“This new NIH-funded training program for minority undergraduates in SC, along with
other training programs at the Arnold School’s Big Data Health Science Center, demonstrates USC’s national
leadership in big data science for health,” says Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School. “It also shows our institution’s firm commitment to nurturing
a new and diverse workforce with expertise in the data science skills necessary to
improve health outcomes in SC and beyond.”
“Racial and ethnic minority students comprise approximately 39 percent of the college
population but earn only 17 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 13 percent of doctoral
degrees in the life sciences. However, their experiences and perspectives are essential
to achieving the diverse workforce needed to eliminate health disparities,” Li says.
“Undergraduate training programs promote research and training for students from diverse
backgrounds during an important stage of the workforce development pipeline.”
Health-related workforce shortages are particularly evident in the field of health
data science. This emerging and rapidly evolving area harnesses the power of massive
quantities of data to offer insights and solutions to today’s health challenges.
“Health care-related issues are complex since a person’s health trajectory is a dynamic
process of different states at different time points,” says Zhang. “Understanding
the health disparities of different populations and communities is one of the most
challenging and important goals in health science research.”
Data scientists use information from electronic health records, social media, wearable
devices (e.g., activity trackers), genetic backgrounds, geospatial sources and more
to improve health for both individuals and groups of people. Knowledge, competencies
and skills in big data analytics are especially needed in the area of infectious diseases.
The new grant will address these challenges by establishing the Big Data Analytics
Emerging Scholar (e-Scholar) Program for Underrepresented Minority Students, which
focuses on infectious diseases. Based at the Big Data Health Sciences Center, the
program will recruit underrepresented minority students from across South Carolina*.
Each year, 12 undergraduate students will receive interdisciplinary mentoring, comprehensive
curriculum-based training (via an intensive six-week summer institute) and hands-on
research experience – with stipends to support them.
Employing an individualized, active learning approach, the program will provide participants
with the background and inspiration to pursue a graduate program and/or career in
infectious disease research using big data approaches. It will also help ensure the
diverse workforce needed to improve health at individual and population levels.
*Participating institutions include three large public institutions (University of
South Carolina, Clemson University, College of Charleston) and three historically
Black colleges/universities (South Carolina State University, Claflin University,