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Digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) have shaped the way we work, interact, organize ourselves, and even spend our free time with social networks, streaming media, and games. And this transformation is far from being complete, it is rather beginning. Especially the AI field is so dynamic that it is hard to predict even what will change in the next five years. However, one thing is for sure: things will change, and this will have strong effects on our everyday life.

Computer science: AI4LIFE

In the last years, there have been remarkable successes with AI methods that have been covered in detail by the media, for example, the first AI (AlphaGo) to beat human Go world champions, a game that only ten years ago was considered as too complex for modern AI’s. While this wave of new achievements continues (AI’s beating StarCraft or Dota2 champions, GPT-3 producing text that largely looks as written by a human), something else is going on now: these new methods are more and more used in practice, very often in an interdisciplinary context, together with Chemistry, Physics, Logistics, Engineering, Economics and even Social Sciences and Humanities. They are not only used to determine what you see in Facebook or Instagram or what you are recommended to buy on Amazon or other online shops, they find you the way on Google maps or personalize your music listening experience, but are also needed to make new medicines or design new engines, or assist you with steering a vehicle (or completely take over themselves).

Our program cannot cover all of AI but gives you a good idea of how computer scientists actually do research but also use their insights in practical applications. At Leiden University, we are convinced that embedding AI in society in a fruitful and responsible manner goes much further than computer science by itself. How can we design laws and regulations that ensure that AI systems are inclusive and unbiased? And how do we design AI systems that can understand human emotions and use these for comforting interactions? These are highly complex questions that require researchers from law, language, and the exact sciences to work together towards “human AI.” In the SAILS programme of Leiden University, we bring together researchers from all seven faculties to jointly work on these grand challenges.

About the lectures

Our lecture program consists of four topics, each of which is treated by lectures but also practical experiences, held by experts in the respective fields. Experimentation is currently at the heart of many advances of computer science methods and thus for getting an impression of what computer scientists do it is important to play around with these ideas yourself.

The four topics are:

  1. Interacting with Robots (dr. Joost Breukens)
  2. Limits of Computation (dr. Henning Basold)
  3. Machine Learning: From Zero To Hero (dr. Veysel Kocaman)
  4. Iterated Local Search in Theory and Practice (prof. dr. Holger Hoos)

Dit programma wordt aangeboden in het Engels.

The credit value of active participation in the PRE-programme is 25 studielasturen. If you like, you can also write a ‘profielwerkstuk’ based on one of the programme themes. In this case, please discuss this with your own teacher at school and contact one of the Pre-Classes instructors listed above.

The meetings are on Wednesdays, 14:15-16:15 hrs.

  1. Wednesday, 13 January 2021
  2. Wednesday, 20 January 2021   
  3. Wednesday, 27 January 2021       
  4. Wednesday, 3 February 2021   
  5. Wednesday, 10 February 2021           
  6. Wednesday, 3 March 2021   
  7. Wednesday, 10 March 2021   
  8. Wednesday, 17 March 2021   

More detailed information about the programme will follow.

Registration and admission

Who can apply?
Pupils from 5 and 6 vwo are welcome to apply.

Write a letter of intent to tell us about yourself and, in particular, why you would like to take part in this programme. Please restrict your letter, in English, to about 300 words or one page of A4. The deadline for signing up is 4 november, before 09:00 AM. Check out Aanmelding & selectie for more information about the registration procedures.

The maximum number of students selected for the programme will be 24. 


For practical questions, please contact Klawa Koppenol. For other questions, you can contact the contact person of the class, dr. Mike Preuss.

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