New grant supports summer course in equitable data science

Virgil McDill | November 13, 2023

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH), in collaboration with the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, will host a 10-week, full-time program this summer devoted to equitable data science. The new course will give eligible undergraduate students the opportunity to investigate how biases in data and data analysis can reinforce and contribute to social and health inequities. The program, made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation, will also help students develop their research skills in data science, statistical modeling, machine learning, and scientific communication.

Mark Fiecas
Mark Fiecas

“We want to train the next generation of data scientists to develop methods and analyze data responsibly,” says Mark Fiecas, SPH associate professor and project lead. “A key goal of this program is teaching students to prioritize equity in their data analysis, and to be mindful of who was recruited into their studies. Data collection is so important because it impacts everything that happens in a study later on — all the downstream effects start there. The data impacts all of the final results and conclusions, so it’s important to be very thoughtful and deliberate at the outset.”

In addition to developing research skills in equitable data science, participants will explore equity-oriented research questions about adolescent development using data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. Weekly workshops will provide technical training on topics ranging from statistics and machine learning to large-scale programming, while bi-weekly seminars and professional development events will provide students with an opportunity to hear from researchers about their work on social and health inequities.

The program culminates in a public-facing event, offering students a chance to present their work to the community and engage in a dialogue around diversity, equity, and inclusion. All research work developed by the students will also be placed on publicly available software.

“Our plan is to have all of the work developed by the students, whether its software, code, slides, whatever it may be, put into a public repository, so it’s out there and available to the public to access,” Fiecas added.  “Their work won’t be held within the confines of someone’s laptop — it will be out there in the community, hopefully helping to shape someone else’s future research.”

The program is scheduled to run from June 3-August 9, 2024. Anyone with questions about the program or the application process is invited to reach out to Fiecas at

Applications can be submitted online and are due by January 31, 2024 at 11:59 PM.

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