Rice University has undertaken a university-wide initiative to increase both the quantity and quality of data-driven knowledge and discovery. The Data Science Initiative, funded at roughly $45 million, is part of the university’s recently announced $150 million investment in research excellence.
The Data Science Initiative will bring new data scientists to Rice as tenure-track faculty members, support collaboration-building activities for the university’s existing data-science community, and develop educational offerings in data science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
As part of the initiative, Rice expects to hire between six and ten new faculty members over the next three years. Applications are being accepted at all ranks for employment as early as July 1.
Among the first Data Science Initiative faculty members to be hired is Meng Li, who will join the Departments of Statistics as an assistant professor on July 1. Li is a visiting assistant professor of statistical science at Duke University, and earned his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of North Carolina in 2015.
Also hired is Anastasios Kyrillidis, a Simons Foundation postdoctoral researcher with the Wireless Networking and Communication Group at the University of Texas at Austin. For the academic year 2017-18, he will work at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center as a Goldstine Fellow, and will join the Rice faculty on July 1, 2018 as an assistant professor of computer science. Kyrillidis earned his Ph.D. in computer and communication sciences from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
In announcing the initiative, University President David Leebron noted that Rice is positioned to capitalize on the data-rich resources of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. Across the street is the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world. Rice has ties to Houston’s major industries, school districts and civic organizations. Rice has a data-sharing arrangement with the City of Houston and works with city, county, and regional organizations on a variety of problems including urban flooding, air quality and health, and education policy.
“Data science extends to almost every school, institute and department on campus,” said Rice provost Marie Lynn Miranda, also a professor of statistics, whose research uses geospatial data to explore relationships between the environment and child health. “Name a department and I can tell you a story about how data sciences can be helpful, from processing and interpreting digital humanities collections to understanding voter turnout patterns to improving cybersecurity.”
The university’s strategic plans also call for a $49 million reinvestment in molecular nanotechnology, a traditional area of strength for Rice. A third initiative will promote research competitiveness across the university. It includes $58 million for an enhanced postdoctoral program; a research venture capital fund for high-risk, high-return initiatives; strengthened support services for grant writing and grant management; improved faculty networking for interdisciplinary team building; and investment in information technology for grant and data management.