Bio-informed AI Research Competition

Bio-informed AI Research Competition

Great progress has been made in artificial intelligence in the last decade, but the field is in search of its next great leap forward. Machine intelligence has yet to even approach human flexibility and robustness. One fruitful direction is to look for further inspiration from the cognitive and biological sciences.

Brain image superimposed with network illustration

About the competition

The Biologically Informed AI working group at the Beckman Institute is sponsoring a research competition for graduate and undergraduate students.

Its aim is to stimulate research that draws on work both from the cognitive and biological sciences and from an engineering discipline. Students are to create a product, answer a research question, or solve a problem that requires substantive input from both the cognitive/biological side and the engineering side.


  • Any U of I student can participate, including both undergraduates and graduate students
  • A team may have one student or multiple students
  • Each team needs to have at least two faculty sponsors, one from biological intelligence and one from AI
  • At least one of the faculty sponsors should be affiliated with the Beckman Institute
  • The project should include significant components from both the biological intelligence and the AI sides


Initial proposal (due May 15)

  • One-page description of the project, including the goal of the project (i.e. the product, research question or problem being solved) and how substantive input from both the cognitive/biological side and the engineering side will be used to generate an answer/solution.
  • The email address of two faculty sponsors, one from the cognitive/biological side and one from an engineering/CS side. Faculty will be contacted to confirm their involvement. Students should approach faculty before submitting their email addresses.
  • Submissions will be collected via this form
  • The proposal will be used to determine eligibility to participate in the competition
  • Notification of acceptance will be emailed to the team leader by June 1

Final report (due Oct. 30)

One-page summary of project results, including its significance, implications, and contributions to the relevant fields.

Final presentation

Each team will give a short oral presentation about their project in late November or early December.

The competition

  • Projects will be judged by a faculty committee based on the final report and the final presentation
  • The main criteria are creativity, whether the project is truly interdisciplinary, the scientific soundness, and contribution to the relevant fields
  • The winning team will receive a $1,000 award to be shared among the student members of the team

Previous winners

2023 Bio-informed AI Research Competition

2022 Bio-informed AI Research Competition

  • Yinuo Peng
  • Zhen Zhu
2023 winning project

"Does Leveraging the Human Ventral Visual Stream Improve Neural Network Robustness?"