AI Vision Guides University of Florida’s Rise in College Rankings

An initiative to transform its curriculum and research with machine learning, powered by an AI supercomputer, provides a model for other universities.
by Rick Merritt

When you take a bold step forward, people notice.

Today, the University of Florida advanced to No. 5 — in a three-way tie with University of California, Santa Barbara, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — in U.S. News & World Report’s latest list of the best public colleges in the U.S.

UF’s rise in the ranks is, in part, a nod to its vision for infusing its teaching and research with AI, the most transformative technology of our time.

“UF will likely be the nation’s first comprehensive research institution to … make [AI] a ubiquitous part of its academic enterprise,” said University of Florida Provost Joe Glover in a recent article in the Gainesville Sun.

“We’re doing AI in medicine, AI in drugs, AI in agriculture, AI in business … we think that this is where higher education is going to inevitably go,” Glover added in a podcast with John Koetsier of TechFirst.

Training Tomorrow’s Workforce

For example, the university’s college of business just made AI a required introductory course for entering freshmen. And the university aims to hire 100 AI-focused faculty to meet its goal of educating 30,000 AI-enabled graduates by 2030.

“Ultimately, UF’s effort will help to address the important national problem of how to train the nation’s 21st-century workforce at scale,” Glover said.

Plugged Into an AI Supercomputer

Powering UF’s vision is HiPerGator AI, the eighth most powerful supercomputer in the U.S. and 22nd most powerful supercomputer in the world.

In January, the university switched on the system that’s supported with separate donations from both UF alumnus and NVIDIA founder Chris Malachowsky and NVIDIA itself.

Built in a matter of weeks thanks to its modular architecture of 148 NVIDIA DGX systems, HiPerGator AI delivers up to 17.20 petaflops of AI power that’s already being applied to tackle tough research problems.

An effort called Gatortron is analyzing a billion words in a medical database maintained by the university’s hospital system. It aims to identify patterns that could lead to improved healthcare at lower costs.

Other projects seek new ways to improve agriculture and address climate change. “All of these things involve huge amounts of data, and this is where the HiPerGator AI really excels,” Glover said.

An AI Hub for Florida

UF will make the supercomputer available through the state university system, creating an AI hub for others to enhance education and research.

“We’re glad to see the university recognized for its pioneering initiative,” said Cheryl Martin, a director in NVIDIA’s higher education and research group.

“We think UF shows universities around the country a model they can adopt to transform with AI their curriculum and research for the benefit of their local communities,” she said.