Artificial intelligence is often in the news for the wrong reasons: privacy-penetrating surveillance systems, "deepfakes," racial bias in predictive policing, and more. But when used in a socially responsible manner, AI can be used for good: robotic assistants for people with physical disabilities; tools to help people express their creative visions; systems that help people improve their physical and mental wellbeing; and more.

Brown CS is proud to partner with Google Research to offer exploreCSR: Socially-Responsible Artificial Intelligence, a semesterlong immersive research experience program for undergraduate students which focuses on exactly these subjects. We encourage students from historically-underrepresented groups within computer science to apply, which includes, but is not limited to, students that identify as women, underrepresented minority (URM), first-generation college, low-income, and/or LGBTQ+. No prior research experience required! Our goal is to expose students to what computing research can look like, to help them build self-efficacy and practical research skills, and to encourage them to pursue graduate studies in computer science. We are especially interested in applicants from colleges and universities that do not already offer extensive research opportunities.

About the Program

Requirement: Research is a time-consuming endeavor; to make sure that participants have enough time for it during their semester, we require them to obtain independent study credit at their home institution for participating in our program. Most colleges/universities will have courses you can enroll in for this purpose (in the Brown CS department, this is CS 1970). However, not all colleges/universities will allow you to enroll in this course if your research supervision is at a different institution. Please verify that this is allowed at your institution before applying.

Time commitment: The program runs roughly the duration of Brown's spring 2023 semester: January through May. We expect research group meetings, mentor meetings, and project work to take a minimum of 5 hours per week.

Who can apply: Current undergraduate students (including graduating seniors) attending college at an instituion in one of the following US states/territories: Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Most program activities are virtual, but we are planning a couple of in-person visits (the travel costs for which we will cover).

Experience needed: Prospective students should have completed an introductory computer science course sequence. Coursework in calculus, linear algebra, and probability are also helpful but not strictly required. No prior research experience necessary!

Research activities: Participants will be paired with a faculty mentor and a graduate student mentor who will help guide them through a semester-long research project. There are multiple project options, depending on the experience level of each student. These include literature reviews, project proposals, replications of prior work, apprenticeships with existing research projects at Brown, or new independent research projects. The program culminates with participants presenting their work at the Brown CS Undergraduate Research Symposium in late May. Throughout the semester, participants will be full members of a research group at Brown, with access to lab meetings, Slack channels, etc.

Other activities: We have numerous other activities planned to given participants a "behind-the-scenes" look at what graduate study in CS looks like. These include panels on demystifying the graduate application process, Q&A's with current grad students and alumni, attendance at Brown CS lab meetings, and observing formal graduate student presentations such as thesis proposals and defenses.

Faculty Mentors

Students who participate in the program will be mentored by one of the following Brown CS faculty members:

Recent Research Projects

Here are just a few examples of research projects recently carried out by our faculty:

Tentative Program Schedule

The table below shows the major events planned as part of the program. Throughout the semester, participants will pursue their own research projects under the guidance of their faculty and grad student mentors.

Early October Applications open
December 8 Application deadline
Mid January Admission decisions announced (we will email everyone; no need to email us)
Late January Program kick-off meeting
February Workshop on the graduate school application process
March Observe research comps proposal
Graduate student Q&A panel
April Observe thesis proposal
Observe faculty candidate talk
May Observe comps defense
Observe thesis defense
May 5 Participate in Brown CS Undergraduate Research Symposium
How to Apply

To apply for the 2024 program, fill out the online application form.

The application deadline is December 8 2023.

Review Criteria

When we review applicants to the program, we are looking for the following qualities:

  • Students with strong grades in computer science and math courses.
  • Students who write thoughtful, compelling statements about why they want to explore CS research and what they hope to get out of participating in our program.
  • Students who have limited opportunities to engage in CS research at their own college or university.
  • Students who will contribute to a diverse cohort with a variety of backgrounds, experience levels, and perspectives.

  • I haven't heard back yet about the acceptance decisions; when will I hear?
    We hope to send out decisions by mid January 2024.
  • I am an undergraduate student in my first/second/third/fourth year [pick as appropriate]. Am I eligible to apply?
  • I am an undergraduate student in my final year; I will graduate in 2024. Am I eligible to apply?
  • I am an undergraduate student from [some university/college]. Am I eligible to apply?
    You are eligible to apply if your college/university is located in one of the following states/territories: Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachussetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine.
  • I am an international student attending a US college/university in one of the states/territories listed above. Am I eligble to apply?
    For sure!
  • Is this program only for Brown University undergraduate students?
    No, it is actually specifically for non-Brown students. Students already at Brown have other ways to get involved in research with us.
  • Is this program only for underrepresented groups or [x] students?
    The goal of the exploreCSR program is to support students from underrepresented groups to pursue graduate studies and research careers in computing (here). We will consider all applicants, but our focus is on this goal.
  • I am a masters or PhD student. Am I eligible to apply?
    We're afraid not, no.
  • Do you run any other research programs like exploreCSR for graduate students?
    No, sorry.
  • I'm a high school student. Am I eligible to apply?
    Again, we're afraid not, no.
  • I am on a gap year but will be starting soon/returning soon. Am I eligible to apply?
    Sorry, no.
  • I'm not an undergraduate student yet, but I know a lot! I'm even taking a CS course at a university in my spare time!
    I'm afraid we still won't take you, sorry.
  • Are the applications first come, first serve?
    No. We will consider all applications received by the deadline (December 8, 2023) in one go.
  • The application form asks for a transcript. Should I wait to add my grades from this semester or should I submit without?
    Our application deadline is December 8, 2023—please submit what you have available by then. Please don't email us a transcript, either now or later on; please just resubmit your application.
  • I am a first-year/freshperson undergraduate and I don't yet have a transcript. What should I do?
    Please submit whatever you can through the upload form to give us some indication—we understand that it isn't simple for people in your position.
  • How much detail should I put into the questions on the form, e.g., about research interests? Are you looking for a 'research statement'?
    Short and to the point, please! One or two paragraphs is fine. We're not looking for a research statement; we'd just like to be able to match you to the right people and projects.
  • I didn't receive a confirmation of my application. Can you confirm receipt?
    It almost certainly went through. If you're worried, submit another one! We'll pick up the latest submitted on January 1st. No need to email us for this one.
  • I submitted my form, but received the error: '(You can't respond to exploreCSR 2024: Socially Responsible Artificial Intelligence. Uploading files is not permitted when data loss prevention is enabled for your domain. Contact your domain administrator if you think this is a mistake.).' What should I do?
    It looks like your institution does not support file uploads via Google Forms. You should be able to get around this by filling out the form while logged into to a personal (i.e. non-college-affiliated) Google account (you'd have one of these if you have a personal Gmail address, for instance).