CLAS Faculty Awarded Funding for Racial Justice and Artificial Intelligence Research

By Andrew Doerfler

Faculty members across the college will actively contribute to two of the University of Florida’s key initiatives after receiving funding to advance racial justice and artificial intelligence research.

Six projects led by College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty were recently awarded in two university-wide calls for proposals.

Four proposals by CLAS faculty members received funding from the UF Racial Justice Research Fund, which in July 2020 announced $400,000 to support research and scholarship that will inform understanding of the Black experience, racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and beyond. The awards for each proposal ranged from $15,000 to $75,000.

Two projects led by CLAS faculty members were funded by UF’s Artificial Intelligence Research Catalyst Fund, which distributed awards of $50,000 each to 20 teams, totaling $1 million. The awards promote research initiatives that draw upon the university’s current computing resources and the coming addition of a NVIDIA supercomputer to further UF’s standing as a national leader in artificial intelligence.

The recipients are listed below. For a full description of each of their projects, click here.

Racial Justice

The following four CLAS faculty were awarded through the Advancing Racial Justice Research Fund.

Sharon Austin

SHARON AUSTIN, Professor of Political Science: Recruitment, Retention, of Black Faculty

“Our project seeks to assess reasons for the lack of Black faculty at UF and how our community can address this problem. Our project will provide vital information about the need for Black faculty as well as effective recruitment and retention methods,” Austin wrote in a summary.

David Canton

DAVID CANTON, Associate Professor of History and Director of African American Studies: Research, Education and Transformation: Furthering Investigation of the University of Florida and its Legacies to Indigenous Removal and Slavery

“Our research project investigates UF’s origin, legacy and impact on the present and future experiences of people of color on campus,” Canton said. “Through interpreting underrepresented histories and experiences at UF, we hope to transform the future of the UF campus.”

Brenda Chalfin

BRENDA CHALFIN, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for African Studies: Black Students Sharing Stories for an Equitable UF

“Drawing on faculty in education, journalism, history, and anthropology, and empowering a peer research team made up of graduate and undergraduate student researchers, the project will elicit, analyze and archive the personal narratives (‘stories’) of a cross-section of Black students at UF using a multimedia ‘story portal,’” according to the project proposal.

Ellen Christine Davis

E. CHRISTINE DAVIS, Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Coordinator of Biology: Cultivating equity in STEM classrooms at UF: A multidisciplinary collaboration to create a training course in inclusive, antiracist teaching practices for Learning Assistants (LAs) in STEM courses

“To address current inequities in STEM courses and careers at UF and nationwide, our interdisciplinary project seeks to improve feelings of self-efficacy, STEM identity, and sense of belonging among Black students enrolled in UF’s foundational Biology, Biomedical Engineering, and Physics courses,” the proposal says.

The funding, developed jointly by UF Research and the Chief Diversity Officer, is a piece of President Kent Fuchs’ commitment to focus on racial justice for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“My hope is that this kind of funding leverages UF’s multidisciplinary research strengths to develop solutions to the many health, education and economic disparities that affect people of color, on our campus, in our country, and around the world,” said David Norton, UF’s vice president for research, in a previous statement.

Artificial Intelligence Research

The two proposals below were funded through the Artificial Intelligence Catalyst Fund.

Brian Odegaard

BRIAN ODEGAARD, Professor of Psychology: Combining Deep Neural Networks and Large-Scale Brain Data to Predict Human Cognition and Behavior

“This work will (i) facilitate development of (and make publicly available) a new research algorithm for deep learning; (ii) provide insights into how brain structure and function are linked to different phenotypes; and (iii) identify brain regions of interest for future targeted interventions, such as using neurofeedback training to enhance cognition and behavior,” a summary of Odegaard’s proposal says.

Steven Weisberg

STEVEN WEISBERG, Assistant Professor of Psychology: What mind matters? Machine learning approaches to linking structural variation in the brain to individual differences in spatial behavior

“This research will promote the development of machine learning strategies that can be applied toward general cognitive traits, measured in different ways, across different populations. Such an approach could unlock exciting new avenues for disease diagnosis and prediction, new targets for clinical intervention, and new theories about brain-behavior associations,” the project description says.

The AI research catalyst fund aims to accelerate research in the field and while making use of UF’s new computing infrastructure.

“As part of UF’s push to become a national leader in artificial intelligence research and education,” Norton said in a December statement, “the AI Research Catalyst Fund was created to encourage multidisciplinary teams of faculty and students to rapidly pursue imaginative applications of AI across the institution.”

Learn more about internal funding opportunities at UF here, and read full summaries of each project here.

This story was originally posted by UF CLAS.

Check out more stories on the UF A.I. Initiative.