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Compiler 5/31/13: UrbanCCD’s New/Old Partner, DSSG Update and More

By Rob Mitchum // May 31, 2013


In its early days, the Urban Center for Computation and Data formed a valuable partnership with the data team installed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel within Chicago’s city government. Leading the city’s efforts to free up data internally and externally was Chief Data and Information Officer Brett Goldstein, an alumnus of the UChicago computer science program and the restaurant reservation startup company OpenTable. Goldstein’s team and UrbanCCD worked together on the SmartData platform proposal that was chosen for a $1 million grant in the Bloomberg Mayors Challengeearlier this year, and Goldstein was the keynote speaker at the first workshop of the Urban Sciences Research Coordination Workshop in February.

So we are very excited about the news that Goldstein will soon be joining the University of Chicago as the inaugural Fellow in Urban Science at the Harris School of Public Policy. Goldstein will continue to work with UrbanCCD researchers on the SmartData platform and other projects, while also helping with the launch of a masters degree in computation and public policy and the Urban Technology Innovators’ Conference, a new initiative organized by Chicago Harris and the City of Chicago that seeks to create a peer-learning network for municipal technology innovators.

“Chicago Harris demonstrates a commitment to rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship, with strong partnerships with the Department of Computer Science and the Computation Institute, and a desire to advance the field of data science, especially so it can be leveraged it for public service,” Goldstein said. “I am excited about the opportunity to continue working to meld urban science and data analytics and work with this impressive community of faculty and staff.”

You can read more coverage of Goldstein’s move and career so far at Crain’s Chicago Business and Government Technology.



This weekend, the 36 fellows chosen for the first Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship will begin arriving in Chicago, ready to begin their orientation and projects on Monday. The actual partners and substance of those projects will be announced early next week on the fellowship website, but two recent features on fellowship organizer Rayid Ghani further detailed the inspiration for the endeavor. An interview conducted by Chicago Magazine’s Whet Mosercovers Ghani’s vision for a larger community of data scientists working with governments and non-profits to assist social causes, and a profile by Technology Review’s Ted Greenwald illustrates the path Ghani traveled from his work with the Obama re-election campaign to this summer’s fellowship. As Ghani told Greenwald, the mission is to expose the next generation of computer programmer/statistician hybrids to scientific and beneficial opportunities outside of the tech industry.

“A lot of the people who have the skills to do this kind of work end up working for Facebook, Google, or the latest online ad network,” he says. “[I want to] show them that the same kind of data is available here, and the impact is bigger.”



American schools have long required their students to study a second language, but should Javascript and Python join Spanish, French and German? Peg Tyre at Smithsonian Magazine visits a high school in New York City that teaches its students programming and discusses the state of computer science education in U.S. schools.

The Hospital Microbiome Project, a study by UChicago and Argonne researchers of how bacteria and other micro-organisms colonize the new Center for Care and Discovery, was featured recently in Nature News. Preliminary results discovered over 70,000 different microbes in the hospital after only a few days of operation.

The potential of 3D printing is usually discussed in terms of manufacturing and prototyping. Christopher Mims at Quartz describes a 3D printing project that aims at a much higher goal: ending world hunger. Would you eat a pizza made out of insect parts?

Will the first step to simulated biological life be a virtual worm? Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic discusses an open-source project coordinated over Twitter and Google Hangout that seeks to simulate the popular laboratory species C. elegans that may open up exciting new vistas for computational biology research…as well as mind-bending questions about the definition of life itself.

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