At a ceremony on April 4, Chapman University expanded its science learning opportunities thanks to a donation from Experian. The $750,000 pledge will create the Experian Assistant Professorship in Machine Learning.
“We are grateful for the generosity of Experian and excited to be able to put their gift to use immediately to expand machine learning opportunities in our science programs,” said Andrew Lyon, Ph.D., dean of the Schmid College of Science and Technology at the event. “It’s a unique partnership that takes advantage of Experian’s core competencies as well as Chapman’s strengths.”
The Experian Assistant Professorship in Machine Learning will be held by Erik Linstead, Ph.D., the director of the undergraduate computing programs in computer science, software engineering, and data analytics. He is also the principal investigator of Chapman’s Machine Learning and Assistive Technology Lab (MLAT).
At the MLAT Lab, Chapman researchers leverage big data and technology to solve problems of social significance, with a focus on autism spectrum disorder. The projects vary from deep learning to virtual reality to bioinformatics. The researchers in the MLAT Lab have expertise in the areas of predictive analytics, statistics, software engineering, molecular biology and artificial intelligence.
“By the numbers, MLAT is a pretty interesting place,” said Dr. Linstead. “We’re about 62 percent female. The national average for women in computer science is 16 percent so I am very very proud of that fact. I think it is a part that we are looking at computer science differently and that we’re really looking to see how computation sciences can solve socially significant problems. What Experian’s gift will do is help Chapman to expand our reach into the data analytics discipline and provide more resources for students who are interested in these areas. The assistant professorship is an honor – Experian’s gift is transformational for the MLAT Lab.”
Chapman and Experian have a long relationship that began with traditional internships for graduate students working in the area of data science. This blossomed into an innovative program that also embedded a faculty member within Experian to better understand the types of problems faced in industry in order to better shape the curriculum in the data science programs at Chapman. Over time, this matured into a partnership founded on the idea that machine learning, both in industry and academia, can be used to change lives for the better.
“Frankly, we use data in ways to create products for money for the corporations, but we don’t do enough investing in companies and institutions that use data for social significance and change. That’s why we found what Erik was doing with the MLAT lab to be particularly touching to us,” said Guy Abramo, President of Consumer Business for Experian.
In addition to the assistant professorship pledge, in 2015 and 2013 Experian gave Chapman a combined total of $450,000 to support the MLAT Lab, as well as scholarships in the Computational and Data Science (CADS) graduate program. In this capacity, then student, and now computer science faculty member, Elizabeth Stevens became an Experian Scholar in Computational and Data Science, reinforcing the long-standing partnership between Experian and Chapman in producing leaders in the field of big data.
Additionally, in Chapman’s recent burst of growth in the sciences, the University has added a data analytics undergraduate degree making it one of the few universities in the nation that offers a program that combines the computation programs with business school acumen to create a hybrid degree where students can learn to manage the computer infrastructure of a business. Chapman’s partnership over the years with Experian is an example of employing this knowledge in a real life application.