School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing

Welcome to our new Professor of Computer Science

In February 2024, we welcomed Grigoris Antoniou as our new Professor of Computer Science in the School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing. In this post, Professor Antoniou shares his ambitions for LBU to become an international leader in using Artificial Intelligence in mental health - and to play a crucial role in the NHS’s digital transformation.

The main entrance of James Graham building

Welcome Grigoris, can you tell us about your career journey to date and what attracted you to LBU?

I am a science nomad; I grew up in Greece, studied computer science in Karlsruhe, and did my PhD in Osnabrück, both in Germany. Afterwards, I held professorial positions in Australia (Griffith University), Germany (University of Bremen), and Greece (University of Crete), before moving to the UK in 2012 to hold a professorship at the University of Huddersfield until early 2024.

My research interests have always lied within artificial intelligence (AI). I have mostly worked on ways to capture, represent and use knowledge - modern knowledge graphs are a result of such efforts. My research origins lie in foundational AI but increasingly I find myself working on practical applications, seeking to make sense of often huge amounts of data. I have had numerous national and EU-funded projects and have also worked with healthcare providers and industry such as British Telecom.

As my career progressed, I have found myself increasingly mentoring and leading research students, researchers and academics, first at the FORTH Institute for Computer Science and later at Huddersfield University. I have been getting great satisfaction from the development of “my” students and early career researchers, many of whom have progressed to have successful academic careers.

What attracted me to LBU was that I saw a perfect match, as the position I applied for was primarily seeking research leadership in computer science and data analytics. In my interactions before deciding to join Leeds Beckett, I observed a real desire to develop research, an interest in accommodating my priorities and a positive working atmosphere; overall an environment where I felt I can make a difference. I have spent my first months at LBU trying to learn more about research in computer science and other disciplines, and my initial impression is that there are so many opportunities for impactful work here.

Professor Grigorios Antoniou

Tell us about one of your current research projects and how this opportunity came about?

In the last few years, I established a collaboration with South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Professor Marios Adamou, a consultant psychiatrist at the Trust, had various ideas about how AI can support clinical decision making and we joined forces to explore suicide risk assessment and the diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions (ADHD, ASD).

Computer science and AI will play a crucial role in the digital transformation of healthcare provision, and I am happy that it has been possible to continue the collaboration with the Trust after moving to Leeds Beckett. I look forward to working with the Trust and my new colleagues in computer science and the School for Health to help transform the NHS.

What are your research ambitions for the next few years?

In the next few years, I want to continue my work on AI for mental health, with the view of developing Leeds Beckett to be a national and international research leader in this area. My desire is to help create impact in the real world, developing technological solutions that can assist mental healthcare provision by the NHS.

These are exciting times for researchers like me working the field of artificial intelligence. AI is making breakthroughs both in its working and its applicability. Machine learning, as well as Large Language Models like ChatGPT, have attracted wide attention recently, and there is a feeling that we are at the beginning of a third wave of AI, which combines machine learning and language models with external, curated knowledge organised in knowledge graphs. I hope to be at the forefront of this new wave, working with colleagues at Leeds Beckett and international collaborators.

Computer science and artificial intelligence are foundational disciplines that affect most other disciplines, resulting in plenty of opportunities - I have greatly enjoyed working with interdisciplinary colleagues in all my recent appointments. I am sure I will be able to do so at Leeds Beckett as well, exploring opportunities to apply AI and knowledge graphs to, e.g., health, law, business, sport science and sustainability.

The front cover of 'A Semantic Web Primer - Third Edition' - Co-edited by Professor Grigoris Antoniou

What has been your career highlight to date?

In terms of outputs, my most influential publication has been my book, A Semantic Web Primer, published by the MIT Press in 2004. It has been extensively used internationally to teach generations of students about the ideas, concepts and technologies of the semantic web, which is the foundation for Knowledge Graphs widely used by big tech.  Revised editions appeared in 2008 and 2012, and the book has been translated to Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Greek.

In terms of recognition, the highlight was probably my election as IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Fellow in 2022 for contributions to knowledge representation within AI, and the semantic web. This is a prestigious award for scientists in electrical engineering and computing.

When did you first become interested in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence?

I grew up in Greece at a time when computer science, let alone AI, were unheard of in my home country. I was good at mathematics but had a vague impression that it would be difficult to have a successful career as a pure mathematician. A teacher at my high school gave me a German book that provided information about all possible subjects one could study in Germany. Computer science was listed as a discipline of the future and grounded in mathematics – that was it for me! Sometimes I am still puzzled that this decision, a product of blissful ignorance and blind faith in a good future, worked so well.

Within computer science, I was interested in algorithms, mathematical foundations and computational ideas, not so much about programming. In year 2, I got a book on artificial intelligence and was amazed at the notion that computers could be used to mimic, model and study human intelligence. I devoted my research life to that area and never regretted it, although I lived through periods where AI was very unfashionable. AI has always been at the forefront of computer science research and has been intellectually stimulating for me.

A small side anecdote: In Greece it’s customary for parents to discuss their children’s studies and progress. My poor parents had trouble in explaining to their friends what I was actually studying, this being an unknown subject in the early 1980s. At some point, my father mentioned Artificial Intelligence and he was asked whether I was intending to work for the intelligence services!

Can you tell us something about yourself that we may not know?

I am married with children and, unlike the old TV series, happily so.

Professor Grigorios Antoniou

Professor / School Of Built Environment, Engineering And Computing

Grigoris Antoniou is a professor in computer science working on explainable and responsible artificial intelligence and its applications in domains such as health. He is Fellow of IEEE and the European Association for AI.

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