Symposium on Oct. 6 kicks off university’s data science initiative


Top data scientists from around the country will gather in the Rackham Building on Oct. 6 for a symposium to launch the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS), the centerpiece of the university’s recently announced $100 million investment in data science.

Titled “The Future of Data Science: A Convergence of Academia, Industry and Government,” the symposium will highlight current research across the spectrum of data science and outline faculty opportunities.

Brian Athey

Alfred Hero

It also will examine data science challenges in health, learning analytics, social science and transportation; discuss regional, national and international data science initiatives and partnerships; and explore possibilities for collaboration with industry.

“U-M’s strengths in data science are deep and broad. The prospects for leveraging these strengths with new investments that cut across disciplines and methodologies are truly exciting,” said MIDAS co-director Brian Athey, the Michael A. Savageau Collegiate Professor and chair of the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics.

“The university has shown a strong commitment to data science,” added Alfred Hero, MIDAS co-director and R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering. “We look forward to engaging students, faculty, industry and government in pushing forward research innovations that will benefit many sectors of society.”

The keynote speaker at the symposium will be Daniel Goroff, vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, who will speak on “Privacy and Reproducibility in Data Science.” His talk is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Other sessions include:

• U-M leaders, including Provost Martha Pollack, Interim Vice President for Research Jack Hu, Associate Vice President for Advanced Research Computing Eric Michielssen, and Athey and Hero, will present details of the university’s investment in data science. The session begins at 8:30 a.m.

• Internationally renowned scientists, including Robert Nowak, McFarland-Bascom Professor in Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Susan Murphy, H.E. Robbins Distinguished University Professor of Statistics at U-M, and Kathleen McKeown, director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia University, will present on cross-cutting data science methodologies. The session begins at 9:20 a.m.

• A session on Education, Workforce Development and Careers in Data Science, including an overview of the MIDAS education and training program from Ivo Dinov, MIDAS associate director for education and training, and presentations from U-M alumni Erin Shellman, research scientist with Amazon Web Services; Patrick Harrington, director of engineering for WalmartLabs; and Nandit Soparkar, chief executive officer of Ubiquiti. The session begins at 10:40 a.m.

• Overviews of data science challenges in health, learning analytics, social science and transportation from George Poste, Regents’ Professor and Del E. Webb Chair in Health Innovation at Arizona State University; Bror Saxberg, chief learning officer of Kaplan Inc.; Kathleen Carley, professor of computation, organization and society at Carnegie Mellon University; and Jonathan Owen, director of operations research and vice president of practice, INFORMS, at General Motors. The session begins at 2:20 a.m.

• A panel discussion of regional, national and international data science initiatives, collaborations and partnerships, including Ed Seidel, Founder Professor in the departments of Physics and Astronomy at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Kathleen McKeown, director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia University; Ratna “Babu” Chinnam, professor of engineering at Wayne State University; Yike Guo, professor of computing science at Imperial College, London; and Keith Elliston, chief executive officer of tranSMART Foundation. The session begins at 4:10 p.m.

The symposium also will include a poster session featuring ongoing data science research at U-M.

A detailed agenda, including speaker bios, presentation abstracts, and registration information can be found at

The presentations will be held in the Rackham Auditorium, with an overflow video viewing area available in the amphitheater on the fourth floor.


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