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Science built & driven by data

The Virginia Tech College of Science is fueled by data and focused on new insights and better decisions that improve lives.

Science doesn’t exist in silos. It can’t. The world’s intractable problems don’t contain themselves to neat boundaries — they span industries, nations, and scientific disciplines.

Addressing society’s needs can only be achieved through a convergence of deep know-how that comes from a variety of sci­entific fields. It also takes a willingness to work together in new ways, with new people. It takes a drive to innovate and the courage to disrupt the way things have been before.

The College of Science is committed to ad­dressing today’s challenges in ways that make an impact in the real world. The waves of data now accumulating at companies, universities, and government agencies cannot help with these challenges until the data is channeled into wiser courses of action.

Our research and teaching have been re­shaped to be fueled by data and focused on decisions. Traditional disciplines are being reimagined and recombined because this is the only way to truly understand and address the problems affecting the world.

The boundaries of the very college itself are being expanded — figuratively and literal­ly — and throughout the next few pages, you will see exactly that.

At Virginia Tech's burgeoning Health Sci­ence Campus in Roanoke, Alexandra Hanlon is heading the newly formed Center for Bio­statistics and Health Data Science. Here, ex­perts in biostatistics will design experiments, collect and analyze data, and help interpret the results. Biostatistical collaboration enhances research on dozens of important health topics being addressed at Virginia Tech, including ag­ing, sleep, stress, obesity, and more.

In the fall of 2019, the inaugural class in a new data analytics and applied statistics master’s degree program began in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. The program teaches important data analytic skills to ear­ly and mid-career professionals who want to enhance their careers. It also helps address the national shortage of experts in data sci­ence. This effort is being headed by three-time Hokie alumnus Tom Woteki.

Both of these new partnerships also plan to work closely with the new Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, and part­ner with agencies, industry, and individuals around the globe.

In Blacksburg, the college continues to expand its roster of world-leading experts in data and decision-making. It has organized new majors around modeling and data ana­lytics, as well as behavioral decision sciences.

Our relatively new computational modeling and data analytics major now draws more ap­plicants and enrolls more students than many well-established programs that have been around for decades. Its students have worked on real-world problems such as helping the American Red Cross get desperately needed blood supplies to combat zones and optimizing supply chain logistics for GE Aviation.

Data analytics also allows better under­standing of how to maintain healthy wa­ter systems, track the efficacy of vaccines against contagious diseases, and interpret the history of the Earth to predict the future.

The College of Science is applying math­ematical models to help find innovative ways to fight the spread of malaria. And its scien­tists are tracking how earthquake patterns and volatility relate to fracking.

We can also crack the mysteries of how continental faults move and form. We also can mitigate the human bias of our work, to better it, ourselves, and the world.

The scope of what is possible is growing. Cloud computing, processing power, and predictive modeling have reached a stage where what was unimaginable a few years ago is now within reach. But as much as machines can “learn,” it still takes human expertise and insight to make decisions that ultimately change lives.

With data driving nearly every scientific field, the college is pushing to infuse every stu­dent with the fundamental data literacy they need to become essential and highly sought employees. With your support for faculty, stu­dents, and programs, the College of Science can become a global leader — providing solu­tions for today and leaders for tomorrow — in fields that are transforming the world.