Data X initiative integrates computer science and other disciplines

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The university’s launch of the Data X initiative, which aims to grow the number of faculty in computer and data science fields, will create interdisciplinary, cross-college opportunities for students, according to an announcement from Provost Patrick Farrell in an email this morning.

The initiative, a response to “soaring student demand” for computer science and other data-heavy disciplines, will see faculty recruitment in the area of core computer science, as well as the cross-disciplinary subjects that are within the focus of Data X: business, digital media and bioengineering. The added faculty will bring additional expertise in the given fields, as well as increase the resources available to teach these subjects.

“In the course of the last five years, enrollment in (computer science and data intensive courses in other fields) has increased by more than 160 percent, and we anticipate that demand will only increase in the years to come,” Farrell wrote.

The university’s commitment to Data X also stems from a national demand for “computational thinking” in a breadth of disciplines. The existence of today’s “sea of data” is what drives innovation in many fields, and analytics serve to help solve complex problems and understand data in broader senses, Farrell wrote.

He said that in the coming years, the academic community at large will have the chance for integration of computational literacy with disciplinary offerings.

Funding for Data X will come from university resources and fundraising.

Data X will be spearheaded by Daniel Lopresti, a professor and the chair of the computer science and engineering department. Lopresti will leave his current position as interim dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and will begin directing Data X on July 1.

“(Lopresti) is an ideal choice to lead Data X and we are fortunate to be able to draw on his expertise and proven leadership for this critical project,” Farrell wrote. “(Data X) is about our continued efforts to both create ever-more valuable and essential learning experiences for our students and to make Lehigh a more impactful, innovative institution of higher education.”

He said administration believes Data X will provide the university an opportunity to combine current and future expertise in computer science with the variety of strengths in other disciplines. The goal is to position Lehigh as “leader in this exciting, important and rapidly growing field.”

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