Prof. Yannakakis' achievement, and the work of the Institute, take place at the crossroads of two important government strategies, the Videogame and eSports Strategy on the one hand, and the Malta AI Strategy on the other. "These are both areas in which the island and the University see a lot of potential for growth, areas that will need talented, innovative, and determined graduates to drive them forward," said UM Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella.
With an H-Index of 52, Prof. Yannakakis is featured as the only Maltese researcher on the list, which is dominated by scientists from the United States.
Prof. Saviour Zammit, the University's Pro-Rector of Research and Knowledge Transfer and Chair of the Institute of Digital Games, said he is doubly pleased with this achievement by Prof. Yannakakis. An "H-Index of 52 can only happen when talent, research excellence and a good dose of hard-work concentrate in one person. Let Prof. Yannakakis be an example that all of us should try to emulate", he noted.
The list only includes researchers with an H-Index greater than 40. The H-Index is used to indicate productivity and impact of a scientist, by counting the number of publications cited at least the same number of times. An H-Index of 40 means that the scientist has published at least 40 papers that have each been cited at least 40 times.
Prof. Godfrey Baldacchino, Pro-Rector for International Development & Quality Assurance, told Newspoint that this is also good news for students who are able to learn from internationally leading academics. "The presence of University of Malta academics in international rankings such as the Guide2Research ranking on computer scientists shows that our educational and research curriculum competes internationally, allowing us to both attract talented and ambitious students, as well educate students that graduate with the knowledge and skills to make an impact after graduation", he reiterated.
The Institute of Digital Games invests enormous effort to remain at the forefront of research related to artificial intelligence and games.
Recent achievements for the Institute include ranking just below Google in terms of its research output and ranking in the top postgraduate programmes worldwide.
This year, Dr Konstantinos Makantasis also secured a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship to research and develop algorithms to understand and interpret emotions. His research will be supervised by Prof. Yannakakis.
One of the strengths in the research is the applications of the findings which have resulted in collaborations with industry including the founding of AI-startup Modl.ai by alumni Christoffer Holmgard and research on preference learning with Ubisoft. Games are at a critical intersection of society on the one hand, their impact to our society and our culture and, on the other hand, the current technological revolution of AI.
"I am extremely grateful for this recognition of the research work undertaken by myself, my colleagues, the postdoctoral fellows and the PhD/MSc students of the Institute. The impact of our research is a collective outcome supported by our wonderful team dynamics which, in turn, foster a collaborative and multidisciplinary environment for a research output with important applications for the society and the economy", said Prof. Yannakakis himself.