Pursuing AI dreams

Staff Writer

Jun 28, 2023

In the midst of the war in northern Ethiopia, Medhn Hadush Gebreegziabhar (MS EAI '23) left her family to move to Kigali where she could expand upon her education in electrical and computer engineering at CMU-Africa. She pursued her lifelong interests in math and physics as part of the first cohort in the new Master of Science in Engineering Artificial Intelligence program.

The 10-16 month degree program, open to accepted CMU-Africa students, allows learners to use their engineering backgrounds to create solutions in the artificial intelligence and machine learning realm. Additionally, it provides students with the unique opportunity to complete semesters abroad at the CMU-Silicon Valley and/or Pittsburgh locations, which facilitates an environment of learners with incredibly diverse backgrounds.

Medhn is one of the 20 students in the first class of this new program. "Because we’re the first class, they really listen to what we have to say and make adjustments," she says. In addition to being in a very small cohort, she is also one of three women in the program.

The curriculum consists of core classes and project courses, which also include a capstone assignment where students work with clients at the industry level. They are responsible for meeting with companies weekly and are heavily involved in the development and improvement of different products. Medhn, for example, is working to optimize the embedded system of a deep learning model. This hands-on learning experience not only combines their background knowledge with real-world projects, but also exposes them to current innovations in the artificial intelligence space.

Medhn completed her last semester at CMU's Pittsburgh campus this spring. As reflects on her time abroad, she especially enjoyed being able to interact with her teachers in person as opposed to via Zoom. "I have the opportunity to be in person for one of our core classes. I can ask my teacher immediately if I have a question because she’s right in front of me. Through remote, I have to type my question, and you don’t know if that teacher is going to see it in the chat," she says.

In addition to the in-person classes, Medhn has loved the amount of opportunities she has access to in Pittsburgh. Combining her electrical engineering background with this concentration in AI has opened many doors for her, and she recommends that future students in the program use their interests to supplement their understanding of AI.

If I had only done electrical engineering, I would have had to sacrifice other courses in AI that I wanted to take. AI is not a stand-alone thing; you can combine it with something else.

Medhn Hadush Gebreegziabhar
With this new degree, students like Medhn can focus on developing their knowledge in their respective fields, but also specialize in AI applications. "If I had only done electrical engineering," she says, "I would have had to sacrifice other courses in AI that I wanted to take. AI is not a stand-alone thing; you can combine it with something else."