The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Data Science Research Symposium Brings Professionals and Academics Together to Connect and Share

Data science professionals, faculty, and students, learned about the latest developments in areas such as natural language processing, disease forecasting, autonomous vehicles, and more, at the fourth annual Data Science Research Symposium at UMass Amherst on April 24. The morning “Lightning Talks” consisted of short presentations from UMass College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) faculty on a wide array of topics including using computer vision to infer images that are not pictured, measuring road quality with satellite imagery, and analyzing bird migration using weather radar. Several industry partners -- including Raytheon, GE Healthcare, and Microsoft -- also presented about their work in data science. The Accomplishments in Search & Artificial Intelligence Award, sponsored by Microsoft, was presented to two CICS doctoral students for their significant research accomplishments. One industry attendee said, “I was very impressed with the seven-minute pacing of the lightning sessions. They managed to convey exactly enough information to allow us to decide on our level of interest for follow-up, and as a result we were exposed to a wide variety of new research.”


In the afternoon, attendees had their choice of three research workshops. The "Natural Language Processing" session included talks from doctoral students, faculty, and industry guests including Amazon, IBM, and Oracle. The "Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality" session, organized by UMass biology professor Duncan Irschick, co-founder and director of Digital Life, featured speakers from a variety of disciplines such as Art, Biology, and Classics, plus industry talks from Wayfair, Bose, and Labster. After the talks, attendees were treated to hands-on demonstrations of virtual reality/augmented reality equipment. The "Data Science to Improve Health and Well Being" session took place at the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), where attendees heard from CICS doctoral students and faculty, plus representatives from UnitedHealth Group, GE HealthCare, and the MA Center for Health Information & Analysis. After the talks, attendees took a tour of the IALS facility, including the Light Microscopy Core Facility, the Mass Spectrometry Core Facility, and the Center for Human Health and Performance.


Throughout the day, dedicated time was built in for networking amongst the  more than 275 attendees. Around 40% of attendees were industry representatives, 40% were students, and 20% were faculty. Industry attendees came from companies including Amazon, Bloomberg, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Fitbit, Kronos, MassMutual, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Northwestern Mutual, United Technologies, and Voya Financial.


Andrew McCallum, director of the center and distinguished professor of computer science in the College of Information and Computer Sciences, says this year’s symposium showcased the center’s growing portfolio of industry-sponsored data science research. “We’re excited by the high level of interest the symposium has attracted -- each year bigger than the last. This year, we brought together top data science research talent in industry and academia to share new ideas, new results, and new directions, emphasizing practical applications and opportunities for public-private collaborations. The conversations and connections made this year will be the foundation for transformational new partnerships in the years to come.”