Data Science Institute - What is it?

Filed Under: DataScience

Data Science Institute - What is it?

Colonizing Mars is one research project that you can expect from the Data Science Institute

After a long awaited start, the Data Science Institute is finally getting going.  It has been great to hear from so many friends and colleagues since the announcement, and in most cases I am presented with the same question.

The Data Science Institute - what is it?

That is a great question.  As I get started with this endeavor, part of my initial role is figuring out this question.  What is the Data Science Institute?

For the short answer, the Data Science Institute will focus on the following strategic areas:

  1. Interdisciplinary Faculty Collaboration
  2. Big Data Research Projects
  3. Industry and Government Partnerships
  4. Community Involvement

Each one blurs with the other, but mainly involves interdisciplinary research and analysis to bring MTSU external funding through grants and partnerships.  

1. Interdisciplinary Faculty Collaboration

This focuses on developing a culture that fosters interdisciplinary research at MTSU.   Since so many faculty on campus are looking for ways to partner with individuals on their research, the one area that this can occur is through the data that is shared and analyzed.

How to accomplish interdisciplinary faculty collaboration:

  • Develop an internal advisory board that is comprised of highly interested faculty within the different domains of data science in each of the colleges at MTSU.
  • Communicate and develop opportunities for tenure-track faculty that are interested in big data projects.
  • Identify opportunities for collaboration through events, small groups, other ways that bring active and interested tenure-track faculty together.

2. Big Data Research Projects

There is no easier way to get faculty involvement and hopefully external funding than research projects that promote big data and enable faculty to work together in common research themes.  So far we have Blue Mars and Autonomous Systems, and in the Fall we are looking to identify a big data integrated project (more to come).

What is Blue Mars?


  • What factors go into the development and sustainability of colonizing Mars?
  • What are the socioeconomic, political, and even nutrition ramifications for human life on Mars?
  • All are ideas that faculty have been brainstorming at MTSU and will continue to do under the Data Science Institute.

Autonomous Systems

  • There is more to self-driving cars than just how to go forward. 
    • What is the passenger experience? 
    • What type of infrastructure is needed?
    • What are aspects of autonomous vehicles or drones allow for data analysis and interdisciplinary research?
  • All are good questions that will be answered as more opportunities for reseaerhcin this area comes up through the institute.

Big Data Initiative

  • The best types of analysis is when multiple datasets are fused together.  Whether it is in education, population health, or other real-world examples, a big data intitiative will allow MTSU to be considered the repository for live data within a given area of expertise.

3. Industry and Government Partnerships

Opportunities to partner with companies on big data projects could have a profound effect on the Data Science Institute.  Real-world projects not only gives the University an opportunity for faculty and students but also creates a pipeline for communication and opportunities. Too often companies find it hard to dedicate the resources to big data projects that may not directly fall on their radar, but would be a tremendous value for their organization.  The institute can be a low cost provider of data analysis that allows a company to receive expert analysis at a fraction of what it would cost by hiring individuals or using a third-party consultant.

4. Community Involvement

A key piece to the Institute will be community and university involvement. Although direct measures for success may not be tied to any one particular aspect of this focus area, it does lead to several opportunities that are valuable. For example, by being active in the community it furthers MTSU's place as the source for data science.  It also allows the institute to use data for good.  So, whether it is looking at opportunitites to partner with community entitites or non-profits, or to work with government agencies, there will be a focus to do good and to be a positive aspect of the community.

What do we do now?


First and foremost, we need your help.  Whether you are a student or faculty member at MTSU, let us know if you have any interest in being a part of the Data Science Institute.  We are looking to build our data science team so that we have several individuals ready to be called upon when opportuntities are available.  Second, we need comapnies and government agencies to hear our story and see how we can help partner. 

So, please feel free to email Dr. Charlie Apigain, Interim Director, if you have any interest on either side of the analysis.  The best strategic direction of the institute is to be a resource for students, faculty, the university, and external partners.  We look forward to serving.

For more information, please visit

Email Dr. Charlie Apigian at or call him at 615.631.3592.