Data Science for the Public Good students
Data Science for the Public Good

The Next Generation of Data Scientists Takes Shape in Arlington - DSPG Young Scholars Program Provides Real-World Experience and Mentoring to Students

Have you ever wondered what a career combining data science and public service looks like? This summer, 12 undergraduate and graduate students from across the country convened at the Biocomplexity Institute's Arlington, Va. location to find out first-hand.

Through the Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) Young Scholars program, a summer immersive program led by the Institute's Social and Decision Analytics division, students are partnering with government professionals and community leaders on research projects to learn how information and data can be leveraged to improve quality of life and inform public policy.

The DSPG Young Scholars work on a range of research projects combining statistics, computation, and the social sciences, many of which are sponsored by local, state, and federal agencies like the Arlington County Police Department, the Virginia Department of Corrections, Fairfax County Health and Human Services, and the Army Research Institute. This year’s research topic areas include:

  • Using data to measure a Soldier’s social determinants of health,
  • Machine learning techniques to measure business innovation,
  • Defining and measuring the universe of Open Source Software innovation; and
  • Evaluating entrepreneurship training within correctional facilities, among others.

"This is the sixth year of the DSPG Young Scholars program, and it seems that with each passing year, the program becomes even more invigorating and exciting," said Gizem Korkmaz, research associate professor and DSPG program manager. "Students are eager to learn, and have the opportunity to make real contributions to ongoing research that will eventually have a positive impact on the communities where we live, work, and play. We’re honored to work alongside and have a role in shaping the next generation of data scientists."

In addition to gaining world-class, hands-on professional training, each student is assigned a post-doctoral and senior mentor to guide their research and facilitate discussions about a career integrating data science and public service. Throughout the 11-week program, students attend expert training in essential statistical computing tools such as R, Python, and GIS as well as professional development and career workshops, and gain experience with technical writing and presentations.

"My favorite part of the program is how the team invests in us along the way," said Calvin Isch, a 2019 DSPG Young Scholar and fourth-year undergraduate at Indiana University, studying cognitive science, management, and computer science.

"While completing these projects, we have to implement some challenging methods from data science, which is only possible through the amazing trainings the faculty and staff provide. By the end of the summer, we’ve run the gamut on trainings—learning how to code in R, work with APIs, web-scrape, and wrangle massive amounts of data to workable conditions—basically, everything you need to be a capable data scientist. The people are amazing, the projects are inspiring, and the education is fascinating. I couldn’t have asked for more."

The program culminates with the DSPG Annual Symposium, a showcase for researchers from across the country including the Institute's DSPG Young Scholars, on Friday, Aug. 9. This year’s Symposium features speakers Phil Bourne, director of the University of Virginia’s Data Science Institute and acting dean of the School of Data Science, and Ron Jarmin, deputy director and chief operating officer of the U.S. Census Bureau. While free to attend, registration is required. For more information about the DSPG Forum or to register, visit the Biocomplexity Events Page.