NCSA announces 2020 recipient of Fiddler Innovation Fellowship

04.06.20 -

NCSA is excited to announce the latest recipient of the Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, Ananya Cleetus. Cleetus, a junior in computer science within the University of Illinois' Grainger College of Engineering and the founder of Anemone, was awarded the $10,000 fellowship at the 2020 Illinois Innovation Prize virtual ceremony which took place on April 2.

The Fiddler Innovation Fellowship is part of a $2 million endowment from Jerry Fiddler and Melissa Alden to the University of Illinois in support of the Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute, which is based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

Each year, the NCSA eDream Institute awards exceptional, creative and interdisciplinary students and faculty who propose significant projects that address cultural or global challenges and incorporate art and technology. This Fiddler Innovation Fellowship Award is provided in collaboration with the annual Illinois Innovation Prize (IIP) at the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC). Through a rigorous selection process, which included TEC, and NCSA's Olena Kindratenko and Professor Donna J. Cox, this fellowship was awarded to Cleetus, an undergraduate student "who shows promise of significant, innovative achievements."

Cleetus founded Anemone, a mental health crisis app that aims to destigmatize mental illness by providing free resources that are readily available to anyone with a smartphone. Anemone combines skills and tools derived from psychiatric inpatient and outpatient settings to allow users to create a customized crisis plan that can be shared with friends, family, first responders, and mental health professionals. It also introduces users to industry-wide coping concepts such as deep breathing, mindfulness, grounding, and diversion. The need for mental health resources increases as the mental illness crisis continues to rise, especially among youth in the United States. One in five Americans suffer from a mental illness and the U.S. has around 1.4 million annual suicide attempts (compared to an annual 1.5 million heart attacks).

"Through this important award, we are glad to provide resources to Ananya, who aspires to be on the front lines of mental health innovation," says Cox, director of the Illinois eDream Institute and NCSA's Advanced Visualization Lab. "We hope this fellowship will help boost her efforts to destigmatize mental illness and work on the next big innovation in the field. We are grateful to Jerry Fiddler and Melissa Alden for their generous support."

Transforming her personal struggles and experiences into a positive tool for others to use, Cleetus aspires to be at the forefront of the mental illness crisis and to work on the next big innovation in the field. Through support from the Fiddler Innovation Fellowship, Cleetus hopes to continue her research on mental health technology to further develop Anemone so people can have access to a safe space in their phone at all times, no matter where they might be.

"Mental health is still a difficult topic to broach even in 2020, but I think that current issues like quarantine and isolation have highlighted how crucial mental health care is for everyone," she says.

Currently, Anemone is available on the App Store for iPhone users. The Google Play Store app is still under development and will be available to Android users soon.

Read the full story about the 2020 Illinois Innovation Prize winner and finalists.