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Columbia University plans new Institute for Data Sciences

NEW YORK — New York City will provide $15 million to help Columbia University create a new Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and university officials announced Monday.

Columbia will contribute at least $80 million in private investment for the institute and will hire 75 new faculty members by 2030, university officials said.

"This is probably the most exciting moment that I can think of in the school's 150-year history, and the future's never looked brighter," said Donald Goldfarb, interim dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Columbia proposed the data sciences institute as its entry in a city competition to bring a top engineering campus to the city. Bloomberg announced in December that Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology had won the $100 million contest, but the city is helping the other entrants fund their proposals as well.

Bloomberg said the new institute would generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues from the 100 startups that are expected to spin off from it.

He praised two top aides, Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and Economic Development Seth Pinsky, for their work on the project.

"I don't know that there's ever been one event that has the potential to do as much for our future as what these two guys and their staffs have come up with," Bloomberg said at a news conference at Columbia.

Columbia will build new facilities at its main campus in Morningside Heights and also in uptown in Washington Heights, where its medical school is located.

Bloomberg said the new institute will consist of five centers: one focused on digital and social media, a smart cities center that will address issues such as crating green infrastructure, a health analytic center that will coordinate research in medicine and biology with computer sciences and applied mathematics, a cybersecurity center and a financial analytic center devoted to applying engineering principles to financial markets.

Computer Science Professor Kathleen McKeown, who will be the director of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering, said the center devoted to new media will develop systems for analyzing online media.

"My research group will be developing systems to detect influence in social media including identifying when people express opinions and how they persuade each other," McKeown said.

She said the research would be useful for political campaigns and for advertising.

The city's $15 million contribution will include discounted energy transmission costs and partial debt forgiveness.

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