Helper Chat

About Chat-Lab.AI

This app is run by a PhD candidate in accounting at Virginia Tech (yes, you can get a PhD in accounting). My passion for working with AI and LLMs became public nearly a year ago after I excitedly sent out an ill-advised spam email about ChatGPT. Since then, I have fully embraced all the nerdiness that comes with the rapidly evolving AI territory. The purpose of this site is to share what I've learned over the past year using AI tools in my research and, recently, in my teaching. OpenAI's recent product announcements created new opportunities for incorporating AI chat assistants in academic workflows. Herein I hope to make it easier for non-techies to board the AI hype train.

Following the launch of OpenAI's Assistants API late in the Fall 2023 semester, I created a TA chat bot for my Introduction to Managerial Accounting students to use while studying for the final exam. Because the assistant retrieved data from my lecture notes and syllabus, it outperformed ChatGPT (both the free and paid versions) on all the questions that we gave it. The app unexpectedly generated a fair bit of interest, which led me to create Chat Builder, a script generator that enables users to create a simple (and free) interface to use with OpenAI's Assistants API. Using the Python script generated by Chat Builder, users can post the code to GitHub and host their own chat app on the Streamlit cloud—importantly, for free and without writing a single line of code.

Users can also refer to Helper Chat if they have any questions on the deployment process. While I would love nothing more than to spread the gospel of AI by helping everyone deploy their own chat assistants, I have a dissertation to write. This project helps me automate responses to the increasing AI/tech questions that I receive (and would love to answer personally if I could).

Often I'm asked whether upgrading to ChatGPT plus subscription is worth the expense. I would rather eat ramen for a month than give up my ChatGPT subscription, but everyone's use case is different. Therefore, I decided to make the Model Comparison tool to help you answer that question for yourself. Given the response evaluation and chat history export features, this tool can also serve as a quick way for testing and evaluating prompts for certain information retrieval and data collection research tasks.

At this point, Chat-Lab.AI has sort of taken on a life of its own, and I plan on sharing a suite of other tools that I have created for various research and data collection tasks. Certainly, they make my life easier and I hope others will similarly benefit from them. However, I'm not a native Python speaker, and I also hope to improve these tools with public feedback. To that end, the source code for the tools found on this app should also be available on GitHub, which means you can also host these tools locally, if you'd like. I welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement.

If you'd like to be notified when new features are released, please subscribe to the mailing list below. I promise not to spam you. Between this project, my dissertation, and my other research projects, I don't have time for much else, so your email address is safe with me.


It takes a village to graduate a PhD student and this project largely exists because of the supportive faculty at VT who indulge my fascination with all things AI, especially Andrew Acito, Rob Davidson, and Sarah Stein. I am also grateful for the encouragement and enthusiastic response from early testers (and adopters) of CostGPT, my first teaching assistant chat app—Venky Nagar, Andrea Tillet, and my students—especially Ryan, Sebastian, and Anderson. The code behind CostGPT now serves as the template used in Chat Builder.

I also want to acknoledge this project's first financial backers—Lily Abreu, Stephanie Velez, and Jerry Mathis—who made donations after viewing an early (and incredibly rough) prototype version of this site (before I realized the donation link was live 😊). If you like what I'm doing here and find it valuable, please consider supporting this project. Your contributions help offset Chat-Lab.AI’s operating costs, which include the costs of domain registration, cloud servers, databases, and OpenAI’s API costs.

Caveat Emptor

Finally, I should note that AI tools are not a panacea. In fact, some AI tools can be outright trolls. As I was writing these acknowledgements and feeling good about expressing my genuine gratitude, GitHub Copilot needlessly reminded me that I continue to sacrifice my personal life with my nerdy pursuits...

I feel personally attacked.


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