Information Technology Program creates new AI application minor

Seven students are currently enrolled in the new artificial intelligence application minor, in which students learn basic AI framework. (Tomoki Chien | Daily Trojan)

The Information Technology Program at the Viterbi School of Engineering launched a new minor in artificial intelligence application to reflect a rapidly changing AI industry. The minor opened to all students at the start of the Fall 2022 semester.

Noticing the great industry potential of artificial intelligence, professor of information technology practice and industrial and systems engineering practice Nitin Vasant Kale founded the minor program, which aims to educate students about AI, enhance their major studies and explore career opportunities.

“We think our students can use AI and apply AI in many industries, which we don’t even know today because this field is changing so fast,” Kale said. “[For instance, AI] could be used in the medical field, in predicting risk factors for certain diseases or the spread of viruses.”

The minor’s course plan was designed to educate students from various academic disciplines and backgrounds, Kale said. 

“We make [courses] very approachable to non-engineers and non-[computer science] students,” he said. “Those who don’t have several semesters of computer science can still pick up enough AI knowledge to go out in the real world, work for companies and solve real-world problems using AI.”

The program’s core requirements include intro-level classes like “Programming in Python,” “Introduction to Data Analytics” and “Basics of Artificial Intelligence,” which provide students with basic skills in creating artificial intelligence. A gateway course, “Applied Artificial Intelligence,” is offered to prospective students to interest them in the AI application minor.

“I highly recommend anybody who’s interested in the AI aspect to sign up for these courses. Something I really like about it is that it focuses on real-world experiences and application, so you are able to actually learn the things and apply them to real world situations like a working environment, and it prepares you really well,” said Kelly Gee, a junior majoring in intelligence and cyber operations who is planning to declare  a minor in AI applications.

One of the key reasons why she hopes to declare a minor in AI application, Gee said, was the potential to develop a career in AI.

“Right now, in the cyber field, I’m specifically interested in digital forensics,” Gee said. “There’s a lot of possibility with AI and cybersecurity because we could create different machine learning algorithms and things to actually speed up the process and possibly even automate the threat detection to make it faster for us to help prevent cybersecurity [issues].”

The program has elicited a great deal of attention since it was launched, with some students even lamenting the missed opportunity to declare the minor.

“I currently have the applied analytics minor. But, if I were a sophomore, [and] if I had the option to choose this minor, I would probably take this because it also covers ethics and is more focused on a specific field, which is AI. So I feel like its application prospect is much better than my current [minor],” said Greg Xu, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and economics. 

There are currently seven students enrolled in the minor. Kale said he’s optimistic about the program’s prospects and ambitious about its development.

“My hope is that in this first academic year, we will get about 20 students, and then build up from there,” Kale said.