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CDA To Lead Undergrad Research Program On Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence Practices

Students from the Center for Digital Agriculture Research Experience for Undergraduates program posed in a conference room in a group photo.

Students in the CDA REU program at the 2022 AIFARMS conference.

The Center for Digital Agriculture will lead an on-site Research Experience for Undergraduates program titled “Drivers for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Practices (MAPs).”

CDA is a collaborative effort between the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, the Grainger College of Engineering and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to help agricultural producers, researchers, and industries keep pace with the ways technology is transforming how we feed and support a growing global population.

The MAPs program will be led by principal investigator Dr. Angela Green-Miller, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and co-principal investigator Dr. Olga Bolden-Tiller, professor and dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University. The MAPs program aims to encourage students to consider research careers focused on machine learning and artificial intelligence with applications in life sciences, including agriculture, and other industries while introducing students to a distinctive combination of skills and backgrounds from engineering, computer science and biological science. 

In the world beyond their education, students will need to navigate diversity in ideas, approaches and backgrounds within their professional and personal landscapes. Our program’s cross-disciplinary approach is unique in that we are purposefully bringing together cohorts of students from a variety of academic and social backgrounds to explore cutting-edge technology in leading science and engineering laboratories. Our partnership with Tuskegee University supports our intent to recruit high-quality students that would otherwise not have access to this type of experience and create opportunities for individual professional development.

Dr. Angela Green-Miller, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at UIUC

“The MAPS program is exceptionally unique as it brings different institution types together, allowing for the concerns of a diverse group of stakeholders to be met,” Bolden-Tiller said. “This project is also an excellent example of co-creation and collaboration between land grant institutions, and we are excited about the impact that it is sure to have as we ready a workforce to address current issues as well as those not yet realized.”

The REU program includes: 

  • Intensive training in machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Student research projects supervised by multidisciplinary faculty members and grad student mentors
  • Weekly research team meetings with mentors to discuss progress and present their work
  • AI Foundry for Ag Applications and Hackathon (week-long short course hosted by Artificial Intelligence for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability)
  • Professional development seminars, including topics such as imposter syndrome, scientific writing, scientific posters/presentations, resume writing
  • Enrichment in entrepreneurship with seminars and workshops, including customer discovery, technology commercialization, and startup funding
  • Present research at AIFARMS Conference
  • Develop an abstract and scientific poster that can be presented at other conferences

Students will work with University of Illinois faculty mentors to actively contribute to research efforts that focus on contributions to the machine-learning pipeline. Student research will center on cutting-edge emerging machine learning techniques – autonomous farming and robots, computer vision, edge processing and semi-supervised learning – driven by challenges in biological systems.

Contact REU Site Director Christina Tucker at or visit the MAPs program webpage for more information.

“This REU program will provide students with opportunities to work in a research lab, attend professional development workshops and build skills for the future,” Tucker said. “Engineering or computer science students will learn to apply their skill sets in agriculture and students from agriculture/biology science majors will get exposure to applications of their skills in the AI/ML space. The students will also learn how to work and communicate with a multidisciplinary team which will be valuable for a future in either grad school or industry.

“We hope this experience will open doors to new opportunities for the students as they learn about grad school and job opportunities in the quickly growing field of digital agriculture using AI/ML.”

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