MDI Welcomes Fall 2023 Cohort of Scholars

Written by Carrie McDonald, MDI Journalism Intern

The Massive Data Institute (MDI) is pleased to announce the Fall 2023 MDI Scholars Cohort. MDI established its flagship Scholars program in 2019 as an experiential learning opportunity where undergraduate and Master’s students work alongside faculty advisors and researchers to advance interdisciplinary data science, technology, and public policy research across Georgetown.

The Fall 2023 Scholars cohort includes 24 students, approximately one-third of whom are returning to the program. MDI Scholars are from undergraduate and graduate degree programs across Georgetown, allowing research teams to take a multidisciplinary approach. The small student research teams will collaborate with a faculty advisor to work on innovative solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues.

The Fall 2023 MDI Scholar cohort.

The Fall 2023 MDI Scholar cohort.

Student Scholar Alicia Gopal (CAS ’25) said she is grateful for the unique opportunity to collaborate with students from all corners of Georgetown. 

“I’m looking forward to interacting with and learning from students from all various majors, but also from the various schools, including the graduate school, in a way I don’t get to do in my classes,” Gopal said. 

The cohort will be working on a range of research topics that use innovative data to tackle some of today’s most compelling problems, including projects focused on data privacy, education, economic disparity, censorship, forced migration, environmental science, misinformation and social media, and polarization.

This semester, there are 11 faculty advisors from the McCourt School of Public Policy, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University Law Center, and the Graduate School of Arts and Science. One of the advisors, Dr. Mark Richardson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Government, has worked with MDI since joining Georgetown’s faculty in 2019 but will serve as a faculty advisor for the MDI Scholars program for the first time this semester. 

“I’m excited about getting to work with really talented students that have a great skill set,” Richardson said.

At the kickoff event on August 25, 2023, the Scholars had the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other, the faculty advisors, and the MDI staff before embarking on their first skills-building exercise.

The Kickoff included a Lego-building challenge. MDI Director Lisa Singh tasked teams of Scholars with replicating a specific Lego set with the caveat that the original set could only be viewed from the front of the classroom by one team member at a time. 

Students participate in the Lego challenge.

After several minutes of Lego construction and readjustments animating a bustling classroom, one team built the first replica and won the challenge. Reflecting on the activity, the Scholars drew parallels to skills they use in their research, such as debugging code, effectively communicating and collaborating, and delegating tasks.

The winning team for the Lego challenge.

The MDI Scholars will meet every month to learn skills to take to their research projects and to strengthen the MDI Scholar community.

About the MDI Scholars Program: The MDI Scholars program is an experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate and Master’s students to work on interdisciplinary research projects with professors and practitioners. These projects connect new forms of data and/or large-scale computing infrastructure to different public policy questions. To learn more: (new window)

MDI Scholars