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Cornell University

SciAI Center

Scientific Artificial Intelligence Center


The SciAI Center is committed to engaging in purposeful, and well crafted programs of developmental, educational, and inspirational activities that attract, support, and motivate the undergraduate student members of our Community.

The plan for our STEM outreach comprises three interrelated efforts that begin with critical partnerships between UC Santa Cruz, the US Naval Academy, and those within the Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) office within the Cornell Engineering. These partnering activities are carefully integrated to find many points of leverage, in order to create synergistic outcomes.

UC Santa Cruz Pathway (UCSCP) program

The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) has earned international distinction as an institution with high-impact research and an uncommon commitment to teaching and public service. UCSC is one of only 20 Hispanic-Serving Research Institutions (HSRIs) in the Nation, and among only four who are members of the Association of American Universities. That is, UCSC is an “R1 research institution” that also has a greater than 25% Hispanic student enrollment. UC Santa Cruz is also an AANAPISI institution, meaning the undergraduate enrollment of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students is at least 10 percent, and at least half of the institution’s degree-seeking students are low-income. Global environmental stewardship, social justice, and community engagement are central to UCSC’s core values; in 2022, UCSC ranked 18th in the nation for social mobility. Despite this recognition, there remains much work to be done in advancing educational justice. In STEM majors, Black and LatinX students have a substantially lower retention rate than their majority counterparts.

One crucial step towards improving educational justice is to enhance access and participation in formative, educational programs, that teach the latest methods and techniques; thus ensuring that everyone is well positioned to achieve professional success. In this spirit, UCSC proposes to partner with Cornell University to create a pathway for Black and Latinx students to higher education, with a focus on SciAI. Cornell will host UCSC undergraduate students, in their third year, for an undergraduate summer research experience that occurs alongside that of the USNA midshipmen; thus leading to vital interactions, collaborations, and opportunities for peer mentoring. One, crucial goal of this educational outreach partnership is to garner interest from underserved populations within this burgeoning field, and to inspire and educate undergraduate students to develop a strong skill set, and technical foundation, for success in graduate studies within the field of SciAI. This unique outreach program, does not exist elsewhere, and will position UCSC students well for competitive positions in grad school, research labs, and industry.

In practical terms, UCSC will work to recruit a motivated and interested student cohort by generating interest among newly admitted undergraduates as they complete their first year within the Applied Mathematics program of study. UCSC will create and offer educational programming, during the subsequent academic year, to prepare students for a fruitful and productive summer research experiences. This will include early access to support in: developing programming skills in Python; learning to read research papers; engagement in project-based activities to spark independent thinking; and promoting familiarity with advanced mathematical concepts. Those students, now matriculated into our UCSC Pipeline program will, in turn, engage with new incoming students, as ambassadors, for pursuing a path in SciAI: either towards graduate studies, or within industry. At UCSC, Gomez will set up mini-research talks, so that students can share their research experiences with new students: the idea is akin to “train-the-trainers.” What follows now is an outline of a typical student progression (i.e. it is furnished from the point of view timeline of a participant,) as part of the UCSC Pathway program.

Targeting outreach: We will leverage the MEP (MESA Engineering Program) and EOP (Educational Opportunity Programs) programs at UCSC for recruitment. These programs serve low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students.

US Naval Academy summer research internships

The summer internships proposed for midshipmen are designed to be immersive and intensive, ranging in duration from four to six weeks. The SciAI Center internship dates will coincide with the summer block dates scheduled by the United States Naval Academy.

The proposed internships are tailored to rising 2/C (juniors) and 1/C (seniors) midshipmen who meet the required prerequisites in mathematics and programming. A limited number of internships will also be available to rising 3/C (sophomores) midshipmen who have exceptional course validation records.

Participating in this internship, midshipmen will witness, firsthand, how science and mathematics are applied to real-world problems. This experience outside the classroom is invaluable, as it hones the critical thinking skills that are essential to future Navy leaders.

The internship provides a unique opportunity to observe how mathematicians, scientists, and engineers utilize computers and scientific computing to solve complex problems. Midshipmen will learn how to differentiate between what questions mathematics and science can, and cannot answer, and how to apply this knowledge to diagnose the underlying causes of conceptual ambiguities that will arise during their careers as Naval Officers, and beyond.

The internship not only provides midshipmen with a firsthand understanding of how science and mathematics are applied in real-world operations, but it also offers them a unique research experience that is outside the scope of what is available at the USNA. They will have the opportunity to work with Cornell PI/Co-I’s research groups to explore how AI can be utilized to achieve technological goals that require human comprehension, such as navigating high-regret scenarios, or in meeting legal mandates that require human oversight (e.g. human-in-the-loop).

By connecting with the Cornell research groups, and the UCSCP students, midshipmen will gain a deeper understanding of the latest developments in AI and how it can be leveraged to support Navy operations. This exposure to cutting-edge technology and research will prepare them for the challenges they will face as future Navy leaders, enabling them to make more informed decisions about how to best apply AI to support the mission, and to ensure the safety of Navy personnel.

Cornell summer experience

The Cornell Summer Experience (CSE) is a nine week, residential, immersive research experience, tailored to the two cohorts comprising the SciAI Center’s STEM outreach pool: UCSC and USNA. Each cohort has unique requirements and opportunities for development, but the between-group interactions are also crucial for a real sense of community. During the planned nine week window that our UCSC cohort is in residence, our USNA cohort participates in their own residential program, while the two-day, annual SciAI Center Review (SCR) also occurs. This concurrence in Center activities creates many opportunities for community building across all the domains of the SciAI Center.

The anchor program, within the CSE, is the Cornell LSAMP Scholars program that is administered as part of the College of Engineering’s diversity initiatives: collectively known as DPE. The CU LSAMP Scholars Program is focused on preparing underrepresented undergraduate students at Cornell for research experiences and advanced graduate studies. Goals of the CU LSAMP Scholars Program include: increasing the number of advanced degrees obtained by underrepresented students in STEM fields, especially engineering; supporting a diverse STEM learning community; and encouraging undergraduate and graduate research experiences.

The CU LSAMP Scholars Program offers a pathway for undergraduate STEM majors seeking assistance with preparing for graduate school admissions, as well as acquiring strategies that maximize their competitiveness during advanced graduate study. In cooperation with the LSAMP Scholars Program, our CSE participants from UCSC will attend workshops and events that introduce, and thoroughly cover, topics such as the: preparation for the GRE; graduate school application process and timelines; associated personal and research statements; letters of recommendations; curricula vitae; and graduate school financial support (fellowships, assistantships, and grants).

With its well organized infrastructure/logistics, robust personal support system, program of community building activities, and proven track record of successful outcomes, the CU LSAMP Scholars program is an ideal foundation for our planned SciAI center STEM outreach efforts to build upon.