McCormick launches new master’s program in artificial intelligence


Daily file photo by Ben Pope

Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road. Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering announced Tuesday it will launch a new master’s program in artificial intelligence, and is accepting applications for fall 2018.

Charlotte Walsh, Reporter

Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering will launch a new Master of Science program in artificial intelligence, the University announced earlier this week.

The degree is a 15-month program that will provide additional training for students who want to enter the field of artificial intelligence, said Richard Lueptow, McCormick senior associate dean for operations and research. The program, which is currently accepting applications for fall 2018, is designed to address the growing interest in artificial intelligence among graduate students, he said.

According to The New York Times, there are fewer than 10,000 people in the world with the necessary skills to tackle serious artificial intelligence research.

Computer science Prof. Kristian Hammond, who will direct the new program, said it will teach students how to use the latest artificial intelligence technologies to solve real problems. The curriculum focuses on machine learning, human-computer interactions, human cognition, problem solving and specific training in software engineering for business use, he said. Students will complete three quarters of classes, he said, as well as a summer internship and a final capstone project.

“Almost every organization I’ve talked with over the past five years is looking for people in artificial intelligence,” Hammond said. “From people at Accenture, at Ford, at John Deere –– they are all looking for people who have skills in machine learning, in precision support and making business intelligence intelligible.”

Hammond also said the University wants to train students to think about how artificial intelligence can be integrated into human life.

The practical applications –– from self-driving vehicles to interpreting written data –– solve problems globally, Lueptow said.

McCormick Dean Julio Ottino told The Daily in an email that Northwestern has a long history of producing innovative, forward-thinking programs.

“Programs like MSAI are part of our responsibility to educate people who can understand and thrive in this world, understand social implications and aid in developing policies,” he said in the email.

NU is well-suited to house the program due to its faculty’s expertise in the field, said computer science Prof. Douglas Downey. Hammond is one of the co-founders of Narrative Science, a company that specializes in artificial intelligence.

In the future, Hammond said he believes a variety of fields will make use of artificial intelligence technology. He said agriculture will need to create predictive analyses of crop choice and location, and finance will need to analyze data and communicate with customers.

“Anywhere that you can think of where you are living in an environment where there is data, and you want to make good decisions, that’s where AI is going to live,” he said.

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