Data analytics students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have the opportunity to partner with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to address global challenges.
At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students work with datasets obtained from national agencies. This semester, ORNL scientists are working with students to consult with them, mentor them, and guide them as they implement models and apply data analytics techniques to gain new insights.
“We present various datasets and teach students how to use them and implement models, but we do not assist them in choosing projects,” said Thilanka Munasinghe, lecturer in Information Technology and Web Science (ITWS). “The students are so creative! They are data investigators, combining multiple datasets in novel ways to create useful tools.”
One student explored the war’s impact on wheat production in Ukraine, and another predicted rice production in different regions of China. This semester, students are working with climate-related datasets to investigate the impact of climate variability and change on agricultural production and the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika virus.
During past semesters, students have co-authored and published papers in scientific conferences and journals on their semester-long class projects. It is a tremendous opportunity, and quite rare for undergraduates, in particular.
“It is a challenging class, but the experience definitely benefits students’ careers!” Munasinghe said.
“It’s a meeting of minds and a meeting of common interests,” said Assaf Anyamba, Ph.D., Remote Sensing Group Leader at ORNL. “We are happy to see students benefiting from it.”