New MS program in Artificial Intelligence Coming in Fall 2020

The Davidson College of Engineering is launching a new Masters of Science program in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in fall 2020. The first cohort of the MSAI program will be offered through Engineering Extended Studies with one of the College of Engineering’s off-campus corporate partners.

“With the launch of this program, our college continues to offer state-of-the-art degrees that drive today’s technological advances,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the College of Engineering. “Some people do programming and some build engineering systems: this program builds a bridge between the two groups, enabling traditional engineers to learn artificial intelligence technology and be able to apply it to their engineering professions.”

Xiao Su, chair of the Computer Engineering Department, said, “Although it is a relatively new field, artificial intelligence has already changed the world in many ways. There is a lot of potential in all areas of life and all fields, including finance and health care. The objective of our program is to fill in the gaps for people who would like to apply AI in their chosen profession, and know that they need preparation in order to succeed in the program.”

People who have math and programming backgrounds and experience, and ideally an engineering, science, mathematics, or computer science undergraduate degree, can use this Masters program to apply artificial intelligence technology to their engineering profession.

Students will primarily use Python programming in their courses and will work with TensorFlow and Pytorch–the two most popular libraries. They will learn regression, classification, decision trees, IU base algorithms, clustering, recommendation, neural network learning and deep reinforcement learning. “They will also learn GPU programming, which made deep learning possible,” said Su. “The combination of availability of GPU and the deep neural network is what ignites the current artificial intelligence evolution.”

“We thought of artificial intelligence in three layers,” Su continued. “The underlying layer is the algorithms to make the APIs and make the underlying technologies more efficient. The middle layer is “tool box” or API, and the top layer is the application layer. Graduate students in this program will be able to work with the middle and top layers. Students who select electives in machine learning, deep learning and reinforcement learning will be able to build tools and APIs that drive artificial intelligence. Other students who might be more application-oriented will be able to build engineering systems using AI technologies.”

Students will be expected to finish within two years. They will have immersive training in machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as hands-on preparation and experience. They will learn the foundations, evolution and advancements in artificial intelligence, in order to understand not only the current technologies, but also to prepare to be part of the future of artificial intelligence.

“We pride ourselves on making this program hands-on,” added Dean Ehrman. ‘Hands-on’ is the thread that ties the whole program together, and that is what we are known for at Davidson College of Engineering.” Besides the final capstone project, each course has a project where students can work individually or in teams to build a system, prototype, or application.

“We plan to bring the program to the main campus starting Fall 2021,” said Su. “We want to explore our corporate partnerships first, which will allow us to get additional feedback and fine tune the enrollment process. We plan to gradually increase in size. There is a high demand for AI engineers!”

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