Ask UNO Mathematics Professor Mahbubul Majumder about the need for data science specialists and the first thing he’ll do is smile.
Next, he’ll tell you something like this: “Our students are getting jobs right away from our classrooms.”
Data science involves transforming raw data into a form that can help businesses and government agencies make informed decisions.
In 2013, UNO’s Department of Mathematics approached the region’s largest employers and asked what they needed. The result was a Concentration in Data Science, specifically tailored to meet industry demands.
“Our students understand the complexity of data, they know how to clean it, how to reshape it, reorganize it for further modeling and prediction,” Majumder said. “Companies are now happy to see a pool of well-prepared graduates to hire from."
Majumder was involved in formulating the vision for the Nebraska Applied Research Institute (NARI)’s scope and he has taken lead on the institute’s first contract: a project for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).
The VNA is testing a product called TINE tag, to see if the product improves nurses’ documentation. The tags come with custom QR codes, allowing users to scan the code with a smartphone, and watch a short training video. In this case, the video includes important instructions on how to perform documentation effectively.
But determining whether the product improves outcomes takes expertise. That’s where NARI comes in.
Majumder designed the experimental protocol. The plan is to start collecting data in January, and begin analyzing that data in February. With Majumder’s support, a graduate student studying data science will create a report.
“I’m excited because it’s an excellent opportunity for the student,” Majumder said. “The VNA is excited because we’re providing a nice infrastructure for this study without any trouble. They needed this kind of support, and it’s right here. That’s the power of this initiative.”
NARI Research Director Tom Lawson says talks are underway with other healthcare providers that also need data analysis support. Organization representatives have been enthusiastic after learning about the services NARI can offer.
“These folks are, I think, truly happy that we’re here reaching out to them,” Lawson said. “I think they’re very interested in learning how to draw upon the expertise of this university.”
Lawson believes future partners will embrace a similar format, with graduate students playing an important role in most contracts.
“I was in a discussion with a different local medical group, explaining what we can offer, and the representative just looks up, and says ‘and then we’ll hire that student.’ That’s what he said.”
“On top of solving critical problems, these contracts provide a unique opportunity for companies to evaluate students and make those students cognizant of core operations at the same time. I think NARI will produce employment for our students and meet the very specific and very felt needs of local industry."