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College of Engineering launches major cross-disciplinary hiring initiative

From security to precision agriculture, the University of Georgia College of Engineering is making a significant investment in faculty whose work leverages data science and artificial intelligence to address critical global challenges.

The initiative aims to recruit 14 new faculty members over the next two years who will educate students and advance research in five areas: security, resilient and sustainable communities, precision medicine, integrative precision agriculture, and the dynamics of infectious diseases. The new hires—part of a university-wide cluster hiring initiative in data science and artificial intelligence—will represent a 25% increase in the college’s tenure-stream faculty and will bring the college’s overall faculty to more than 100 full-time members.

“These new faculty members will be critical to bringing more diversity to our faculty, building on our existing research strengths, creating new areas of research and scholarship, and expanding our curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering and UGA Foundation Professor in Engineering. “Our college is engaged in solving the most complex global challenges, and this initiative is a natural step toward expanding our impact.”

Clusters of expertise

Since its establishment in 2012, the College of Engineering has developed a strong research portfolio that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. 

Examples of this interdisciplinary approach to solving critical challenges include several research institutes, centers, and laboratories housed in the college. The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems brings together faculty from engineering, environmental sciences, social sciences, public health, landscape architecture, communication, and public policy and law. The New Materials Institute integrates engineering, chemistry, biology, textile science and polymer science in the development of new materials based on green engineering principles. The Center for Cyber-Physical Systems is developing smart and secure technologies with a focus on food-water-energy systems and security, connected health and well-being, infrastructure and environment security and resilience. In the area of precision agriculture, the college’s expertise ranges from creating innovative sensing and automation technologies to rethinking system design and intelligent manufacturing systems.

Other examples of the college’s cross-disciplinary research include:

“The areas we are targeting in this hiring initiative are areas where our college is already strong, but areas where we have an opportunity to significantly expand our strength in service to society,” said Leo. 

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

The hiring initiative also aligns with the College of Engineering’s goal to increase diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels as highlighted in its strategic plan and its diversity and inclusion plan

“Our college will use this initiative to demonstrate our commitment to diversifying our faculty and ensuring that we maintain and grow the culture of equity and inclusivity in our college. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of the university and college and we will make use of the best practices to ensure an inclusive search process,” said Leo.

The college offers structured mentoring programs for all faculty to support professional development. The college offers several programs designed to strengthen an inclusive and welcoming community, including a student-led Engineering Equity Council and facilitated dialogue sessions that promote discussion of topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The big picture

The College of Engineering’s hiring initiative is part of a broader university-wide effort, the Presidential Interdisciplinary Faculty Hiring Initiative in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. UGA plans to recruit 50 faculty members with expertise in applying data science and artificial intelligence to some of society’s most urgent challenges.

Rather than being housed exclusively in a single department, the majority of UGA’s and the College of Engineering’s newly recruited faculty will focus on the fusion of data science and AI in cross-cutting areas such as infectious diseases, integrative precision agriculture, ethics, cybersecurity, resilient communities, and the environment.

The cluster hiring initiative stems from the work of the Task Force on Academic Excellence charged by Provost S. Jack Hu shortly after he joined UGA in 2019. Composed of faculty and academic leaders across campus, the task force examined the university’s areas of strength and opportunity to guide strategic investments that maximize the institution’s impact.

“This hiring initiative builds on the expertise of our existing faculty and leverages our strength as a comprehensive research institution with a land-grant mission of service,” said Hu, a UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in the College of Engineering in addition to his role as provost. “It will give students new learning opportunities while sparking transformative discoveries.”

Opportunities for students

For students in the College of Engineering, the hiring initiative will expand the breadth and depth of the curriculum, increase opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research, and amplify experiential learning opportunities.

The demand for data literacy skills, which include an understanding of how data can be used in multiple disciplines, has risen dramatically in recent years.  At UGA, degree programs in computer science, data science, and cybersecurity and privacy are complemented by certificate programs in informatics and applied data science that are open to students from any major. Interdisciplinary units such as the Georgia Informatics Institutes and the Institute for Artificial Intelligence bring students from different majors together and foster collaboration among faculty in multiple departments.

The positions in the Presidential Interdisciplinary Faculty Hiring Initiative in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence are:

Integrative Precision Agriculture
The College invites applications for multiple open rank, nine-month tenured or tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor level. This position will start on August 1, 2022, and is an academic year appointment (nine months) with an opportunity to supplement salary during the summer. Search is currently open.

Machine Learning Applications in Cyber-Physical Systems Security
The College invites applications for multiple open rank, nine-month tenured or tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor level. This position will start on August 1, 2022, and is an academic year appointment (nine months) with an opportunity to supplement salary during the summer. Search is currently open.

Precision One Health Initiative
The focus of this hiring initiative will be in the field of Precision One Health, and will be part of a cluster spanning the College of Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Public Health, and College of Pharmacy. Areas of research and scholarship may include, but are not limited to, using data science approaches to advance understanding of human health, diagnostics, medical devices, and therapeutics. Search is opening soon.

Application of Artificial Intelligence to the Study of Infectious Disease Dynamics
The College invites applications for one open rank, nine-month tenured or tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor level. This position will start on August 1, 2022, and is an academic year appointment (nine months) with an opportunity to supplement salary during the summer.​ Search is currently open.

Resilient Infrastructure for Sustainability and Equity (RISE)
The College invites applications for multiple open rank, nine-month tenured or tenure-track faculty positions at the Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor level. These positions will start on August 1, 2022, and are academic year appointments (nine months) with the opportunity to supplement salary during the summer.​ Search is currently open.

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