Oak Ridge Scientists Mentor Students

Oak Ridge Scientists Mentor Students

By Katie Malatino

November 10, 2022

Data analytics students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have the opportunity to partner with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to address global challenges.

At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students work with datasets obtained from national agencies. This semester, ORNL scientists are working with students to consult with them, mentor them, and guide them as they implement models and apply data analytics techniques to gain new insights.

“We present various datasets and teach students how to use them and implement models, but we do not assist them in choosing projects,” said Thilanka Munasinghe, lecturer in Information Technology and Web Science (ITWS). “The students are so creative! They are data investigators, combining multiple datasets in novel ways to create useful tools.”

One student explored the war’s impact on wheat production in Ukraine, and another predicted rice production in different regions of China. This semester, students are working with climate-related datasets to investigate the impact of climate variability and change on agricultural production and the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika virus.

During past semesters, students have co-authored and published papers in scientific conferences and journals on their semester-long class projects. It is a tremendous opportunity, and quite rare for undergraduates, in particular.

“It is a challenging class, but the experience definitely benefits students’ careers!” Munasinghe said.

“It’s a meeting of minds and a meeting of common interests,” said Assaf Anyamba, Ph.D., Remote Sensing Group Leader at ORNL. “We are happy to see students benefiting from it.”


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.