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Data Science for the Public Good

Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG)

One summer. Seven Projects. And twelve students to make a difference for the public good.

Richmond City skyline at sunset.


Professional Growth, Research Training, & Policy Impact

through experiential learning




*** This program has been modified in response to the COVID-19 crisis and will now be administered online

The Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) young scholars program is a summer program offered by the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with partners at the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute's Social and Decision Analytics division.

The program allows DSPG young scholars to collaborate on addressing current social issues at the local, state, and federal levels by conducting research at the intersection of statistics, computation, and the social sciences to determine how information generated within every community can be leveraged to improve quality of life and inform public policy. 

During the summer of 2021, young scholar research teams will remotely collaborate on projects that address state, federal, and local government challenges around critical social issues relevant in the world today. 

The VT-DSPG Young Scholars program recruits both graduate students and undergraduate students interested in the intersection of data science and public policy. Undergraduates who join the program will intern under program faculty and acquire and develop programming and statistical skills through the training provided by the DSPG summer program. Graduate students who join the program will become fellows and use their existing quantitative, statistical, computational, and programming skills to help each other and lead DSPG undergraduate interns with guidance from Virginia Tech faculty. The intern and fellow teams will use these skills to work on specific DSPG research projects fulfilling the program's learning by doing objective. A stipend will be paid to all DSPG fellows and interns selected to be in the summer program.

For more information, please email

  • Location: The summer 2021 cohort will be virtual, using platforms such as Zoom. All participants must have ongoing access to reliable internet services and hardware to access and work with Virginia Tech servers. 
  • Open to six VT undergraduates + four VT graduate students
  • Dates:
    • Graduate fellows - May 24 - August 6, 2021
    • Undergraduate interns - June 1 - August 6, 2021
  • Professional training through virtual development workshops and seminars
  • Individualized mentors working with students
  • Technical report and publication opportunities
  • Potential opportunity to remotely interact with decision-makers in industry and government agencies at state, local, and regional levels
  • Horizontally and vertically integrated team research with dedicated graduate students, postdocs, and faculty in collaboration with sponsors from local, state, and federal governments
  • Expert training in essential tools for statistical computing, including R, Python, GIS, and databases

At the end of the summer program, scholars have an opportunity to present their research at the DSPG Annual Symposium. This signature event brings together a community of scientists, scholars, researchers, and policy-makers hoping to gain insight on using data science to positively transform the areas in which we live, work, and play. The Annual Symposium takes place in early August and features several keynote speakers and poster presentations by the DSPG young scholars. Prior keynote speakers have included:

  • Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician of the United States, Office of Management and Budget
  • Catherine Woteki, former Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics and former Chief Scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and currently, Distinguished Institute Professor at the Biocomplexity Institute
  • Ron Jarmin, Deputy Director, U.S. Census Bureau
  • Phil Bourne, Dean, University of Virginia School of Data Science
  • Kenneth Prewitt, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the President

The 2020 young scholar project highlight videos are available on YouTube.


        Meet our Program Leaders!

Susan Chen portrait.

Susan Chen
DSPG Faculty Fellow & Project Director

Anubhab Gupta headshot

Anubhab Gupta
DSPG Faculty Fellow

Brianna Posada headshot.

Brianna Posadas
DSPG Faculty Fellow

Isabel Bradburn headshot

Isabel Bradburn
DSPG Faculty Consultant

Conaway Haskins portrait.

Conaway Haskins
Adjunct Professor, Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability

Chanita Holmes headshot

Chanita Holmes
DSPG Faculty Fellow

Jeff Alwang

Jeff Alwang
DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Andrew Katz is a 2021 Virginia Tech DSPG Faculty Affiliate.

Andrew Katz, Virginia Tech DSPG Faculty Affiliate.

Andrew Katz
DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Sarah Melissa Witiak
DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Elinor Benami headshot

Elinor Benami
DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Mulu Kahsai Virginia Tech DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Mulu Kahsai Virginia Tech DSPG Faculty Affiliate

Mulugeta Kahsai
DSPG Faculty Affiliate