Research News

Vanderbilt celebrates Generative AI Seed Grant awardees

As part of the Future of Learning and Generative AI Initiative launched last summer by the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Vanderbilt recently announced the recipients of its Generative AI Seed Grants. The grant fund was designed to foster groundbreaking work in large language models (LLMs), like ChatGPT and Bard. Grants were awarded to six projects across five schools, underscoring Vanderbilt’s dedication to pioneering research and application in AI technologies.

The Generative AI Seed Grant was conceived and led by Jules White, associate dean for strategic learning programs and professor of computer science, to encourage innovative research endeavors, curriculum innovations and fresh applications related to generative AI technology.

“Vanderbilt is a leader in interdisciplinary research on generative AI. Many institutions are rushing to train new models, which is like building the ‘engine’ for a car without designing the car around it. Building an engine isn’t enough to solve the important problems in society,” White said. “While other institutions are building ‘engines,’ Vanderbilt is building the generative AI equivalent of cars, transportation systems, safe driving training and traffic control. Vanderbilt researchers are creating the innovations that will solve societal problems, not just provide some extra horsepower.”

With support from the chancellor and provost’s offices, the grant launched last September, with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation managing the faculty peer review and decision-making process.

“I thank Jules White and the interdisciplinary faculty advisory board for reviewing all the applications and selecting these deserving awardees,” Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Padma Raghavan said. “The broad range of fields represented in our winners speaks to our strength as a university in how we’ll leverage the power of AI to advance discoveries and innovations across all our schools and colleges.”

In all, six proposals were selected:

  • Meiyi Ma, assistant professor of computer science: “SimER: An LLM-powered Training Simulator for Call-takers in Emergency Response”
  • Zhongyue Yang, SC Family Dean’s Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of chemistry: “EnzyExtract: A large language model-based workflow for constructing integrative enzymology database”
  • Amy Booth, professor of psychology and human development: “Supporting Early Literacy with AIDA, an Artificially Intelligent Dialogic Reading Aide”
  • Regina Russell, associate professor of nursing: “Future-FLO: Engaging a large language model in grant evaluation for nursing education”
  • Ole Molvig, assistant professor of history: “Humanist in the Loop”
  • Sarah Moon, lecturer in law: “Vanderbilt AI Law Lab”

An interdisciplinary faculty advisory board reviewed all applications and selected the awardees. While the Generative AI Seed Grant was a one-time program, the selected projects have the potential to contribute to their fields and to the broader discussion on the potential and challenges of generative AI, White said.

Research Development and Support, based in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, oversaw the administration of the Generative AI Seed Grant. RDS plays a pivotal role in bolstering the research ecosystem at Vanderbilt by offering internal funding, identifying external funding opportunities, providing proposal development assistance and organizing workshops and training for faculty. For more information about their services, email