2021 NextGen Data Science Day Conference

The 2021 NextGen Data Science Day (DSD) was held virtually using the event platform Whova on Saturday, November 6, 2021 https://nestat.org/nextgen/dsd2021/. The NextGen Committee, led by Dr. Abidemi Adeniji, aims to support the next generation of data scientists and statisticians.

In keeping with our mission, the DSD conference provides a platform of resources to help guide students and early career professionals. Attendees gained an improved understanding of the field and its opportunities, which included meeting, discussing, and interviewing with professionals in the field and industry of data science.

Over one hundred and fifty registered for the conference, with nearly one hundred students registering from over forty different schools, including seven middle and high schools as well as several universities from outside the United States. Nearly fifty registrants signed up to become new members of the New England Statistical Society, forty of which were student registrations. Four organizations including Pfizer, the Hartford Steam Boiler, the American Statistical Association, and Sage Therapeutics sponsored the event. Three sponsors had virtual booths setup in the Whova site during the event where attendees could learn about their organization, watch sponsor videos, and meet with representatives to discuss possible career opportunities.

Our conference featured two distinguished keynote speakers. The first was Dr. Cato Laurencin, a designated University Professor at the University of Connecticut, one of only two currently at the school. Dr. Laurencin gave a talk entitled “Regenerative Engineering: the Bold New Convergence Field”. The second Keynote was given by Dr. Dacheng Liu, Vice President and Global Head of Clinical Data Sciences at Boehringer Ingelheim. He presented on “Data Science Applications in Clinical Drug Development”.

In addition to keynote presentations, our event had several different panel sessions throughout the day. In the morning, attendees could attend “What Do Data Scientists Do?”, which featured professionals from various fields who shared their experiences working as data scientists, or “Breakthroughs in COVID-19 Research”, where panelists discussed data science’s role in studying the coronavirus pandemic. In the afternoon, attendees chose from “Building a Career in Data Science”, where speakers discussed searching for a job in data science and gave insights on their own experiences, or “Modern Developments in Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence”, where speakers presented their work on reinforcement learning. We had eighteen speakers from various fields in data science.

Additionally, the poster competition and networking sessions presented opportunities for students and potential employers to meet and interact. Sixteen posters were presented by twenty-one competitors directly on the Whova event page. Following the opening remarks, we were pleased to host a poster session that lasted close to an hour through the Whova app. Twelve posters, involving eighteen participants (some from as far away as Glasgow) were on display, and were graded by eleven judges, who, hailing from both academia and industry, generously contributed their time and crucial feedback to the participants. Awards in professional and graduate categories were announced later in the day, with certificates distributed the following day, along with formal mentions here: https://nestat.org/nextgen/dsd2021/poster_winners2021/.

The session was well attended and generated sufficient interest with award-winners announcing their experience on their personal Twitter feed (for instance, here: https://twitter.com/EnockBugaye/status/1463844204535296001). The session was sponsored by Pfizer and participants were commended on their efforts by the Pfizer representative, Dr. Eve Pickering during her remarks at the sponsor spotlight session. The number of poster teams (and poster participants) has, over the years, been on a steady rise despite a stagnant format. To ensure a variety of flavors, this time, we introduced the option of presenting dashboards for visualizing complex data interactively (and one submission fell in that category). We intend to retain and further that vision, moving forward, as the session prospers.

The conference was organized by the NextGen Committee, along with support from many volunteers and sponsors.

NextGen Website: https://nestat.org/nextgen/

2021 NextGen Data Science Day Website: https://nestat.org/nextgen/dsd2021/