The Data Science Institute Summer Lab program (launched in 2018 as the Data & Computing Summer Lab) is an immersive 10-week paid summer research program at the University of Chicago. In the program, high school and undergraduate students are paired with a data science mentor in various domains, including computer science, data science, social science, climate and energy policy, public policy, materials science, and biomedical research. Through this pairing the research assistant will engage with and hone their skills in research methodologies, practices, and teamwork. We encourage participation from a broad range of students, and require no prior research experience to apply.
Students in the program are immersed in a research lab and given unparalleled, first-hand access to impactful, applied data science research. Students will gain not only an understanding of fundamental data science methodologies but specialized training within the application areas specific to their lab’s research thrust. Students are asked to practice communicating their research findings throughout the summer, culminating in final videos. The final videos are presented during an end-of-summer symposium, which is run like a professional conference and provides students a chance to field questions about their project and share the outcomes of their research projects. Students also engage in professional development and training that can help them prepare for future careers in data science and computing. Additionally, many alumni continue research work with their mentor after the program ends.
In the program, students are welcomed into a cohort of their peers who represent diverse backgrounds, interests, and ambitions. Through near-peer mentoring, social gatherings, and group work on projects, students in this cohort not only become better trained data and computational scientists, but better equipped to tackle any challenges ahead through their experience with group work and collaboration. Students meet weekly in small thematic groups called “clusters” to discuss progress, ask questions, and hear about each others’ projects.
Broadening participation in data science, especially among historically underrepresented and marginalized groups, is essential not only for equalizing opportunities but envisioning – and creating – a future that is truly representative of the world around us. Creating an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming cohort for students to become a part of is a critical component of Summer Lab, as well as providing opportunities for students to see themselves represented in program mentors, guest speakers, and leadership. Computational work is often stereotyped as people working alone writing code, when in reality data science is a team sport, inherently interdisciplinary, and in constant conversation with real-world issues to achieve measurable, meaningful impact. We aim to not train and immerse students in research methodologies, data science skills, and domain expertise, but also to prepare them for critical transitions and sustained career paths.
To supplement their research work, we provide an exciting array of programming for students during the summer. A highlight of the summer programming is a weekly speaker series featuring researchers at the forefront of data science. Speakers address topics ranging from their own unique and unconventional paths to data science research, to their innovative approaches to tackling important, impactful research questions. Students have the chance not only to hear from first-class speakers but also to introduce and be in conversation with them. In the 2021 program, we hosted 28 different speakers from a wide array of data science domains. You can watch select talks from the 2021 speaker series here.
SOCIAL IMPACT TRACK
The Social Impact Track is an opportunity for students to work as a part of a team on a data science project, with topics ranging from energy, food and agriculture, human rights, to marine technology. The projects are scoped and run in coordination with organizations who have been awarded grants by the 11th Hour Project, a grant making foundation serving the nonprofit community. Teams in the social impact track serve as a centralized hub for software and data science for the organizations – providing both open-source and custom data-driven solutions.All student types – high school and undergraduate students – are eligible to participate in the Social Impact Track.
Summer Lab alumni have been co-authors on published papers and posters, created apps and software tools used by thousands of people, and pursued a variety of future paths within research and beyond. Check out the Project Profiles to learn more about previous student cohorts, and watch videos overviewing their summer research projects. Summer Lab alumna Aarthi Koripelly (‘19, ‘20) shared this about her experience in the program:
“Summer Lab was a great experience for me to have exposure to the applications of computer science in other domains and gain technical knowledge. My projects have helped me hone my research and communication skills in writing reports, presenting to others, and submitting to a conference, which would not have been possible without the opportunities the program has provided.”