A Mathematics Pipeline to Student Success in Data Analytics through Course-Based Undergraduate Research
The Mathematics Enthusiast
This paper reports on Data Analytics Research (DAR), a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) in which undergraduate students conduct data analysis research on open realworld problems for industry, university, and community clients. We describe how DAR, offered by the Mathematical Sciences Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), is an essential part of an early low-barrier pipeline into data analytics studies and careers for diverse students. Students first take a
... undational course, typically Introduction to Data Mathematics, that teaches linear algebra, data analytics, and R programming simultaneously using a project-based learning (PBL) approach. Then in DAR, students work in teams on open applied data analytics research problems provided by the clients. We describe the DAR organization which is inspired in part by agile software development practices. Students meet for coaching sessions with instructors multiple times a week and present to clients frequently. In a fully remote format during the pandemic, the students continued to be highly successful and engaged in COVID-19 research producing significant results as indicated by deployed online applications, refereed papers, and conference presentations. Formal evaluation shows that the pipeline of the single on-ramp course followed by DAR addressing real-world problems with societal benefits is highly effective at developing students' data analytics skills, advancing creative problem solvers who can work both independently and in teams, and attracting students to further studies and careers in data science.