USC President Carol L. Folt on Thursday announced a $1 billion-plus initiative for computing research and education across disciplines, with a focus on AI, machine learning and data science, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, gaming and block chain.
“I want every student who comes through our programs, whether they are in science, business, the humanities or the arts, to have a solid grounding in technology and the ethics of the work that they do,” Folt said. “We will integrate digital literacy across disciplines to create responsible leaders for the workforce of the future.”
Seeded with a $260 million gift from the Lord Foundation of California, USC Frontiers of Computing encompasses a multipronged effort to push the boundaries of computing into a new era:
• A new school: The USC School of Advanced Computing headquartered in a seven-story, 116,000 square-foot facility, the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall. The building, now under construction, will formally open in fall 2024.
• Recruitment: Hiring 30 new faculty in the first three years who are leaders in computer science and computing-based research, with 60 additional hires by 2030. The new faculty members will hold appointments in multiple schools at USC in recognition that computational methods, particularly AI, are transforming the way people live and work.
• Economic impact: USC Frontiers of Computing will bolster the university’s influence on technology across various industries and expand its footprint in Silicon Beach on L.A.’s West side, which already is home to two of USC’s tech incubators, the Information Sciences Institute and Institute for Creative Technologies. (USC currently has a $9 billion economic footprint in the L.A. area, according to a study in 2017, and its impact is expanding to the East Coast. It recently opened the USC Capital Campus in Washington, D.C.)
• Education: The initiative will broadly integrate computing across multiple disciplines and academic programs. USC aims to prepare students for a more tech-intensive world of work, spark new technological advances and shape responsible policy through new programs and course offerings, as well as through experiential education.
• Ethics: USC is instilling a culture of responsibility and conscience among students, faculty and its broader community across academic programs and research that will influence application, development, policy and research, says Ishwar K. Puri, senior vice president for research and innovation. The new Center for Generative A.I. and Society is prominent within the initiative’s ethics endeavor. The recently opened center draws together experts from across the university to navigate difficult discussions about ethics and responsibility and generative A.I.
USC leaders began developing Frontiers of Computing three years ago, before the recent rise of artificial intelligence and generative A.I.
USC already is the leading provider of tech talent for the nation. More than 1,300 students per year graduate with bachelor’s, master’s and PhDs in computer science.
“We all know the world is changing very fast right now,” Folt said. “We need to take that momentum of change — and couple it with USC’s history of innovation — to create what has never been done before. And we’re going to do it.”
In addition to President Carol L. Folt, other USC leaders are available for interviews about the USC Frontiers of Computing:
“This endeavor is a tremendous opportunity to apply new computing tools to accelerate and expand the impact of scientific discovery. It is not only the ability to solve problems that sets this apart, but the speed with which it can be done.”
Ishwar K. Puri, USC Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation
“With an entire academic department dedicated to data science, and with technically skilled faculty placed throughout all our business programs, we are well-placed not only to focus on the cutting-edge business applications of technologies like AI and blockchain, but also to understand and shape their consequences for society.”
Geoff Garrett, Dean, USC Marshall School of Business
“The potential is tremendous not only for great progress in applications such as cryptography and seismic simulations, but also for foundational breakthroughs in research areas like black holes, computational biology and quantum materials.”
Amber D. Miller, Dean, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences
“The world needs engineers and computer scientists to solve the grand challenges we face. The new School of Advanced Computing will tackle this goal by developing reimagined engineering curricula, that also emphasize the ethics of technology, in our fast-changing world.”
Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering