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WPI receives $895K to develop artificial intelligence fellowships

November 2, 2018
Photo | Courtesy
Photo | Courtesy
The Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program is for U.S. citizens pursuing a PhD in fields deemed to be areas of national need. In this case, that need is artificial intelligence.

With an anticipated shortfall in artificial intelligence professionals, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded $895,000 to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to provide six fellowships to graduate students.

The program, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAAN), is for U.S. citizens pursuing a PhD in fields deemed to be areas of national need. In this case, that need is artificial intelligence.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, seven of the top 10 STEM occupations with the highest number of jobs are computer related. From 2014 to 2024, employment in those jobs is expected to increase by nearly 13 percent and grow by nearly 500,000.

About 2,000 PhDs graduated with a computer science degree last year, but many of those pursue lucrative industry jobs or leave the country, leaving behind a shortage of talent, according to the Taulbee Survey done by industry group Computing Research Association .

Only one third of those graduates stay in the country to work as educators, the survey noted.

Elke Rundensteiner, the GAAN program director and professor of computer science and the founding director of WPI's Data Science program, said computer science and artificial intelligence have transformed all aspects of work and life.

"To help the nation remain globally competitive, WPI will mentor the future generation of computer science professors and professional leaders who will, in turn, drive artificial intelligence innovations, as well as train much needed computer professionals in these key areas," she said in a press release.

GAAN fellows will be trained in practical aspects of teaching the field. Along with encouraging the fellows to present their research at conferences and in reputable scientific journals, they'll be connected with colleagues in academic, industry and government settings.

GAAN fellows will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing artificial intelligence research at WPI with Rundensteiner and Neil Heffernan, professor of computer science and director of WPI's PhD program in learning sciences and technologies.

Together, the two oversee $5 million of funding for artificial intelligence research.

"AI is an exciting area that is broadly applicable in critical areas of innovation," Heffernan said.

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