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Rice's D2K Lab Offers Companies Free Data Science Assistance

Published Mar 03, 2021 by A.J. Mistretta

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Businesses and organizations in the Houston region looking to better understand their data to help make smarter decisions have a resource at Rice University. 

Rice’s Center for Transforming Data to Knowledge, or D2K Lab, offers a weekly Data Science Consulting Clinic where organizations can get advice on how to collect, analyze and use their business data to plan for the future. It’s just one of the offerings of the center, which also manages its Capstone program that helps companies, researchers in the Texas Medical Center and community organizations run big data projects over the course of a semester or year. 

“These programs offer our students an opportunity to work with real world data science challenges while at the same time helping our partners leverage our student talent, as well as computational and machine learning capabilities, to find the solutions they need,” said Jennifer Sanders, program administrator for the D2K Lab. “Our consulting clinic is great because it’s free, it’s open to the public and it gives organizations and companies ideas on how to start to look at this data they have in new and useful ways.” 

Client organizations can schedule a virtual appointment with students and faculty in the clinic each Monday between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Students use this time to understand the challenges and objectives of the organization and then take the remainder of the week to develop a plan for the client to collect and use the data they need. Clients even get an additional free consultation with their team to help analyze the data they begin to collect. For example, a restaurant manager wanting to project his maintenance costs in the year ahead could work with clinic students to develop a statistical model analyzing previous costs and making projections to assist with the restaurant’s overall budget. 

Before COVID-19, the clinic was a drop-in offering for organizations who were able to visit the Rice campus. Now that it’s gone virtual, the clinic’s reach has expanded to more organizations across the metro area, Sanders said. 

The clinic has assisted more than 100 different organizations over the last two years, and more are learning about the opportunity each week. 

“This work gives our students the experience of working on teams, presenting their findings—all of the things that make them a better professional,” said Shanna Jin, communications specialist with the D2K Lab. “What we’re really doing is training the next generation of real-world problem solvers.” 

The information and data shared with the Lab is protected under sponsored research agreements for Capstone projects and waivers for clinic clients. 

Learn more about the program and schedule an appointment at the clinic

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