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18 A&M faculty members receive data science grants

Image: Research Communications and Public Relations

The Texas A&M Institute of Data Science (TAMIDS) has presented grants to 18 Texas A&M faculty members representing the colleges of architecture, engineering, geosciences, liberal arts, medicine, science and University Libraries, the Division of Research announced today.

“TAMIDS aims to help faculty strengthen data science in their own departments and foster their leadership of TAMIDS activities. The two TAMIDS programs announced here will sponsor the development of new interdisciplinary courses in data science and support junior faculty in leading workshops, hackathons and K12 outreach that will engage new groups of students with data science,” said Nick Duffield, director of TAMIDS and holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professorship in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering.

Ten faculty members shared seven awards from the TAMIDS Data Science Course Development Program, offered in association with the Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence. The program supports the creation of new courses in data science. Each awardee received $10,000 at the start of the project with an additional $5,000 upon completion.

Associate Professor Ann McNamara in the Department of Visualization, College of Architecture, said the award will allow her team to stay on the leading edge of research in analytics and data visualization.

“Our new course development award from TAMIDS will support our development of a cross-listed course on data analytics and visualization,” McNamara said. “Of course, analytics and visualization are key to the advancement of data science education. However, our novel approach intertwining aesthetics, statistics and computational influences will advance data science education.  First, it will expose our students to the symbiotic relationships between statistics, computer science and visualization when it comes to data science. Secondly, by taking an interdisciplinary approach we will engage students in the creative and collaborative process necessary for effective data science, particularly analytics and visualization.”

McNamara shared her award with Derya Akleman, instructional associate professor, Department of Statistics, College of Science, and John Keyser, professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, College of Engineering.

In addition, the following faculty members received awards through the TAMIDS Data Science Course Development Program:

  • Ulisses Braga-Neto, professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • Fernando A. Luco Echeverría, assistant professor, Department of Economics, College of Liberal Arts. 
  • Simon Foucart, professor, Department of Mathematics, College of Science.
  • Vincent VanBuren, instructional assistant professor, Department of Medical Education, College of Medicine.
  • Xinyue Ye, associate professor, Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, College of Architecture.
  • Shuang Zhang, assistant professor, and Darren W. Henrichs, instructional assistant professor, Department of Oceanography, College of Geosciences.

TAMIDS also presented eight faculty members with fellowships from its Career Initiation Fellow Program, which provides early career support to faculty working in any area involving data science and encourages them to propose engagements with TAMIDS activities, programs or a broader mission. Each fellow receives a $10,000 research grant.

Manoranjan Majji, assistant professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering, said the fellowship has already made an impact on his research. “I am organizing a special tutorial session on data-driven modeling applications for dynamical systems and control at the prestigious 2021 IEEE Conference on Decision and Control,” he said. “The fellowship has also enabled me to ask and answer fundamental questions in my field. I look forward to hosting a workshop next summer and also teaching impactful cross disciplinary courses that eventually foster greater research opportunities at TAMIDS.” 

Na Zou, assistant professor, Department of Engineering Technology & Industrial Distribution, College of Engineering, said her TAMIDS fellowship will support the development of fairness-aware machine learning that will address intentional and unintentional discrimination in the algorithms.  “We propose to systematically investigate and facilitate fairness by leveraging the interpretability of key elements in a machine learning life-cycle, including data preparation, feature representation, modeling and prediction,” she said.

In addition, TAMIDS Career Initiation Fellowships for 2021 went to the following faculty members:

  • Ashrant Aryal, assistant professor, Department of Construction Science, College of Architecture.
  • Heath Blackmon, assistant professor, Department of Biology, College of Science.
  • Dileep Kalathil, assistant professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • David Lowe, assistant professor, Office of Scholarly Communications, University Libraries.
  • Arash Noshadravan, assistant professor, Zachry Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • Daniel Tabor, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science.