$300,000 National Science Foundation Grant Funds 2-Year Pilot Program

Chaminade University is partnering with universities in Texas and Georgia on a two-year pilot program that trains Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) students for careers in data science, analytics and visualization.

The SPICE (Supporting Pacific Indigenous Computing Excellence) project is funded by a $300,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) initiative. INCLUDES is part of the NSF’s “10 Big Ideas” program.

NSM Dr. Helen Turner

Dr. Helen Turner

“The vision of SPICE is training a cadre of students who will lead data science, visualization and analytics efforts that support health, sustainability and social justice in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific,” said Dr. Helen Turner, the project’s co-principal investigator and Chaminade’s dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Vice President for Innovation.

“Solutions to many critical regional problems lie in ‘big data,’” Dr. Turner said. “It’s key that Hawaii’s future science, technology and business leaders are prepared to use data science in their careers and advocacy.

“Analyzing and applying big data has the potential to change lives in Hawaii for the better,” Dr. Turner added, “and we want our students to be part of that better future.”

Partnering with Chaminade on SPICE are the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin and the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics & Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. SPICE principal investigator is Kelly Gaither, TACC Director of Visualization.

Gaither explained that SPICE students will work with large data sets offering possible solutions to current and emerging problems in the Pacific, including health inequities, natural resource management and economic development. Moreover, preparing these students for data science and computational careers will support Hawaii’s transition to an innovation economy.

“The long-term goal is developing the SPICE partnership into a backbone organization that can frame the current and future efforts as an NSF INCLUDES Alliance,” according to Gaither, “starting with a one-month summer immersion program in 2018 and building to a data science curriculum at Chaminade.

Chaminade President Lynn Babington said one of the “most compelling” aspects of this data science, visualization and analytics  initiative is its broad applicability.

“These skills are needed by Hawaii’s future workforce across diverse sectors,” Dr. Babington said, “including business, science, health care and environmental protection. This is the gap Chaminade will address.”

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The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the leading supercomputing centers in the world. Every day, thousands of researchers rely on the center’s advanced computing resources and expertise which support more than 3,000 projects from more than 400 institutions across the country. TACC’s mission is to enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies. The infrastructure includes web portals and services, high performance computing systems, advanced scientific visualization systems, data servers and storage/archival systems, cloud computing servers, IT systems, high-bandwidth networks, and a comprehensive software environment comprising applications, tools, libraries, databases, and grid software.