NSF Taps Georgia Tech for Foundational Data Science Initiative

The Georgia Institute of Technology will direct a new cross-disciplinary institute established with a $1.5 million National Science Foundation award. The new Transdisciplinary Research Institute for Advancing Data Science (TRIAD) will bring together statistics, mathematics, and theoretical computer science to further develop the foundations of data science.

Efforts to launch the theory-focused institute were supported by the Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS) with faculty from the colleges of Computing, Engineering, and Sciences.

Xiaoming Huo, professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE) and principal investigator, will serve as the executive director of TRIAD.

“The establishment of TRIAD is tremendously beneficial considering data science is a phenomenon that brings with it so many opportunities. There is a lot of research that needs to be conducted in this emerging field, and we will focus on building the theoretical foundations to establish the principles of data science,” said Huo.

“With the launch of TRIAD and the already well-established NSF South Big Data Innovation Hub, Georgia Tech plays a key role nationally in data science from theory to applications to building community partnerships,” said Srinivas Aluru, co-executive director of IDEaS and a professor in the School of Computational Science and Engineering.

Dana Randall, fellow co-executive director and professor in the School of Computer Science said, “Advances in data science foundations can lead to revolutionary new solutions for analyzing data. TRIAD will accelerate this research by bridging fields to expand our collective capabilities.”

Dana Randall and Srinivas Aluru

Both Aluru and Randall serve as co-principal investigators of TRIAD, along with Prasad Tetali, a professor in the School of Mathematics and School of Computer Science, and Jeff Wu, the Coca-Cola Chair in Engineering Statistics and a professor in ISyE.

“The emphasis on theoretical foundations (of data science) offers a great opportunity for mathematicians to actively engage with other scientists and help make breakthroughs in this fast growing interdisciplinary field," said Tetali.

The analysis of massive, dynamic, noisy, and complex data arising in virtually every sphere of human activity is a pressing problem of our time. NSF is responding by dedicating $17.7 million in funding for 12 Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS) institutes, including TRIAD. Encompassing 14 institutions in 11 states, these projects will promote long-term research and training activities in data science that transcend disciplinary boundaries.

“Data is accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and innovation,” said Jim Kurose, NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “These new TRIPODS projects will help build the theoretical foundations of data science that will enable continued data-driven discovery and breakthroughs across all fields of science and engineering.”    

According to NSF, the TRIPODS awards will enable data-driven discovery through major investments in state-of-the-art mathematical and statistical tools, better data mining and machine learning approaches, enhanced visualization capabilities and more. They also support innovative educational pathways to train the next generation of data scientists.

TRIAD will bring together senior, mid-career and junior faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and data science practitioners at large using focused working groups, national and international workshops, and organized innovation labs. It will build an intellectual atmosphere to connect stakeholders from across the nation and the world on a regular basis.

Initially, TRIAD will focus on four research topics:

  • Advanced mathematical modeling for contemporary data
  • New inferential strategies that can be both scalable
  • Decentralized efficient optimization tools with theoretical guarantees
  • Applications in the context of large datasets from domains including biology, design, manufacturing, logistics, and sustainability

TRIAD will launch with 39 committed faculty members from ISyE, the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, and the schools of Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and Biological Sciences.


Jennifer Salazar, IDEaS Director of Communications and Grant Writing