Brown CS News

A New Brown CS Program: Researching Socially-Responsible AI With Students From HUGs


Click the links that follow for more news about diversity and inclusion at Brown CS, our Socially Responsible Computing program, Amy Greenwald, Jeff Huang, Daniel Ritchie, or James Tompkin.

At Brown CS and around the globe, interest in AI and related topics is soaring. CSCI 1470 Deep Learning, only a few years old, today has an enrollment of over 350 students, the department's second largest. But as computer scientists hope to expand the field to historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), students from demographics that have born the brunt of algorithmic bias and deepfakes may be understandably hesitant to take part. A new program aims to change that.

Thanks to an exploreCSR award from Google, Professors Amy Greenwald, Jeff Huang, Daniel Ritchie, and James Tompkin are launching a program for college students from HUGs in CS that will expose them to socially-responsible ways that AI can be used to realize creative visions. Working virtually at first due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students from around the country will become research associates, paired with Brown graduate student mentors (where possible, from similar HUGs) to conduct individualized research experiences, each culminating in a substantial artifact. In short, it's a behind-the-scenes look at how CS research operates, normalized and without pretentions, that students can use as a building block for future careers.

James And Researchers.jpg "Brown is uniquely qualified for this kind of experience," says Daniel, "not only due to our diversity and inclusion programs and our efforts to  integrate socially responsible computing across our entire curriculum, but because we're the headquarters of the Leadership Alliance. It's a nationwide consortium of higher educational institutions dedicated to training and mentoring a diverse population of students to take up research leadership positions in academia, industry, and government. CS faculty have mentored visiting students as part of Leadership Alliance programs in the past, and we'll be collaborating with them on this effort (and other upcoming outreach initiatives) to coordinate professional networking and other opportunities for participating students."

Thanks to the department's strong AI and visual computing groups, research topics are many and varied, including creative deepfake detection, mimicking high-end photography, structured image editing, adversarial shape generation, 3D augmented reality sketching, and building AI to play games. Opportunities for projects include literature reviews, replication studies, research apprenticeships, and independent research projects. Although activities will be conducted virtually, the program will culminate in an in-person visit to campus, centered around a symposium in which students present their findings alongside Brown undergrads. 
"I'm excited to see how this 'virtual research associate' approach goes," says Daniel. "It's really different from the typical outreach approach of bringing students in for a short workshop that lasts maybe for a long weekend. I'm hopeful that having a longer timeline, where students get to really experience a research culture over the span of a semester, can have a more lasting impact on attracting students to CS research careers. And we'll still bring students to campus at the end of this experience, for them to meet with their mentors and collaborators and present their research alongside Brown undergrads, as their research peers."

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.