See all NewsEngineering News

New MS in Artificial Intelligence to Prepare Leaders in Emerging Technology

New program will teach technical skills, high-level product design

Jennie Rogers and her students work on database research.Jennie Rogers and her students work on database research.

Northwestern Engineering is launching a new Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence program to develop leaders who can create powerful AI systems that integrate with workflows, business applications, and human interactions.

This unique 15-month, full-time program was developed in response to increased demand from industry for computer scientists who understand AI systems and the problems they can potentially solve. 

The curriculum will focus on essential AI skills — machine learning, natural language understanding, and automated decision-making — but will also include coursework in the psychology of human interaction with intelligent systems, business and workflow needs, design thinking, and cognitive modeling.

Kristian Hammond“Companies and institutions need intelligent tools that go beyond simple analytics and allow users and researchers to interact with and explore their data,” said Kris Hammond, professor of computer science and director of the program. “Our program is unique in that students will leave with both technical skills and a high-level view of how to design and implement innovative applications using these technologies.”

“Northwestern Engineering’s strength in computer science and our connections with faculty across campus make this the ideal home for this innovative program,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of Northwestern Engineering. “Students will need to be whole-brain thinkers — understanding not only how to develop these systems but how these technologies relate to humans and organizations as a whole. It is an exciting time for this field, and we are ready to educate the next generation of leaders.”

Artificial intelligence is widely seen as a major force in our future economy and workforce. The recent combination of big data, improved machine learning algorithms, and more powerful computers have led to advances in everything from self-driving cars to automated personal assistants on our cell phones. These technologies have the ability to disrupt nearly every field.  According to a recent study from Accenture, AI could double annual economic growth rates by 2035, and AI technologies are projected to boost labor productivity by up to 40 percent by changing the way work is done.

Students in the program will be at the forefront of this revolution by gaining experience through internship opportunities at external companies or in full-time summer positions within Northwestern AI labs. In the final quarter, students will focus on capstone projects in conjunction with industry partners.

The program builds on Northwestern Engineering’s strengths in cognitive science and artificial intelligence research. Faculty include:

  • Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, professors of computer science who co-founded Narrative Science, a company that uses artificial intelligence to extract the most important information from a data source and turn it into a narrative expressed in natural language.
  • Ken Forbus, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Computer Science who conducts research in qualitative reasoning, analogical reasoning and learning, sketch understanding, natural language understanding, and cognitive architecture.
  • Jennie Rogers, Lisa Wissner-Slivka and Benjamin Slivka Junior Professor in Computer Science who optimizes the performance of database workloads and conducts research in encoded storage for array databases.
  • Doug Downey, associate professor of computer science whose research is focused on natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, with a particular interest in the automatic construction of useful knowledge bases from Web text.
  • Bryan Pardo, associate professor of computer science who develops theoretical advances in artificial intelligence, signal processing, and interface design that enable the key technologies required to automatically find, label, and manipulate important structures in audio.
  • Chris Riesbeck, associate professor of computer science who conducts research in agile software development and experiential knowledge-based language understanding and reasoning.

The program is also supported by other computer science faculty working in human-computer interaction, data analytics, and statistics, and by faculty whose research focuses on psychology, business management, and behavioral economics.

Applications will be accepted this fall and winter for fall 2018. Applicants should have a computer science degree and at least two years of professional experience.