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Faculty Excellence Chris McCauley July 08, 2024

In March 2024, the College of Arts and Sciences announced its first-ever competition for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Interdisciplinary Team Awards. Through this competition, faculty members were encouraged to work together across disciplines to develop project proposals designed to address important problems in AI research fields.

Tina Kempin Reuter, PhD.

The competition was an outgrowth of the College’s successful AI research retreat which took place in January 2024. During the retreat, nearly 100 faculty members and graduate students gathered at the UAB Alumni House to hear from guest speakers and to uncover opportunities for collaboration. The event sparked new ideas and relationships, setting the stage for faculty members across the College to participate in the AI Interdisciplinary Team Awards competition.

In total, six teams submitted proposals which were evaluated by an external reviewer. Today, the College is excited to share that it will award $30,000 to a team led by Tina Kempin Reuter, Ph.D., professor in the departments of Anthropology and Political Science and Public Administration and director of the Institute for Human Rights, for their project titled, “The Use of Artificial Intelligence to Improve the Efficiency and Quality of Qualitative and Community-Engaged Social Science Research.”

According to Reuter, the project will “combine two existing AI algorithms—facial recognition and voice pitch—to create a new tool that will help measure emotional engagement and intensity of interview participants in qualitative studies, test it including a wide range of people, including those traditionally excluded from these AI tools (e.g., speakers of other languages, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, different skin colors), and fine tune it to make it a tool for qualitative researchers (and potentially others).”

Reuter will serve as the principal investigator on the project, and the co-principal investigator will be Amber Wagner, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. Two researchers will also support the project: Shanshan Lian, Ph.D., and Jie “Jason” Lian.

Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research and Innovation for the College of Arts and Sciences, says that the goal of this seed grant is to support Reuter and her team as they collect pilot data and subsequently seek out future extramural funding.

“I’m very excited and grateful that our proposal was selected for the grant,” said Reuter. “I believe our interdisciplinary team and our approach that integrates qualitative research methods and human interactions with a novel combination of AI algorithms for better evidence-based data analysis and participant observation provides an opportunity for CAS to showcase the important contributions the social sciences and humanities can make in the space of technology.”

The College would like to congratulate Reuter and her team on their successful proposal.

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