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Undergraduate Data Science Immersion

The Data Science Institute offers several opportunities to help support immersion experiences for undergraduates.

One is a Research Immersion in Data Science, which can be completed during the academic year or over the summer. Summer research can come in a variety of forms, including summer fellowships through the VUSRP, an NSF REU, of the Data Science Institute Summer Research Program (DSI-SRP).

The other is an Internship with the Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt, which gives students an opportunity to work closely with the professional data science team at the DSI.

Research Immersion in Data Science

Data science is an emerging interdisciplinary field whose goal is to extract knowledge and enable discovery from complex data using a fusion of computation, mathematics, statistics, and machine learning. Datasets can be as varied as maps of the universe, MRI images, human genomes, medical records, stock market transactions, educational data, historical texts, infrastructure systems, or website clickstream data.

Over the coming decades, data science is expected to have significant impacts on basic and applied research in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and engineering as well as impact all sectors of the economy from health care to education, government, transportation, finance, manufacturing, construction, and urban planning. Data science has the potential to improve individual and community health and education; develop smart communities that enable efficient circulation of people, goods, and services; enable informed decision making in public and private sectors; and enhance environmental sustainability and overall quality of life. Given the wide range of applications and potential benefits, the powerful tools and techniques of data science must be used ethically and responsibly.

Students engaged in research immersion in data science can conduct research under the mentorship of a faculty member on a range of topics, including 1) Foundational data science, which involves the development, evolution, or implementation of data science methods, 2) Application of data science techniques, methods, and tools to one or more fields in the physical, life, or social sciences, engineering, arts, or humanities, or 3) The study of the impact of data on society and its institutions.

To prepare for a research immersion in data science, students are encouraged to take at least one semester of computer programming (DS 1100, CS 1100, 1101, or 1104) and at least one semester of statistics (various options across many departments) in their first year or sophomore year. Students may also need to take other coursework relevant to the research immersion topic in consultation with the faculty mentor.

A list of relevant courses can be found here.

To satisfy research immersion in data science, you must complete the following components:

1. Research Experience (Academic Year or Summer Option)

  • Summer Research Experience Option
    Complete a full-time (40 hours per week) summer research experience in a laboratory of at least 10 weeks in duration. For example, DSI-SRP, VUSRP, NSF REU, other formal summer research program, or full-time paid or full-time volunteer summer research assistantship.
OR
  • Academic Year Research Experience Option
    Complete a course related to data science that provides suitable training for the chosen research direction (at least 3 credit hours); the introductory computer programming course and introductory statistics course cannot count towards this requirement. Complete at least 6 credit hours of undergraduate research in data science.

2. Communication of Research

  • Write a 15-page (minimum) research paper related to the research project.
OR
  • Give an oral presentation of the research project at a poster session (e.g., the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Fair or a regional, national, or international conference) (submit an electronic version of the poster) and write a 5-page (minimum) summary and reflection of the research project.

For a list of potential mentors for research immersion in data science, click here.

Internship with the Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt

The Data Science Institute (DSI) offers an internship opportunity for immersion through its Data Science Trainee Program.

DSI trainees will work with its professional staff of data scientists on a range of projects, developing a working knowledge of data science technical topics, building experience with organizing and executing data science projects, and consulting with potential clients for data science projects.

The Data Science Trainee program currently has three tracks, each one semester long:

Data Science Consulting Track : In the role of Assistant Consultant, trainees will be responsible for making sure that meetings with academic, industry, or non-profit organizations run smoothly and are well-documented; trainees will extract and elucidate project goals and data details during client meetings.

Data Science Project Track : In the role of Scrum Assistant, trainees will ensure the progress of ongoing DSI projects by organizing work and scrum tasks for each Agile sprint cycle of work to meet project goal; trainees will ensure the coherence and management of data science projects using industry-standard tools.

Data Science Meetings Track: In the role of Mission Controller, trainees will ensure the effective functionality of data science-related virtual technical meetings, including seminars and technical workshops; trainees will support meeting effectiveness by maintaining meeting integrity and will ensure positive learner outcomes by quick responsiveness and by organizing participants into learning cohorts.

To earn credit for immersion, students will need to complete two trainee program tracks. Students will also need to work with the DSI team, DSI faculty mentors, and faculty immersion coordinator on a designated final project related to their data science experience (it could be a paper, a presentation, some tangible deliverable, or something else entirely).

Students interested in the Data Science Trainee Program are invited to contact Charreau Bell, Senior Data Scientist (charreau.s.bell@vanderbilt.edu). Faculty mentors for this immersion experience will be Jesse Spencer-Smith, Chief Data Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Computer Science (jesse.spencer-smith@vanderbilt.edu), and Douglas Schmidt, co-Director of the Data Science Institute and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science (d.schmidt@vanderbilt.edu).

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