March 31, 2023
University of Wyoming students recently attended the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence in Washington, D.C. Attending were, from left, front row: Mehdi Nourelahi, from Ghaemshahr, Iran; Lona van der Linden, of San Diego, Calif.; Natalie Foss, from Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Zachary Harris, of Beavercreek, Ohio; middle row: Jesse Evans, from Green River; Joshua Arulsamy, of Laramie; Nikita Gallegos, from Casper; Damir Pulatov, of Tashkent, Uzbekistan; and Austin Stephen, from Cheyenne; and back row: Haniye Kashgarani and Mohamad Zamini, both of Tehran, Iran. Not pictured is Chet Russell, from Laramie. (UW Photo)
More than 3,500 worldwide participants — including 15 University of Wyoming students and faculty members — recently participated in a conference that brings together leading researchers and practitioners who work on all aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications.
The UW contingent attended the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) in Washington, D.C. Technical sessions, invited plenary talks, tutorials, workshops, poster sessions and industry events were offered during the weeklong conference.
“The conference provides a snapshot of the state of the art in AI,” says Lars Kotthoff, a UW Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science assistant professor who was among faculty members attending the conference.
Besides Kotthoff and the 12 students, also attending were Patrick Johnson, head of the UW Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and Hud Wahab, a postdoctoral research associate in the same department.
“Going to the AAAI conference enabled me to see areas of artificial intelligence research not found at the University of Wyoming,” says Austin Stephen, a Cheyenne senior majoring in computer science. “This exposure helped me develop a deeper sense of what interests me; better understand what a career in academia looks like; and meet other students with similar interests.”
All of the UW students say the conference was beneficial to their future careers, and they learned more about AI fields. They experienced recent advances across a broad range of AI and were introduced to advanced technical topics in tutorials.
“Attending the AAAI conference was beneficial to my education and experience in artificial intelligence,” adds Chet Russell, a Laramie junior majoring in computer science. “I learned so much about a variety of topics in the field and a lot about topics I had never heard of before.”
At the end of the conference, many members of the UW delegation took advantage of the location to visit with Wyoming U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis in her office. The students and the senator talked about her work on the digital assets committee and the general importance of technology, computer science and AI — especially for Wyoming, Kotthoff says.
“I hope that such trips will become a permanent fixture at UW, enriching the education of current and future students,” he adds.
Before the conference, Kotthoff organized a UW-wide competition for scholarships that allowed students to attend the conference. UW’s School of Computing, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Wyoming Research Scholars Program funded the program.
“Exposing students to AI research and applications is especially important now, as there is a lot of hype around technologies such as ChatGPT that makes it difficult to see AI’s limitations and where research still needs to happen,” Kotthoff says. “At many institutions, such opportunities are extremely limited, especially for undergraduate students. It is very encouraging to see so many units at UW come together to make this happen.”
Additionally, Kotthoff and Johnson organized a daylong workshop to bring AI and materials science closer together. The program featured invited speakers from both areas, a poster session and breakout discussions to develop plans for more joint events to facilitate cross-fertilization. Approximately 20 people from academia and industry attended the workshop.
“The workshop we organized was aimed at researchers working at the intersection of AI and materials science as part of the conference program,” Kotthoff says. “The interactions between the participants enabled future joint activities, which will benefit both areas.”
UW students who attended the AAAI conference, listed by hometown, were:
Beavercreek, Ohio — Zachary Harris.
Casper — Nikita Gallegos.
Cheyenne — Austin Stephen.
Colorado Springs, Colo. — Natalie Foss.
Ghaemshahr, Iran — Mehdi Nourelahi.
Green River — Jesse Evans.
Laramie — Joshua Arulsamy and Chet Russell.
San Diego, Calif. — Lona van der Linden.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan — Damir Pulatov.
Tehran, Iran — Haniye Kashgarani and Mohamad Zamini.