This is a time of extraordinary technological progress, particularly in data science and artificial intelligence. However, economic and other challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have delayed the benefits of this progress for significant sections of the population. In Hawaii, progress in data science has the potential to address critical needs in power, transportation, healthcare and communications. But to benefit the population at large, technological progress must take economic, business and social factors into consideration.

UHM Descartes is a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It will develop an innovative graduate program that brings together engineering, computer science, social science, business and medicine to harness the transformative power of data science. This cross-disciplinary program anticipates training a new generation of 61 graduate students, including 41 funded trainees. The program incorporates novel mechanisms such as tailored course modules to better prepare the trainees with the unique skills needed for bringing about an inclusive data revolution and equips them with a broader perspective on the interplay between areas traditionally treated disparately in the a STEM graduate curriculum.

Harnessing the data revolution effectively in these areas requires tackling dynamic and/or incomplete data from disparate sources, refining decisions with new data, and supplementing algorithms with scientific and social domain knowledge. NRT trainees will work in cohort teams on fundamental and applied data science research, applying to:

  1. Decarbonization of the electricity and transportation sectors in Hawaii, using data from our network of local stakeholders, utilities and the “living lab” that the University campus has become;

  2. Healthcare, leveraging possibly the largest current pediatric electrocardiogram dataset to bring about novel diagnosis approaches, as well as through research that models epidemics;

  3. Next-generation wireless systems with enhanced communication, novel sensing, resiliency and efficiency.

The traineeship model will develop and deploy compact modules across courses to personalize instruction and prepare each trainee with skills tailored to their prior experience and future career goals. Outreach activities to Native Hawaiians, women, and members of the military will leverage and amplify institutional programs to broaden participation in the STEM workforce.

The NSF Research Traineeship program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs. UHM Descartes is jointly funded by the NRT program and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).