Continuing the effort to build and enable campus networks of interdisciplinary researchers that address today’s societal challenges, the Research Development Office (RDO) and the UI Computational Psychiatry group, supported by Knowinnovation (KI; a firm that specializes in accelerating scientific innovation), is launching a jumpstart effort to bring together researchers around computational and quantitative mental health research this spring. This jumpstart will combine a series of activities to find and connect researchers from the array of campus disciplines interested in joining data (computational and quantitative) and mental health perspectives, both broadly defined, to identify and frame novel interdisciplinary research questions. With support from the RDO, interdisciplinary teams from this effort will pursue external funding for their research questions.


Why now?

Mental illness is one of the great public health crises facing the nation today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “nearly one in five adults lives with mental illness (44.7 million in 2016)” affecting all age groups with younger adults (18-25) bearing the largest burden. Mental illness is one of many factors contributing to the increased suicide rate facing the nation today (suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999-2016). Further, mental illness is associated with substance use and with the increased incidence of chronic diseases including obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mental health issues and their spillover effects are a vexing societal problem that will require interdisciplinary perspectives in developing new approaches to alleviating this burden on our friends, families, and communities. A January 2018 editorial in Nature argues that the time is ripe for combining big data and mental health perspectives to break the impasse in improving the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health illnesses.


Campus Efforts

This jumpstart aligns with campus efforts around high performance computing,  informatics (utilizing data, information, and knowledge in support of research, education, and practice) and computational psychiatry (i.e., using the power of computing to improve the understanding, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions). In addition, this continues RDO efforts to connect interdisciplinary researchers around mental health research topics.


Funding Agency Priorities

Broadly, mental health, brain sciences, and data sciences are a priority for several federal funding agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health including its recent launch of the Computational Psychiatry program and the National Science Foundation’s Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience. Moreover, many additional opportunities available seek to explore varied dimensions of mental health. Several funding search results can be found next:

Mental Health Informatics Funding Results

Mental Health Funding Results


What is the Computational and Quantitative Mental Health jumpstart? 

The design of the jumpstart encourages community-building, ideation, and pursuit of external funding based on KI’s methodology using the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS), a multi-step model developed by a businessperson and an academic in the 1950s. The premise is that creativity is not uniquely a Eureka experience, but that applying a deliberate method can produce new ideas and novel results. Creativity doesn’t have to be an accident or a bit of luck; it can be done on purpose. The jumpstart’s activities, goals, and time commitments are shown in Table 1 below and described in the following sections.


Table 1: Jumpstart Activities, Goals, Times, and Time Commitments




Time Commitment

Onramp Talks

Community building, ideation

Feb. 25 and March 4

Up to 2 hours

Randomized Coffee Talks (RCTs)

Community building, ideation

March 11-March 22

Up to 2 hours

Idea Clustering and Theming

Identify clusters and themes

March 25-29

Up to 1 hour (virtual)

Cluster/Theme Mini-Session

Team formation, idea vetting, lightning talk preparation

April 1-12

Up to 2 hours per cluster/theme

Computational Psychiatry Symposium

Idea presentation and vetting

April 24

Up to 1 hour

Jumpstart Session

Team formation, idea vetting

May 8

4 hours

Prepare Grant Application

External funding

Post-May 8



At the time of application, all UI faculty who are tenure-track or tenured faculty, clinical track faculty, and research faculty, for whom research and scholarship are assigned as one of their primary job responsibilities and have at least a 50% university appointment during the academic year are eligible to apply.

Onramp Talks

Onramp Talks are a collection of brief brownbag lunchtime talks intended to help people from diverse backgrounds understand and make connections to the problem at hand. The goal of these talks are to build a diverse community that connects different disciplines to data and mental health, broadly. Dr. Jake Michaelson (Division Director, Computational and Molecular Psychiatry), will provide a brief talk to frame the conversation while Aaron Kline (Director, Research Development Office) will provide an overview of the jumpstart process and activities. Following this, attendees will have an opportunity to discuss their interest in the topic and begin exploring interdisciplinary approaches and questions towards combining data and mental health.

Questions and ideas discussed during the Onramp Talks will be collected. It is encouraged to attend one or both of the Onramp Talks to learn more about engaging with the process.

Onramp Talk 1: Monday, February 25th from 12:00pm-1:00pm, S401 Pappajohn Business Building. Registration is encouraged but not required. Please register here.

Onramp Talk 2: Monday, March 4th from 12:00pm-1:00pm, N512 College of Public Health Building. Registration is encouraged but not required. Please register here.


Randomized Coffee Talks

A Randomized Coffee Talk (RCT) is a slightly tongue-in-cheek way of describing informal meetings between people, within an organization, who don’t usually get to spend time together. The idea has become popular around the world as a means to forge connections and generate ideas. RCTs will occur from March 11-22.  To register for RCTs, please see below.

Participants will:

  • Be provided gift cards for up to two RCT meetings.
  • Be paired up with someone from a different discipline up to two times.
  • Arrange mutually convenient times to meet, typically about 30 minutes to 60 minutes.
  • At the meetings, find out why your coffee partner wanted to participate in this program, and what aspects of the topic they find particularly interesting. Further, discuss how your two disciplines could work together to address the topic.
  • Following the meetings, record the most interesting project ideas through KI Storm (an online platform).


Clustering and Theming of Ideas

Using KI Storm, ideas and questions generated during the both the Onramp Talks and the RCT’s will be sorted into clusters and themes. Participants of the RCTs can individually sort all of the questions into clusters with individual results then aggregated into overall clusters and themes.


Cluster/Theme Mini-labs

Based on the clusters and themes, mini-labs will begin exploring the themes. The mini-labs are short meetings in which participants will:

  • Network with researchers who share an interest in a theme.
  • Explore the range of problems within the theme.Explore the range of problems within the theme.
  • Identify particularly intriguing questions.
  • Start the process of sketching ideas for research approaches.


Computational Psychiatry Symposium

Opportunities to interact with other researchers, discuss nascent research ideas, and identify potential collaborators will be provided at the 2019 UI Computational Psychiatry Symposium on Wednesday, April 24th. For example, opportunities may include poster presentations, lightning talks, or participation in the evening’s ideation dinner.


Jumpstart Session

On May 8th from 8am-12pm, ideas will be further refined during a half-day Jumpstart Session, facilitated by Knowinnovation, which will identify and vet priority research questions along with  associated team formation. The Jumpstart Session’s output will be several teams with rough sketches of potential proposal ideas to continue working on.


Research Development Office Support

The RDO will support jumpstart teams as they pursue external funding. Support may include but not be limited to the following activities:

  • Funding opportunity identification
  • Administrative Support
  • Proposal editing
  • Graphic design


Join the effort

Faculty from all disciplines are encouraged to participate. Representation from an array of disciplines is critical to maximize the generation of innovative ideas. If unsure how your discipline connects to the jumpstart activities, attend an Onramp Talk to learn more.

Registration is required to participate in the RCTs occurring at mutually convenient times from March 11-22. Please register here by close of business on March 6. Required registration information, which will be shared with your coffee partners include:

  • Demographic information
  • Answering the three following questions:
    • What is your interest in mental health or data/computation?
    • What expertise can you offer a collaborator?
    • What are you looking for in a collaborator?
  • Biographical sketch


Registration for the Jumpstart Session on May 8th will be open only to those who participate in the RCTs.


Sponsored by the Research Development Office

and the Division of Computational and Molecular Psychiatry, Carver College of Medicine