An intensive summer program pulls together undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc students from multiple disciplines to find solutions to some of the most pressing social issues of our time.

The Data Science for Public Good (DSPG) program is a joint effort of the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech and the Honors College.

The program at the Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory in the National Capital Region, a leading laboratory of the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, will give students expert data science training, while helping policymakers in the local, state, and federal government improve quality of life in their communities.

“The teams will be comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdocs and faculty from our lab. The students will bring unique perspectives as they will be from different disciplines and have different computational and quantitative skills. This allows them to learn from each other while conducting the research,” said Gizem Korkmaz, research assistant professor and co-lead of the DSPG program.

Research scientist and co-lead of the DSPG program, Aaron Schroeder, added, “It’s gotten very popular. Students from past DSPG programs have transitioned into private sector consulting careers, local government careers, federal government careers, directly applying the knowledge that they’ve learned.”

For the first time, the program will integrate postdocs and graduate students from across the country with undergraduate students in Virginia Tech’s Honors College, allowing them to receive credit hours for their work.

Craig Morton, an undergraduate student and geography major, said, “I’m very excited to get to know what other people do from different backgrounds, especially postdocs. They’re very experienced when it comes to education. It’s going to be very exciting."

“Students come to the program with a multitude of disciplines, such as statistics, political science, psychology, sociology. That’s the beauty of data science in general: it’s a very broad category. We create interdisciplinary teams of people who understand the policy world, with people who understand the statistical world, with people who understand the computer science world,” said Schroeder.

The transdisciplinary collaboration allows students in the DSPG program to uncover information to help government leaders and policymakers sustain growth and build resilient communities at a time of diminishing resources and rapid technological change.

The program will span both summer semesters, running 10 weeks from May 22 to July 28, 2017.

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