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HomeTech$3 million is donated by MassMutual to the faculty of computing and data sciences.

$3 million is donated by MassMutual to the faculty of computing and data sciences.

The second gift from the insurer to CDS will fund studies into safe data usage.


MassMutual, a Fortune 500 life insurance company, has donated $3 million to Boston University’s Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences (CDS) to fund research on ethical uses of data.


The donation will also support long-term programming and the CDS endowment. It comes after the business gave the university’s newest academic division a $1 million contribution last year.


“The [new] gift will be crucial in supporting translational research by faculty and students—work focused on how to integrate results from basic research in real-world products and systems,” says Azer Bestavros, BU associate provost for computing and data sciences. Through government-sponsored research, which often favours long-term basic research, this type of applied work is difficult to fund.


The donation from MassMutual will help CDS achieve one of its main goals, which is to increase computer engagement.


By exposing students who are underrepresented in STEM fields and computing, such as women, Blacks, Latin Americans, and first-generation college students, Bestavros, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and a professor of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences, says, “Our motto here is to ‘widen the pipeline and close the skills gap.” “By providing them with training and internship opportunities, we are determined to ensure that these students are not at a disadvantage owing to a lack of prior exposure. The MassMutual grant will assist with funding for many of our initiatives in that area, which are primarily undertaken through BU Spark! [a computer science and engineering experience-based learning lab, presently located at CDS].


Robert A. Brown, president of BU, states, “We are incredibly appreciative for the dedication MassMutual has made to the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences. Our researchers’ efforts to broaden access to the field and apply study findings to urgent concerns will be boosted by this new, extremely kind gift.


According to Adam Fox, head of data at MassMutual, the company has started working with BU on multiple initiatives with financing from the gift. A couple of these involve “transfer learning,” where academics use MassMutual insights on US health and longevity to people throughout the world. Another one is developing data-driven methods to spot cyber dangers.


According to Fox, “data are essential to the insurance and financial services industries.” It is used in all business activities at MassMutual to assess risk, streamline processes, and enhance investment portfolios. To guarantee that this data, as well as the decisions that the data informs, are of the highest calibre and produce the best results, effective data governance is important.


“MassMutual’s beliefs and strategic objectives are aligned with BU’s approach to data science and governance. For instance, BU places a strong emphasis on an interdisciplinary strategy that encourages team research. We are particularly enthusiastic about the collaboration between CDS and the [BU School of] Law because we think it will be helpful in creating responsible data usage procedures and rules, according to Fox. “We are grateful for the efforts BU has made to recruit students from previously underrepresented groups. This is a fresh pool of talent that can support our continued success in the digital age.


The CDS Hub for Civic Tech Impact’s work will be supported by MassMutual’s contribution, which will also support other studies. The CDS Hub, according to its director, associate professor of CDS Mayank Varia, “explores the social, ethical, legal, and commercial ramifications of data science.”


According to Varia, “Our staff and students engage in cutting-edge research on how we might use data to empower individuals and foster a more democratic society.” We also recognise, forewarn about, and make an effort to mitigate data science practises that could be harmful to people and underrepresented groups.


The development of democratic computing techniques by the Hub, according to Bestavros, is “increasingly crucial for a healthy civic society, as well as for the evaluation of these technologies in legal, regulatory, and social contexts. Companies like MassMutual, which is attempting to properly exploit data through, for instance, its three-year-old operation “to improve insights and decision-making across the organisation by democratising data and AI models,” are particularly interested in this area.


The donation comes as BU prepares for the upcoming opening of the new Center for Computing & Data Sciences, which will serve as CDS’ future home. The Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering will be housed in the 19-story, 305-foot centre, which is the biggest structure on campus and also houses the University’s departments of mathematics, statistics, and computer science.


The first partnership between CDS and Mass Mutual, a $1 million grant last year, allowed for the appointment of a professor with business experience for teaching and research, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and the provision of six $10,000 stipends for undergraduate students.

Himanshu Mahawar

Himanshu Mahawar is the Editor and Founder at Flaunt Weekly.

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