Training for Tomorrow

An image of 28 people posing together for a group photo as part of the Data Science Fellowship Program's third session.

The third session of the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program (DSFP), hosted jointly by NOAO and the University of Arizona, took place this week in Tucson. The Data Science Fellowship Program is a two-year training program supported primarily by the LSST Corporation through its Enabling Science Initiative, with additional contributions from Northwestern University.

The program is designed to teach astronomy students essential skills that will prepare them to work with big data from LSST. It provides a valuable complement to current graduate programs in astronomy, which typically do not include data science coursework. The future of astronomy is inexorably linked to big data, so it’s critical that tomorrow’s astronomers develop skills to help them navigate the vast landscape of information produced by LSST.

This week’s session in Tucson focused specifically on databases and scalable programming. Now that the course is complete, participants will return to their graduate studies with new skills that will benefit themselves and their institutions. In the words of program director Lucianne Walkowicz, “While we can’t teach every student in astronomy, we are empowering our students not only to learn these skills but to go out and teach their peers too.”

In return for hosting the DSFP on its campus, the University of Arizona was given the opportunity to select four students to audit this session. The University of Arizona chose the students based on their interest in acquiring data science skills and the likelihood that they will apply these skills to their future studies. As a result of this course, UA will boast its own core group of experts in the use of databases and parallel programming that enables analyses to scale to large datasets like those produced by LSST. Additionally, the students will have access to social media channels shared by DSFP students so they can continue to be part of the larger community of future LSST users.

The DSFP is especially grateful for Dara Norman’s (NOAO) leadership in coordinating this week’s session.