Carnegie Mellon Launches Undergraduate Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Byron Spice

May 10, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence beginning this fall, providing students with in-depth knowledge of how to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.

SCS has created the new AI degree, the first offered by a U.S. university, in response to extraordinary technical breakthroughs in AI and the growing demand by students and employers for training that prepares people for careers in AI.

"Specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers," said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science. "Carnegie Mellon has an unmatched depth of expertise in AI, making us uniquely qualified to address this need for graduates who understand how the power of AI can be leveraged to help people."

This spring, U.S. News and World Report ranked SCS as the No. 1 graduate school for artificial intelligence.

The bachelor's degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. The bachelor's degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs — such as vision, language and huge databases — are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities, he added. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional course work in AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation.

Simmons said the program also would include a strong emphasis on ethics and social responsibility. This will include independent study opportunities in using AI for social good, such as improving transportation, health care or education.

Students accepted by SCS as first-year students can enter the AI degree program in their second year. All students, thus, will take first-year courses in core computer science competencies and introductory courses. This will enable them to make informed choices when it is time to declare a major, whether it's AI, computer science or computational biology — the latter an undergraduate degree program that began in fall 2017.

Initially, AI undergraduate enrollment will accommodate no more than 100 second-, third- and fourth-year students — or about 30–35 new students each year. (SCS enrolls about 735 undergraduates.) In fall 2018, a limited number of second- and third-year students who have already taken a substantial number of relevant courses can apply to join the new AI degree program.

Just as artificial intelligence unites such disciplines as machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, robotics and human-computer interaction, instruction in the AI program will draw on the faculty of SCS's Machine Learning Department, Language Technologies Institute, Robotics Institute, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Computer Science Department and Institute for Software Research.

The degree will leverage CMU's traditional strength in cross-disciplinary instruction, particularly in exploring the ethical and societal implications of AI, by involving faculty members from the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Heinz College and the College of Engineering.

CMU has a long history in artificial intelligence, including the creation of the first AI computer program in 1956 and pioneering work in self-driving cars, facial recognition and natural language processing. Last year, SCS began its CMU AI research and education initiative, which involves almost 200 faculty members working in AI-related areas that range from art to public policy.

CMU also has been a leader in education, offering the first university-level course in computer programming in 1958, launching the first Ph.D. program in robotics and creating the world's first Machine Learning Department. SCS will once again advance computer science education through its AI degree program, said Simmons, who is completing a 2.5-year stint as program director in the National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate and lead for the National Robotics Initiative.

"It's an opportunity for us to shape what it means to be a degree program in AI, as opposed to offering courses related to AI," Simmons said. The new program will employ the same academic rigor — no more, no less — that has made CMU's undergraduate program the gold standard for computer science.

"We want to be the first to offer an AI undergraduate degree," he continued. "I'm sure we won't be the last. AI is here to stay."

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