UVM partners with MassMutual in groundbreaking data science initiative

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UVM partners with MassMutual in groundbreaking data science initiative

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 2:45pm -- tim

UVM professors (left to right) Jim Bagrow, Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth discuss the networks of cause-and-effect relationships generated in a large-scale crowdsourcing project. UVM photo.

Vermont Business Magazine Seeking to expand the applications of computational, social and data science, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) announced today that it is providing the University of Vermont (UVM) $500,000 to fund an innovative pilot program within the university’s Vermont Complex Systems Center. It will create a new doctoral fellowship, support faculty research and hire a visual data artist-in-residence.

The partnership with UVM focuses on three specific initiatives:

  • Funding for a newly created MassMutual Ph.D. Fellowship. This four-year fellowship will provide funding for a Ph.D. student working in data science and complex systems at UVM. The MassMutual fellow will explore research at the intersection of human health and well-being, data science, and complex systems.
  • Supporting faculty collaboration. Through a named research fund, MassMutual will support exploratory questions related to wellness, human behavior and networks with a team of interdisciplinary faculty in UVM’s Vermont Complex Systems Center.
  • Hiring a visual data artist-in-residence. Visual data is an essential tool that communicates complex information clearly, creatively and effectively. The MassMutual Visual Data Artist-in-Residence will partner with Complex Systems Center students and faculty and with MassMutual’s data science team to create visualizations that allow people to easily understand and interact with complex data.

“We are excited to be working with the Vermont Complex Systems Center, and the world class research talent it brings to our strategic initiative of blending and applying academic and industrial capabilities to many fundamental issues,” said Sears Merritt, MassMutual’s head of data science. “Our partnership with UVM aims to enable the development of novel quantitative methods, as well as uncover new insights related to changes and patterns in human behavior and the determinants of social well-being."

The Vermont Complex Systems Center supports data science and complex systems education through interdisciplinary learning, and the Center’s Master’s and Ph.D. level graduates have gone on to work for leading data science teams in the private sector at major US and international companies. The data science initiative with MassMutual represents the largest single corporate collaboration with the Center since its inception in 2009.

"All of us at the Vermont Complex System Center are very excited about our new and growing connection with MassMutual,” said Peter Dodds, director of the Vermont Complex Systems Center. “In this increasingly data-rich age, our students are becoming ever more valuable for companies like MassMutual, and we're also seeing a vast landscape of basic science possibilities."

"MassMutual’s investment in the Vermont Complex Systems Center aligns well with two critical campus priorities at UVM – STEM and Health research – so our hope is that this collaboration with MassMutual is the first step in a long-lasting partnership,” said Shane Jacobson, president and CEO of the UVM Foundation. The UVM Foundation is spearheading Move Mountains: The Campaign for The University of Vermont to raise private support for UVM as one of the nation’s best public research universities.

This new, multi-pronged initiative with the Vermont Complex Systems Center represents MassMutual’s latest effort to support data science and cyber initiatives, with the University of Vermont joining MassMutual’s expanding list of strategic university research partners.

In the past four years, MassMutual has made several investments in data science initiatives, including a $2 million, four-year program providing Mount Holyoke College and Smith College – both established leaders in educating women – the resources to hire five visiting faculty positions and support the development of a data science-focused curriculum; the opening of a state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot data science lab in Amherst and, most recently, the MassMutual Foundation in 2016 announced a donation to UMass Amherst of $15 million over 10 years to further strengthen the university’s world-class data science and cybersecurity research and education programs in Western Massachusetts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The field of data science draws on statistical methods to answer questions in an array of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Graduates work in fields ranging from medicine to environmental science, actuarial professions and statistics.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners.  MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits.  For more information, visit www.massmutual.com.

About the Vermont Complex Systems Center
The Vermont Complex Systems Center, established in 2009, is an interdisciplinary research and teaching center at the University of Vermont that is focused on complex systems, data science/data analytics, computation, social contagion, and machine learning. Housed in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, the Center’s research explores human behavior, relational networks, health and biology, evolutionary robotics, weather prediction, and measuring happiness, among other things. The program offers a Master’s degree in Complex Systems and Data Science, a Certificate of Graduate Study in Complex Systems, and supports Ph.D. students focused on complex systems and data science.

About The University of Vermont Foundation
The University of Vermont Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. The UVM Foundation, in partnership with the University, is currently engaged in a comprehensive campaign with four strategic priorities: student access and scholarship; faculty research and support; student-centered programs; and long-term investments in the physical campus. Move Mountains: The Campaign for The University of Vermont seeks to raise $500 million in private support and assert UVM's position as one of the nation's best public research universities. For further information about giving to UVM, contact the University of Vermont Foundation, 411 Grasse Mount, Burlington VT 05401; 802-656-2010, www.uvmfoundation.org, email foundation@uvm.edu. For corporate engagement opportunities, contact Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Alexa Woodward at Alexa.Woodward@uvm.edu.

Source: SPRINGFIELD, Mass. and BURLINGTON, Vt. – University of Vermont Foundation 8.7.2017