New College teams with Nvidia for cutting-edge AI training

By David Gulliver

New College of Florida will offer cutting-edge training in a branch of artificial intelligence, or AI, via a new partnership with leading tech company Nvidia. 

Professor Burcin BozkayaDr. Burcin Bozkaya, director of New College’s Data Science graduate program, recently was granted a University Ambassadorship from Nvidia’s Deep Learning Institute. That allows Bozkaya to teach New College students with courses from Nvidia’s online curriculum. In addition, Nvidia will send instructors to New College to teach the material.  

The partnership connects New College to the forefront of computer technology. Nvidia is the inventor and leading manufacturer of graphic processing units, or GPUs, which have supplanted traditional CPUs in AI development. 

“The machine learning and artificial intelligence world is all based on GPUs now,” Bozkaya said. Though originally developed in the late 1990s for the high processing demand of image-driven computer games, GPUs have crossed over into the world of serious computing.

The reason is that GPU architecture provides far more cores than CPUs and allows parallelization, Bozkaya said, which is necessary for the branch of AI called “deep learning.”

The concept of deep learning “takes AI one step further,” Bozkaya said. Where one family of AI techniques, machine learning, relies on statistical methods, deep learning relies on neural networks and multiple layers of processing. As such, it is more capable, but requires much more processing power.

In essence, Bozkaya said, deep learning is making predictions given a large number of inputs. Consider two applications: self-driving vehicles and identifying cancerous tumors in medical images. In both cases, the computer system needs a vast number of images to train itself — is that a pedestrian or a street sign, a tumor or a cyst? 

A system’s neural network, Bozkaya said, uses hundreds to thousands of layers to process those images, to determine if the image contains a certain object, check its quality of assessment, and if needed, go back and adjust itself to make a better decision the next time.

“This requires so much computational power that CPUs are not sufficient anymore,” Bozkaya said. “That’s why GPUs have come a long way. They were definitely needed for this sort of work.”

“That’s why this is important, because this is the latest and greatest stuff, when it comes to AI,” he said.

The ambassadorship puts New College in elite company, one of about 200 certified Nvidia DLI partners in the world. They include corporations, government agencies and colleges around the world, from England’s Oxford to China’s Harbin Institute of Technology, to the United States’ MIT. 

For New College, the Nvidia programs launch this month, with Bozkaya teaching Deep Learning Fundamentals for Computer Vision. Following that, another module, Accelerating Data Science Workflows with RAPIDS, will be taught by Nvidia staff. 

In time, the training could be contextualized and used in other areas of study, like literature and the arts, where a student might analyze styles of writing or painting. 

It also builds New College’s connections to an industry leader, Bozkaya said, enhancing students’ CVs and making it easier for them to land internships and jobs, possibly with Nvidia itself. 

— David Gulliver is interim associate director of communications and marketing for New College of Florida.

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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