SBU hitting its STRIDE, with NSF’s help

STRIDE right: Stony Brook University professors involved in the STRIDE effort, including IACS Director Robert Harrison (top left) and Alda Center Associate Director Christine O'Connell (bottom right).

With Big Data piling up at an almost incalculable rate, a seven-figure National Science Foundation grant will help prepare Stony Brook University’s next generation of scientists for complex decision-making scenarios.

A $3 million NSF Research Traineeship grant, awarded to SBU’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science, will benefit students across a wide range of departments and disciplines, SBU said this week, including those studying mathematics, biomedical informatics, computer science and ecology, among other subjects, as well as learners in the university’s School of Journalism and School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

The award actually targets the IACS’s Science Training & Research to Inform Decisions effort. STRIDE is an innovative training program designed to give science, technology, engineering and mathematics students “unique interdisciplinary skills” that will ultimately help them translate complex data into smarter decisions and sound policies, according to SBU.

That improved decision-making ability is “essential for high-impact science,” noted IACS Director Robert Harrison.

“This need cuts across many disciplines,” Harrison said. “Our team is really excited about how this project will transform both our university and especially the careers and leadership opportunities for our students.”

Abilities strengthened through the STRIDE effort include data analytics, visualization and a host of decision-support skills that are not always explicitly taught on the university level, or any other level, including understanding the sometimes-varied perspectives of multiple stakeholders and “science communication,” according to the university.

STRIDE training encompasses such next-level learning areas as spatial data, advanced visual-data analytics and data-centric computing. It also touches on the functionality of modern media, through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and works to arrange internships at relevant agencies and corporations including IBM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as U.S. Department of Energy facilities such as frequent SBU collaborator Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“We are thrilled to be part of this exciting collaboration and (to) work with fellows to help them communicate complex data science to decision makers, especially on health and environmental issues,” noted Alda Center Associate Director Christine O’Connell.

O’Connell, also an associate professor in the university’s journalism school, noted the critical importance of well-informed decision-making skills in the health and ecology fields.

“It is crucial that policy and management decisions (regarding healthcare and the environment) be based on sound science,” she said.

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