Galatea 2.2 is a somewhat autobiographical novel by Richard Powers. It concerns a fictionalized version of himself returning to the university that he attended as a student. This came in the aftermath of ending a loving but toxic relationship that consumed much of his life. After meeting an eccentric scientist, he becomes part of a wager. To win, the scientist must be able to program an AI that will be capable of passing a test all students must take to receive a Master's degree in literature. In the arrangement made between Powers and the scientist, it is Powers's job to "teach" the AI literature. However, the lines between programming and consciousness blur, and the man and the machine develop a complicated bond.
In the context of the story, "U" is not a "who" at all, but rather a "what." The university that is central to the setting of the novel is referred to simply as "U." However, it has been speculated and widely accepted that since the novel is only partially fictionalized, the "U" either represents or is canonically the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. That is the university where the real Powers graduated from and now teaches as a professor.