EPSCoR grant provides seeds for UH Hilo Data Science program

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669
Dir, Media Rel, University Relations
Posted: May 20, 2016

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is among the beneficiaries of a $20 million Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant recently awarded to the UH System by the National Science Foundation. The bulk of the award will fund the ‘Ike Wai project, a five-year study that seeks to create a data driven, sustainable water future for the State of Hawai’i and its Pacific neighbors. 

UH Hilo’s share of $2.1 million will be used to launch a new Data Science program by funding recruitment of four new data science faculty members in mathematics, computer science, and the natural and social sciences. The new hires will work with existing faculty to develop a baccalaureate degree and several certificate programs focusing on data mining, modeling, predictive analytics and pattern recognition. The first two are expected to join the University in Fall 2017, with the others coming on board in each of the next two years. 

The funding will also pay for acquisition of a Cyber-CANOE that will allow students and faculty to engage in data visualization and 3-dimensional modeling, following its installation this fall. Bolstering the effort will be a new summer bridge program to begin in 2017, which will expedite the curricular pipeline for future data science students. A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) will fund dozens of data-intensive research projects with UH Hilo faculty looking to include students in their scholarly activities. 

“These several, interrelated components of the ‘Ike Wai grant will provide UH Hilo data science students with the skills and experience necessary to solve complex problems,” said Dr. Matthew Platz, vice chancellor for academic affairs/research and co-principal investigator. “Through the certificate program and the soon-to-be-developed B.S. in Data Science, they will gain a better understanding of how to analyze large, complicated data sets that have traditionally been difficult to decipher.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the program will utilize the combined expertise of current mathematics, computer science, natural science, and social science professors, along with the four new data science hires. Dr. Roberto Pelayo, associate professor of mathematics and workforce and education lead for the grant, noted the data science field opens up some attractive employment opportunities for students. 

“Employers are always looking for well-trained students with the newest, most sophisticated tools for answering difficult questions,” Pelayo said. “Courses like Data Mining, Data Visualization, Modeling, and Predictive Analytics will prepare our students for exactly these employment opportunities.” 

For more information about the UH Hilo Data Science program, contact Pelayo at (808) 932-7539 or email robertop@hawaii.edu.