Clemson University is strengthening its ability to conduct research and offer courses in artificial intelligence, a fast-rising technology that is beginning to revolutionize industries ranging from advanced manufacturing to healthcare.

About 80 faculty members are banding together to launch the new Clemson Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for Science and Engineering, or AIRISE.

Feng Luo meets with his team in McAdams Hall at Clemson University.

Feng Luo meets (center) is the director and founder of the new Clemson Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for Science and Engineering.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Clemson researchers have been developing and using artificial intelligence for years, and the institute will build on projects already underway. 

Artificial intelligence is widely regarded as crucial to enhancing economic and national security.  A presidential executive order last year called for more training on AI technologies, and several major companies have established AI labs, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Mitch Shue, executive director of AIRISE and a professor of practice, said the institute will serve as the umbrella for AI research, education and STEM workforce development at Clemson.

“AI is pervasive now, and we have to prepare our students for a different world,” said Shue, who formerly served as chief technology officer for Morningstar. “Combining all of Clemson’s resources in one institute will help us recruit top students and faculty and better compete for federal grants that fund cutting-edge research.”

Feng Luo, the institute’s director and founder, said that AIRISE will help Clemson meet industry demand for AI-related research and talent.

“I think we have some big opportunities,” said Luo, who is also a computer science professor. “The requirement for AI from industry has dramatically increased. When a company has data, it wants to make sense of the data, and AI is one of the ways to help them.”

Luo is among the Clemson researchers who have deep experience in artificial intelligence. He and his team started a project in 2017 with a $4.3-million federal grant aimed at using artificial intelligence to combat citrus-greening disease, which poses a serious threat to Florida’s citrus industry.

Other Clemson researchers have deployed artificial intelligence to protect self-driving vehicles from cyberattack, inspect vehicles for defects as they travel an assembly line, safeguard reputations on social media, detect cyberbullying, and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease earlier than currently possible, just to name a few examples. (Read more about those projects here.)

Amy Apon, the C. Tycho Howle Director of the School of Computing, said that advances in computing power, new algorithms and an explosion of data are opening new possibilities in artificial intelligence.

“With AIRISE, Clemson will be well-positioned to play a key role in conducting cutting-edge research and creating the STEM workforce of the future,” she said. “We have a real opportunity to help enhance economic development and U.S. competitiveness.”

A top goal of the institute will be to position Clemson as a leader in advanced manufacturing, materials sciences, bio- and medical-informatics, cyberinfrastructure and intelligent transportation.

“Those are all core to Clemson, and applying this AI umbrella over those specific areas is going to be a big differentiator for Clemson and for the effects on society in general,” Shue said.

Shue will lead the effort to build industry collaborations for AI research and education in AIRISE. 

“Industry is sitting on tons of data, some underutilized or not used at all,” he said. “We can help with that.” 

AIRISE is Clemson’s latest effort to work across disciplines and institutions to expand research and education in artificial intelligence. About 150 officials from Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and Siemens Healthineers joined together in November for a summit aimed at finding new ways to improve healthcare with artificial intelligence.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, said the new institute will further position Clemson for success in one of the globe’s most transformative fields.

“AIRISE will enhance the ability of Clemson’s engineers and scientists to work collaboratively across disciplines and institutions, including industry, to strategically enhance artificial intelligence and prepare the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “I congratulate Mitch and Feng on the launch of AIRISE and look forward to working with them on this important initiative.”