National Science Foundation awards $5.1 million to help Ohio institutions accelerate AI, machine learning research

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jul 24, 2023) — 

With a $5.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Case Western Reserve University, the Ohio Supercomputer Center and the University of Cincinnati will work to optimize the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning by making trained experts available to researchers statewide.

The Ohio effort is part of a broader plan by the NSF to bring AI and machine learning to researchers at as many academic institutions as possible nationwide, and to ensure the technology is reliable, understandable and valuable.

“Everyone wants to use AI and machine learning right now, but not everyone is an expert or knows what it can actually do for them,” said project leader Vipin Chaudhary, the Kevin J. Kranzusch Professor and chair of the Department of Computer and Data Sciences at the Case School of Engineering. “We’re going to provide the experts to help researchers from various disciplines understand and integrate the latest AI and machine learning capabilities into their work. Think of them both as evangelists for using the technology and trainers for using it effectively.”

The CWRU-led team will recruit and hire four AI experts to provide tailored mentoring and training for AI users at their institutions. They will also make those available to others at smaller community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Two of the expert trainers will work on-site at Case Western Reserve and one each at the other institutions. They will be expected to conduct research, write technical papers, deliver tutorials at major conferences/workshops and create training materials. Initial projects will be in materials data science, agricultural data science and biomedical engineering.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center, the statewide high performance computing resource for academic research, education and industry innovation, will hire a research machine learning engineer and spearhead an internship and fellowship program that will train faculty and information technology staff from the partner institutions on large-scale machine learning research projects, said Karen Tomko, director of research software applications and principal investigator for the $1.5 million OSC portion of the project.

“There is a growing demand for researchers to use AI and machine learning tools in a variety of disciplines—from computational chemistry to the fine arts,” Tomko said. “This new project will allow the partner institutions to add experts in these burgeoning fields to their teams to help our broader research communities effectively utilize the technologies in their work.”

The University of Cincinnati’s $1.1 million portion of the grant will offer assistance across departments, particularly in the biosciences. Through professional training, the position is expected to advance Ohio’s growing high-tech industries, said Jane Combs, UC director of research technologies.

“One of our priorities is showing researchers how we can help them scale up their work,” Combs said. “That’s the fun stuff — to think big and solve bigger problems.”

At OSC, the new NSF-funded initiative is part of a larger Center effort to support the training of cyberinfrastructure professionals at high performance computing centers and research facilities in Ohio and in the U.S., said David Hudak, executive director of OSC and co-principal investigator on the grant.

“OSC recognizes that AI, machine learning and data analytics have become critical to research, and we are dedicated to supporting the training and education of cyberinfrastructure professionals in these areas,” Hudak said. “OSC has not only prioritized the professional development of its own team but has provided guidance to other institutions across the country that are seeking to enhance their expertise.”

The Center is completing a two-year pilot project called AI Bootcamp for Cyberinfrastructure Professionals, funded by the NSF, that offered a free, six-week course in common foundations and specialized software and data training to participants from dozens of research institutions in the U.S. It is also a member of the Ohio State-led, NSF-funded AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE). In early 2023, OSC launched Ascend, its first computing cluster focused entirely on intensive GPU processing to support AI research and its relevant technologies.

By Andrea Gibson

About OSC: The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) addresses the rising computational demands of academic and industrial research communities by providing a robust shared infrastructure and proven expertise in advanced modeling, simulation and analysis. OSC empowers scientists with the services essential to making extraordinary discoveries and innovations, partners with businesses and industry to leverage computational science as a competitive force in the global knowledge economy and leads efforts to equip the workforce with the key technology skills required for 21st century jobs.