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Innovation Day celebrates research for social good

Discussion on AI, sustainability and poverty will continue at upcoming Lunch & Learns

Helping migrants access their money, the environmental impact of Squishmallows and AI analysis of emergency room surveys. What do these have in common? All were discussed during Innovation Day at DePaul. This year’s event focused on driving innovation for social good, specifically addressing poverty, environmental sustainability and artificial intelligence. Some 175 attendees participated in keynotes, panels and an interactive Innovation Showcase.

President Rob Manuel opened the event and praised faculty, staff and students for their work. He also made a commitment to build connections and support philanthropy that will fund these activities for years to come.

“I couldn’t be more excited that our path forward is being born out of the work you’re doing here,” Manuel said. “These are incredible problems in the world that connect to the mission of our university and connect to the talents we have,” he said.

More than 45 faculty, staff and students presented their research and creative work during keynotes, panels and during the lively Innovation Showcase that closed out the day.

“We all get busy in our daily activities, and we don't take the time to pause to see the great work that happens all around us,” Provost Salma Ghanem said. “Today's a day when we get a glimpse of the many ideas of innovation that drive our passion and our commitment to higher education.”

Ghanem noted DePaul is an R2 university, attracting top students and faculty who drive innovation. She shared that for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, DePaul earned a record high of $16.8 million in external grant funding. In turn, the university is supporting this momentum as well. Last year, DePaul awarded $900,000 of internal funding in support of research and creative activities.

Part of what fuels DePaul’s success is the willingness of our faculty to collaborate across disciplines, as many panelists are actively working together to support each other’s research and teaching. Many of these connections are fostered by the Office of Research Services and the Provost’s Office, two of the event's several sponsors.

Four people smiling
Daniela Stan Raicu, Salma Ghanem, Spiros Dimolitsas and Rob Manuel pose at Innovation Day 2024. (Photo by Shua Soares/DePaul University)
The opening keynote speaker, Spiros Dimolitsas, discussed building alliances for research and innovation from his career leading research and technology at Georgetown University. He described how partners need to build trust, balance their mutual interests and minimize competition. His biggest takeaway? Everything works best when the partners like each other—appreciating each other’s strengths and generally enjoying being together. 

Amid lively discussion, keynotes and laughter, it was clear this is the case at DePaul. A highlight of the day was the Innovation Showcase, with some 27 projects you can read about online.

What about the Squishmallows? Christie Klimas discussed her research on the environmental impact and value of gifts, especially toys. Lamont Black discussed his work in the Solutions Lab to solve obstacles migrants face in accessing mobile money. Roselyne Tchoua discussed her work applying artificial intelligence to solve issues of health equity.

Stay tuned to Newsline for more about the faculty and innovation from the event. To keep the discussion going, the Office of Research Services invites all to upcoming Lunch and Learn sessions tied to the themes of Innovation​ Day.