September 12, 2023
Have questions about Mississippi State? Curious about the curriculum requirements of civil engineering? Wondering what ground-breaking research is being conducted in the high-voltage laboratory? Those answers and more are soon to be at the tips of your fingers.
Faculty in the Mississippi State University Department of Computer Science and Engineering are building a chatbot that will allow visitors to the MSU websites to ask any MSU-related question and get answers almost immediately.
“I remain impressed by the outstanding work performed by Dr. Shahram Rahimi and his team in the Predictive Analytics and Tech Integration (PATENT) Lab. When he approached me about developing a chatGPT-type tool for Mississippi State University, I was immediately interested, as it will allow us to showcase the innovative work we do, our novel curricula and the level of excitement that students on the MSU campus get to experience every day,” Jason Keith, Dean of the Bagley College of Engineering, said.
Shahram Rahimi, head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, explained that MSU is a large university with an extensive website, which can make it difficult for visitors to find information. The chatbot aims to alleviate that difficulty, making information more easily findable. Doing so will establish better communication between the university and prospective students and faculty. Amin Amirlatifi, an associate professor of chemical engineering and associate director of MSU’s PATENT Lab, Mirhossein Mousavi Karimi and Subash Neupane, both graduate students in computer science, are also working on the project. Amirlatifi said the current MSU chatbot has very limited capabilities.
“MSU’s website has a non-autonomous chat tool in place, but the problem with this current system is that after hours, it says to email if you have any questions. That’s because there are real people behind the system answering the questions,” Amirlatifi said. “After hours, they’re not working, but the system we are developing can work 24 hours a day, allowing people to get the answers they need at any time during the day or night.”
The team aims to have their chatbot be available at any time of day and be intelligent enough to pinpoint the exact information someone is seeking to keep their interest on the Mississippi State website and, ultimately, the university as a whole.
“What we don’t want is to confuse prospective students or give them the wrong information,” Amirlatifi said. “If we have this system that is intelligent enough, that can bypass a few of those hoops and initiate this contact on a seamless level, then we are not losing that perspective of students; we are attracting more students because they can ask this AI system and get initial answers and then schedule a tour or maybe come over to have a visit.”