Students and faculty prepare to take on the next big problems, with help from the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab
For as long as she can remember, Angela Hong (MMA ’19) has been interested in using data to make sense of complex problems. Though she’s experienced at data collection and statistics — she earned a PhD in Environmental Chemistry at U of T before pursuing the Master of Management Analytics program at Rotman — Hong wanted to become more comfortable using data-focused approaches, so that she could eventually take on the significant problems affecting communities, the environment and business.
“I’ve always been interested in making an impact and supporting positive change,” says Hong. And she knew that the best way to contribute would be by “becoming proficient at uncovering the story hidden in the data.”
She’ll be able develop these skills further with help from the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab, a Rotman resource that aims to support students, as well as teaching and research faculty in their work assembling, managing and interpreting big data sets. Through intensive workshops, hackathons, events and other activities, the Lab supports learning, as well as collaboration, ideation and innovation related to data analytics.
So far, Hong and her MMA classmates have taken advantage of many of the Lab’s resources and offerings, including completing boot camps on Python, SAS, SQL and R. These students have also been experimenting with these tools on the Rotman Analytics Cluster, a computing platform for big-data analysis, which is maintained by the Lab.
Thanks to initial support from the Rotman Catalyst Fund and a generous gift from TD Bank Group, the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab will continue to support and invest in students like Hong, as well as work towards expanding teaching and research in analytics more broadly across all programs at the School.
The launch of the new TD Management Data and Analytics Lab was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the School on Thursday January 17, 2019. This new initiative comes at an ideal time as industry has growing needs for talent in this area and Rotman is now better positioned to play a key role in creating and building an exceptional talent pool.
“Today, most firms know that data is at the heart of smart business decisions,” explains Professor Matthew Mitchell, co-director of the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab. “At Rotman, we have a great deal of expertise in this area, in terms of faculty and research. Now it’s about bringing that expertise to the classroom and across the School.”
Establishing a resource like this at Rotman has been a long time coming, says TD Management Data and Analytics Lab co-director Susan Christoffersen.
“Most of our faculty members work with such large data sets in their research and they require the latest tools. At the same time, we want to serve our students as best we can, by equipping them with the skills and knowledge in data analysis so that they can work in a variety of business fields and take on a range of problems,” she explains.
In the coming months, Mitchell and Christoffersen will be focused on building a solid infrastructure in data and analytics at the School.
“Our goal is that anyone — whether it’s a student seeking programming help, an instructor looking to get-up-to-date on the latest applications before stepping into the classroom, or a researcher needing to create or manage particularly complex data to use for an upcoming project — can turn to the Lab for guidance,” says Christoffersen, who is also Vice-Dean of Undergraduate and Specialized Programs at Rotman.
Beyond this, the TD Management Data and Analytics Lab is looking forward to building future collaborations with industry, the Rotman FinHub, and U of T researchers specializing in computer science, engineering and other STEM fields. And they’ll continue their work bringing the School and their partners up-to-speed on the latest topics in data analytics, including quantum computing, cybersecurity, text mining and deep learning, through speaker and roundtable events.
“Rotman is at its best when research, teaching and learning come together,” says Mitchell. “We’re excited about helping faculty with conducting their research and with bringing their work to the classroom so that students benefit.”