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UF embarks on a journey to be America’s AI university

The University of Florida took a giant leap toward becoming a world leader in the art and science of artificial intelligence with a new $70 million investment to rethink and reimagine AI’s role in teaching, discovery and service. In what is one of UF’s boldest and most far-reaching undertakings ever, the new initiative — announced July 21st at a special event and covered widely in the media – will also make UF home to the fastest AI supercomputer in higher education.

The AI initiative — anchored by a $25 million gift from UF alumnus Chris Malachowsky and a second $25 million in hardware, software, training and services from NVIDIA, the Silicon Valley-based company he cofounded — will address some of humankind’s most formidable challenges, create unprecedented access to AI training and tools across all disciplines at UF and provide access to these tools to underrepresented communities, creating Florida’s workforce for the future. UF is contributing the project’s remaining $20 million for planned data center upgrades.

“Artificial intelligence is poised to transform the way we all work with information, helping us address challenges and make discoveries that once seemed unattainable,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “By immersing this powerful technology in the curriculum across UF we are positioning Florida as a global leader in a technological revolution that, similar to the smartphone, will transform the way we live, work and interact with the world around us.”

This winter, a multidisciplinary center with a focus on artificial intelligence will break ground on campus next to the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s Weil Hall, across from the student union. Working closely with NVIDIA, UF will boost the capabilities of its existing supercomputer, HiPerGator, with the recently announced NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD™ architecture. This will give faculty and students within and beyond UF the tools to apply AI across a multitude of areas to improve lives, bolster industry and create economic growth across the state.

To support this initiative, the university is hiring an additional 100 faculty specifically for AI-related positions, with plans to offer an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence as well as a graduate certificate.

Artificial intelligence, of course, is nothing new. For years it’s been changing how companies do business and people spend their time. Think self-driving cars, Siri and Alexa, robotics, computer games and autonomous drones.

And UF’s innovators are no strangers to it. The engineering and business colleges, Florida Museum of Natural History, Journalism and Communications, and UF Health, among other campus units, are all integrating AI into their disciplines and research. But UF’s newest ambition takes it to an even higher level. The university is pulling in experts from across academic disciplines to help pharmacists and doctors, election officials, bankers, farmers, scientists, entertainers and others provide better care and services — which will make the state a major player in the AI universe.

This past spring, almost 600 professors and researchers from across campus gathered to plan AI’s integration into academic curricula, explore opportunities for workforce partnerships and discuss how deploying AI technology will raise UF’s national profile.

Said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “This incredible gift from Chris and NVIDIA will propel the state of Florida to new heights as it strives to be an economic powerhouse, an unrivaled leader in job creation and an international model of 21st century know-how. Over the coming years, tens of thousands of University of Florida graduates with this unique AI-oriented background will create their futures and ours, transforming our workforce and virtually every field and every industry here in Florida and around the world.”

To read the initiative announcement, go to: https://news.ufl.edu/2020/07/nvidia-partnership/.

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