Collaboratories: Call for Faculty Proposals

Do you have a research project you’d like to develop into an interactive digital experience? Do you want to work on the project with a team of undergraduate students and experienced designers and developers at the Ahmanson Lab? A Collaboratory might be perfect for you.

The Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study seeks proposals from USC faculty to direct Collaboratories at the Ahmanson Lab in 2023-2024.

What are Collaboratories?

Collaboratories are yearlong projects that combine guided interdisciplinary research with innovative digital making. While Collaboratories are often tied to, and advance, faculty research, their ultimate aim is to engage undergraduate students in work that connects academic research with design thinking and digital fabrication. Collaboratories have two main components:  

  1. They engage students in interdisciplinary research around a particular theme (e.g. immersive journalism), problem (e.g. terraforming Mars), or a socially vital topic (e.g. the future of democracy). The research topic is typically connected to work already being done by the faculty member(s) who direct the Collaboratory.

  2. They engage students in the design and development of an interactive digital experience (e.g. a screen-based game; an augmented reality app; a multimedia digital publication; a virtual reality environment) that structures and/or communicates interdisciplinary research in a unique manner. The fabrication of the digital project is directed by Ahmanson Lab staff and the Collaboratory’s faculty member(s).

Faculty need not have any technical expertise related to the production of the Collaboratory’s digital project. Ahmanson Lab staff provide all technical support as well as all project management and planning, allowing faculty to focus on content.

Collaboratories can be led by one or more faculty member. During the academic year, faculty will be responsible for conducting weekly meetings with a team of five undergraduates and for participating in one public event that showcases the Collaboratory’s research outcomes. Collaboratories are expected to meet for one to one and a half hours a week. Time commitment for both faculty and students is typically 3-4 hours a week, including meeting time.

Teams will have access to technology at the Ahmanson Lab, including a 3D printer, a commercial-grade drone, multiple VR systems, a brain-computer interface, and microcontroller kits. Teams creating digitally-published outcomes such as online exhibits or multimedia projects, will have access to online publishing platforms.

The Ahmanson Lab is especially interested in proposals for Collaboratories that make use of USC Libraries’ Digital Collections, Special Collections, datasets, or library resources in projects that offer students imaginative ways to engage, showcase, analyze or visualize those materials.

The Ahmanson Lab will assist faculty in generating a pool of student applicants for each Collaboratory and will work with faculty in the selection process. Each Collaboratory will have five students who receive a stipend from the Ahmanson Lab. A faculty stipend of $5,000 (to be shared among faculty leads) will also be available for each


In the past four years, faculty, students, and Ahmanson Lab staff have built out ten Collaboratory projects, two of which have subsequently been awarded NEH funding and two of which have been included in Visions & Voices events at USC. Included among those ten projects are the three below:

  • Bunker Hill VR Logo

    Historic Bunker Hill 3D/VR

    A 3D reconstruction of twelve contiguous blocks of Bunker Hill featuring clickable information panels, allowing visitors to immersive themselves in the lost neighborhood while accessing stories about its people and places.
    See this Collaboratory
  • Text & Terrain

    The Path Ahead

    A 3D and VR interactive game-like experience that attempts to visualize the effects of ideology on California’s physical and social environment by allowing players to interact with clusters of text in a dystopian landscape.
    See this Collaboratory
  • Image of Virtual Library Project

    Virtual Stanza Della Segnatura

    An interactive virtual environment that allows viewers to explore the Stanza della Segnatura, its vivid frescoes by Raphael, and passages from a Renaissance book by Giorgio Vasari describing the room in the 16th cen.
    See this Collaboratory

Have an idea for a Collaboratory? Or just curious and want to learn more? Sign up here for an individual exploratory meeting with Ahmanson Lab Staff.

See all our past Collaboratories from 2018-2019 2019-2020, and 2021-2022.

Submit your proposals here by August 7, 2023.  

For more information about Collaboratories, please reach out to Curtis Fletcher ( or Mats Borges (

Download this CFP as a PDF.