Undergraduate Students Explore Advances in Artificial Intelligence With SURF Program

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Connor Keyes (B’22) and Abraham Mata (B’22) had always been curious about artificial intelligence (AI), but could never find the time nor the expertise to pursue it. At least not until they approached Jason Schloetzer, William and Karen Sonneborn Associate Professor, seeking to answer the same question: “How does AI impact the economy and society?”  

Participating in the McDonough Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program this summer under the guidance of Schloetzer, they answered this question from two entirely different directions. In his paper “Autonomous Trucking and the Diffusion of Technology,” Keyes studied the development of the autonomous trucking industry and how introducing this technology will likely unfold in coming years. 

Conversely, Mata considered whether or not presidential candidates prioritize public policies designed to prepare working Americans for the coming wave of automation in the workplace in his paper, titled “The Impact of Automation within Future Presidential Elections.” 

“Professor Schloetzer was a fantastic mentor who guided me through the research process, was a great sound board for my ideas, and offered ideas of his own,” said Keyes. “Having an experienced researcher and communicator on my side was crucial to learning how to find the answers I was seeking.”

The SURF Program offers the opportunity for students to apply for a grant ranging from $3,000 to 6,000 to conduct original research of their choice. Students connect with faculty members to investigate interdisciplinary business topics that align with their interest. Working one-on-one with a faculty member, students implement the research process to inform a relevant topic in society. Keyes and Mata both highlighted the guidance they received from Schloetzer as a crucial factor of their respective research processes. 

During a time where advancements in emerging technologies are constant and long-lasting, this collaborative relationship between faculty and students in the research process supplements classroom teaching about AI and the future of work. Schloetzer highlights the necessity of McDonough students gaining fluency around this shift in the business and policy landscape. 

“Faster computers, more data, and advancements in computer science will not disappear anytime soon,” said Schloetzer. “Georgetown McDonough is making it a priority to help students across the undergraduate, graduate, and executive program levels develop the skills they need to prepare for lifelong learning in this area, as well as realize the ways emerging technologies can solve real world business problems.” 

As AI continues to disrupt the business world, much of the business school curriculum is adapting to the conversation around AI and the future of work.

“I am now starting to notice that many of my classes incorporate the topic of artificial intelligence in one way or another,” added Mata. “McDonough creates an environment that teaches students to ask meaningful questions to learn about the world—and SURF was the platform where I could take my interests one step further.”