A. Gary Anderson
Graduate School of Management

School of Business Opens Information Systems INSPIRE Lab

Students explore and test their nascent new-tech innovations with the lab’s valuable collaboration and guidance
By Laurie McLaughlin |

UCR students now have a cutting-edge virtual-first laboratory where they can test their own innovations in artificial intelligence, machine learning, persuasive technology, and technology for social good.

“It is a playground for students to voluntarily work on ideas collaboratively,” says Sanjoy Moulik of the lab hosted by the School of Business for all campus students. Moulik and Rich Yueh are the directors of the lab, and both are assistant professors of teaching in information systems.

Named the INSPIRE Lab—“INSPIRE” is an acronym for Innovating Solutions and Products through Intelligence, Research, and Education—the ultimate goal is to establish the UCR Business School as an internationally reputed innovation and research center with the tools for students to “tinker” with and develop their own forward-thinking concepts. As a virtual lab, users are steeped in the reality of modern high-tech tools, and the lab reflects the school’s already established prowess and use of technology, like online collaborative whiteboards and augmented reality.

The idea for the lab came from general student demand for a “place” to discuss ideas not yet ready for the campus entrepreneurship center, find other students and collaborators for research, grow the information systems department, and engender opportunity within the information systems sector in forward-looking trends, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“It’s meant for students who have big ideas and want to take a small first step in realizing those ideas,” says Moulik. “For those students, the lab will be an extension of the classroom to pick up and practice additional skills and learn how to solve problems that impact everyone.

“Who knows? We might end up producing the next Sergey Brin, Larry Page, or Mark Zuckerberg one day.”

Gaining Experience By Trial and Error

As is well known by the trailblazers Moulik mentions, the path to success is paved with trial and error. “Within the lab, students indeed focus on their first steps, as Sanjoy mentions, because not all ideas will work, and if a student is going to fail initially with their idea, we want them to fail quickly and safely—with no consequences like money or grades—in a judgement-free environment with guidance from Sanjoy and me,” says Yueh. “There are also students who want to pivot into or include information systems in their studies but aren’t able to do it credit-wise or timewise.

“I see the lab not just as a place for innovation but also a place where younger students can get some practical job training, like how to manage deadlines and work collaboratively, learn skills before they enroll in a class, and use the lab as a powerful steppingstone toward their end goal of industry or grad school.

“I tell my students that they need to be able to hit the ground running on day one at their new job or internship,” says Yueh. “If students have a place to turn theory into practice and work on something applicable, they will be ahead of their peers who only have classroom-tested skills.”

Charting the Future of INSPIRE Lab

With the establishment of the virtual INSPIRE Lab, the School of Business is also looking to the future with fundraising efforts to eventually establish a designated physical center to augment virtual reality with interpersonal interaction between the directors and students.

Eventually, says Moulik, “we can also provide solutions and bring innovations to many business domains, including health care, entertainment, marketing, and finance, for example. We also hope to work with experts to solve real-world problems, including global warming, scarcity of water resources, and other pressing challenges.”

After the first year, the lab’s goal is to host an annual seminar with participants from other eminent universities and the business community to showcase the work done in the lab.

“The flip side also works,” says Yueh. “We can serve as a town square in spirit, and later, physically, where organizations share their work with the UCR community, and host workshops and hiring events.

Open to the entire university, students have already joined the lab, including student researchers working with Moulik, Yueh’s Honors and independent study students, and others ready to participate in fall 2024. INSPIRE Lab also houses the Association for Information Systems student organization and the Design@UCR student organization, which hosts DesignVerse, a student-run design-a-thon competition.

Adds Yueh: “We are always open to new members, either as researchers or if someone just wants to discuss an idea and see what gets traction.”


Inspire lab page