UofM Receives $3.4 Million NSF Research Grant to Improve Training in Data Science

January 30, 2020 - The University of Memphis has been awarded a $3,439,035 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research in learning data science with adaptive learning for future workforce development.

“In the last three years, the demand for data scientists has increased by a factor of 10 in key markets,” said Dr. Andrew Olney, principal investigator for the study and professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems. “If this trend continues, data scientists will be more sought after than software developers in just a few years.

“The problem we face is that while we know how to train people in statistics, programming and machine learning, we know very little about how to train people to integrate these disciplines in order to be effective data scientists. Our grant work will focus on understanding the deep prerequisite knowledge in these fields and how to integrate them in an efficient training program for emerging data scientists across all levels. Our program will leverage adaptive learning technologies and be embedded in the tools data scientists use every day so that workers can learn on the job.”

The grant funding will also support summer internships for STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and math) from LeMoyne-Owen College as well as the development of training programs for industry partners including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Novartis.

Co-PIs are Dr. Vasile Rus, William Dunavant Professor of Computer Science; Dr. Scott Fleming, associate professor and graduate coordinator in Computer Science; Dr. Dale Bowman, associate professor in Mathematical Sciences; Dr. Andrew Tawfik, assistant professor in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership; and Dr. Natasha Sahr, senior principal biostatistician at Novartis.

“More important than the economic multiplier impact of having federal funds expended locally, this award, together with others we have received in the last few months, helps position the University and its Institute of Intelligent Systems as a national leader in data analytics,” said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president for Research and Innovation. “It’s an exciting time for researchers on campus as we continue our march toward the top tier of research institutions in the country.”