Research program brings together professors and local leaders to tackle community issues

A project using artificial intelligence to help older adults with Alzheimer’s disease has won first prize in a Florida State University competition designed to develop interdisciplinary research teams tackling complex problems.

The project, which brings together faculty and staff from the College of Communication and Information, the Department of Art, the College of Medicine, and FSU facilities, will receive $50,000 in internal funding from the Office of FSU research. The team is developing a project called DeepCare, which uses AI to improve social connections and emotional well-being for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death among adults in the United States.

“Traditional approaches to solving this problem are usually static, without much customization for a particular population or to a particular person,” said Zhe He, an associate professor at the School of Information and the team’s principal investigator. “We believe that artificial intelligence is going to be a great tool to help us personalize our interventions based on personal preferences and characteristics. We can also adapt our treatments based on the behavior of individuals over time.

The team was one of five to participate in Collaborative Collision: Community+, an initiative that brought together FSU campus researchers and local organizations to explore community-focused projects. The teams presented their research to a panel of faculty and staff to receive up to $50,000 to support their work.

“The research supported by this program is fascinating because of its interdisciplinary nature,” said Acting Vice President for Research Mark Riley. “Society has problems that cannot be solved by a single academic discipline. This is where a university like Florida State can make a major contribution, because of our ability to bring together researchers from diverse fields to seek solutions to these complex problems.

The community theme was a perfect fit for an initiative that focused on cross-disciplinary issues. Many FSU faculty are engaged in participatory research programs, in which members of the local community are part of the research process and are empowered to solve problems on their own. Others study communities in all sorts of forms – those made up of people, animals, businesses, and other entities that make up complex interdependent systems.

“Whether we’re talking about community development, community performance, community engagement, community health, community resilience – all of that is community plus something else, and without that something else you don’t get not quite

the full picture,” said Mike Mitchell, associate director for research strategy and impact at the Office of Research Development (ORD). “So Collaborative Collision: Community+ welcomed anyone whose research, scholarship, or creative pursuits involved community, however they chose to define it.”

In addition to DeepCare, other projects that have received funding:

  • Model how Florida’s local power grid can help increase the resilience of the city of Tallahassee’s power grid, which won $40,000 in funding
  • Building an environmental communication toolkit for many stakeholders interested in Wakulla Springs health, which won $25,000 in funding
  • Develop interventions to encourage middle school students from underrepresented populations to study STEM subjects, which received $10,000 in funding

Each team that participated in the event included someone outside of academia, such as a local nonprofit or city government. Collaboration between academic and community researchers creates opportunities for projects with broader impact.

“Florida State University is our largest consumer of electricity, and if you think of FSU as a community within the larger Tallahassee community, the campus becomes the perfect laboratory to examine the elements of a grid. clean and resilient energy that could potentially benefit the whole community. said Michael Ohlsen, Clean Energy Plan Manager for the City of Tallahassee Utilities and member of the Energy Resilience Project.

The Collaborative Collision program began in 2016 and has grown to include three components: connector, incubator and accelerator. Connector participants brainstorm project ideas and form groups based on their interests. During the incubation phase, ORD staff work with teams for 10 weeks to develop their ideas and create a 90-second video explaining their goals. In Accelerator, they present their pitch for internal funding.

To learn more about the Collaborative Collision program and internal funding programs available through the Council on Research and Creativity, visit the ORD website and

Ryan H. Bowman