2016 Grants and Funding

Department of Chemistry

Principle investigator: Abby Parrill
Co-investigator: Daniel Baker
Project title: GPR88 Ligand Discovery
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health)
Amount: $408,014
Period of support: 6/5/2016-5/31/2019

Short project description: G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) comprise a membrane protein family and are the primary cellular sensors for external chemical stimuli. The orphan GPCR, GPR88, plays an important role in motor coordination and learning, and has been genetically associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Our proposed computational modeling-driven approach to identify the natural agonist that activates GPR88 would open the door toward a better understanding of the molecular events that lead to these devastating psychiatric diseases. Our analogous approach to identify drug-like antagonists (blockers) will pave the way for new psychiatric disease treatments.


Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS)

Title: Enhancing a Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning (PAL3) with Career Guidance Components

PI: Vasile Rus
Co-PIs: Art Graesser, Andrew Olney, Frank Andrasik, Zhiqiang Cai

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $500,000
Dates: 6/2/16-6/30/17

This project will develop career guidance components to be integrated into a comprehensive intelligent tutoring system called Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning (PAL3), which has been developed with support from the Office Of Naval Research by a multi-institutional team led by The University of Memphis' Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS). The project will augment PAL3 with dialogue-based career guidance facilities and the related components of question answering and question asking. The proposed career guidance module will proactively monitor and offer learners, and in particular sailors, with guidance based on their career goals and profile (e.g., subject matter mastery, skill levels) that is stored in the learner model. The augmentation will also allow learners/sailors to initiate a counseling session whenever they feel so. The IIS team will work with the Institute for Creative Technology's team at The University of Southern California to achieve the integration of the proposed components in the PAL3 system and coordinate the interaction between the components and other key modules in PAL3, such as learner modeling, the life-long learning record, and the recommender system.

Title: Integration of ET with Components of Generalized Framework for Tutoring

PI: Xiangen Hu
Co-PIs: Art Graesser, Frank Andrasik, Zhiqiang Cai

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $487,048
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

This project will integrate software components and standards of the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) with PAL3 (Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning), ElectronicTutor (ET), ASSISTments, and any additional e-Sailor course or learning system accessed by PAL3. Many of the GIFT assets will be implemented in software, whereas those that encounter integration difficulties will be identified in order to stimulate R&D efforts in the future. The Contractor will assist in integrating PAL3 with three learning environments: (1) ET, (2) one conversation-based intelligent tutoring system, such as an AutoTutor Application Programming Interface (AAPI) to improve reading literacy or mathematics, and (3) one or more courses with conventional computer-based-training that is available and used in the Navy.

Contractor will work with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to achieve the goals of standardization and scalability by specifying GIFT-based metadata for learner modeling, a life-long learning record, recommender systems, and learning management systems so that new courses and technologies can be incorporated under the umbrella of PAL3. The University of Memphis's Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) team will lead the 13-month Option C in collaboration with University of Southern California's Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT), the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and ARL.

Title: Integration with PAL3 (Personalized Assistant for Life-Long Learning)

PI: Benjamin Nye (ICT)
Co-PIs: Arthur Graesser, Zhiqiang Cai, Frank Andrasik

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $645,380
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

The Contractor will integrate PAL3 with ElectronixTutor (ET) and at least one other learning environment (such as a course or courses in the e-Sailor program). The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) will perform the majority of this work, in coordination with the University of Memphis's Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS). This integration will allow students to transition seamlessly between different systems over time. Option I has three high-level goals:

Content Development: Expanding resources and sharing resources between the systems to cover a broader range of sailor training. This will demonstrate the capabilities of PAL3 and ET to support a wide range of learning and mentorship objectives.

Software Integration: Data Standards and Integration: Building data standards between the systems. At the end of this work, the software should be able to merge accounts from both systems and to move between systems while maintaining a synchronized record of progress for the multiple systems. This task will interact with the work in Option C, which will be performing complementary work on incorporating the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) in ET and other DoD courses to work toward such standards.

Student Modeling, Pedagogy, & Task Recommendations: Developing adaptive PAL3 mentorship conversations that unify the user experience across PAL3, ET, and other systems. This will enhance PAL3 by developing adaptive conversational facilities that are sensitive to: (1) a life-long learning record, (2) a sailor's career goals, (3) performance in courses, and (4) recommended future courses and activities. This task will be synergistic with Option E.

Title: Assessment and Evaluation

PI: Arthur Graesser
Co-PIs: Phil Pavlik

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $460,115
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

Contractor shall perform a summative evaluation of the effectiveness of PAL3 for skill savings, as well as research and development to harden PAL3 for extended independent use by learners (e.g., durations of weeks to months).

The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) will take the lead on this Option J, with support from the University of Memphis and Arizona State University for the study design, data analysis, and maintenance of their existing content that will be used in the system.

Title: Enhanced Authoring with the BrainTrust System

PI: Andrew Olney
Co-PIs: Vasile Rus, Art Graesser

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $211,023
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

The goal of this project is to improve the authoring process for ElectronixTutor and PAL3 using the BrainTrust system (Olney & Cade, 2016; Olney et al., 2016). In BrainTrust, students read and work with a virtual student on a variety of educational tasks related to the reading (e.g. Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series). These educational tasks are designed to both improve reading comprehension and contribute to the creation of an ITS based on the material read. After a human student reads a passage, they work with the virtual student to summarize, generate concept maps, reflect on the reading, and predict what will happen next. The tasks and interaction are inspired by reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), a well-known method of teaching reading comprehension strategies. The virtual student's performance on these tasks is a mixture of previous student answers and answers dynamically generated using AI and natural language processing techniques. As the human teaches and corrects the virtual student, they in effect improve the answers from previous sessions, author tutorial dialogues, and improve domain models underlying the ITS.