UAlbany Launches Massive Artificial Intelligence Cluster Hire of 27 Faculty

A wide-angle shot of a press conference in UAlbany's xCITE Lab. President Rodríguez stands at podium speaking flanked by two purple and gold UAlbany banners and
President Rodríguez and Provost Kim were joined Wednesday in ETEC's xCITE Lab by Sen. Neil Breslin and Assembly members Patricia Fahy and John T. McDonald III to announce the details of UAlbany AI cluster hire. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2022) — The University at Albany will add an unprecedented 27 new faculty members specializing in artificial intelligence in the coming months, marking the next critical phase in the University’s ambitious plan to incorporate elements of AI teaching and research across all academic programs.

The 27 new hires — the largest cluster hire in the University’s history — are among 49 new faculty members expected to join UAlbany next year and will help lay the foundation for the University’s new AI academy. The academy will entail new coursework that integrates foundational and applied teaching about AI across every UAlbany school and college, helping educate the next generation of AI thinkers and practitioners through courses available to all students regardless of major.

The academy is a central pillar of UAlbany’s recently announced $200 million Albany Artificial Intelligence Supercomputing Initiative, or Albany AI, which received a major $75 million infusion of state funding in April. (You can learn more about the initiative in this Albany AI video.)

Artificial intelligence increasingly touches every facet of daily life, and universities must prepare all their graduates for life and careers in that world. As one of the most diverse public research universities in the country, UAlbany is uniquely positioned to help diversify New York’s STEM workforce and, in doing so, strengthen public trust that new AI technologies are being developed by people with diverse identities and life experiences.

A National Model for Teaching AI

“This is a transformational moment in the life of the University at Albany,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “The ability to hire so many of the brightest minds at one time across so many disciplines, at the exact moment we’re launching Albany AI, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are determined to make the Capital Region and New York an epicenter of next-generation artificial intelligence research — and to make UAlbany a national model for teaching AI across disciplines, from STEM to art history, political science, education and philosophy.”

The new hires are possible thanks to $5.2 million allocated to UAlbany through the most recent state budget, part of a $53 million appropriation for new SUNY faculty hires systemwide. 

“None of this could happen without the strategic vision and funding delivered by Governor Hochul and our representatives in the Legislature,” Rodríguez said in announcing the funding Wednesday in UAlbany's xCITE Laboratory alongside Sen. Neil Breslin and Assembly members Patricia Fahy and John T. McDonald III. 

The new hires also will help meet Governor Kathy Hochul’s goal to double SUNY’s research funding, cementing its reputation as the premier public university system in the country. Each of UAlbany’s existing core research strengths — emergency preparedness, cybersecurity, health sciences and atmospheric sciences — has a strong nexus with AI.

Impacting Academics Across the University

The new hires will join as many as 20 academic departments across every UAlbany school and college, spanning diverse disciplines such as epidemiology, social welfare, psychology, mathematics, statistics and digital forensics. Each faculty member also will be affiliated with UAlbany’s new AI institute.  

At the same time, the University is developing a series of new courses that begin with general principles and applications of AI and then progress to broad areas of study such as art and humanities, social sciences and STEM. The series will conclude with a course that is specific to a student’s discipline.

For students interested in majoring in AI specifically, new undergraduate and graduate degree programs are being developed, including new mechanical and design programs as well as programs in AI computing, educational research and ethics.

“The academic component of Albany AI is critical to the success of the entire vision,” said Carol Kim, UAlbany’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “We are committed to preparing our students to succeed in an economy that is changing faster than many of us could have imagined 10 years ago. To do that, we cannot afford to think small. These hires combined with the strategic and thoughtful additions we’re making to our academic and research programs will ensure that UAlbany graduates have both a foundational and applied understanding of artificial intelligence and how it is radically changing the world around us.”

Partnering with Industry on Innovation and Workforce Development

Industry partners will provide key input on new curricula, with special emphasis on research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students that will reinforce classroom learning and position them to compete for jobs in this fast-evolving sector.

“Not every UAlbany student will go on to a career in artificial intelligence, but every UAlbany graduate needs a basic understanding of how it works and how it’s being used in their daily lives,” said Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, UAlbany’s vice president for research and economic development. “Cultivating an AI-savvy workforce for New York is critical not just for our students’ success in their chosen field but for the tech companies that our research will increasingly attract to the Capital Region. New York’s investment in these faculty is an important investment in innovation and in establishing Upstate New York as leader in AI supercomputing.”    

The new faculty hires follow a $75 million investment last spring by New York State in Albany AI, which will fund the completion of UAlbany’s new engineering building in the former Albany High School on the Downtown Campus and the construction of a supercomputer intended to be among the most powerful University-based computers in the country. Once complete, the supercomputer will empower researchers to harness massive data sets to better understand how to automate complex operations like diagnosing and treating disease and forecasting natural disasters.

UAlbany’s new supercomputing cluster also will provide high-speed computational power to test, train and deploy next-generation AI algorithms and machine learning systems and employ cutting-edge exploratory hardware with the latest in chip designs. This will help dramatically expand UAlbany’s AI research footprint and help drive discoveries in engineering, atmospheric and climate sciences, blockchain, health equity and data analytics, homeland security and computational genomics — and support innovative creative activity in the arts and humanities.

Senator Neil D. Breslin said, "With these new faculty hires we are seeing UAlbany take the next steps to ensuring that the Capital Region and all of New York State becomes the epicenter for AI academic programs, research and technology. I applaud Governor Hochul and UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez for partnering with us in the Legislature to help make this transformational project a reality."

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, "Our national artificial intelligence market is projected to become a more than $290B industry by 2026, and UAlbany continues to position itself as the academic and educational leader in preparing students for this rapidly growing sector of our economy. With the creation of the AI academy as part of UAlbany's $200M Albany Artificial Intelligence Supercomputing Initiative, the addition of faculty members cements the University's commitment to fostering a new generation of AI-based research, education, and students. Whether it’s emergency preparedness, cybersecurity, health sciences, or atmospheric sciences, AI is an integral part of our future – and UAlbany is blazing that path forward."

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, RPh said, “New York State invested in UAlbany’s Albany AI program this year in the NYS Budget. I was proud to work with my Capital Region delegation colleagues to ensure that the funding secured in the budget will provide the resources for UAlbany to continue to be an innovator and leader in these emerging fields. Congratulations to Albany AI on the hiring of 27 new faculty members who will be the foundation of growing the AI program and provide opportunities for UAlbany students to be the future innovators of AI."