those crazy late eighties

He has been a professor in the Area of ​​Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence since 1997 and director of the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at the University of Coruña (UDC). He founded and directs the research group Rnasa-Imedir (Artificial Neuron Networks and Adaptive Systems-Medical Informatics and Radiological Diagnosis). It is made up of around 25 permanent doctoral professors and each year doctoral students or students hired by projects are incorporated. On some occasion they become forty. This is today. Year 2021.

To reach his current position, Alejandro Pazos Sierra had to open many paths, almost from the beginning of his career, unknown to almost everyone. It is what is said a pioneer. Others call him visionary and others crazy about Artificial Intelligence (AI) when to ordinary mortals he sounded like Chinese.

A long journey in which he knew how to be at the right time and in the right place a few times, but he also worked hard to make that circumstance happen.

He confesses that in this AI a brother of his older than him – they are fourteen -, also a pioneer, put the animal. In fact, both are doctors and professors of the same discipline, one at the Polytechnic of Madrid, now retired, and the other at the UDC. His brother is the author of the first Artificial Intelligence thesis that was read in Spain and one of his supervisors was Nobel laureate Herbert Simon.

The beginnings of Alejandro Pazos went by another path. As a child he wanted to do veterinary medicine but later he decided to take care of people. He graduated from USC in General Medicine and Surgery and later did a master’s degree in Knowledge Engineering in Madrid (a specialization in Computer Science that he trained to make intelligent systems). What he did was expert systems for predicting fetal delivery or for disaster relief. Always related to the medical field, his initial training. Between one thing and another he worked as a doctor in the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service at the Provincial Hospital of Santiago for two years, after doing it as a fellow.

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With another scholarship granted by IBM, he was able to study Medical Informatics in Madrid and do a doctorate in Informatics at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Faculty of Informatics of the Polytechnic of Madrid. Five years later he obtained a doctorate in Medicine from the Complutense.

Precisely in the AI ​​Laboratory, two doctors and a biologist met. The other doctor, Víctor Maojo, is currently a professor in the Area of ​​Computer Science and AI at the Polytechnic of Madrid. The biologist, Fernando Martín, was a professor at the universities of Melbourne (Australia) and Cornell (New York) and is now at the Carlos III Health Institute as a research professor. Three true pioneers. They were the first physicians and biologist doctors in Computer Engineering and AI and in Medicine in Spain.

They read the thesis in 1990 and set up the first group of Biomedical Informatics in Spain in Madrid. They also launched a master’s degree in Computer Engineering in Biomedicine, which by the way caused a stir on Linkedin days ago when one of them hung up the presentation poster. It was from the year 1989, prehistory almost in the matter. They were already talking about AI in Medicine in the late eighties! Pioneers, visionaries or crazy again. That new profile – training in Life Sciences, Medicine or Biology, and Computer Engineering in AI – is the one they were looking for at the Georgia Institute of Technology (one of the most important in the world with Harvard and Massachusetts), Atlanta. From there, Professor Norberto Ezquerra, a Cuban-American, a child of that Operation Peter Pan, came to Europe as a scout, who took the three of them as investigators. They could have stayed there, but each one later opted for other places.

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Alejandro came to the UDC. In fact they called him because to create the upper cycle of Computer Engineering a minimum number of doctors was needed and he not only was one, but he was one of Computer Science.

These are years in which the foundation of AI took hold in Galicia and, from the point of view of Alejandro Pazos, the seed was sown by three people who made it possible for there to be very important groups in this area today. These bases are what made it possible for a degree in Artificial Intelligence to be implanted in the three Galician public universities in the 2022-23 academic year.

Two of the precursors are Professors José Mira and Carlos Hernández Sande, both from USC. The third was his brother, Juan Pazos, from the Madrid Polytechnic. The three of them managed to get one of their disciples to follow in their footsteps and the different groups that came from those origins were formed. Sight inoculó the bug in Senén Barro and Álvaro Barreiro, among other eminent professors, now full professors.

Vicente Moret and Bernardino Arcay are two of the disciples of Hernández Sande and also professors today, while Alejandro Pazos himself, with Ramón Rabuñal and Julián Dorado are of Juan Pazos. They are the wickers with which Artificial Intelligence was created in Galicia.

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