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Board of Regents Approves New Translational AI Research and Education Center at Iowa State University

By Caitlin Ware, Iowa State University Office of the Vice President for Research

Posted Apr 8, 2022

The Board of Regents, State of Iowa has approved formation of the new Translational AI Research and Education Center (TrAC) at Iowa State University.

TrAC was initially established with $450,000 in Iowa State University Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative (PIRI) funding, sponsored by the Office of the President and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The mission of new BOR-approved interdisciplinary research center is to focus on the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, with the broad vision of solving science, engineering, and societal problems by applying AI principles, techniques, and technologies.

In addition to a focus on core artificial intelligence research and implementation, TrAC will explore five specific application areas of artificial intelligence:

  • – Materials, design, and manufacturing;
  • – Biology, healthcare, and quality of life;
  • – Autonomy, intelligent transportation, and smart infrastructure;
  • – Food, energy, and water; and
  • – Ethics, fairness, and adoption.

“Iowa State University has a long history of excellence in engineering, statistics, computer science, and various domain sciences that constitute the core competence of this new center,” said associate professor of mechanical engineering Soumik Sarkar, who will serve as the director of TrAC. “In this age of artificial intelligence, the Iowa State research community has created a niche for itself that focuses on deep collaboration between AI researchers and domain scientists to solve critical problems through AI advances.”

The new Translational AI Research and Education Center proposes to engage in the following activities:

  • Research that grows translational AI at Iowa State. The center will support multiple seed projects to initiate and strengthen convergent collaborations between AI experts and domain experts. The center will also help initiate and maintain research infrastructures with appropriate high-performance computing (HPC) resources.
  • Collaboration and knowledge transfer to increase the visibility of translational AI research at ISU, both internally and externally.
  • Workforce development and training to build the next generation AI workforce in the Midwest for various industries through training and educational activities.
  • Industry consortium to serve as a pre-compete industrial nexus for translational AI. The center will coordinate with industry partners and connect them with appropriate Iowa State researchers to support translational AI research needs of specific industries.

The center will also serve as home base for another recently announced university-led and government-funded artificial intelligence initiative, the AI Institute for Resilient Agriculture (AIIRA). The new institute – announced in July 2021 as part of a nationwide National Science Foundation initiative to advance artificial intelligence across a range of disciplines and industry segments – will receive $20 million in funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). AIIRA will bring AI experts together with plant breeders, agronomists, geneticists, and social scientists to accelerate the adaptation and use of AI-based technologies to transform agriculture to meet the needs of our world’s growing population and increasingly climate-challenged food systems.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems have become increasingly essential for advancing scholarly, research, and industrial missions and processes,” said Vice President for Research Peter Dorhout. “We’re delighted that the Board of Regents embraced the vision that Dr. Sarkar and his team have created for the Translational AI Research and Education Center. We firmly believe TrAC will be a tremendous asset for the university and our interdisciplinary research community, but equally important, for industry in Iowa and for the state as a whole.”