$2 million investment will create artificial intelligence initiative at Auburn

Published: Mar 29, 2022 10:00 AM

By Joe McAdory

As the state leader in artificial intelligence (AI) innovation, research and education, Auburn University is bolstering its position in the area through an investment of $2 million by the Office of the Provost with support from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to create AI@AU: Auburn University Artificial Intelligence Initiative.

The project will: 1) assemble a university-wide multi-disciplinary faculty team to expand AI research and education; 2) build a computational infrastructure for AI research and education at Auburn University; 3) develop Auburn’s faculty infrastructure for AI research and education; 4) explore university-wide educational innovations in AI; and 5) become the university’s focal point for participation in statewide, regional and national initiatives such as the SEC AI Consortium.

The federal government identified AI as a priority with plans to inject billions of dollars into the AI enterprise through civilian and defense agencies, according to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act pending in the Senate and National Science Foundation for the Future Act pending in the House.

“This initiative puts Auburn in a leadership position in the field of artificial intelligence, and that leadership can benefit the university and the state in multiple ways,” said Hari Narayanan, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering chair and administrative lead for the initiative. “It positions Auburn to compete successfully for all sorts of research opportunities, funding, and collaborations with industry. This will also allow us to hire more faculty with experience and expertise in AI.”

Some of the initiative’s objectives include:

  • A university-wide faculty group for coordinating and supporting AI-related educational and research activities
  • The installation of an AI computational resource to support AI-related education and research
  • The creation of a university-wide distinguished lecture series, featuring prominent researchers in AI, those who investigate the ethics of AI and its societal impacts, and those who apply AI to their disciplines ranging from the arts, agriculture and architecture to humanities, science and engineering.
  • The creation of certificate programs on AI in the disciplines for Auburn students – preparing them for the workplace
  • The creation of a faculty-led AI think tank that eventually becomes a focal point for connecting with external opportunities and generating extramural funding for research and education

“The idea is to use all of this as a springboard to establish a strong footprint in AI-related research and education across all fields of academic disciplines at the university,” Narayanan said. “We want to convey that AI is a top priority at Auburn University.”

Artificial intelligence surrounds us, whether we realize it or not, at work, at play, and at home. Thus, the demand for an educated workforce continues to develop within Alabama and nationally.

“We are all familiar with the use of AI in social media, chatbots, self-driving cars, cyber security, facial recognition, the military and our smartphones. The fact is, AI is being used in every facet of our lives,” said Gerry Dozier, the Charles D. McCrary Eminent Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering and the initiative’s technical lead who is tasked with forming the university-wide team of faculty members from various colleges and departments interested in using AI in their research and teaching.

“In terms of AI education and training programs, it is extremely important that individuals know and understand the opportunities afforded by AI, its limitations, and how they can collaborate with and use AI systems to become more productive. It is also extremely important to be aware of the ethical issues related to AI and how AI can and will impact our society at present and in the future.”

The initiative will set Auburn University apart as a center of artificial intelligence research, education and innovation in the state.

“No university in Alabama has an initiative like this,” Narayanan said. “By strengthening AI education across the university, it will attract industries that desire a workforce built on a solid AI education to move to Alabama. Why? Because they can depend upon a university like Auburn to produce graduates that are well-prepared.”

“To sum it up, Auburn University aspires to become and remain the leader for artificial intelligence expertise in the state for years to come.”

As a leader in the AI academic community, Auburn is part of a newly-created Southeastern Conference consortium on AI, designed to advance the discipline's role within teaching and research. The consortium will hold its first mini conference Friday, April 8, from noon to 3 CDT, hosted by the University of Florida.

The SEC Mini-Conference agenda can be found at https://ai.ufl.edu/sec-mini-conference/. To register for free of charge, visit https://informatics.research.ufl.edu/registration-sec-artificial-intelligence-orientation-conference/. 

Media Contact: Joe McAdory, jem0040@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447
Part of the initiative includes a creation of AI graduate and undergraduate certificate programs.

Part of the initiative includes a creation of AI graduate and undergraduate certificate programs.

Recent Headlines