec 16, 2015

Professor Raúl Rojas, who has been a professor of computer science at Freie Universität Berlin since 1997, will receive the National Prize for Arts and Sciences in Mexico on Wednesday. The most prestigious scientific award of the country, comparable to the Leibniz Prize in Germany, will be presented to the winners personally by the President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto in the capitol in Mexico City. Last Saturday the Mexican Minister of Education Aurelio Nuño Mayer had notified all of the winners by telephone. Rojas won the award in the technology category, which includes engineering and computer science. Rojas won the prize for his many years of work in artificial intelligence. The Premio Nacional de Ciencias is connected with an appointment to the Mexican Science Council. This panel advises the Mexican government in all matters relating to education and research policy. The Mexican National Prize for Arts and Sciences is presented annually in the fields of science, technology, linguistics and literature, history and social sciences and the humanities. There are also two special awards for artists.

The Instituto Politecnico Nacional, the alma mater of Rojas and the largest technical university in Mexico, proposed nominating Rojas for the award. The final decision was made in October, but it was not announced at that time. Only a few weeks later, Freie Universität Berlin's autonomous vehicle made its way across 2400 kilometers in Mexico, traveling from Mexico's border to Arizona all the way to Mexico City. The selection committee recognized Rojas’s scientific work and his numerous innovative demonstrations of technology. Its members also took into account that Rojas, though based in Germany, always sought connections to universities and research institutions in Mexico. Five Mexican scientists already earned their doctorates with Rojas in Berlin, and four more are currently working on their doctoral dissertations. Three of those who already earned their doctorates are employed as faculty at universities in Mexico. Rojas is a member of the Supervisory Board of the Research Center for Astronomy in Puebla. He has served as a member of the supervisory board of the Center for Mathematical Research in Guanajuato, and this year he was appointed a board member of the Rehabilitation Center CRIT in San Antonio, Texas (USA), a facility that was established in Mexico for dealing with the way Latinos are treated in the United States.

In the past twelve months Rojas has received a number of awards at home and abroad. At the end of 2014, the United Kingdom presented him with a Tony Sale Award for his contributions in the field of the history of computer science. In March of this year, was named University Teacher of the Year by the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (Deutscher Hochschulverband). In May he was awarded a Lazaro Cardenas Medal from the Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico.

Artificial intelligence, the main field of work of Raúl Rojas, has become increasingly important. The digitization of the economy as a whole harbors significant potential for economic development, but also risks that must be taken into account. Through contributions in magazines and newspapers for the broader public, Rojas has drawn attention to both the opportunities and the risks involved. "Artificial intelligence is nothing more than letting computers do the work that humans can do without thinking," says Rojas. Facial or voice recognition belongs to these activities, and so does car driving. Since 2006 the scientists in Rojas's group have been working on the development of autonomous vehicles. At the beginning of December the Governing Mayor of Berlin rode through Berlin in Freie Universität's prototype. Professor Rojas first drew attention through international success that his research team won with their FU-Fighters and FUmanoids in the Robot Soccer World Cup.

Raúl Rojas González was born in 1955 in Mexico City. He majored in mathematics and physics in Mexico and economics and social sciences at Freie Universität Berlin. In 1993 he completed the habilitation process in computer science with a specialization in artificial neural networks. From 1994 to 1997 he was a professor of artificial intelligence at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. He has been teaching at Freie Universität since 1997.

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