Metropolitan Chicago Data-science Corps to partner with organizations in the region on projects

Five Illinois universities, led by Northwestern University, have created the Metropolitan Chicago Data-science Corps (MCDC) to help meet the data science needs of the Chicago metro area. The interdisciplinary body will help a wide range of community groups take advantage of the increasing volume and complexity of data while providing data science students with the opportunity to apply their skills.

“The amount of data produced in society today can be overwhelming for nonprofits, especially those without relevant resources, but data can help them fulfill their missions,” said Suzan van der Lee of Northwestern, who led the initiative and is professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The MCDC team is led by 11 co-directors. Northwestern co-directors are Van der Lee, Michelle Birkett, Bennett Goldberg and Diane Schanzenbach. The MCDC team also includes professors from Northwestern involved in new minor and major data science programs offered by Weinberg College and the McCormick School of Engineering, including Arend Kuyper and Jennie Rogers.

In addition to Northwestern, partner universities are DePaul, Northeastern Illinois and Chicago State Universities and the School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The body will be supported by a new National Science Foundation grant of nearly $ 1.5 million over three years.

Data service requests are now accepted by nonprofit and government organizations in the Chicago metro area. Data challenges in the areas of environment, health and social welfare are of particular interest to the body.

We share our expertise to help community organizations use data to their advantage.

Suzan van der Lee, professor of Earth and planetary sciences

The City of Chicago, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Howard Brown Health, and The Nature Conservancy are just a few of the organizations that the MCDC will work with as community partners.

“With this new body of data science, we are sharing our expertise to help community organizations use data to their advantage,” said Van der Lee. “And interdisciplinary teams of data science students from Chicagoland will receive hands-on training on how to partner with community organizations to carry out projects with real impact.”

Van der Lee is a member of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO), which will provide the administrative infrastructure for the MCDC.

The MCDC aims to strengthen the national data science workforce and infrastructure by integrating the needs of community organizations with academic learning. Teams of undergraduate students at partner universities will work on data science projects provided by organizations as part of the student program.

“Despite a global pandemic, we have seen our region’s tech industry flourish – an achievement that is no doubt due to the dynamic partnerships forged between our amazing city and state universities,” said Chicago Mayor Lori. E. Lightfoot. “The MCDC is the latest of these partnerships, and it will strengthen our regional strength in data science while simultaneously improving the way nonprofits and government agencies use data-driven programs to strengthen our communities. . “

The Metropolitan Chicago Data-science Corps brings together diverse students and faculty across institutions and disciplines. At Northwestern, the professors involved come from six schools, including Weinberg, McCormick, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Northwestern undergraduate students taking the practical course can be from any discipline and will have completed at least one year of data science courses. Master students can volunteer to be project managers. The first of several hands-on courses at Northwestern will be offered during the winter term of this academic year. Students who complete the course will then be eligible for paid summer internships in which they can work more in depth on projects with students from partner universities.

In the third year of the grant, MCDC plans to work with faculty at a municipal and community college to implement its program there, expanding data science education in the metropolis. from Chicago.

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