Dr. ZhangMi Zhang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, leads a team of researchers developing a smart human-centered system, known as iSee, for enhancing college counseling services. The work is funded by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant (https://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1632051&HistoricalAwards=false). 

Other key members in the project include co-principal investigators Alex Liu, professor of computer science and engineering from MSU; Anil Jain, University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering from MSU; Jingbo Meng, assistant professor of communication from MSU; David Mohr, professor of preventive medicine and director of Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies from Northwestern University; collaborator Scott Becker, director of the MSU Counseling Center and a team from Microsoft Research.    

It’s estimated that about 10 percent of college students turn to counseling services to help navigate the turbulent waters of college life and deal with serious mental health issues such as depression. With the help of the NSF grant, Zhang and his colleagues will develop mobile technology that will supplement in-person counseling services.  The technology will objectively measure a student’s depressive indicators, helping him or her to better manage their symptoms. The technology also will help clinicians identify students with the most urgent needs.

Specifically, iSee leverages sensors inside smartphones and wristbands to monitor many of the student’s behaviors – such as physical activity, diet, sleeping habits, travel and social behavior – all of which can be indicators of the student’s mental wellbeing. The behavior information will be translated into meaningful analytics results for identifying the student’s depression severity. A dashboard running on the clinician side visualizes behavior information, as well as the analytics results, to help clinicians make clinical decisions and provide treatment.

The innovative solutions expected through iSee will lead to considerable advancements in counseling services delivered from college counseling centers. In the bigger picture, iSee could serve as a model for college counseling centers across the nation and thus has the significant potential to enhance mental health services in thousands of colleges and universities, benefiting millions of students.

See more about the NSF PFI:BIC grant at: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=189628&org=IIP&from=news