First Data Science Day at SCI Celebrated on April 19

May 10, 2024

Data science is an interdisciplinary field that prioritizes innovation. Applying statistics, computing, and algorithms to a vast array of contexts, data science is optimizing fields like business, healthcare, science, and many others. On April 19, members of the Pitt community gathered at the University Club to celebrate the first Data Science Day, hosted by the Office of the Provost and SCI.

The day kicked off with breakfast and networking, followed by presentations and panels featuring data science professionals. Dean Bruce Childers welcomed the attendees to the event.

“I welcome you to the University’s very first ever Data Science Day. Data is absolutely everywhere - it influences science, healthcare, business, government, and so much more. That’s why it is so important to empower others to not only be able to gather and interpret data, but also to use it responsibly for positive societal impact,” said Childers.

Alfred Spector, visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), spoke at the keynote presentation, “Beyond Models – Applying Data Science and AI Effectively.” In his presentation, Spector discussed a framework for addressing challenges and effectively using data science and AI. The three-part framework suggests that there are three key components in applying data science and AI – technical contributors, integrity, and ethics.

“Now that we are solving really complicated problems, and many of you want to be the leaders of the solutions, not just the contributors to a particular technique, you better think broadly,” said Spector. “I think we need to have a really good course of study and a broad set of subjects if we are going to apply this technology effectively. There’s an enormous amount that we need to learn to apply technologies that are essentially solving the most complicated problems that we, as humans, have come up with throughout civilization.”

The keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion, “Responsible Uses of Data Science in the Workforce – Industry Perspectives,” moderated by Vice Provost for Budget and Analytics Stephen Wisniewski and featuring data science professionals:

  • Chris Belasco - Senior Manager, Digital Services and Chief Data Officer for the City of Pittsburgh
  • Bridget Fitzpatrick – Manager of Data Science, Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Mary Beth Green – Chief Innovation Officer, Sheetz

The discussion explored responsible uses of data science and how it has transformed workplaces across industries.

“The experience of those in the workforce is essential in understanding how the field of data science is developing and how that will impact our training of the next generation of data scientists,” said Wisniewski.

The final panel discussion of the day, “Women in Data Science – Challenges, Opportunities and Empowerment,” was a continuation of the SheLeads Women’s Forum in March 2023. Moderated by President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council Audrey Russo, the panel featured:

  • Sandra Brandon – Research Liaison and Leader of Strategy and Innovation, Office of the CIO, University of Pittsburgh
  • Amanda Brodish – Associate Vice Provost for Data Analytics, University of Pittsburgh
  • Rosta Farzan – Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Associate Professor, SCI
  • Marcela Gomez – Director of Research Analytics, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Nalyn Siripong – Senior Data Scientist, University of Pittsburgh Information Technology

The discussion highlighted the leadership of women in data science and the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field.

“Data science brings together many different perspectives. You can be a part of data science with different backgrounds and different experiences that you have. What really got me interested in data science is that it’s a field that can accommodate different perspectives. There’s room for everyone to be a part of it,” said Farzan.

The first-ever Data Science Day was a success in showcasing the knowledge and expertise of data science professionals across industries, as emphasized by Michael Colaresi, associate vice provost for data science.

“In responsible data science here at Pitt, data science is about and for people,” said Colaresi.“Today marks an exciting milestone as we continue to grow Pitt’s positive impact in data science.”

Watch recordings of the keynote speech and panels here.

--Alyssa Morales