Research Groups (and AI) and You
This message is about the Computer Science Department's Research Groups: the AI Group in particular. Much of this applies to all research groups, so read on and extrapolate.
In this department there are several active research groups. The Artificial Intelligence Research Group (AIRG) (Aaargh!) has been one of the largest, is the oldest, and has been one of the most active (and IMHO the best) (other faculty will have very different opinions).
The AIRG group meetings are usually held on Thursdays at 11 am in Fuller. Look out for the posted signs (web, email, paper) announcing meetings and colloquia. News of the Agenda of meetings for the week are posted via Email by the office staff. It can be found at the weekly agenda web page, and via the AIRG topics scheduled web pages.
Everyone interested is welcome to attend. It is for graduate (and undergraduate) students, and not merely for faculty!
In this department there are several other active research groups, and they too will be advertising their activities. You might try visiting a couple to see what is going on, before plunging completely into one area. Unless you are being supported as an RA don't make the mistake of committing too early to a particular group or a particular research advisor.
This message is mainly intended for those of you, especially newcomers, who might be interested in doing an AI thesis. For your information, the main associated faculty are Profs. Carolina Ruiz, Mike Gennert, Lee Becker, Neil Heffernan, and myself (Dave Brown). Others with less visionary zeal, but with some interest are Profs. Selkow, Rundensteiner and Ward. The AIRG Coordinator this year is Heffernan -- every group has a coordinator.
Everyone has their own research areas in AI. Exactly who is interested in what can be discovered by coming to the AIRG meetings, and, for a more general coverage, by attending the appropriate Research Bytes talks at the CS Colloquia. The AIRG web pages also describe these interests -- for other groups, look at their web pages!
The AI in Design subgroup (AIDG) meets separately from the AIRG to discuss design problem-solving. It mainly consists of my graduate students. Let me know if you are interested.
Attendance at AIRG (and other research groups) is optional. Each AIRG meeting is devoted to a single topic. Mostly, a faculty member or graduate student talks about their research, or some topic of particular interest to them. Sometimes we discuss a paper from a recent conference, watch a video, and occasionally we have a visitor make a presentation.
Even if you do not yet know much about AI, but intend to study it, we suggest that you start coming immediately, and keep coming. Even if you don't understand everything at first, you will be exposed to a wide variety of ideas and research directions. You will also get exposure to the faculty, and they to you. Thus attendance will help in your quest for a thesis topic, and a thesis advisor. This is true too for CS Dept. Colloquium talks -- always on Friday at 11 am. Don't miss a chance to hear something new! Think of it as a free class without exams!!
Planning graduate courses is difficult. It is made even more difficult for those interested in AI by the variety of AI-related regular and "special topics" courses. They are typically offered once a year, or once every other year. This means that, if you intend to specialize in AI, you should try to take them when they come around. But most require the grad AI class. Sometimes the instructor will waive that prereq, so it doesn't hurt to ask, and it might hurt to miss it. Of course, there are "core" CS courses that it would also hurt to miss. So, be careful.
The regular and special topics courses that we offer (or have offered) include Expert Systems, Case-based and Analogical Reasoning, Automated Knowledge Acquisition, Cognitive Aspects of Knowledge Acquisition, AI in Design, Knowledge and Data Bases, Vision, and Logic Programming. For an AI student, the more you take, the better the resume. Although there are strong reasons for maintaining a reasonably balanced resume.
It is worth noting that some of the department's Friday morning Colloquia are about AI topics. Reserve the 11 am slot on Friday morning, and attend regularly. They may not be every week, but watch for them. Again, even if you don't understand everything, note that exposure to new ideas is vital. The faculty don't understand everything either!
There are sometimes AI-related RA positions. Sponsors have included the National Science Foundation, ArrowTech, DEC, NASA, Bytex, and Wyman Gordon. As a hint, with all other things being equal, we would tend to offer RAs to people who do well in the AI grad class, and who come regularly to the AIRG meetings. However, it does help to be beautiful or handsome (delete whichever does not apply), a genius, and to offer large bribes to the faculty.
It should be emphasized that this note is from me (DCB), only me, me alone, solo, individually, by myself, and was not from the AIRG, nor was it intended to represent the opinions of the other faculty, etc. etc. etc.