Thomas Hofmann

  • e-mail
  • room CAB F 48.1
  • address Universitätstrasse 6, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland


Office Hours


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Research Interests


How can we design intelligent machines? What are the mathematical and computational foundations of intelligence? How can we enable machines to understand language? What are the societal implications that come with progress in this area? These are questions that shape my research agenda.

We do not know how to directly program machine intelligence. Rather, we usually rely on learning from experience and data. My main interest thus is in machine learning, specifically in problems that involve learning algorithms as well as statistical models and their architectures, such as deep neural networks. My research topics include implicit (generative) models, non-convex optimization, and design patterns for deep architectures. I also have a strong interest in natural language understanding and machine reading of text. This includes topics like word and sentence embeddings, referential semantics, topic models, summarization, and conversational agents. In addition, I pursue a wide spectrum of applications from cosmology to medicine to marketing.

Finally, I care about turning academic research into innovation (see 1plusX and Recommind), but I also reflect on the implications of machine intelligence and automated decision making. Based on my education, I have a high appreciation for philosophical thinking. My teachers were Josef Simon and Jacques Derrida.


Curriculum Vitae


1997 Ph.D. Computer Science, University of Bonn
1997-1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT and UC Berkeley
1999-2004 Assistant/Associate Professor for Computer Science, Brown University
2001-2015 Co-founder, Chief Scientist, Recommind.com (now OpenText)
2004-2006 Professor for Computer Science, Technical University of Darmstadt
2004-2005 Director, Fraunhofer IPSI
2006-2013 Director of Engineering and co-site Lead, Google Zurich
2014-today Professor for Data Analytics, Department of Computer Science, ETH Zürich
2014-today Co-founder and CTO, 1plusX
2015-today Co-director Max Planck-ETH Center for Learning Systems