Manas Gaur spent time in several doctoral programs before landing at the University of South Carolina. While doing research at Wright State University, his adviser was Amit Sheth, who left Wright State to become the founding director of USC’s Artificial Intelligence Institute in 2019.
That same year, Sheth encouraged his former adviser to transfer to USC to join his lab.
For the layman, Gaur’s research on knowledge-based learning and intensive language comprehension can get pretty wonky. But in a nutshell, it’s part of an effort to improve data-centric statistical learning.
AI depends on data, but you need humans to annotate it before you feed it into the model.
Currently, when a user interacts with a model, they only have access to the data itself. Gaur’s goal is to integrate human knowledge into this model. As a result, users of a search engine, for example, will have access to reasonable and explainable information.
And there are already real-world applications. Gaur’s translational research has been applied to mental health, autonomous driving, chatbots, cybersecurity, online safety, and other fields. He was recently awarded an EPSRC-UKRI Independent Research Fellowship to support mental health research at the Alan Turing Institute, UK.
He is also collaborating with Prisma Health on the deployment of a chatbot that knows the right questions to ask on clinical questionnaires and how to precisely phrase those questions for safety and diagnosis before engaging with patients.
But why USC? Opportunities for interdisciplinary research. His research depended on his ability to communicate with people working in health sciences and social work and to use the data they had collected.
“It was a very fascinating experience for me, in terms of the collaborations that I was able to develop in the short time at USC,” says Gaur, who earned a doctorate in computer science in August. Less than a year after arriving in Colombia, he had the opportunity to present his research at the annual computer science conference at the SEC meeting. He has also been part of major National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) team grants with USC faculty.
Outside of his research, Gaur has mentored high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from different backgrounds and institutions. He awards a fellowship to the University of Chicago, where he was Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Fellow in 2017, for his interest in giving back. In 2019, he received an AI for Social Good Fellowship from Dataminr Inc.
The interest continued after he joined Sheth’s lab at USC. He contacted International Student Services and was directed to SCADR – a program that promotes diversity and inclusion. Through this program, he was able to reach students from different backgrounds and levels of experience. He has also started mentoring undergraduate students who do not have research experience.
Gaur will continue to mentor students, now as a Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. Of course, research remains a top priority.
He is excited about an upcoming collaboration with Samsung Research, which explores ways to use knowledge-based AI research in new mobile devices. He also wants to create an interdisciplinary research center with a foundation in AI and social good and the name of KAI2 – a knowledge-infused AI and inference lab at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. He will also share his research at the 2023 Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence New Faculty Highlights Conference in Washington DC.
“I want to create an NSF/NIH-supported research center on personalized and trustworthy AI, with a focused focus on digital health, education, online safety, and social behavioral sciences,” says Gaur. “This will allow people from diverse backgrounds to engage in research for the benefit of humanity.”