The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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From the Director's Desk: Summer 2021

While summertime research efforts continue, everyone is actively planning to resume in-person campus life at UMass Amherst by the time the fall semester starts on September 1. The Center for Data Science (CDS) team will begin transitioning back to our campus workspaces very soon. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to safely restart the many face-to-face activities, programs, and collaborations that make the College of Information and Computer Sciences an intellectually stimulating environment for data science research, teaching, and learning.


Since I last wrote to you, the Center passed a major milestone. Every five years, university research centers undergo a campus-level evaluation of their mission, accomplishments, and impacts, culminating in a report to the president of the University of Massachusetts system recommending whether the Center should be reauthorized. A ten-member interdisciplinary peer review committee was assembled last March to assess CDS, and they completed their work in June. I’m delighted to share that the committee strongly endorsed the Center’s demonstrated value to UMass and to our many stakeholders -- including our industry partners. We look forward to serving our community for another five years at least!


Highlighted in the committee’s report, our Data Science for the Common Good program illustrates how the Center serves our community, in this case, by bringing data science to bear on problems of public interest. We are grateful to both Adobe Research and MassMutual for sponsoring this summer’s program. We recruited eleven top-notch graduate students to collaborate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, the UMass Library system, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Center for Digital Resilience, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and World Resources Institute Africa. Our friends at Pixel Forensics generously volunteered time as technical advisors. We’ll share summary papers and videos about all projects after the program concludes on August 20.


Lastly, as the summer draws to a close, we are reaching out to all our industry partners regarding membership in our Industry Affiliates Program (IAP). In exchange for financial support to the Center, IAP members receive high-touch assistance recruiting talented data science students, streamlined access to faculty expertise, brand visibility, and more. In addition, IAP members are eligible to participate in the Center’s Industry Mentorship program where small teams of data science Master's students work on industry-proposed projects under lightweight supervision from company mentors. Contact us to learn more!


That’s all for now. I’ll be back in touch in the fall. Until then, best wishes to all to stay healthy, safe and productive.