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Maroulas Leads New AI Cluster

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke introduced HAL 9000, a sentient, artificial general intelligence computer that controls the Discovery One spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the 1970s, robot droids named R2-D2 and C-3PO helped Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia fight the Galactic Empire.

By the 1980s, we had Tron and the Master Control Program, Blade Runner, and the first Terminator.

Each of these movies featured artificial intelligence – or AI – as either a robot, a computer, or a program, but what does AI look like off the big screen? This is the question Vasileios Maroulas plans to tackle with a new interdisciplinary initiative focused on science-informed artificial intelligence.

“The US government is making enormous investments in AI research and development so it gains and sustains leadership in the AI race,” said Maroulas, professor in the UT Department of Mathematics and leader of the Science-Informed Artificial Intelligence cluster hiring initiative, which includes faculty from chemistry, physics, engineering, and advanced manufacturing.

The goal of this initiative is to address the challenges of AI and data science, which include developing mathematical models robust enough to embed complete data knowledge in algorithms.

“Advancing the fundamental knowledge of AI will allow for advances across engineering and science,” Maroulas said. “

It will also elevate the reputation and impact of UT’s research scholarship and creative work and help make UT a leader in scientific and mathematical AI for intelligent engineering systems. The new initiative will help create opportunities for new, high-demand interdisciplinary programs for undergraduate and graduate students.

Other faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences involved in this particular cluster hire initiative include Xiaobing Feng, mathematics; Thanh Do and Konstantinos Vogiatzis, Department of Chemistry; and Adrian Del Maestro and Maxim Lavrentovich, Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Additional Cluster Hires

While the Science-Informed Artificial Intelligence cluster is the only approved cluster hire with a PI in the College of Arts and Sciences, faculty in our college are involved in four other initiatives.

Maroulas and Feng are also part of the Foundational Artificial Intelligence – Closing the Gap to Human Intelligence cluster, led by Hairong Qi in the Tickle College of Engineering, and includes Aaron Buss and Daniela Corbetta from the Department of Psychology. The goal of this cluster is to make UT one of the premier institutions developing cognitive neuroscience-inspired AI solutions.

Heidi Goodrich-Blair, professor and head of the Department of Microbiology, is part of the Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Quantitative-based Solutions for Food Security, led by DeWayne Shoemaker from UTIA. This cluster will focus on developing climate resilient crops to help with plant health and overall food security.

Maroulas is working with Nina Fefferman, professor in the Departments of Mathematics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and the director of NIMBioS, and Frank Loeffler, Governor’s Chair of Microbiology, as part of the Precision Health and Environment Cluster, lead by Tami Wyatt from the College of Nursing and Chris Cox from the Tickle College of Engineering. This cluster will focus on links between exposure to environmental conditions and human health outcomes at multiple levels and deepen our understanding of relationships between the environment, human health, and well being. 

Faculty in psychology and sociology are part of the Future Mobility cluster initiative, led by Kevin Heaslip in the Tickle College of Engineering. The purpose of these cluster hires is to conduct groundbreaking research in the electrification, automation, and shared mobility of transportation. Goals include greening transportation and building a green transformation economy to drive economic growth for the state.

“We very happy to see so many faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences involved in these exciting new initiatives,” said Theresa M. Lee, Herbert Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Students look for opportunities in their academic careers to change the world. These initiatives address some of the most pressing challenges of our time and present exciting opportunities for recruitment of students and faculty to our university.”

Read more about the cluster hiring initiative.