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Higher Education Thought Leadership

Emory + Georgia Tech AI.Humanity grants spur research to improve society, quality of human life

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology have announced the inaugural recipients of the $100,000 seed funding as part of their collaborative AI.Humanity Seed Grant Program.

The AI.Humanity Seed Grant Program is an extension of the existing partnership between the two universities forged through Emory’s Constructive Collisionsprogramming early this year. The grant recipients will use the funding to spur new research collaborations and expand existing partnerships to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to improve society and the quality of human life. Projects may incorporate research including, but not limited to, aspects of ethical and social considerations, social justice, health disparities or bias in AI data.

The winning proposals were selected from a pool of more than a dozen entries across the two universities. The recipients of the AI.Humanity seed grants are:

Marcela Benítez (Emory University, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology) and Jacob Abernethy (Georgia Tech, School of Computer Science) for their proposal titled “AI Forest: Cognition in the Wild.” 

Marcela Benitez (left) and Jacob Abernethy

In the proposed study, Benítez and Abernethy plan to develop and implement “smart” testing stations for long-term cognitive assessment and monitoring of wild capuchin monkeys at the Taboga Forest Reserve in Costa Rica. These testing stations will rely on AI and deep machine learning to recognize and track wild monkeys in real-time, allowing for targeted behavioral assessment and cognitive testing. 

The stations will also provide a novel method for long-term monitoring of cognitive abilities in wild animals. In doing so, the team will achieve an unprecedented level of control in a wild environment, providing opportunities for several studies linking cognitive performance to natural behaviors and, ultimately, overall fitness.

Lance Waller (Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics) and John Taylor (Georgia Tech, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) for their proposal titled, “Applying Machine Learning Techniques to Improve Epidemiological Models Accounting for Urban Infrastructure Networks, Human Behavioral Change, and Policy Interventions.” Their project will examine novel infectious diseases, which can be dangerous and require rapid public health response but can be challenging to model, especially in the early stages of a potential major outbreak. 

Lance Waller (left) and John Taylor

Particular to the team’s proposed research are the characteristics of urban infrastructure networks (e.g., transport networks), which add density to and alter the order and structure of contact networks, often accelerating local disease transmission in the event of widespread infectious disease. 

The team proposes extending epidemiological models to incorporate the complex role of local differences in contact networks and the dynamic nature of human-human and human-infrastructure interaction networks in shaping disease transmission, human behavioral change and policy interventions within metropolitan areas. 

The project’s goal is to provide more accurate results than homogeneous mixing models and remain computationally feasible for guiding rapid policy decisions. 

Marcos Schechter (Emory University, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine) and Rosa Arriaga (Georgia Tech, School of Interactive Computing) for their proposal titled “Diabetic Ulcer Computational Sensing System (DUCSS).” 

Marcos Schechter (left) and Rosa Arriaga

Schechter and Arriaga will co-lead a team of collaborative co-investigators as they explore computational approaches to detect changes in diabetic foot ulcers through models that analyze and interpret heterogeneous data and provide AI-driven interfaces that connect patients and clinicians. 

The team’s proposed human-centered computational sensing system will bridge current gaps and address the clinical challenge of automating wound screening and monitoring by characterizing ulcer severity and wound progression and predicting wound healing and recurrence. Additionally, the team will focus on underserved and minority communities to promote technologies to reduce disparities. 

This pilot proposal will enroll persons from underserved communities at Grady Memorial Hospital, a public hospital where more than 250 people are hospitalized with diabetic foot ulcers annually.

Emory’s senior vice president for research, Deborah Bruner, shares her sentiments on the continued collaborations. 

“These teams are partnering to revolutionize AI and promote equity and the improvement of the overall quality of human life,” says Bruner. “This is an exciting time for research departments at Emory and Georgia Tech. Congratulations to each of the winning teams.”

Learn more about Emory’s AI.Humanity Initiative.

 

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