Case study: The AI avatar mentorship programme

5 February 2024

I have used ChatGPT to create a series of case studies to help illustrate my ideas recorded in my article ‘The promise and perils of AI in shaping tomorrow’s think tanks and foundations


At Orion University, a tradition of mentorship has always been valued, ensuring that the next generation of thinkers is guided by the accumulated wisdom of past luminaries. This year, Orion has introduced the “Legacy Avatars”—AI-driven avatars of leading figures and senior researchers who have left an indelible mark on their fields. These avatars serve as mentors to young students and researchers, providing a unique blend of historical insights and cutting-edge knowledge.

Setting the scene

Maria, a Ph.D. student in economics, has always been inspired by the late Dr. Richard Kepler, a pioneer in the study of monetary policy in times of crises at Orion. With the introduction of Legacy Avatars, she now has the opportunity to interact with the AI avatar of Dr. Kepler, gaining insights and guidance on her research journey.

Legacy avatars in action

  • Initial Meeting: Maria schedules her first meeting with the Kepler Avatar. They discuss her research interests, and the avatar shares anecdotes from Dr. Kepler’s early career, offering both inspiration and practical advice.
  • Data Interpretation: Maria is analyzing data from a recent survey of central bank presidents. She shares her findings with the Kepler Avatar, which then suggests potential correlations and theories based on Dr. Kepler’s own works and the latest in the field.
  • Research Direction: The avatar helps Maria refine her research questions and hypotheses, steering her towards areas that are both of interest and have significant potential for making new contributions to her field.
  • Simulated Discussions: Maria often engages in debates with the avatar, simulating discussions Dr. Kepler had with his peers, his own PhD students and even debates that the Kepler Avatar has had itself. This not only sharpens her argumentative skills but also exposes her to diverse perspectives.
  • Networking: Recognising the importance of collaboration, the Kepler Avatar suggests researchers—both historical and current—with whom Maria could collaborate or study under, effectively broadening her academic network. The Avatar makes introductions for Maria.
  • Emotional Support: Pursuing a Ph.D. is challenging. The avatar, drawing from Dr. Kepler’s own experiences, offers words of encouragement and shares stories of overcoming obstacles, providing the emotional boost Maria often needs.
  • Preparation for Defence: As Maria nears her thesis defence, the Kepler Avatar simulates a defence scenario, questioning and challenging her as a panel would, ensuring she’s well-prepared for the real deal. The Avatar invites other researchers based on the profiles of the panel to help Maria prepare.

The outcome

Under the mentorship of the Kepler Avatar, Maria not only excels in her research but also develops a deeper appreciation for the legacy of Dr. Kepler. Her work receives accolades, and she feels a profound connection to the lineage of astrophysicists who came before her.


Sitting in the university’s old library, Maria pens a thank-you note to the Legacy Avatar programme. While she was initially skeptical about learning from an AI, the experience has been transformative. The blend of historical wisdom with AI’s capability to integrate contemporary knowledge created an unparalleled mentorship experience.

This case study illustrates the potential of merging AI technology with the rich tapestry of academic history, ensuring that the legacies of great thinkers continue to inspire and guide future generations.