The versatility of AI research makes this multidisciplinary program
In the final year of my Bachelor Industrial Design, I started to watch science-fiction movies like ‘Her’ and ‘Ex Machina’. It made me think "why does Artificial Intelligence always has to be like humans in those movies? And why are AI systems in the real world always so extremely practical and not personal?" This was exactly what my final bachelor project was about and what later helped me to choose for the Master's in Artificial Intelligence.
When I was looking for a Master's programme I wanted to do something more theoretical, with more mathematics, than Industrial Design and at the same time I wanted to keep the multidisciplinary way of working that I was used to. The AI Master's programme is indeed very theoretical; we read lots of papers and therefore we get the feel of the different kind of research there is, not just the tools that businesses happen to use. That is what makes the field multidisciplinary. Research within AI reaches much further than you might think, and for that you need some creativity in seeing how it all connects. It is hard to explain, but when you experience it, you will see how many fields are inspired by the field of AI.
One of the things I like the most about this programme is that you can choose almost anything, and really create the programme you want. We are free to do electives at many different departments and thanks to that I have already learned a lot about many new areas, such as neuroscience and linguistics. Another aspect that I really enjoy is that the people in the program have very diverse backgrounds. In assignments, projects and presentations, people from different backgrounds show a different approach with different opinions, which is very inspiring. I feel that this programme is a great preparation for going into research. I like research in general but I still don’t know exactly what I want to do when I graduate. What I do know is that, wherever I end up, I want to be able to use the ability to research into different fields even if I am unfamiliar with them at first. Connecting different areas and coming up with new ideas for research related to AI is something I really enjoy and would like to have in my future.
Emma van Zoelen, Master's student
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"My advice to future Master's students is to visit career events and to think about what you really like to do"
“Currently, I am working for Ortec Finance as a software developer. Ortec Finance is a company that provides advisory services for risk and return management. They create software solutions that help to make decisions for different financial industries. The target industry I am working for is pension funds. I am working on a software solution to do Asset Liability Management studies for pension funds, in order to deal with specific challenges that they face.
In order to find a job, I regularly visited different events and career days to find out what kind of job I would like to do after my graduation. At the Careers Day in Utrecht I came in contact with Ortec Finance. After an informal interview and visiting the company a few times, they offered me a job. Altogether, it went quite fast; two months before my graduation, I already had a job, which I started two weeks afterwards.
I really liked my Master's Technical Artificial Intelligence, but I cannot say this Master's has really prepared me for my future career. This is partly because I chose to conduct research at the university instead of doing a research at a company. Furthermore, I always preferred to take the more abstract courses because often these subjects fitted perfectly with my mathematical background. These choices are some reasons why my study has not prepared me for my future career. However, I do not think this is the aim of the study so unless you plan to do a PhD, you will experience a huge difference.
My advice to future Master's students is to visit career events and to think about what you really like to do. Be open-minded towards different kind of companies. For me, the feeling I had with a company was just as important as what I was going to do.”
Companies really like students from this Master's, because they are trained in both computer science and the social part.
“I did my Bachelor Artificial Intelligence in Nijmegen and wanted to continue with a Artificial Intelligence Master's. I really like reasoning and logic, but the Master's programme in Nijmegen focuses more on psychology. I then found this Master's in Utrecht where they offer a reasoning track, which was exactly what I was looking for.
In the first year you will start with an introduction course in which all tracks of the Master's will be covered. After this block you will decide which track you want to take. The remaining blocks of the year will consist of track related courses and electives. In this way you will be able to combine your specialty with courses that you find interesting.
In your second year you will generally have one block of courses and your thesis. In my case I spent the first half-year in the Czech Republic, because I really wanted to take classes abroad. This is the reason that I have a small delay now. Currently, I am doing my thesis. For my thesis I am studying emotions and see if we can build a model that can be used within agents. This is a really new, but also important field of research. When using for example social robotics in health care, they should at least be able to recognise human emotions.
After this Master I would like to continue and get a second degree, cause I still like studying. Eventually I would like to go into research. A lot of students try to go into software engineering, where they hope to apply the new techniques they have learned in the Master's. Companies really like students from this Master's, because they are trained in both computer science and the social part. Because of this, they are able to act as a bridge between the managers and the computer scientists.”
Lucy van Oostveen, Master’s student