The Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) launched a new online graduate program in artificial intelligence (AI) for working professionals this summer, and some 70 students are now enrolled, learning from AI engineers and scientists in one of the highest-demand career fields in the nation.

The new program was formed in partnership with The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, as the lab and the university advance their national leadership in the booming sector.

“Every conversation in AI gets back to the talent gap. It’s something we as a nation are struggling with,” said program chair John Piorkowski, chief AI architect and head of the Applied Information Sciences Branch in APL’s Asymmetric Operations Sector. Piorkowski, who manages AI teams supporting a range of national security and defense efforts at APL, is one of the graduate program’s founders. “The U.S. lacks enough talented people to understand and work in the field.”

The two fastest-growing jobs in the United States are artificial intelligence specialist/engineer and robotics engineer, according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, which is based on an analysis of every public LinkedIn profile from 2015 to 2019. The U.S. government has identified global leadership in AI as a national security priority, and the Department of Defense released its first-ever strategy on artificial intelligence last year.

The graduate program was developed to teach working engineers and computer scientists AI theory and the skills to apply it to current and future intelligent systems and processes. Daniel Horn, associate dean at Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals, said the program is also ideal for professionals with a background in data, physics or applied math. The curriculum spans all aspects of AI ̶ machine learning, data science, natural language processing, robotics, neural networks, computer intelligence and expert systems.

As program chair, Piorkowski also teaches one of the core courses required of all AI master’s students ̶ Creating AI-Enabled Systems ̶ in which students explore the life cycle of developing and operating systems, including applying ethics and reducing bias.

The AI graduate program offers degree and certificate options. Ten courses are required to complete the master’s program, and four are required to obtain a certificate. The EP program offers rolling admissions, so prospective students may apply at any time for consideration for spring, summer or fall enrollment.

Ashley Llorens, chief of APL’s Intelligent Systems Center, worked with Piorkowski on the team that developed the Lab’s 2019 AI Technology Roadmap and the idea for the graduate program. Llorens said few institutions are uniquely poised like APL, as a not-for-profit organization guided by a mission of public service to the nation, to further AI knowledge and education.

Building on the Lab’s accomplished history in space exploration, defense systems, robotics and autonomous systems, APL published its 2019 AI Technology Roadmap to help inform its investments in research and future AI applications as well as to guide strategy with government agency sponsors. APL is now actively implementing a roadmap through four initiatives:

Enterprise Coordination and Experimentation: Establishing an AI Futures Team to accelerate progress

Strategic Research Investments in AI: Identifying key long-term research focus areas and optimal investments

Infrastructure and Enabling Tools: Establishing APL AI as an intranet portal for all staff as well as more channels for sharing resources and tools

Workforce Development and Education: Dedicating resources to build a local and national skilled workforce in AI technology