The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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From the Executive Director's Desk: Fall 2021

December 31st will be my last day serving as Executive Director of the Center for Data Science. Tom Bernardin, currently the Center’s Senior Data Scientist, will be promoted to serve as Executive Director effective January 1. I’m delighted about this transition and have been working closely with Tom to ensure it will be a smooth one.


When Andrew McCallum tapped me in the summer of 2016 to help him build the then-new Center for Data Science, I was beyond excited and honored. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my lengthy and varied career at MITRE, I knew that taking the leap from a comfortable industry perch to a leadership role at a top-notch public research university would create unique opportunities to learn and grow. And as an avid outdoors person, I knew that my quality of life would be greatly enhanced by a move to the beautiful rural setting of Western Massachusetts.


I’m proud of everything the Center has achieved since my arrival, and deeply grateful to my entire team for their creativity, hard work, and commitment to excellence in all they do. Over the past five years, we hired ten new tenure-track data science faculty, three research faculty, a senior lecturer, a staff data scientist, and a professional staff team of six; established new educational programs in data science; engaged 18 companies in our industry affiliates program and helped countless others in ways small and large; created an in-demand industry mentorship course that regularly sees 75+ graduate students completing more than two dozen data science projects overseen by industry mentors; ran a highly successful series of Research Symposia and Data Science Career Mixers; built two specialized high-performance compute clusters (thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative); fostered an interdisciplinary faculty group dedicated to research on equity, accountability, transparency, and explainability; provided fellowships for eight postdoctoral scholars; and created Data Science for the Common Good, a summer program that trains aspiring data scientists to work on real-world problems that benefit the common good. Oh, and we also created this quarterly newsletter to keep you informed of Center activities and accomplishments!


The Center is in excellent financial health, maintains broad and deep academic and industrial ties, and is extremely well positioned for future success. The recent news of a major philanthropic gift to the College will also help drive the Center’s future growth. Tom will be an outstanding Executive Director, and he and Andrew already have bold new ideas for 2022 and beyond. Tom has a PhD in Economics with a focus on highly quantitative methods. He’ll introduce himself more fully in the next issue of this newsletter, but let me just say that from the moment he started working for the Center in early 2020, Tom distinguished himself as an applied data scientist, project manager, thought leader, and team builder. He will continue the Center’s commitment to “collaboration with impact.” Feel free to drop Tom a note at


I want to thank all of you for joining me on this journey. Truly the Center would not be where it is without you!


Warm regards,

Brant Cheikes