Written by: Kiran Mital
By now, just about everyone affiliated with UF has heard about the Artificial Intelligence (AI) University Initiative in some capacity. If not apparent from all the detours caused by the construction of Malachowsky Hall, announcements about AI-related research and coursework have been well-advertised. Touted as the “fourth Industrial Revolution,” the university-wide focus on AI research and education stemmed from a partnership with NVIDIA and its co-founder, UF alum Chris Malachowsky. Yet many students are left wondering what this really means for them. Through navigating the buzzwords and glowing articles, students of all majors and disciplines can come by a wealth of opportunities available.
Let’s start with the hardware–that shiny new supercomputer that we’ve all probably seen a meme or two about. NVIDIA’s technology will be integrated with the already established HiPerGator AI system. Altogether, UF will have access to 700 petaflops – “peta” meaning one quadrillion – of computing performance. For reference, completing a hand calculation is on the order of magnitude of one flops. It’s a staggering statistic that happens to be the highest of any university.
Researchers across all UF departments have plans to put this capability to use. Projects range from engineering and robotics to the social and ethical issues governing them. The technology will be used to improve models of physiology and neurology, seismic events, climate and agriculture, logical decision-making processes, and much more. Humanities researchers will study education and equity as they relate to the AI revolution.
In terms of academics, UF colleges have created coursework and a certificate program for students seeking to incorporate AI into their fields. Applying the “AI Course” filter to ONE.UF registration presents a whopping 75 courses offered in the coming fall semester. Degree programs in data science, information systems, bioinformatics, and audience analytics prepare undergraduate and graduate students for an interdisciplinary career, while the AI Fundamentals and Applications certificate allow any student to gain broad experience and knowledge in AI.
A big question for current students is whether they will be able to take advantage of this initiative before graduating, or whether the new opportunities are still under development for future students. As it turns out, any student at any stage is able to get involved. The AI certificate program requires just 9 credits, of which a few require prerequisites. For a course registration fee, micro-credentials are available asynchronously to any student. Majors, minors, and individual courses in AI are available to undergraduate and graduate students. With the vast amount of research funding at UF, getting involved with a project as an undergraduate is an excellent and the most direct way to learn the real-world applications of AI.
Honors students specifically can join– or start– an Honors course related to AI and its applications. Several relevant courses are being offered in the Fall 2022 semester. An (Un)common Reads course centered around Hemant Taneja’s book, Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future, will allow students to discuss the role of AI in today’s economy. A Signature Seminar, “Exploring Artificial Intelligence in Modern Society,” offers an even broader view of AI in society. As always, Honors students are encouraged to develop courses of their own– we have seen that with the interdisciplinary nature of AI, students of all backgrounds can help expand the Honors course repertoire and bring more of the AI initiative into our program. With so many opportunities for students to gain and contribute knowledge in a growing field, the future of research at UF is on an exciting path!