Tom Goldstein and Ming Lin Collaborate on AI Simulator Project for Public Health Education

Goldstein and Lin are partnering with UMD’s Office of Public Health to develop AI-powered tools to foster innovative learning.
Descriptive image for Tom Goldstein and Ming Lin Collaborate on AI Simulator Project for Public Health Education

The University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science is collaborating with the Office of Public Health on an interdisciplinary project to enhance public health education through advanced technologies. Distinguished University Professor Ming Lin and Volpi-Cupal Endowed Professor Tom Goldstein are part of a team developing an AI-powered community simulator. The simulator will allow public health students to input demographic and geographic information to simulate various public health scenarios.

The project will begin its pilot test in Fall 2026 and provide a virtual environment for public health students to assess interventions, programs and communication strategies. This approach eliminates the need for direct community involvement while providing authentic training experiences that will enable students to confront and resolve potential real-world public health issues.   

In addition to Goldstein and Lin, collaborators on the project include Associate Clinical Professors Tracy Zeeger and Sylvette La Touche-Howard, the project's principal investigators. Other collaborators are Professor Emeritus Robert Gold, Assistant Clinical Professor Melvin Seale and Professor Stephen Thomas.

Lin underscored the transformative potential of merging computer science and public health.

“In working with faculty and students in Public Health, we gain fresh insight into the practical needs for innovative AI algorithms and techniques,” Lin said. "It also enables us to think of new challenges and seek expanded approaches to address issues, such as incorporating timely human feedback to construct new understanding of contextual information. Most of all, it is very rewarding to advance teaching and public service through interdisciplinary research collaboration.”

This project is part of a broader initiative under the University of Maryland’s strategic plan to foster educational innovation. The plan includes the distribution of $1.3 million in Teaching Innovation Grants in 2024, aimed at incorporating technology like AI, virtual reality and gamification into the curriculum. 

In addition to the community simulator project, other significant initiatives include "NarraSpaceXR," led by English Professor Marisa Parham, which focuses on making immersive storytelling technologies accessible across disciplines, and "Read, Watch, Play," led by Assistant Professor Caro Williams-Pierce from the information studies department, which aims to create a digital platform for gamified learning experiences.

The Teaching Innovation Grants program supports three multi-year projects and 21 one-year projects exploring evidence-based digital teaching approaches. These projects are expected to enhance over 73 courses and benefit more than 32,000 students across 10 academic units.

—Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 

—Adapted from an article by Maryland Today

The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.