New data science institute debuts with interdisciplinary vision

The future of data science at Yale will be housed on a top floor of a redesigned Kline tower on Science Hill beginning in 2023 — but the university, its researchers, and the new Institute for Foundations of Data Science (FDS) aren’t waiting not for next year.

Physicians, economists, seismologists, psychologists, engineers, computer scientists — faculties from dozens of disciplines — are already using powerful data science tools to fuel their research with next-generation insights. They make discoveries in cybersecurity, urbanization, autism, cardiology, and artificial intelligence.

Now they are being supported by Yale’s new Institute for Foundations of Data Science, also known as the Kline Tower Institute. Yale kicked off the new initiative on October 14 with presentations from 20 faculty members who are currently pushing research in bold new directions using innovative mathematical, statistical and algorithmic methods for working with data.

By integrating faculty from across campus, the university will help scholars apply new methods of data science to their work and inspire advances in basic research across a range of disciplines.

Yale President Peter Salovey
Yale President Peter Salovey said data-driven research approaches can transcend a single discipline or department.

I can think of nothing more important than using data-driven approaches to finding solutions,” said Yale President Peter Salovey, citing climate change, political polarization, healthcare and medical discoveries as important areas for data-driven research that “transcend” a single department or discipline.

This is a university-wide priority,” added Salovey. “It is an exciting moment and there is much more to come.”

In recent years, the university has made major investments in faculty and infrastructure to enhance Yale’s data science capabilities. In 2018, the University Science Strategy Committee identified data science as a leading priority; Since then, Yale has hired 25 new senior faculty members in the computer science and statistics and data science departments.

Priya Panda
Priya Panda, assistant professor of electrical engineering and director of Yale’s Intelligent Computing Lab, gave a presentation on her research.

This is a day we’ve been working toward for a long time,” said Provost Scott Strobel, who chaired the University Science Strategy Committee, during the recent launch event. He noted that faculty members told him that “the future of science is data science.”

The final home of FDS will be on an upper floor of the Kline Tower, which is being renovated to house the Departments of Statistics and Data Science, Mathematics and Astronomy of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The renovation will be completed in 2023.

The institute combines the fundamentals of data science methodology with applications that can benefit society, said Daniel Spielman, the FDS’ first James A. Attwood director and Sterling Professor of Computer Science, Statistics and Data Science, and Mathematics.

FDS does this by integrating faculty from departments and schools across the university.

Almost every great advance in data science started with a scientist in another field having a problem they couldn’t solve,” said Spielman, who recently won the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for his work in theoretical computer science and mathematics.

Amin Karbasi
Amin Karbasi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Statistics and Data Science, participated in a Faculty Research Blitz at the launch event.

Some of the faculty members who outlined their research during the October 14 launch event were:

  • Karen Seto, the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at the School of the Environment, who applies machine learning techniques to a wealth of satellite imagery, documenting and evaluating landscape changes due to urbanization.
  • Rohan Khera, assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and assistant professor of biostatistics at the Yale School of Public Health, who uses novel methods to detect heart disease signatures from data in wearable technology.
  • James Duncan, the Ebenezer K. Hunt Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS), who is developing predictive models to measure the effectiveness of autism therapy based on data science techniques based on brain imaging can be used.
  • Jeffrey Park, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), who uses data science methods to provide researchers with a wealth of interactive information about seismic waves in real time.
  • Amin Karbasi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Statistics and Data Science at SEAS, who is researching innovative ways to design the human labeling component of raw data used in artificial intelligence systems.
  • Bryan Kelly, a professor of finance at the School of Management, who uses machine learning methods to make more effective predictions about key components in asset valuation.
  • Forrest Crawford, Associate Professor of Biostatistics, Statistics and Data Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Management, who uses advanced mathematical models to uncover hidden structures in epidemiology, such as B. Mapping and tracking social distancing behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Elisa Celis, assistant professor of statistics and data science at FAS, who analyzes the objectivity of data used in a variety of algorithms that influence everything from politics and policing to consumer behavior.

Together we have the opportunity to make an incredible impact,” said Celis.

FDS is planning additional events around campus in the coming months to highlight ongoing data science research. The institute is also looking for applicants for multi-year postdoctoral positions for independent scientists working on the fundamentals of data science.

This is just a taste of what’s happening,” Spielman said. “We could easily hear 80 faculty members – but we were here all day. That is why we are establishing an institute.”