Multiple Berman Faculty Receive Nexus Awards to Pursue Innovative Interdisciplinary Projects

June 21, 2024

Multiple projects led by or supported by faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics have been selected to receive funding from the Johns Hopkins University’s Nexus Awards Program.

The selected projects led by Berman Institute faculty are:

  • Neuro-Theater: How Neurotechnology and Artificial Intelligence Can Transform Immersive Media, Interactive Storytelling, and Live Performance (including Berman Institute faculty Graham Sack, Lauren Arora Hutchinson and Debra Mathews);
  • Centering Equity in Global Partnerships: A Convening of Partners, Donors, Governance Leaders, and Policymakers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center (including faculty Joseph Ali and Jeffrey Kahn).

In addition, BI faculty are members of teams receiving grants to formulate a policy agenda addressing mental health and addiction in the U.S., creating a dashboard tracking drug supply chain data across the country, and utilizing AI to address inequities in deaths of despair.

“Projects selected for Nexus Awards come from every academic division of the university, so it is fitting that multiple faculty from the Berman Institute – whose work is predicated on interdisciplinary innovation that draws upon the entirety of Johns Hopkins – have been chosen for grants,” said Jeffrey Kahn, Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Berman Institute.

A total of 40 projects designed to support research, teaching, and event programming at the new Hopkins Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C., were selected to receive funding over the next year. This is the second round of funding distributed via the Nexus Awards, a $15 million program.

The project “Neuro-Theater: How Neurotechnology and Artificial Intelligence Can Transform Immersive Media, Interactive Storytelling, and Live Performance” will culminate in a performance at the Hopkins Bloomberg Center of sol_AI_rs, a live immersive theater and new media experience, inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, that uses brain-computer interface technology to explore the relationship between human, artificial, and natural intelligence.

sol_AI_rs will use an artificial neural network connected to a set of EEG caps worn by both performers and spectators to embody a sentient planet capable of reading the thoughts of mankind,” said Graham Sack, the Inaugural Fellow in the Institute’s Dracopoulos-Bloomberg iDeas Lab.

“The sol_AI_rs character will control a visual, auditory and textual environment consisting of multi-wall video projections, a generative music score, and a responsive dialogue system. The system will be trained to respond in real time to brainwave data, thereby creating a feedback loop or ecosystem amongst performers, audience, technology and environment.”

The project “Centering Equity in Global Partnerships: A Convening of Partners, Donors, Governance Leaders, and Policymakers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center” aims to bring together stakeholders from around the world for a two-day gathering to interactively engage with the challenging but important topic of advancing equitable, respectful and sustainable international partnerships. Focal entry points will be global health, development and diplomacy, with the intention to expand to other key areas relevant to JHU’s international engagements.

“Global challenges demand collaborative solutions, and Johns Hopkins is a leader in partnering across institutions and sectors to innovatively advance knowledge and the well-being of individuals and populations. At the same time, our understanding of what it means to be a ‘good partner’ is evolving, especially in the context of international partnerships where there is likely to be significant power imbalances between institutions and individuals. We are delighted to have the opportunity to gather together a diverse array of international research and training partners, funding agencies, global governance organizations, and others for multi-stakeholder dialogue on this important topic. Our goal is to collectively chart new pathways for facilitating more equitable and impactful partnerships,,” said Joe Ali, the Berman Institute’s Associate Director for Global Programs.

Other Nexus Award recipients involving Berman Institute faculty are:

  • AI-Powered Strategies to Address Inequities in Deaths of Despair: A Series of Translational Workshops (with faculty member Kadija Ferryman);
  • A New Policy Agenda to Address Mental Health and Addiction in the U.S. (with faculty member Brendan Saloner);
  • The Johns Hopkins Drug Supply Chain Data Dashboard: Improving Data Transparency and Increasing Resiliency in the U.S. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain (with faculty member Jeremy Greene).

“Since last fall, our first class of Nexus winners and their bold ideas have animated our new home in Washington,” said JHU President Ron Daniels in announcing the recipients. “With this second cohort of Nexus Award winners, we are building on the momentum underway at the Hopkins Bloomberg Center, as faculty from across Johns Hopkins convene policymakers and the public, embark on innovative research, and inspire our students to engage society’s greatest challenges.”