Opportunities at AIISC

Written by Prof. Amit Sheth [be sure to check with your faculty mentor]

Preface: The following was written for an on-site internship, and recently edited to reflect remote internships given the pandemic related conditions.

I receive many applications for internships at the AI Institute at UofSC (#AIISC). I would love to accept as many as possible, but we can only select a few. The following gives some background on who is a good match for our internships and our selection process.

  1. Why do you want to do an internship in general? I need to understand why you want to do an internship specifically at the #AIISC? We need to understand whether the objectives for the internship you seek are well aligned with our priorities. Tell me how you will benefit from an internship at #AIISC - how will it help you with your next step? Understand that #AIISC is primarily a group of ambitious researchers (mainly PhD and postdoc) researchers, along with a growing number of faculty members. Understand that we prepare world-class researchers that compete with the products of other top institutions (all of our researchers compete with their counterparts from other top institutions including Stanford, CMU, GaTech, and the likes, for the careers choices they pursue - primarily academia and industry research, with some pursuing entrepreneurship after further experience). So naturally, we will give priority to those students who are genuinely interested in pursuing a research career. So help me understand what your plans are after your current degree. We do not select an intern to carry out just coding or labor-intensive job; we engage them to learn what it means to do research (experience the joys of research) and make them a full member of our team.Let me point out that you should NOT pursue an internship here if: You primarily seek improvement in your technical expertise. There are many ways to learn new skills and technologies-- you do not need to do an internship for that reason (yes, all interns will learn new techniques, technologies, tools, and skills, but these are not the primary reasons for an internship at #AIatSC). If your primary objective is to improve skills in AI and pursue a software engineering job, I can still help you by connecting you with companies I advise for a possible internship.

    As a corollary: If you do seek a remote internship at AIISC, you need to be upfront and we need to be able to trust you for all the representation you make. You need to commit that:

    • in parallel with the internship, you will not do any other internships or activities other than what your educational internship requires (e.g., registering for Thesis or practical school),

    • you will not have significant course work in parallel (otherwise, you will not have enough time to develop to the internship and you will not be able to keep up with the project you are part of),

    • you have no intention to appear in campus placement, and

    • you are committed to pursuing higher education where you can be trained to pursue a research career such as an academic job or researcher in industry (typically, it takes a PhD to become a researcher; very few are able to start a research career after an MS: see Quora).

    Check this for an example of successful internships at AIISC. Many interns have coauthored a research publication as an outcome of their internship.

  2. Are you prepared? Are you technically prepared to jump into a challenging research project - an ideal intern for us is one who is very ambitious about pursuing research and innovation-centric careers, can work in a team but is self-initiated, and is clear about the outcomes you want. Tell me, what do you have that others (your competition) do not? Do you have a research advisor at your current institution?

  3. Some of the institutions have MoUs or other relationships with us, including IIT-P, BITS-Pilani, IIIT-H, IIIT-D, IIIT-NR, and LNMIIT. This may facilitate the process if you are selected. It would also help if you are working with a research-active faculty at your institution (whose students publish) and/or if I know them. Talk to your advisor/mentor at your institution and communicate with me if they know me or have sent students to my group.

  4. Understand that it costs more than money when we take interns. We have to invest a lot of time mentoring the students who intern with us. The paperwork for a visa is also time-consuming.

    1. The above makes it much harder to accept a student who wants to do a summer internship lasting three-four months or less. Often, such a short-term internship is possible in such a case where the student starts working by December and proves his/her capability through virtual” internship before the summer internship decision is made. Self-funding makes such internships more possible, and in most cases, we will not fund such interns.

    2. An internship that lasts from 6 to 12 months is more attractive, and we consider covering such an intern’s US expenses (stipend that may cover housing, food, health insurance). In cases where we have prior relationships with their UG institutions (see #3), there may be funds available for travel too.

    3. For a current PhD student at other institutions, it may be possible to have fully paid internships, esp. if the student has proven research ability, and if the student has the plan to pursue postdoc with us (no guarantees) or an academic career.

    4. We are in the process of establishing a scholarship for Indian women who wants to pursue higher education (primarily PhD) in the USA, and doing an internship at #AIISC would help them in the process (this is based on the donor’s instruction).

    5. Two interns for Jan-June2020 have compiled data on the living cost: (a) Columbia, SC has much lower living cost than some of the larger and coastal areas (California, NYC, Washington DC area, Boston, Seattle area, Portland area, Austin, etc.)m and (b) one may have different lifestyles-- so they have given their guests for low, medium and high-cost options.

Quora is a rich resource to help you make better choices for your higher education alternatives. Students are strongly urged to review relevant answers to my questions on Quora (there have been more than a million views of these answers). One of the most pertinent Q/A is this. Now try to answer what will motivate me to select you over another student (what is it that you have that others don’t)? Who will be a more attractive candidate-- a student can convince me that s/he intends to a PhD at #AIISC (of course, there is no guarantee it will work out that way), or a student who wants to do an internship at #AIISC only to pursue his/her PhD elsewhere (nothing wrong with this option, but shouldn’t pursue an internship where s/he wants to ultimately do PhD)?

Some of you may have more than one option for pursuing internships. It is very important to know why a particular choice is better for you. So be sure to know as much as possible about a place you are considering.

If you have convinced yourself that your interest in doing an internship matches with the purpose for which we are open to investing in you, here is a typical process:

  • You write an email to me ("me" means the faculty member you want to work with).

  • We discuss why there is a match. If there is a match, you will certify the items in blue above with a copy to your institution’s faculty advisor [see draft at the end of this document]..

  • We do a technical evaluation (give you a problem to solve) to understand your technical readiness, and intellectual readiness by assigning a research paper review task.

  • If accepted-- we expose you to a large number of projects at AIISC encompassing knowledge graph, NLP, deep learning (many techniques- CNN, RL, ADL,..., conversational AI, and interdisciplinary AI with applications to healthcare/medicine, public health, social good, disaster coordination, smart manufacturing, education, etc. We set up meeting between the prospective intern and mentor (one of our postdoc/PhD students with experience in conducting research and mentoring).

  • The internship starts when a prospective intern and mentor matches. Many projects are group projects. In some cases, the intern may have a better match with one of our other AI faculty members, so we may connect you to one of them.

  • Depending on the student’s situation, including the available time to starting higher studies, a remote internship may be followed by an onsite internship. In some cases, it may be directly an onsite internship.

While this is not written for prospective interns, it gives some interesting complementary information for the reasons that attract exceptional faculty at #AIISC: Why join AIISC as a Faculty?

The AI Institute of the University of South Carolina has received a donation named “Nirmala and Jashwantlal Clerk Memorial Scholarship for Women from India.” Each year the scholarship will support two to three paid internships for six months at the AI Institute of UofSC (AIISC).

The internship is for women students from India who are committed to pursue Ph.D. in AI. Interns will get excellent opportunities to further their preparedness to pursue post graduate studies. Although the internship is for six months, a fully funded Ph.D. at the AI Institute is a distinct possibility for high performing and motivated interns. The applicants will be selected based on aptitude, credentials, academic and technical excellence, motivation and ambition. Please review general information about interning at the AIISC. If interested, contact Prof. Amit Sheth (home page, LinkedIn, Quora) at amit@sc.edu for more details.

About the donation:

This scholarship is created by Dr. Jayana Clerk to honor the memory of her parents’ progressive thinking for education for women. Back in 1960 they fulfilled Jayana’s dream for advanced education abroad by sending her to England, alone. Such exemplary thinking is often missing in India today, six decades later; many daughters’ academic dreams, achievements, careers are often compromised.

Dr. Clerk considers Artificial Intelligence as the major contributing factor in humanity’s future. AI is the new ‘fire’ commingling science and spirituality in her publication, “2084: The Dance of Technology and Consciousness” (Fiction, 2019). Her hope is that this scholarship will enable women from India to have an opportunity to do scientific research, advance their academic dreams and contribute to humanity’s evolution.

AIISC offers an exceptional environment for maturing into an independent researcher. The benefits include:

  • Wide portfolio of exciting topics in AI - work on the latest core AI and translational research to on challenging real-world problems and see real-world impact

  • World-class new, dedicated facility, with exceptional computing facilities

  • Highly supportive, collaborative, diverse and inclusive environment with exceptional faculty members

  • Access to wide industry and academic networks including highly successful alumni who are academics, industry researchers, and entrepreneurs

PhD supervisor plays an invaluable role in the success of a student. Along with the high overall AIISC standards, each supervisor has unique recruitment and decision making process. Check with respective faculty (after reviewing their Web and Quora pages).

  • Prof. Amit Sheth (see the tab for "Prospective Students"), Prof. Biplav Srivastava, Prof. Forest Agostinelli, Qi Zhang.

There are more than 10 AI faculty members in the AI Institute and/or the Computer Science and Engineering department that a student can work with.

Contact the Director or any faculty

For FY2021, we have an approved position to hire interdisciplinary faculty at the interaction of AI and neuroscience at any rank. An opportunity-hire of an exceptional candidate is possible.

Why and how at the AI Institute at the University of South Carolina offers an unparalleled opportunity to build a career for ambitious and talented AI researchers and educators?

  1. The opportunity to be part of a major growth opportunity that a campus-wide initiative provides:

    Also see additional information at:

    News: AI Institute (especially the podcast and the emphasis on student success)

    Look at the vision : Leadership talk: Artificial Intelligence Institute at UofSC

    We are working to build the largest AI organization in the US Southeast, with an exciting portfolio of core AI and interdisciplinary AI projects.

    Browse to review the start of the AI Institute and the related information:    Read this Post

    Compared to a traditional position in a department where you carry out your teaching, research and service activities, here you get to be part of a research-intensive institute for your research and most of your professional services, and even your teaching to graduate students will be aligned with the institute. The institute borrows features from some of the top institutes in CS such as USC-ISI or UMD-UMIACS, with attractive new facilities, and a highly collaborative environment that will provide you and your students many advantages.

    Get a sense of the earlier leadership effort by Prof. Sheth (Feb 2019 profile overview): View this presentation. He has been invested in the success of his colleagues, postdocs, and students at all levels. With a larger initiative, exceptional campus-wide support, and higher-quality institution, we have an opportunity to significantly exceed prior successes. A full professor has already been attracted/recruited to join the AI Institute in early summer [1].

  2. Very low teaching load: 1 + 1 that provides plenty of time for research and the mentoring of research students to collaborate with you.Your teaching assignment will usually alternate between one undergraduate course one semester and one graduate course the next semester (the graduate course can be a specialized course in your area of research). We already have 15-20 AI-related courses. In addition to a PhD, we offer an MS in CS with AI Certification and an MS in AI is being planned!

  3. You will have a very competitive startup package, with funds for equipment, travel, summer support, and support for research assistants.

  4. Excellent faculty with AI expertise in Computer Science & Engineering with whom you can collaborate: Faculty Achievements

    Some examples: Jianjun Hu, Pooyan Jamshidi, Song Wang, Marco Valtorta ...

    Excellent opportunities to be a significant part of large and impactful interdisciplinary AI projects: see a partial list of examples at Artificial Intelligence Institute.

    Exceptional infrastructure:

       Read this Post

       visit this page

    You will have free access to a shared and growing computing environment (especially GPU cluster).

  5. Excellent collaborative environment with world-class resources, but with strong encouragement/support to build your own/independent research presence and leadership in the chosen area of AI. A highly intellectual, engaging, fun, and supportive environment for both faculty and students (e.g., designed to make PhD students independent and confident researchers).

    A very congenial and collaborative environment where students of all AI Institute faculty collaborate or interact. Processes (e.g., weekly group meetings that everyone attends, frequent afternoon walks, which SC weather allows nearly year-round, frequent long and short term visitors whose talks are attended by everyone) and infrastructure planned to support collaboration (E.g., well-equipped kitchen, informal seating places, conference rooms, quiet room). Strong support and encouragement for diversity and inclusion - leading participation in several formal and informal activities that have led to higher diversity.

    The AI Institute is already attracting high-quality student applicants (little or no difficulty in recruiting very good Ph.D. students, always several to choose from); high-quality undergrads who can help in building tools and systems.

  6. Benefits of being the state’s flagship university. The campus adjoins the state capitol, with excellent access to state government institutions (e.g., participation in the state’s priority in education, rural health, connected manufacturing, etc. with an opportunity to make a significant impact). UofSC is a Carnegie Research Tier 1 university (comprehensive research university). Several highly-ranked colleges/schools ( e.g., Public Health is ranked #19,Darla Moore School of Business) . Excellent access to resources for technology transfer, commercialization, and entrepreneurship (including seed funding and incubation). Significant external collaborations with top researchers and teams at: ISI- Univ of Southern California, San Diego Super Computing - UCSD, Ohio State U., Arizona State University, Weil Cornell Medicine….

  7. Excellent campus with modern facilities and historical core (university was established in 1801 so has very lovely central campus and yet has access to a lovely city), excellent weather (no snow), moderate cost of living, great and affordable housing choices, very good school districts nearby, no history of major hurricanes/tornadoes/earthquakes/wildfires. Lovely mid-sized city city with several museums, variety of cuisines, extensive cultural activities, and engaged sports culture.

  8. AI Institute will be aligned along with the principles of the 20-year AI Roadmap developed by the AI community [2].


[1] The incoming faculty has spent 20 successful years at IBM Research and is a master inventor with 50+ patents, 2020-2021 AAAS Leshner Fellow, AAAI Senior Member, ACM Distinguished Scientist.

[2] A 20-Year Community Roadmap for Artificial Intelligence Research in the US, Link Here


The AI Institute was established as part of the University of South Carolina's excellence initiate.

Go to the AIISC's LinkedIn page for a lot more on recent happenings.

A Note from the Dean: Artificial Intelligence, - College of Computing & Engineering, UofSC, November 2020.

Dean Haj-Hariri describes the two years of progress since he spearheaded the proposal for our university’s Artificial Intelligence Institute with one goal in mind: becoming the preeminent applied artificial intelligence institute in the Southeast

Amit Sheth: Should We Be Worried About Artificial Intelligence? The New AI Institute and Choosing Grad Students, - Innovation on Main, Nov. 20, 2019

In this podcast, Amit Sheth, the founding director of the UofSC Artificial Intelligence Institute, joins host Abe Danaher to talk about artificial intelligence and the new, university-wide institute he has founded.

Turning big data into smart data: New AI Institute launches to elevate research efforts already underway - UofSC Today, May 2019

Amit Sheth: The AI revolution is Here - The Morning Consult, Nov. 05, 2019

An opinion piece with an objective to discuss AI's relevance to South Carolina, to declare that South Carolina is a player, and introduce our initiative- the AI Institute.

USC to open “smart data” artificial intelligence institute, - The State, May 2019

The University of South Carolina will be opening an institute devoted to the study of artificial intelligence, or AI.

The institute will both develop technology and consider the impact of AI on employment

Leadership in AI selected as a UofSC’s Excellence Initiative, - UofSC Today, April 2019

The leadership in AI initiative is what got the AI Institute started with an initial $8m investment. Announcement on the excellence initiative selection.

Leadership in AI selected as a UofSC’s Excellence Initiative, - February 2019

Talk describing the vision associated with the Artificial Intelligence Institute at UofSC as presented by Prof. Sheth.