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Algorithm Connects Students to the Most Interesting Person They've Never Met

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 Mohammad Ghassemi and Tuka Al-Hanai of MIT

MIT grad students Mohammad Ghassemi (left) and Tuka Al-Hanai started MIT Connect to reduce isolation and expand social networks on campus.

Credit: Barbara Lipohar-Staples / MIT News

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate students Mohammad Ghassemi and Tuka Al-Hanai began MIT Connect, a platform that matches participants for face-to-face lunch meetings based on background, interests, and availability, one year ago. With the launch of the platform's "beta edition," MIT Connect has been expanded to include graduate students, undergraduates, postdocs, alumni, and employees wanting to meet others around campus.

Ghassemi and Al-Hanai applied their expertise in artificial intelligence to develop the Maven, a people-matching algorithm. "Ninety-three percent of participants surveyed rate the program four or above, on a five-point scale, and . . . 52 percent made a lasting friend using the program," Al-Hanai says. She and Ghassemi note the genesis of MIT Connect was a desire to mitigate isolation and broaden social networks on campus, and they saw a potential solution in meet-ups with semi-random people at lunch.

The platform has thus far concentrated on peer-to-peer matching, but its creators say they plan to roll out a version that will help students find mentors, employers, and entrepreneurial partners. "It's a platform that I myself would use, and it's fulfilling to hear that my peers are gaining meaningful experiences, connections, and friends through it," Al-Hanai says.

From MIT News
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