The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Duffield’s data dreams

Photo by Provided

Engineering professor Nick Duffield was named the director of the A&M Data science earlier this month.

The Texas A&M Institute of Data Science gained a new leader when electrical and computer engineering professor Nick Duffield was named director this month.
Created at the end of 2017, TAMIDS exists to promote data science research collaboration and educational opportunities within the university. Duffield brings both industry and teaching experience to his new role and hopes to unite various fields where data science is currently being used.
“One of the things that attracted me to A&M was the amount of activity in data science and potential for growth, particularly because A&M is very strong in some areas which are just poised to take off,” Duffield said. “As soon as I got here, I started trying to build community in data science and connect people who were doing related work but might not be aware of each other.”
After spending most of his career working for AT&T Labs, Duffield came to A&M in 2014, focusing his personal research on algorithm design and the practical application of what he considers to be A&M’s core areas of research strength — transportation, precision agriculture, soil and crop science and energy.
“I’ve always found a lot of satisfaction in putting these pieces together — joining the theoretical to the practical,” Duffield said. “It can be hard work making that connection, but if you do it, the payoff is great. If I can do that in my new role at TAMIDS in a way that leverages Texas A&M’s strengths, that is going to be very satisfying.”
Dilma Da Silva, computer science and engineering department head and interim director of TAMIDS, has worked with Duffield since they both arrived at A&M. They have hosted events such as the Big Data Workshop which helped researchers become aware of other people’s work and potential collaborations.
“We both came from leadership positions in industry research,” Da Silva said. “When we first met, we agreed to join efforts in understanding TAMU’s capabilities in big data. With the increasing proliferation of data and data-driven decision making, the field of data science became central to the pursuit of innovation and scientific discovery in all areas of knowledge. Texas A&M has a strong portfolio in data science, and the institute will allow us to move from excellence to prominence.”
Da Silva said Duffield’s “leadership experience, world-class expertise, outstanding track record as a researcher and excellent teamwork abilities” make him a good fit for the director position.
Duffield said his main role lies in bridging the interests and talents of researchers working in the multidisciplinary field of data science across the university as well as promoting education and outreach in data science.
“I think the key thing I want to do is to help Texas A&M have a distinctive, unique position within the broad data science ecosystem,” Duffield said. “Let’s grow things in a way which makes the most use of A&M’s strengths, so we can position ourselves to receive significant research funding because we have all the bases covered and can make the case that we are the best place to do both research and education in this area.”

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