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Program Overview

The Data Science for the Public Good (DSPG) Young Scholars program is an immersive summer program that engages students from across Iowa to work together on projects that address local and state government challenges around critical social issues relevant in the world today. DSPG resident scholars conduct research at the intersection of statistics, computation, and the social sciences to determine how information generated within every community can be leveraged to improve quality of life and inform public policy. This program provides an excellent opportunity to develop a professional portfolio, expand your networks, and learn about the
application of data science.

Iowa capitol buildingThe summer 2020 program runs from May 26th to August 7th for graduate fellows and from June 1st to August 7th for undergraduate interns. This program will be facilitated through online instruction in partnership with our national team.  Working in teams, fellows and interns collaborate with project stakeholders and research faculty across the Iowa State University and the University of Virginia data science community. Research teams combine disciplines including statistics, data science, and the social and behavioral sciences to address complex problems proposed by local, state, and non-profit agencies. Students work on multiple projects and interact with different scholars, faculty, and sponsors over the course of the training program.

To learn about previous projects, see DSPG projects and young scholars from the 2019 program at the University of Virginia. 

Fellows and interns are selected through a competitive state-wide search. Graduate fellows should possess strong quantitative, statistical, computational and programming skills. They lead, support, and guide undergraduate students together with ISU faculty and research associates. Undergraduate students acquire experience in programming and statistical analysis through a combination of both formal training and practical application to the real-world problems of our community and agency partners.

Program Highlights

The DSPG program equips a new generation of emerging scientists with the skills needed to inform intelligent governmental policy and decision-making.

  • Horizontally and vertically integrated team research with dedicated graduate students and faculty in collaboration with sponsors from local, state, and\or federal agencies
  • Expert training in foundational tools for quantitative computing and data visualization, including R, GIS, Tableau, and databases
  • Professional training through workshops, seminars, and career talks
  • Individualized mentors working closely with students
  • Technical report and publication opportunities
  • Opportunity to interact with decision-makers in local communities, non-profits, and state government agencies


Group Brainstorming

Annual Symposium

At the end of the summer program, scholars have an opportunity to present their research at the DSPG Annual Symposium, a signature event of the DSPG Forum that brings together a community of scientists, scholars, researchers, and policy-makers hoping to gain insight on using data science to positively transform the areas in which we live, work, and play.

The Annual Symposium takes place in early August and features several keynote speakers and poster presentations by the young scholars. Prior keynote speakers have included:

  • Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician of the United States, Office of Management and Budget
  • Catherine Woteki, former Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics and former Chief Scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and currently, Distinguished Institute Professor at the Biocomplexity Institute
  • Ron Jarmin, Deputy Director, U.S. Census Bureau
  • Phil Bourne, Dean, University of Virginia School of Data Science

The 2019 symposium keynote speakers and the young scholar poster speed session are available on YouTube.

A Coalition for the Public Good

This program is led by a coalition of five land-grant universities in three states: Oregon State University, Iowa State University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, and Virginia State University.

Funded in part by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the DSPG program addresses the USDA’s, Research, Education, and Economics Action Plan and NIFA’s research, education and extension goals for training, workforce development, and evidence-based decision-making. These efforts support our shared goal of promoting rural prosperity.


In light of COVID-19, Iowa State’s Data Science for the Public Good Young Scholars program will be provided through virtual instruction for the summer of 2020.


StudentsStudent Application

Our student application is now closed for the summer of 2020. Please check back here to apply to be a part of the ISU Data Science for the Public Good summer 2021 program.  



Previous Student ProjectsPresentation

In the past few years, students have done some incredible work within the DSPG programs. Learn more about what projects students have worked on in Iowa and across the country!



Community Applicationcomputer room

Our community application is now closed for the summer of 2020. If you are interested in being part of a community project for the summer of 2021, please email dspg2020@iastate.edu or check back here in the fall!