Program Overview: Why Apply to DSPG?

Delivered by the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, SDAL's Data Science for the Public Good program (DSPG) offers a range of unique opportunities to aspiring scholars and future data science practitioners.

Student fellows receive mentorship from SDAL graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.

Make a real impact. Our student fellows participate in all the laboratory’s project activities—research that’s fundamentally transforming the way we understand the world. As part of the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, our projects help guide the creation of resilient cities, inform effective policy responses to public health crises, and uncover key factors that drive industrial innovation.

  • "All of our projects involved interesting issues with a clear need for statistical expertise, and a direct impact on the communities we worked with."

Diversify your expertise. Our students work in cross-disciplinary teams, closely supported by graduate teaching and research assistants and supervised by faculty. Your colleagues and mentors will be thought leaders in a wide variety of fields: statistics, social, behavioral and economic sciences, computer science, simulation, data analytics, information technology policy, and infrastructural resilience.

  • "We never felt limited by our individual skill sets because collaboration provided so many natural opportunities for us to learn from one another. Colleagues with a background in statistics would teach those of us with experience in computer programming and vice versa."

Form professional connections. Our laboratory is located in Arlington County, just a few miles west of Washington DC. Student fellows will have the opportunity to interact with decision-makers in industry and government agencies and attend policy events on Capitol Hill and the surrounding area.

  • "The interdisciplinary work environment made it easy to connect and have conversations. If I wanted to ask a question about another field of research, there was always a door I could knock on."

Program Details: Opportunities and Resources in DSPG

DSPG Research Program

  • The DSPG Undergraduate Program runs eleven weeks, from May 29 to August 10, 2018, in Arlington, VA
  • The DSPG Fellow Program runs thirteen weeks from May 21 to August 17, 2018, in Arlington, VA
  • Team research with dedicated graduate students, postdocs and research faculty
  • Individualized mentors working closely with students
  • Professional training through development workshops and seminars
  • Poster presentations
  • Technical report and publication opportunities

Opportunities and Resources

  • Meaningful research that addresses social policy and industrial challenges using methods from statistics and social science; see examples of DSPG research projects here.
  • Work in a vertically and horizontally integrated team environment—our project groups combine diverse levels of experience (students, post-docs, researchers, and federal leaders) with a range of academic perspectives (data science, statistics, and social sciences.)
  • An introduction to essential tools for scientific and statistical computing: Hadoop, R, Python, GIS, other software tools as needed for projects
  • An opportunity to pursue community-based research projects which inform ethical policymaking and address real-world problems
  • Access to a state-of-the-art parallel cluster with high-performance interconnect in the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech’s High-Performance Computing Facility
  • Interdisciplinary projects with mentors from industry and government agencies
  • Engaging with practitioners and researchers through SDAL’s Visiting Scholar program, which includes economists, statisticians, and other social science researchers with diverse federal and private sector experience
  • Direct interaction with industry and government agencies through field trips and regular policy events on Capitol Hill and the surrounding area

Application Requirements: What You Need to Succeed

The DSPG program is open to three groups of students:

  • Undergraduate students currently enrolled at Virginia Tech can learn more about their application process by clicking here.
  • Graduate students currently enrolled at any U.S. university can apply for our funded fellowship positions by following the DSPG Fellow application process outlined below.
  • Previously enrolled DSPG students interested in taking part in the program again should email Dr. Gizem Korkmaz at to inquire about current opportunities.

DSPG Fellow Applications

To apply for the DSPG Fellow Program, you must complete the following steps by January 31, 2018.

If you have any questions about the DSPG Fellow application process, Dr. Shernita Lee at or (540)-231-7531.

DSPG Fellow Requirements

DSPG fellows will be expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Have a completed bachelor's degree in any discipline from an accredited academic institution or be actively enrolled as a master's or PhD student at a U.S. university. 
  • Demonstrate an academic background in some area of social sciences, economics, engineering, life sciences, or physical sciences
  • Possess an intense curiosity about the social structure of the world, policy issues, and providing evidenced-based analyses to inform policymakers
  • Demonstrate necessary qualities for working both independently and within a diverse team structure: high motivation, good communication skills, strong work ethic
  • An interest and some evidence of proficiency in data analysis and statistics
  • Experience with statistical software systems, programming, and databases

DSPG Undergraduate Program Applications

To apply for DSPG, undergraduate students enrolled at Virginia Tech must complete the following steps:

If you have any questions about the DSPG undergraduate program application process, please contact Dr. Shernita Lee at or (540)-231-7531.

DSPG Undergraduate Program Requirements

Undergraduate students will need to enroll in the following courses at Virginia Tech's National Capital Region Campus during the Summer I and Summer II sessions. 

Summer I

  • UH 4504: Honors Discovery and Innovation Studio (3 credits)
  • UH 4994: Honors Undergraduate Research (3 credits)

Summer II

  • UH 4504: Honors Discovery and Innovation Studio (3 credits)
  • UH 4994: Honors Undergraduate Research (3 credits)

Program Sponsors: Who We Work With

Every DSPG research project begins with a collaboration. While our sponsor organizations face unique challenges, they share a common commitment: leveraging data science to better serve the public good.

dspg sponsor logos

  • For a full list of our lab's collaborators, click here.

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