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Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

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Cal Poly Team Working on Cross-Disciplinary Data Science and Analytics Effort

Stock image. Iconic statue foreground. Student exiting William J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics. A group of Cal Poly faculty from all six colleges is working to support collaborative data-driven, cross-disciplinary research and to expand on-campus educational opportunities in the areas of data science, data analytics and data literacy. 
The team hopes to engage a broad group of stakeholders to envision a Cal Poly that embraces “data science for all” in a way that supports innovative faculty research and enhances student development and learning. The team also emphasizes “data for good” as a guiding principle, ensuring that ethical concerns — about the creation and use of data, as well as the imperatives to increase diversity, equity and inclusion — are infused throughout their efforts.
An important aspect of the initiative is to ensure that all Cal Poly students have the opportunity for training in data science and analytics. Jonathan Ventura, assistant professor in the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, said “Employers across all industries are increasingly looking for applicants with experience in data preparation, analysis and visualization. These educational efforts are tightly linked to our research aims, since research supported by our initiative will rely on students trained in data analysis, and we will bring our research into the classroom to keep the curriculum current and relevant.”  
Renee Reijo Pera, Cal Poly’s vice president for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, said: “Cal Poly has an opportunity to be a global leader in data science and analytics based on the excellent work our campus is already doing. This group is seizing on this opportunity and using a Learn by Doing approach to constantly improve and expand our work in these fields.”
The team, building off the work of faculty from across the university, looks to expand on years of success building the fields of data science and analytics at Cal Poly, including cross-disciplinary studies minors in data science and bioinformatics and Master of Science programs in business analytics, quantitative economics and statistics. The university has also made important strides in faculty and student research around data science within Project Jupyter, Cal Poly’s DxHub and the National Science Foundation-funded Central Coast Data Science Partnership with UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College and California State University, San Bernardino. 
Throughout the ongoing academic year, the group has engaged colleges and disciplines to guide the university toward becoming a cross-disciplinary, inclusive data science and analytics leader in research, scholarship and creative activity. The team has also studied what other universities are doing in the fields of data science and analytics, made connections with the local community and alumni who are engaged in the field, and worked closely with student researchers on data research, building an online presence and planning virtual events. 
In the past few months, members of the research team have seen an interest in data science and analytics grow as they’ve moved their teaching and research online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Miran Day, an assistant professor in the Landscape Architecture Department, said “We’ve seen more data shared and available in the mainstream, both on the news and on social media, so many more people are familiar with data sets and graphs through looking at coronavirus case counts. It’s even more important now that people know how to read and understand data.”
Working with Day and Ventura, the multidisciplinary research team includes faculty members Mohamad Abo Ismail from the Animal Science Department; Paul Anderson, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Kelly Bodwin, Statistics; Jean Davidson, Biological Sciences; Brennan Davis, Marketing; Alex Dekhtyar, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Greg Domber, History; Hunter Glanz, Statistics; Anya Goodman, Chemistry; Foaad Khosmood, Computer Science and Software Engineering/Computer Engineering; Franz Kurfess, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Theresa Migler, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Reza Pouraghabagher, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering; Lynne Slivovsky, Computer Engineering; Lubomir Stanchev, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Dennis Sun, Statistics; Katya Vasilaky, Economics; and Zoë Wood, Computer Science and Software Engineering. 
The project is funded through the university’s Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) program, a partnership involving Academic Affairs; Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education; and University Development. The SRI program identified proposals from Cal Poly faculty and staff that addressed problems facing the Central Coast, California and the world as a whole and that placed an emphasis on the role of undergraduate and graduate student research experiences. 

For more information about the SRI program, visit

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