Two AHS professors among first to land DPI seed funding

Vincent Lara-Cinisomo

Two professors in the College of Applied Health Sciences were among the nine recipients of the first round of seed funding from the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in its effort to resolve "grand challenges" in areas ranging from the environment to quantum computing.

DPI, based in Chicago, is a research institute led by the University of Illinois System aimed at creating breakthrough discoveries to drive economic growth and prosperity.

The funding went to Speech and Hearing Science associate professor Raksha Anand Mudar and Kinesiology and Community Health professor Wendy Rogers, for their project entitled, “Benefits of Social Engagement Using Video Technology for Economically Disadvantaged Older Adults.”

Drs. Mudar and Rogers plan to examine whether the use of technology can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation among older adults, especially low-income individuals. The researchers will establish a pilot program through a university-community-industry partnership to examine technology-based social engagement opportunities for economically disadvantaged older adults.

By providing free access to a video chat technology, researchers will assess the benefits of social interactions through this system and identify the facilitators and barriers to adoption.

The partnership includes: CJE SeniorLife (community partner), an organization that provides close to 20,000 older adults and their family members a continuum of community-based and residential programs ranging from home-delivered meals to skilled nursing care in the greater Chicago area, and Potluck LLC (industry partner), a company that has developed a novel online video platform called OneClick.chat to support social interaction.

The nine projects funded by DPI were chosen from 46 submissions and all involve researchers from all three UI campuses as well as the University of Chicago. All will receive funding, staff support and use of the DPI facility to develop the projects into full-scale research and education programs.