NSF Grant Supports Cultivating Diversity Among AI Researchers

Harvey Mudd College computer science professor Jim Boerkoel has received a $45,900 federal grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of his project “A Consortium for Cultivating Future Artificial Intelligence Researchers.”

“The AAAI Undergraduate Consortium and Mentoring Program, hosted at the 2020 and 2021 AAAI Conferences on Artificial Intelligence, will attempt to address the challenge of building a healthy cohort of future artificial intelligence (AI) researchers that is representative of broader societal diversity,” Boerkoel says.

This program seeks to fortify the research identities of future AI researchers across a diverse set of backgrounds, particularly among populations that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. The long-term objective is to broaden the pipeline of students pursuing AI graduate education and research careers, and to do so in a way that the pedagogical tools and materials can be leveraged by researchers and educators at academic conferences across computer science and STEM disciplines.

Program participants will have an enhanced conference experience through opportunities to practice written and verbal presentation skills, receive constructive feedback, build mentoring relationships with AI experts and researchers, construct a diverse network of peers, and engage in educational activities related to pursuing and assessing a graduate career in AI research.

In partnership with AAAI, Boerkoel will collect data on undergraduate participation at the conferences to determine the program’s efficacy and pipeline effects over time. He will also maintain and disseminate a repository of ready-made undergraduate programming opportunities that can be used in conjunction with any professional computer science conference.

“In addition to helping fund the program itself,” Boerkoel says, “the grant will also provide funding for 25 undergraduate students to attend over the next two years.”